How could we . . .
a) receive “promise cards” (aka, pledge cards) for 2017 generosity; AND
b) distribute “movie tickets” for our short film Sunday next week?
Answer: “In The Long Run” (yes, title borrowed from chorus of an Eagles’ song), a sermon with this bottom line bottom line you’ll see below.
The best thing to do with what doesn’t last is to invest it in what does.
It’s been a long time since I’ve given you an entomology lesson here – like maybe never – so here goes. Today, it’s all about the Mayfly (AV), which has the distinction of having the shortest lifespan in the animal kingdom. The Mayfly, of which there are about 2500 subspecies, has a lifespan of . . . wait for it . . . 24 hours. There. One just died. Can we have a moment of silence?
The entire purpose of a Mayfly’s life is to reproduce and then to die. So ladies: if you find yourself wanting to bring a single Mayfly guy home to meet mom – hey baby! – he won’t even be there. One day and then dead. That’s it. The Mayfly just doesn’t last.
It’s that way with a lot of stuff, isn’t it? Things you buy, stuff you have, relationships you start simply do not last. Cheap sunglasses. A cheap watch. A Yugo (AV). An investment with Madoff Securities. Your first high from the hit of meth. A relationship that STARTS as a one night stand. A marriage that begins with a weak foundation. So many things we think are durable; we think they have staying power and ultimately we discover they have all the tenacity of a Mayfly.
And those issues of what lasts and what doesn’t, what has staying power and what doesn’t, is at the heart of this story in Luke 12. It’s a story that Jesus tells as a way of answering a guy’s request for him to mediate a probate issue. Look at 12:13 if you doubt me: 13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus is like, “I won’t mediate your dispute but I WILL tell you a story.” And for the story’s opener, check out 12:16-19:
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
Now: A lot of times a lot of people see this and think the guy’s problem is that he was RICH. Nope. The book of Proverbs in particular, as part of the conversation that IS the library of Scripture, regards wealth as a blessing and not a curse. So becoming a person of means is a blessing and not a punishment and we mis-read this story if we think the guy’s issue is that he is rich.
No, the guy’s issue – aside from his self-absorption; did you notice all the “I”/”Me”/”Mine” in there? – is that he has erroneously concluded that MORE STUFF means MORE TIME. You get stuff, you get abundance and PRESTO! that means automatically that you have more time. I’m rich so I’m gonna live FOREVER! More stuff = more time (AV). I am the opposite of the Mayfly; I am gonna last. That thinking is actually kinda common . . . more common than you’d think. At least subconsciously. I mean on one level we’re aware that wealth usually leads to better health; we know wealthy buys access to all kinds of lifestyle choices that ensure long life and we, too, think not only that our money will last but we will, too. Lord, my mom turns 101 this month, so I am more than just a little biased into thinking I’ve got plenty of TIME & I may use it get more STUFF.
But this confusion of overconfidence – I’m rich, so I’m gonna last – is what Jesus wants to expose, not only in the life of the guy in the story but in your life and mine. Look at 12:20a: 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. This very night and the contrast of that immediacy, that urgency, with the man’s long-term plan is jarring. And purposeful. It’s the Lord reminding us that compared to him, we’re all Mayflys! Then look at 12:20b: Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ Meaning: it’s not gonna last but your soul will. That’s what is demanded of you, Mr. Moneybags. More stuff didn’t translate into more time because stuff never outlasts anyone’s soul. And then Jesus summarizes the whole dealio with 12:21: READ. “Store up things for themselves” – ppl who erroneously invest in the closest, most visible things they can see and have. Rich toward God – which means you have this stuff, some have a lot of it, others have a little of it, and then still others have a little of it but due to the credit culture LIVE like you have a lot of it … but the question of its duration is at the forefront.
And I see how this whole story is a SMACKDOWN against the misguided notion of the permanence of money. And then I see punchline of “rich toward God.” And then I remember the name of our series (!): The Value Of A Soul. And so here’s where a journey into this story lands me: The best thing to do with what doesn’t last is to invest it in what does. Yes! Your stuff – you money, the things it buys, net worth – does not last. The human soul? Does not end. Take what is temporary – dollars – and direct it towards what is permanent – souls. Take what you CAN count – money – and direct it towards what you CAN’T – the value of a soul. Take what you can measure and load into that which defies measurement. However you want to say it, shad it, nuance it, it lands here: .The best thing to do with what doesn’t last is to invest it in what does.
Because, you see, death is the great equalizer. Like when John D. Rockefeller died, reporters asked the attorneys involved in the will, “how much did he leave behind?” Answer: “All of it.” He did! Steve Jobs, JP Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt . . . you know what they all have in common? They’re all dead! And in the moment of death, those millionaires & billionaires were on absolute common ground with the beggar in India, the farmer in Uganda, the villager in Guatemala, and the congregant in Steele Creek. All. Dead. Their stuff did not last but their souls did.
Which is why I don’t want to be subtle. We want to grown generosity at GS because we want to love souls. Sounds Baptist doesn’t it?! But methinks the Baptists have something on us here. We want you to give well – to free you of the self-absorption of the Rich Fool in Luke 12 – so that we as a church in partnership with you will invite more people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ. And the souls who respond to the ways we invite them – those souls will last! They’ll spend eternity in the presence of Christ which is a whole lot better than the alternative because the alternative is just that: hell. When you give to GS in 2017 and beyond, we want you to know you’re not giving to an institution or an organization; you’re giving to the eternity of souls we have trying to love well. You’re taking what is by nature temporary – THIS NIGHT! – and investing it in what is by grace eternal.
Now: I am NOT talking about “buying indulgences.” Some of you who know a little history may have heard of that practice in the medieval church whereby if you gave the priest and his church a certain amount of money, he would pray extra prayers for your dead family members to get them into heaven after the fact. Well, it don’t work that way! First, after your dead, we don’t believe your destiny is flexible. But more important we don’t believe there is a connection between your # of dollars given and the security of your soul & the souls of the ones you love. (Though I did love hearing about the preacher who was visiting a wealthy man who was lingering near death. And the guy had NOT been a man of faith and yet all of a sudden he was pondering his mortality. So he asked the preacher, “If I gave $100,000 to your church, do you think that would help me get to heaven?” And the pastor pondered for a moment and then answered with all sincerity: “Well, it sure couldn’t hurt to try.”)
I am instead talking about approaching your 2017 generosity decision with this question in mind: “how will this giving help win souls . . . souls I don’t even know?” How will you trade that which will not last – ever – and pour it into people and programs and ministries that in partnership with YOU will bring souls to salvation. Where we work together to get kids and teens and skeptics and addicts and Latinos and Anglos out of hell’s dangers and into heaven’s dreams. That kind of eternal investment is the only way, the ONLY WAY, that your money will last. It will make your money OUTlast you, in fact. The best thing to do with what doesn’t last is to invest it in what does. .
I think I got a glimpse of this a few weeks ago with our son, who is in campus ministry at UT. And the way the ministry he works for works, the minister (him) raises support. So he has people who give directly to his ministry to support him (for a variety of reasons, we severely limited who he could ask here). Anyway, he’s done a much better than avg job of raising support, about 100 ppl give directly to what he does on the campus of UT, so all that is good.
But anyway, a few weeks ago, our family was having a group text. Usually witty, sometimes sarcastic, often nostalgic, harkening back to something that happened with they were young kids. And in a light hearted way, he told us that THAT VERY DAY, he had a long conversation with (“poured into”) a UT student who was struggling and at the end of the conversation, the young guy accepted Christ. He became a Xn. He got saved. He entered a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Whatever, however you call it, that’s what happened. And as confirmation of his new life, he told Riley that for the first time ever he watched a UT football game sober. And then I realized what a direct link there was: people’s support lead directly to that young UT students being rescued from the gates of hell and now preparing to enter the glory of heaven. People invested in what won’t last – their money – into what will – that young man’s soul. The best thing to do with what doesn’t last is to invest it in what does.
You don’t have to go to Knoxville, I suppose, to see it. Like our first Zoar Road baptism (AV, Christian Ruth), our inaugural Latino worship Sunday in the Living Room (AV), what happens as volunteers click with new children in the KZone (AV). People’s support empowered and empowers all that.
So as we give you your next step today, it is incredibly concrete. We want to invite you to drop your Estimate of Giving card here at the front.
But just as importantly, we want you to pick 1 or 2 or 5 or 10 movie tickets for our Short Film Sunday, the Value Of A Soul next week. We want you to use that ticket to invite someone who doesn’t go here and might well not know Christ. And we’ll partner with you next Sunday to show that film and to invite people into a decisive living relationship with Jesus Christ. And you’ll just never know when that dollar (which won’t last anyway) you give will result in that soul who is your roommate in heaven (which, believe me, will last). Because . . . The best thing to do with what doesn’t last is to invest it in what does.