Everything We Need
Tuesday of Epiphany 3
23 January 2018
Why can't I be rich? Maybe I am and won't admit it to myself. It is remarkable that we humans are able to see how rich other people seem to be, without acknowledging our own enormous wealth. When she was a child, my youngest daughter came to me and asked, "Dad, are we rich?" In reply I asked her, "Do you ever go to be hungry? Are you ever too cold or too warm at home? Do you have to share your bedroom or bed with anyone? What is in the garage? Are we rich? What do you think?" A little embarrassed she replied, "Yes, dad, we're rich!" Despite our relative wealth we find it shockingly easy to be envious of the apparent wealth of others. Sometimes we even presume that they have a leg up with God somehow or other if they have more wealth than us. They must have done something to lead God to shower wealth upon them.
 
We ought not be envious of those whom we think to be richer than ourselves, for if their heart is set upon riches instead of upon the true treasure, they are mere paupers in comparison to us who have the blood of Jesus as our greatest possession. Earthly treasure may act like an anchor dragging us into the abyss if our heart is so set upon it that we cannot cut ourselves loose from its strain upon the ship of life. This is why the Apostle Paul warns us: "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs" (1Ti 6:10). Love of treasure, whether much or little, has sunk many a Christian. Lord, have mercy! It matters not the amount. We have all heard of tragic killings over a few dollars. Greed is not about the size of the portfolio, but the size of our heart. Either it is set on the enlarging gifts of God, or it is coveting what belongs to others. Both hovels and gilded palaces may be infected with greed. Just as both may be places of the heart where Christ reigns.
 
We must not ask why we are rich or poor. We must only confess the Lord's gracious care for us, who gives all that we have as a gift. The amazing thing is that even those who are ungrateful are still showered with temporal blessings (Mt 5:45), our Lord never withdrawing His gracious hand from guiding nature and granting us the fruits of the earth. The rich and the poor alike receive the mercy of God, the most abundant richness; most abundant because the Lord grants it even to those who despise Him (2Pt 2:1). We never know why we are rich or poor in the things of the world, we only know that our Lord has given us everything we need. Therefore, we must never fall into the sin that judges God's love for us according to our relative wealth. God does not love the poor less or the rich more, or the poor more and the rich less. He loves us all, rich and poor alike, for Christ's sake, who is our only wealth in God's presence.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Chrysostom
"In temporal things, we ought to be quiet and not too carefully inquire why one is rich and another poor. For, first of all, not every single rich man is rich from God, but many even from unrighteousness, rapine, and avarice. For He that declined to be rich, how can He have granted that which He declined to receive?
                   
"Why was Abraham rich, but Jacob wanted even bread? Were not both righteous? Did God not say concerning the three alike, 'I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?' (Ex 3:6). Why then was the one a rich man, and the other a hired servant? Or rather, why was Esau rich, who was unrighteous and a murderer of his brother, while Jacob was in bondage for so long a time? Again, why did Isaac live at ease all the time, but Jacob in toils and miseries? For which reason he also said, 'Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life' (Gn 47:9).
 
"Why did David, who was both a prophet and a king, himself also live all his time in toils? while Solomon, his son, spent forty years in security above all men, in the enjoyment of profound peace, glory, and honor, and experiencing every kind of pleasure? What again could be the reason, that among the prophets also one was afflicted more, and another less? Because so it was expedient for each. Therefore, our response to each case must be, 'Your judgments are like the great deep' (Ps 36:6). For if those great and wonderful men were alike exercised by God, but one by poverty, and another by riches; one by ease, and another by trouble; how much more ought we now bear these things in mind." 

John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 29.5
Genesis 13:2-18

Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the LORD. And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together, and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were dwelling in the land.
 
Then Abram said to Lot, "Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left." And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD.
 
The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, "Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you." So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD.
(ESV)
Prayer
Lord God, You have sent the rain to fall and the sun to shine on both the righteous and wicked alike. Keep us from presuming that you are angry with us if we are poor or that you are delighted with us if we are rich. Keep sending Your Spirit that we might believe that You are ever and only pleased with us for the sake of the precious death and resurrection of Your only begotten Son, Your greatest treasure and ours by faith; even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
For Elizabeth Rivers, who has pneumonia, that the Lord, who breathed into Adam the breath of life, would grant breath and a full recovery to His child
 
For those who have made riches their god, that the Lord would rescue them from their idolatry
 
For all pregnant mothers and young children, that they would be kept in the care of the holy angels
Art: DAVID, Gerard  Triptych of Jean Des Trompes (1505)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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