Trinity Sunday June 10, 2001
3, 248, 246, 244
Jesus said, “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.” So far the Holy Word.
In the Name of Jesus Christ, whose presence sanctifies every special occasion in our lives, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
Across much of our country, this time of year is a very special time—graduation time. For high school and college graduates, it’s a time to look back—and to look ahead. On the threshold of graduation, they can look back on the years they’ve spent at school, the friends they’ve made, and the wisdom they’ve gained. They can look ahead—probably with relief!—to the summer months before them. Beyond that, though, there is an even broader picture for them to consider. High school grads have to decide whether they’ll go on to college; and if so, which one. College grads have to decide how they’ll use their advanced training; where they’ll work, and for whom. It’s a tough time for a lot of young people. Up till now most of their decisions have been made for them. Now they have to start making important decisions on their own.
Who are you going to work for? What are you going to be? What career will you choose? These days, young people are already thinking about these questions as early as their junior year in high school. As you look ahead, however, there is an even more important “career choice” facing you. It’s a spiritual choice that every Christian—including all of us here today—has to face up to. “Who will be my master: The Triune God or mammon?” Our text for today tells us that it must be one or the other. This morning’s theme asks you a very personal question:
Forty years ago, in the early 60’s, a survey was taken among a large number of university students. They were asked the question, “Why do you hope to gain from your college education?” Back then, there were a lot of different answers. Some said they wanted “a broader view of life,” or, “the ability to live up to their personal potential.” Most said they just wanted to help people. Recently they asked that question again, and the answer they got was pretty frightening. The vast majority of today’s students said they were in college for just one reason: MONEY. They expected their education to provide them with a high salary once they graduated.
Shocking? Yes. But not surprising. Look around—more and more, we live in a society that worships only one god, the Almighty Dollar. Criminals kill for it, stockbrokers trade inside information for it, and labor unions strike for ever-increasing amounts of it. Money is the only thing that’s important. How else do you explain the daycare crisis in this country, and the dwindling number of mothers who are willing to stay at home and raise their children? Or the millions of people who throw their money away on the state lottery? Money is the master, and many people will do anything on even an off-chance of getting more of it.
In today’s world, all of you are faced with a choice, and that choice is especially important for you young people. Who are you going to work for—the Triune God or mammon? What’s going to be your goal in life, the riches Christ offers, or the riches this world offers?
“Do I really have to choose one or the other?” you ask. “After all, I have to do something for a living!” And that’s true—God Himself expects you to use the skills He gave you to earn your daily bread, to provide for yourself and your family. But only one can be your master. Either The true, Triune God or the mammon of this world—only one can be on top. Only one will be the over-riding priority in your life, the one thing that everything else in your life must be subservient to. Yes, each of us must choose. Jesus says it’s unavoidable: “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.” There are no double duty believers. You can’t dedicate your life to money and moonlight on the side as a Christian, or vice-versa. It simply won’t work. Ultimately, only one can be your master!
It’s not an easy decision, or one you can casually shrug off. Consider the wealthy young man who thought he was ready to be Jesus’ disciple; the Lord placed before him a gut-wrenching choice: “‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.’ But [the young man] was sad at this word, and went away grieved, for he had great possessions.”—Mk 10:21-22. Our choice is far harder than his was! From a material standpoint, you and I are far more wealthy than that young man. Luxuries and conveniences that he could never have dreamed of, we take for granted. Today the choice between The Triune God and mammon is more difficult than ever!
How to go about making such an important choice—? If you were presented with two different job offers from two different prospective employers, what would you do?—You’d compare their offers, of course. See what kind of compensation package each employer was promising. For a Christian it’s even more important to weigh the options.
First, let’s look at what mammon can do for you. And make no mistake, mammon (the wealth of this world) definitely has some very attractive things to offer!
America is “the land of opportunity.” Here, if a person has a reasonable amount of intelligence, ambition and the ability to work hard, there’s no reason he or she can’t get rich. If you dedicate yourself wholeheartedly to getting mammon, there’s really no reason you can’t have it—and mammon does have its benefits! With wealth comes comfort, convenience and luxury. You can pamper yourself your whole life long with all the good things this world has to offer. You can get a lot of enjoyment out of life; all in all, you can make your existence on this earth a very pleasant experience indeed!
It does have it’s drawbacks, though. If you’re going to dedicate your life to getting money, you’d better go in with your eyes wide open. For one thing, money tends to be a rather fleeting commodity. It’s hard to hold on to. Recently thousands of technology investors have been discovering that the hard way. The tech-heavy NASDAQ stock index, which reached a peak of over 5000 in early March, has lost close to a third of its value since then. In a few short months, thousands of people hoping to make a fortune in “dot.com” stocks have seen their money go up in smoke. Long ago, King Solomon said, “Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.”—Pr 23:5. If you’re going to make wealth number one in your life, you better be prepared for the risk. Money is nice to have, but it can be lost—or stolen—or it can simply fly away like a bird.
Also, you should know that the mammon of this world can only serve you for a limited time; that is, while you are in this world! It’s a tired cliche, but true nonetheless, that “you can’t take it with you.” Paul reminds Timothy, “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”—I Tim 6:7. Even if you manage to hold onto your money, remember that any benefits you get from it will cease abruptly at a specified point: the gates of the local cemetery. And nobody—not even the youngest of us!—knows when he or she will reach that point. Consider the tragic case of the rich farmer Jesus told about: he’d finally reached his lifelong goal. With one last bumper crop, he finally figured he had all the wealth and possessions he needed to really enjoy life. And just as he decided to retire and enjoy it all, the Lord suddenly came to him with a terrifying message, “You fool! This night your soul will be required of you, and then whose will those things be?” You can’t purchase your way into heaven. Eternal life is one thing, at least, that riches truly won’t buy!
At this time of year, high school graduates are giving a lot of thought to college. They have to decide whether to attend a vo-tech, college or university; and if so, which one it will be. Well, there’s a much more important decision facing each one of us, however, one which you might not have given much thought to. WHO ARE YOU GOING TO WORK FOR? Who will be your master: the Triune God or mammon? You know now exactly what mammon can do for you. Consider what THE TRIUNE GOD can do for you!
The Lord has already provided for you a spiritual richness that no bank account can possibly compare to. Who can put a price on a clean conscience, or a good night’s sleep? Who can assign a value to being at peace with your Creator, and knowing that all your wants and needs will be well provided for your whole life long? Above all, what is the value of eternal life? Look at the net return on your life, and consider Christ’s question, “What is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”—Mt 16:27.
God has already laid out all those things for you all those things I mentioned—and He provides them absolutely free of charge! That’s the reason He sent His Son Jesus to earth. Jesus’ perfect life provides you with the righteousness you need to stand before God pure and holy. Jesus’ innocent suffering and death on the cross provides you with the payment necessary to cover all your sins. Decide now who you’re going to work for. Jesus dedicated His life—and His death!—to you. Dedicate your life to Him! Resolve here and now that, no matter what other matters come up in your life, your service to Christ is going to come first. Invest your time, your talents, and your earthly goods in following your true Master. It’s an investment that won’t disappoint you. There are tremendous spiritual riches to be found in Christ—the more you learn about Him, the richer you’ll be. But you’ll also find that, when you put the Lord first in life, you won’t come up short in any other areas, either. Jesus promises you, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [food, clothing, shelter—all the wants and needs of life] will be added unto you!”—Mt 6:33.
Best of all, it’s an ironclad investment with long-term results. The riches Christ can give you are guaranteed not to slip through your fingers. No adverse circumstances, no thief, no stock market crash can take them away from you. The benefits of being a disciple of Christ reach far beyond the grave, into eternity. Generations from now, when your descendants don’t even remember what business you were in or how much money you made, you’ll be enjoying the riches of eternal life that your Savior earned for you on the cross. “You can’t take it with you?”—That rule simply doesn’t apply to the riches Jesus gives!
Do you know what an “IRA” is? It stands for “Individual Retirement Account.” They’re amazing things. You start putting in $50 or $100 dollars a month when you begin your career, and by the time you retire they promise it will provide you hundreds of thousands—even millions—of dollars. I’ve got one. It sounds like a good deal, but frankly, I’ll believe it when I see it!—But there’s one investment I have no doubt about, and that’s following Jesus Christ. He’s the One I work for, and the one every Christian truly works for. Make Him the One you work for, too! The returns on your investment? Well, they’re guaranteed, in the promise of our Savior Himself: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life!” AMEN.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.