Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sermon on the Mount – Part 2

Matthew 6 (beginning in verse 19)

[Back in 1933 Congress identified one of the causes of the great depression was the failure of the banking system, cause by banks having too much of their reserve capital invested in stocks, so that when the stock market crashed in 1929, many banks lacked the resources to honor the withdrawal request of depositors, resulting in a run-on-the-banks and a loss of confidence in the banking system. To correct this Congress passed the Glass-Steagall act which separated credit risk, investment risk, and insurance risk, and forced banks to decide what kind of business they wanted to be, to choose a category of risk, then barred them from other types of risk so big losses in one area of the economy would not bleed over to the others, protecting against another financial failure.

In 1999 Citibank, the nation's largest commercial bank came to Washington with lobbyist and campaign contributions and got the act repealed with huge majorities in the House and the Senate. They went on to buy Travelers Insurance and Smith Barney Investments. This sparked a decade of mergers between commercial banks, investment banks, and insurance companies, which resulted in a handful of huge financial services firms and virtually eliminated regional banks and stock brokers. As banks and brokers became more distant people no longer did business with people they knew. Banking became a numbers game where the goal was just to get the most customers then leverage those customers into all your other businesses. Subprime mortgages (those are mortgages for people who don't always path their bills) grew from 5 to 30 percent of the mortgage market. Politicians bragged about record levels of home ownership, but most of those new owners, owned nothing but a large mortgage debt, with little or no equity. Pools of mortgages were bought and sold like stocks, and insurance contracts called credit-default-swaps were written to guard against any corporate bond defaults, and all forms of risk were mixed and mingled in exotic financial arrangements, all of which would have been illegal under Glass-Steagall, but no one cared because real-estate prices kept going up, fueled by low interest rates and easy credit. Until 2008, when it all fell apart.

I heard people on the news saying they lost half of their investments, when they were just years away from retirement. I believe this whole crisis was fueled by greed. Thieves bought keys to the vault from Congress, and stole the savings of millions, and now the government borrows trillions to try and stop another depression now, but in doing so they guarantee high inflation rates for decades to come. So one way or the other the earthly treasure you have left will be eaten away by the moths and rust of a cheap dollar, huge national debt, and higher taxes, all fed by corruption and greed. ]

19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

[Now I'm not telling anyone not to have savings, the Bible gives us several examples where reserves are a part of good stewardship. I Tim 5:8 insists men provide for their families, Prov. 6 says store up for the uncertain future, I Tim. 6 tells the rich to enjoy God's blessing, but don't trust in your riches. Jesus constantly challenges us with two questions: What do you love, and Who do you trust? Earthly wealth is temporary, God is eternal. Heavenly treasure cannot be lost or stolen, and earthly treasure will never give you peace. You can still tell what someone loves, by watching where they put their treasure.]

22 "The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

[The eye gives sight to the whole body. A good eye can observe potential danger, protecting the rest of the body. But a bad eye leaves you in darkness. As darkness is a symbol of sin, we are talking about spiritual sight. Any soul too focused on the things of the world, will be blind to the things of God, resulting in great spiritual darkness. What do you love, and Who do you trust?]

24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

[As we see in the present recession, debt can be cruel master, people are learning the hard way payments are not optional even if you lose your job. At least as a bond servant you worked for the one you owed, now you still owe the debt but you have to find your own job to work and repay the debt. I see more and more foreclosed houses as many lose their homes when they fail to repay the master. Mammon is Wealth personified, if that is who you serve then you will fail to serve God. My own parents got out of church when I was a kid as Dad pursued business contacts by playing golf every Saturday and Sunday at Ridglea Country Club. When my oldest son Austin was born we brought him to Church the next week and dedicated him to the Lord. A week later my Dad said they wanted to come to church when we had Austin's dedication. When I told him it was already done, he was surprised and a little offended. But the unspoken message was clear. If you want to be a part of our spiritual lives, you know where to find us. The next Sunday my parents came, and attended faithfully from then until Dad, passed away, and Mom is still here every week. I remember right after we moved back from California, our first observance of the Lord's supper in the old building, we had 3 generations all sitting together sharing God's blessing. That was very special to me. No one can serve two masters. It's crazy for people to think they will spend eternity with God in heaven, when they don't care to spend any time with Him here on earth. What do you love, and Who do you trust? ]

25 "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

[Who gave you life? Do we really think we can extend our lives by worrying about our basic needs? We should ask God to provide, and work in the best way we can as we have been commanded. But if God provides for all His creation does it not seem reasonable that we are included. Gen. 1:27 says were are created in his image, a mirror perfectly shaped to reflect His glory. If we trust God for eternal life, I doubt that food and clothing for Today is too much to ask. What do you love, and Who do you trust?]

31 "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

[A 2nd time he commands us "do not worry". By gentiles he means unbelievers. If our day is consumed with a quest to satisfy our own desires, then how are we different from unbelievers? If you are consumed with the cares of this world, then Jesus says you are focused on the wrong things. But he offers a cure for your worry, change your focus, seek first the Kingdom of God. Make seeking after God, finding his will, enjoying his presence, a focus of your daily lives. God knows what we need, but worry and fear are sinful evidence of too little faith. Each day will come regardless of how much, or how little we worry. God's righteousness is only available to us who live by faith. Jesus continues to challenge us to answer these questions: What do you love, and Who do you trust? The truthful answer is not revealed by what you think. It is revealed by where your treasure is, what your eye is focused on, who you serve, and what you think about daily, and whether or not you worry. The Sermon on the Mount teaches the essential attitudes of Christians, and these determine if we will have good works that will glorify God and draw the lost to Jesus.]

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