“Pride, Patience, and the Pursuit of Wealth”

September 29, 2013
Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 1 Timothy 6:6-19 Luke 16:19-31

We all know the story about the tortoise and the hare. In that story, the rabbit is so sure that he will win a footrace against a turtle, that while he started strong, stopped for a drink and then for a nap and, ultimately, lost the race because he lost his focus on the finish line. In a similar vein, there is an old story about an elephant and a mouse that helps us to understand something about real strength. That story goes something like this… There once was an elephant who was friends with a mouse who lived near him. One day the elephant found a gigantic sack of peanuts near the road that had fallen off of a truck. The elephant dearly loved peanuts and wanted nothing more than to move the sack of peanuts back to his home in the jungle so that other humans who came along the road would not take it from him. The elephant tried to move the sack, but as big as he was, the sack was too heavy for him. All day long he worked and sweated and tried every imaginable way to move the sack and all day long, the little mouse sat and watched. He pushed, he pulled, he lifted and all to no avail. At the end of the day, exhausted and brokenhearted, the elephant slowly walked home and went to bed. As the sun rose on a new morning, the elephant came out of his bedroom to make a most amazing discovery. There, inside the elephant’s house, sat the gigantic sack of peanuts that he had tried so hard to move the day before. As the elephant wondered aloud how the sack came to be inside of his house, a tiny voice came from under some leaves that said, “I moved it.” The elephant heard the tiny voice and moved aside the leaves to find his tiny mouse friend. “You? “ He asked? “Me” the mouse replied, and at that, the elephant began to laugh. “How could you, a tiny mouse, move a sack so big that I couldn’t even make it budge?” And the tiny mouse replied, “Simple, you tried to move the sack and the peanuts all at once and failed. But I succeeded because I moved the sack… one peanut at a time.” The story of the “Tortoise and the Hare” as well as the story of the elephant and the mouse, teach us that there is great strength, not only in size or speed, but also in patience and in persistence. Sometimes those who seem to be smaller and weaker are able to succeed because they are willing to keep trying after others have given up, and are willing to keep on working after others have quit. In Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15, the nation of Israel received a message from God that, during some very dark days, provided hope for the future… if they will only be patient and persistent. 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: It may seem odd at first that God commands Jeremiah to buy property from his uncle, but the history of the story helps to bring it all into better focus. At the moment of this story, Jerusalem is under siege by the army of Babylon, one of the strongest and fiercest military machines on the planet. God has already proclaimed, through Jeremiah, that Israel will lose and Jerusalem will fall. Everyone knows, or at least is beginning to believe, that they will soon be dead or captive. Jeremiah knows that his future, and the future of his people, if they survive, will be in slavery to Babylon. And God commands him to buy his uncle’s field. What good is it to buy and sell land if the odds are almost certain that you might not live past tomorrow? What good will it do to own a field if you will, at best, be a slave in someone else’s field by the end of the month? And that is exactly God’s point. God commands Jeremiah to buy the field and to put the deed in a clay jar and seal it up so it will last for a long time. God’s message to Jeremiah and to his people is that they will require patience and endurance but there is hope because “Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.” God’s message is that this time of darkness is going to last for a while, but not forever. Things look bad, and they are going to get worse, but there is hope. The obstacle to reaching a place of hope often comes from within us. In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus tells a story, a parable, about a family who was so proud and so stubborn that no amount of evidence was going to convince them of the truth…
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“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
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“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So 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. 26 And besides all this,

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between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, 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 family, 28 for 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.’ “‘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 was heartless toward the plight of the poor who begged for crumbs outside his door and so was his family. When he learned the truth, it was too late. He begs Abraham to send the poor man, Lazarus, back from the dead to warn his family but Abraham knows that it won’t make a difference. All their lives they have heard the testimony of Moses, and the Prophets and of scripture, but their hearts were closed. Their wealth had made them too proud and too stubborn to hear the truth or for their hearts to be changed. Abraham said, “‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” I think of this verse often as I chat with some of my unbelieving friends. Often I have heard them say that if God was truly omnipotent, that he would perform some kind of miracle so that everyone on earth would know that he really did exist or so that everyone would know that he was God. In this short story, Jesus answers that question. If their hearts are so hard that they cannot believe the evidence that has already been given, then even a miracle isn’t going to convince them. The caution for all of us is in knowing that God chooses to reveal himself to us and provides all the evidence that we need, but we humans are able to be so stubborn and hardhearted, that our pride can keep us from seeing the truth. In his first letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:6-19), the Apostle Paul says something very similar.
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But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For 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. 12 Fight 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. 13 In 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 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who 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 3

enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In 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. Paul warns Timothy that money can tempt us and trap us into doing many things that are foolish and harmful and has lured many people into ruin and destruction. Paul never says that money is evil, that wealth is evil, or that wealthy people are evil, but he does say that the love of money can lead to all kinds of evil. Our calling is to take a longer view, to understand that God may not be calling us to get-rich-quick, and perhaps not to get rich at all. Like Jeremiah, we know that the land God has promised to us is in the future and the place we are now is not our home. Here, we are foreigners and strangers but one day we will return to the land that God has promised to us. In the meantime, we are called to be content with what God has given to us. Understand that contentment doesn’t mean that we cannot do what we do to the best of our ability, because that is also a part of our calling. God wants us to do everything with excellence. Contentment means keeping our priorities straight and using money as the tool that it is rather than letting money twist our values and lead us to into ruin and evil. Contentment means being satisfied with what God has given us so that our lust for money does not cause us to become stubborn, and proud and fall for the lies of the enemy. Contentment means using money and not being used by money. Contentment means believing that patience, persistence and endurance are stronger than brute strength or speed, that get rich slow usually works but get rich quick almost never does. Contentment means pursuing what’s right and godly and not pursuing money. Contentment means filling our lives with love and faith, mercy and gentleness and not an arrogant, all consuming drive for more, more, more that drives us to exhaustion and away from God. God’s command for his people is to “do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” In this way we will invest, and store up treasure in the land of our true home and “take hold of the life that is truly life.”

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You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribe@trinityperryheights.org. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online). These messages can also be found online at http://www.scribd.com/Pastor John Partridge. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

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