Finding True Security
By Rev Steven R Mitchell
Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 10/18,2015
Based on Mark 10:17-25
We started our worship today in a prayer that stated our understanding that God has created enough for everyone. But do we truly believe that God has created enough for everyone? We also asked to remember that all we have comes from God and to take Gods commandments to heart so we can do as Jesus asks of us. But are we really willing to dig deep into what Jesus is teaching in the Gospels in order to live out the type of actions that Jesus says it takes to follow him? These are the questions that the story of the rich young man is asking.
Scripture that deals with giving up our finances are some of the hardest teachings to accept for the American consumer. It is most interesting that much of the church in America has developed what we call “prosperity” theology – meaning that you live right and ask God for what you want and you shall receive it. When in actuality, Jesus talks about giving away possessions, not asking to receive things beyond what is needed for today.
As a product of my generation, these questions are really tough questions to answer if I wish to follow the examples and teachings of Jesus. I am what sociologist lable a Baby Boomer. Boomers have also been referred to “The Silver Spooned” generation. It is descriptive of those born in a time of unprecedented prosperity.
My parents generation is referred to as the “Depression Babies”, meaning that they were born during the time of this nation’s Great Depression. They grew up in a time when a new pair of shoes from the store, often hinged on the sale of a farm animal at the beginning of the school year and those shoes were to last you a whole year! It was a time when you rarely had “ready to wear” cloths from the store. There was no such thing as eating out at the restaurant two or three times a week, just because you didn’t feel like cooking. My parent’s generation tended to be children during the Second World War and experienced daily life with ration booklets. There was no longer the lack of money to buy things that you needed or wanted, there just wasn’t anything available to purchase, because all the natural resources were going toward the war effort, leaving only limited items that were necessary to survival.
With the close of the war, America emerged a world power. With the dawn of the 1950”, America was entering into her zenith. A nation who had lived for several decades with very little was now poised to give its children, my generation, all the things that they were denied. Unprecedented housing development erupted; freeways were built to expedite commerce and travel; families grew into a two car household; Boomer’s were told to chose the job that made them happy, instead of working at one that didn’t provide self-gratification. Consumerism became the new religion and the phrase “conspicuous consumption” was coined to describe the mindset and lifestyle of where we as a society have arrived.
The story of the Rich Young Ruler is often associated with Stewardship drives. You are probably thinking right now, that this is going to be a sermon on just how much money does the church want from you this year, but you would be wrong. The story about the young man coming to Jesus and asking what more must he do to be insured “eternal life” is about stewardship. This story is not about the “external” wealth of the young, but rather about the “internal” wealth of this person. There is a huge correlation to this young man’s questions about internal happiness and the lack of satisfaction by many people living in a country as wealthy as ours.
From time to time, I get asked the question of, “How did I receive my call to ministry?” It’s an honest question often asked by people outside the church. My story goes something like this: “Even though I grew up as apart of the ‘Silver Spooned’ generation, my family was pretty poor. However, because of the general affluence within our society, I was able to utilize many of the advantages that were available with respect to educational opportunities. I had vowed to work hard and accumulate the wealth that I didn’t experience as a child.
While in my twenties, I worked hard, went to college, saved, invested in real estate successfully, and by age 27 had accumulated a very handsome looking portfolio. I was well on my way in achieving the American dream and my goal of financial independence. Yet, I found myself suffering from insomnia. At age 27 I had realized that I had accomplished my entire short, medium and long-term goals, yet I was still missing something in my life. Not carrying for the accounting field, I found my way into management with a convenience store chain. I also had become the chairperson of “the No-longer Strangers Task Force” at church. This task force was responsible in working with World Church Services and helping resettle Southeast Asian refugees who were trying to immigrate into the United States. I found this work very fulfilling.
At the same time, I became aware that many of my customers at the convenience store seemed to be discussing unidentified yearnings for something greater in their lives; something that would give them a deeper satisfaction and a sense of greater self-worth. I grew to understand these to be “Spiritual” issues and I recognized that my own lack of goal setting came from “Spiritual” longings that were inconsistent with my previous mindset of finding “wholeness and security” through the amassing of wealth.
Once I connected all the dots and realized I should shift gears and go into parish ministry my insomnia stopped immediately. But then came the wrestling over personal wealth and the desire to accumulate more, because we all know that being a minister is not the road one takes to get on the list of the Fortune 500.”
Today’s questioning by the rich young man is really very similar to many of us. Here is a man who has it all. He was secure financially and was by all rights a very moral man; he followed and never strayed from the Ten Commandments, yet there was something missing in his life. If he had been satisfied, he would have never been asking Jesus the question, “what must I do to get eternal life?”
The answer of “sell everything and give it to the poor” sent the rich young man off saddened because he could not release his reliance of security that he found in his wealth to a new security in following Jesus. This person, who knew that there was something missing in his life, was unwilling to let go, so he might live life more fully.
Christians have historically struggled with the question of security. St. Francis of Assisi, challenged the church of his day with the same issues as the rich young man had. St Francis was a man of great wealth in a time when the church valued great wealth. When he gave all his wealth to the poor and lived as a beggar, rebuilding a church and providing a meaningful existence with very little, those in religious leadership couldn’t understand Francis actions. We as Christians struggle today with placing too much reliance on possessions, on money, and even on traditions while sensing that there is more to life.
It isn’t the matter of giving our wealth away and living like beggars that is the lesson here. The lesson is stripping away the baggage that keeps us from reaching out to God in the innocence of children, to live by God’s call for justice. The lesson for us is not to rely on external possessions to make us happy, but rather to rely on the inner peace that comes through our relationship with God. For it is in our true poverty of self, that we gain our true wealth; that of the love of God and our ability to share that love with others. It is in our poverty that we are able to free ourselves from the sin of consumerism and greed. It is in our poverty that we can find true security! Come, let’s follow God! Amen.