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“Love Misplaced”

September 26, 2010

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 Luke 16:19-31 1 Timothy 6:6-21

Have you ever been betrayed by someone that you loved? Has your love and trust ever been misplaced such that
people that should have watch your back ended up stabbing you in the back instead?

In the play King Henry VI by William Shakespeare, the title character, King Henry, says, “Trust nobody, for fear
you be betray'd.” ~ William Shakespeare, King Henry VI, Part II. Act IV, scene iv

Unfortunately, we can’t live like that. We are creatures that were designed to be in relationship with one another
and those who are so paranoid that they live in constant fear of betrayal wind up living lives of desperation,
loneliness and madness. Shakespeare also reminds us of another story of betrayal in his play “Julius Caesar.”
The story of Gaius Julius Caesar was well known long before the time of Shakespeare. Caesar grew increasingly
powerful and was assuming such power that he could not be opposed by the Senate or anyone else. Eventually,
he was assassinated by almost sixty senators including Brutus a man who had been one of his closest friends.

One of our fears in life is that we will be betrayed by those who love us. We fear this sort of betrayal because it
hurts so much more to be hurt by those whom we have loved and trusted than to be hurt by our enemies. And yet,
we cannot bear to follow a path that we know will lead us down a path of desperation, loneness, and madness. So
what are we to do? As we experience this pain and as we mature, we learn from those times that we have been
hurt. Eventually we become wiser and more cautious in choosing our friends and in whom we allow ourselves to
place our trust and our love. The same is true in other areas of life as well. In Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15, Jeremiah
teaches the king of Israel something about trust…
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This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was
the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. 2 The army of the king of Babylon was then besieging Jerusalem, and
Jeremiah the prophet was confined in the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace of Judah.
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Now Zedekiah king of Judah had imprisoned him there, saying, "Why do you prophesy as you do?
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Jeremiah said, "The word of the LORD came to me: 7 Hanamel son of Shallum your uncle is going to come to
you and say, 'Buy my field at Anathoth, because as nearest relative it is your right and duty to buy it.'
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"Then, just as the LORD had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard and said, 'Buy
my field at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. Since it is your right to redeem it and possess it, buy it for
yourself.'
"I knew that this was the word of the LORD; 9 so I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel and
weighed out for him seventeen shekels of silver. 10 I signed and sealed the deed, had it witnessed, and weighed out
the silver on the scales. 11 I took the deed of purchase—the sealed copy containing the terms and conditions, as
well as the unsealed copy- 12 and I gave this deed to Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, in the presence
of my cousin Hanamel and of the witnesses who had signed the deed and of all the Jews sitting in the courtyard of
the guard.

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"In their presence I gave Baruch these instructions: 14 'This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel,
says: Take these documents, both the sealed and unsealed copies of the deed of purchase, and put them in a clay
jar so they will last a long time. 15 For this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields
and vineyards will again be bought in this land.'

Jeremiah has already proclaimed that God would destroy Jerusalem and that the people would be carried off into
slavery. As Jerusalem is surrounded and under siege, the people begin to realize that Jeremiah has been right and
the king has been wrong. As the siege drags on they begin to see that it will not end well and their perceptions
begin to shape what they value. Land and property begin to be worth very little because people no longer believe
that anyone will be around to claim it or use it. Instead the only things of value were food and things that were
portable. Into this mix comes Jeremiah who is buying property when everyone else is selling because God’s
message to his people is a message of hope. God says that he is bringing punishment for the sins of Israel, but
reminds them that it won’t last forever. Israel isn’t being removed from God’s presence forever but they are
reminded that there is a price to pay for misplaced love. God commands that we love him with all our heart, and
all our soul, and all our mind and there are consequences for allowing other things to take first place in our lives.

Human beings, however, are a stubborn lot. Sometimes we hear the words but we don’t let them sink in and
change who we are. Jesus knew this and reflects upon it in the story of the beggar Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31…
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"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate
was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table.
Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22
"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died
and was buried. 23In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his
side. 24So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in
water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
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"But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus
received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26And besides all this, between us and
you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross
over from there to us.'
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"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, 28for I have five brothers. Let him
warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
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"Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'
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" 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
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"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone
rises from the dead.' "

The rich man dies and, while he is suffering in hell, realizes the truth. He begs Abraham to send Lazarus back to
warn his family but Abraham replies that there is no point in doing so. Human beings are so stubborn that they
simply won’t listen. They have already been given the words of God and refused to listen, and so we can be
confident that seeing a dead man witness to the truth will be of no more consequence than hearing the words of
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God. Here again is a warning to us. We not only have the words of Moses and the Prophets but also the words of
the Jesus and the Apostles. If our stubborn hearts are able to ignore and misinterpret the Bible and all that is
contained within it, we are likely so stubborn that we would ignore even the proclamation of a dead man that has
returned to life.

So the question arises, are we all doomed by our own stubbornness? The apostle Paul would argue that we are
not. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:6-21), Paul gives Timothy, his church, and us a warning (and
some instruction) about the dangers of wealth…
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But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing
out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9People who want to get rich fall into
temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10For
the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and
pierced themselves with many griefs.
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But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and
gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you
made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13In the sight of God, who gives life to everything,
and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14to keep
this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15which God will bring about
in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16who alone is immortal
and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever.
Amen.
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Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is
so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18Command
them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In this way they will lay up
treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly
life.
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Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas
of what is falsely called knowledge, 21which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.
Grace be with you.

Paul reminds us that being content with what we have is a good thing, even a great thing. Paul instructs us that
the desire to get rich has caused many people to fall into the trap of putting money ahead of God. Paul does not
say that money is the root of all evil nor does he say that money is evil or that rich people are doomed to hell.
What he does say is that the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil. It is not the money that causes the
problem, it is when we misplace our love and our loyalty and place it on money, or success, or power, or
possessions or anything at all other than our love for God.

I read an excellent commentary this week by a Scott Linscott, a youth pastor in Portland, Maine who argues that
the reason all of our young people have left the church is because we taught them that church wasn’t
important(http://scottlinscott.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/your-kids-an-all-star-wow-someday-hell-be-average-
like-the-rest-of-us/). In his commentary Linscott says this… Every time that we told our kids to skip church on
Sunday night so they could do homework, we taught them that academics were more important than God. When
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we drove half-way across the state and froze our backsides off to watch them play football, baseball, or play in
the band but couldn’t bring ourselves to drive them 20 miles to their youth Bible study, we taught them that
sports was more important than God. When we allowed our students to work jobs on Sunday instead of going to
church, we thought we were teaching them responsibility but instead we were teaching them that making money
was more important. Every time that we paid for sports camp but made them pay for church camp or their youth
group activities, every time that we stayed home from church or chose non-church activities or non-spiritual
activities over activities that would shape and nurture us, we showed them that God isn’t all that important. How
many of us participate in golfing, hunting, fishing, bowling leagues, Kiwanis, Eagles, Elks, Rotary, Booster clubs,
VFW, American Legion, PTA, or any of a thousand others and yet can’t find time to squeeze in one hour a week
for a Bible study? Linscott reminds us that we shouldn’t be surprised at the lack of a deep spiritual in our
children, because this is the faith (or lack of it) that we taught to them.
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But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing
out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9People who want to get rich fall into
temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10For
the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and
pierced themselves with many griefs.

One of the reasons that we fear for our young people is that many of us have seen what happens after years of
pursuing the wrong stuff. Money will betray you, academics guarantee nothing, clubs and hobbies and drugs and
alcohol and a million other diversions will not give us peace and comfort and rest and a good night’s sleep when
we pass through the trials of life. Paul’s warning and the warning that we heard from each of our scriptures this
morning is a warning about putting first things, first. Money, success, power, possessions and a life of mindless
activity will all, eventually, abandon us or betray us. God demands that we worship him with all our heart, soul
and mind and let nothing else take first place in our lives.

Anything else is…

…love misplaced.
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But you, man of God [or woman of God], flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love,
endurance and gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of the faith.

Let us always remember to put God first.

He is the only one who will never betray us.

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