Maricopa Lutheran ChurchGATHERED by the Holy Spirit;
FED with the Word;
SENT to make Christ known.

Worship: Desert Wind School
35565 W. Honeycutt Rd.
Maricopa, AZ 85138

Mailing Address: 20987 N John Wayne Pkwy B104-180, Maricopa, AZ 85139

Worship at 9 am

10:15 am Sunday School
   for 3-5th Graders
10:15 am Adult and Teen
   Bible Study


Pastor Glenn Zimbelman

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
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Money Matters - March 26, 2017

Pastor Glenn Zimbelmann
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Picture of Money

People have all sorts of excuses for why they are not connected to a church.  The Pastor’s sermons were too long, boring or irrelevant.  The people were all hypocrites.  Notice they never say the Pastor’s sermons were too short.   The number one reason I hear over and over again, all the church talks about is money.   We Americans have an issue with it.   Scripture does not say that money is bad.  It says that the love of money is bad.  Jesus spends a lot of time especially in Luke talking about money.  He recognizes that wealth is an issue.   In Luke 12:16-21 the first parable on wealth comes up with the parable of the rich fool who keeps building bigger and bigger barns to hold all of his wealth.  Just when the barn is full, the man dies unable to enjoy his wealth.   This comes after someone asks Jesus to divide the family inheritance.  The key verse here is Luke 12:15

“Be on your guard against all kinds of greed, for one’s life does not consist of the abundance of possessions”

Then in Luke 16:1-13 is the parable of the dishonest manager who is going to be fired by a rich man.  He reduces the debt of others, so they will support him after he is fired.  There is reference to being faithful with your wealth.  It ends with, you cannot serve God and wealth.

So then we come to the third parable in Luke on wealth.  The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.  So clearly for Luke, wealth is an issue.  At the heart of the issue is how people look at wealth in the first place.   I was raised in a lower middle class home.  I knew we never had a lot of money but I also never went hungry.  Today I am blessed with a middle class lifestyle.  Am I materialistic?  Sure, I am an American after all.   I am learning as I age that I do need less and less things, but I still find a way to spend what I have.  I have also reflected many times at how blessed I am.  My father who was a farmer from North Dakota had an 8th grade education but was street smart.  One of his goals for his children is that all 4 for us would get a college education.  That college education produced two nurses, a pastor and a salesman.   Sometimes I marvel at how blessed I am because you see, it is easy to forget that you or I could be Lazarus.  All it would take is for our parents to have a life style where drugs or alcohol is the norm.  What would happen if the expectation was not even getting a high school degree?  Payson where I served as pastor has the highest teen pregnancy rate for a town its size in Arizona.  I asked one of our teachers what the issue was.  There is a lot of poverty in Payson and the teacher said, for many of our kids, becoming pregnant or getting someone pregnant and working a minimum wage job is the norm.  But here is the thing, I never, ever have linked my financial wellbeing with my faith.  I have never assumed that God has blessed me because I am a Christian.  There is a type of theology known as the Prosperity Gospel preached by many on TV that if you believe in the right way and do the right thing, God will bless you with riches and wealth.   Luke would have a hard time with that concept.  

Picture of Jewish people

Please understand that scholars believe that most people were dirt poor scratching out an existence at the time of Jesus.   Who were the wealthy?  Interestedly the wealthy were often the religious elite, tax collectors and anyone who bought into the Roman government way of doing things.  There were lots of Lazarus’s in the world.  People assumed that wealth was an indicator of their moral wellbeing.  God blessed the wealthy, God punished the poor.  You are poor because either you sinned or perhaps your grandparent sinned.   So it is important to point out what leads into this parable.  We read in Luke 16:14-15,

“The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heart all this and they ridiculed him.  So he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God”

What does it mean to justify ourselves. It means that we sit back and think for whatever the reason that what we do and who we are makes us okay with God.  We do this all the time!  I am a good person.  I give to charity.  Or we do the comparison game.  I know that I am not perfect, but I have never killed anyone.  So these Pharisees were sitting there thinking.  I am wealthy.  I practice the Law.  Life is good.  I am good with God!   This attitude drove Jesus crazy.   So on the surface most people would have sided with Lazarus!  They would have said, good, it’s about time those rich people get their due.   I understand that wealth is relative, but doesn’t it drive you crazy that banks are too big to fail, and executives get rewarded with a huge bonus when they get fired?   We know in the United States that the middle class is getting squeezed.   We know the world is not fair.  So in many ways we could say, good, it’s about time the roles are reversed.  But you see, this is not really an example that happens when someone dies!  Remember this is a parable.  For the point of the parable is how one uses the blessings God has given us.  Jesus says they have the Moses and the Prophets and yet they do not listen to them.  Well Israel had 3 blessings, Land, Offspring and blessed to be a Blessing.  There blessings are meant to be shared.  Also scattered throughout the Old Testament are verses about caring for the poor, the orphans and the widows.  For example we read in Isaiah 58:7

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them,

So the Rich man has Lazarus at his gates.  The rich man is covered in fine purple clothing, purple is a sign of wealth.  Lazarus is covered in sores.  Yet the Rich Man does nothing.  He sees himself as right with God and Lazarus is not worthy of his attention.  I find it interesting in the parable as the rich man is in the flames he recognizes Lazarus and wants him to dip his finger in the water to cool his agony.  So he knows about Lazarus.  But even then, he still wants Lazarus to serve him.  Then with the chasm separating him, he wants Lazarus to go and people warn his brothers.  But Jesus says, they have Moses and the prophets and they do not listen to them, so they won’t listen to someone returning from the dead.  Well guess what, who is going to return from the dead come Easter morning?   So you see, it is really not how much money we have, for we are all rich compared to people in poverty.  What matters is that our wealth does not make us right with God.  God does call us to be a blessing to others.  But that blessing comes out of the fact that we are already blessed by God.   So in many ways we are just like those Israelites, we are blessed to be a blessing. So go and bless away.  Amen.

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