Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Passage: Matthew 22:15–22:22
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Matthew 22:15-22
Date: October 22nd, 2017; Pentecost 20; Series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
“I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love”.
So goes the Beatles hit song, “Can’t Buy Me Love” written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney back in 1964.
And they really hit on something here with their lyrics.
You can have all of the money in the world – but that doesn’t mean that you will be loved. You can’t buy love.
But, if we we’re honest, I bet most of us would like to give it a try.
Just think of never having to worry about paying the bills, or making the mortgage payments, or stress over credit card balances.
My heart might not be full, but my bank account would be.
Living in luxury without love wouldn’t be so bad, would it?
Or, along the same lines we say, “Money can’t buy happiness”.
This is something we teach our kids. We tell it to ourselves. It’s wisdom that gets handed down through the generations.
But while we know the saying well, and while I would guess that most of us would even agree that it is true - it is hard for us to believe it. It is difficult for us to live it.
In fact, we too often live quite the opposite.
Our inclination is to believe that more is better. Bigger is better. The more, the bigger, the better - the happier we will be!
This hunger we have for “stuff” is insatiable.
How much is enough?
We answer, “Just a little bit more”.
Our old sinful nature thinks and lives this way.
We think we don’t have enough. We need more. We’re not satisfied. We’re not content.
Money might not buy me love, but I sure love the stuff that money can buy me.
One of the things I am privileged to do as a pastor is to spend the last moments of people’s lives with them before they are called home to be with our Lord.
And, as you can imagine, this provides for some deep conversation.
People often reflect on their lives - the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Not once during these conversations have I ever heard anyone say, “I sure wish I had lived in a bigger house” or “I wish I had more diamond jewelry” or “I wish the cars I had were more fancy”.
How quickly the stuff in our lives loses its importance when we are facing death. It becomes meaningless.
Yet, during our lives, we place an enormous amount of importance on it - often sacrificing what is truly important along the way.
An industry that keeps growing every year is self-storage.
We don’t have enough room for all of our stuff in our homes and garages and sheds - so we have to rent more space to store it!
The stuff in our lives is very important to us in our culture - and the danger is that it can get in the way of us living truly meaningful lives.
We can quickly find ourselves with our priorities all mixed up. We find it difficult to keep things straight.
That is what Jesus was getting at in the Gospel reading this morning.
It’s not so much about taxes and money and government – it’s more about keeping things in the right categories, “…render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
It’s about recognizing our priorities – the things of this world are important in their own way and we have to deal with them – but the things that are God’s must not be neglected.
We also recognize that God has authority over all things – including the government and taxes and our very lives. So, we should not get so tied up in the things of this world that we neglect the things of God.
We prayed in the Collect prayer earlier in the Service that God who is our ruler would guide us so that we would “pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal.”
In other words – don’t get so stuck on the stuff of this world that you miss out on what is lasting, on what is eternal.
Don’t put a priority on the things that will fade away at the expense of losing the things that last forever.
Of course, this is easier said than done.
We need a roof over our heads, and clothing, and food to eat. The things of this world, and the people in our lives, mater. They matter deeply and significantly.
Having and enjoying the things of the world is not inherently bad. But we must keep our priorities straight.
I’m going to go back briefly to that fun topic of death because it has a way of making our priorities crystal clear.
If you knew that you were going to die tonight what would be important to you? What would really matter in your life? What would be a priority?
It wouldn’t be your stuff.
It would be the relationships you have with those you love.
It would be the things you believe in and the causes that are truly significant in your life.
It would be God and the gift of everlasting life he has won for you.
Yet, during our lives we get this all mixed up.
We focus on this world and we place our trust in our stuff rather than in our Lord and Saviour.
And this is idolatry. The same idolatry that St. Paul spoke of in our epistle lesson.
We allow our possessions to possess us.
We allow our activities, our careers, our hobbies, our busyness to become the top priority in our lives.
We allow all of this to get in the way of our relationship with God and his Church.
We don’t have time! We’ve got all of this stuff! We’ve got all of this stuff to do!
For allowing ourselves to mix up our priorities, for turning to the false idol of materialism, for placing our trust in anything before God - repent.
With the Thessalonians who St. Paul addressed in our epistle lesson, turn to God from your false idols to serve the living and true God.
St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Jesus didn’t wait around until you got your priorities straight.
Instead he made you and your sin and your death his priority.
He broke into our broken world, lived a sinless life, suffered and died a death he didn’t deserve to save you.
He ascended into heaven and now rules triumphantly with all power and might and authority over all Caesars and governments and rulers and people.
And this was all for you – because for the sake of Jesus you are God’s priority.
Money can’t buy happiness.
The Beatle’s song is true - money can’t buy love.
Money, nor anything else we could possibly offer can buy God - who is Love.
Money, nor anything else we could possibly offer can buy our salvation and eternal life.
As Luther’s Small Catechism teaches, Jesus “…redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death”.
St. Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians that you have been bought with a price.
That price was Jesus’ death on the cross.
To Jesus nothing was of a higher priority than the salvation of the whole world. Nothing was a higher priority than your salvation.
Friends, don’t wait until you are on death’s door to begin to see the priority of Jesus in your life.
There is nothing of greater importance in your life than Christ Jesus and the salvation and life he gives to you in his Church. Rejoice in it.
In God’s great love for you in Jesus – you are his greatest priority. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.