(Luke 12:13-21, Colossians 3:1-11)
Our perspective, how we see and understand things, affects every part of our lives. There are so many ways to see and understand things that it is impossible to list them all. Open a philosophy or religion encyclopedia and you are confronted with numerous ways to see and understand life. For example, while I as in undergraduate school, I had to read the book, Seven Theories of Human Nature, which presents the perspectives of six philosophers and Christianity. This book presents seven perspectives, but there are many, many more! It’s impossible to list them all, yet our perspective affects every part of our lives, so it’s important to know what our perspective is!
As Christians, we should have a Christian perspective, a Christian way of seeing and understanding things. The life of faith is, in fact, a striving to see and understand things from a Christian perspective.
We have to strive to have the Christian perspective because human nature doesn’t have the Christian perspective naturally. That is why Paul felt the need to urge the Colossian Christians to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. . . . Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly” (3:1-3, 5a) – things like sexual promiscuity, misguided desire, greed, anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive language, lying. These things are not part of a resurrection life, a life raised with Christ from death. Those who have been raised with Christ have been “clothed with a new self,” a self that has been “renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator” (3:10).
Having been raised with Christ and clothed with a new self, we are to see and understand things as gifts from God: life is a gift from God; nature is a gift from God; food is a gift from God; people are a gift from God; talents are gifts from God; money is a gift from God; possessions are a gift from God – ALL of creation is a gift from God!
If we see and understand things as gifts from God, then our lives should be a continual “thank you” to God. We should treat ourselves well as a way of saying “thank you” to God (therefore we should not abuse ourselves). We should treat other people well as a way of saying “thank you” to God (therefore we should not engage in sexual promiscuity, anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive language, and lying). We should treat nature well as a way of saying “thank you” to God (therefore we should not pillage the earth). We should eat in a way that says “thank you” to God (therefore we should not be gluttonous). We should manage money in a way that says “thank you” to God (therefore we should not engage in avarice). We should manage our possessions in a way that says “thank you” to God (therefore we should not be greedy).
The way that we live and deal with our world should glorify God. This means that we don’t see people and things as ends in themselves, but as subjects and objects that connect us to God. When we eat a delicious piece of fruit, we praise God for providing us with food. When we have a romantic partner, we see that person as a child of God, worthy of our respect and nurture. When we have more than we need, we wonder if there is someone who needs what we don’t need.
Everyone and everything we come into contact with as we go about living should connect us to God. Just as the sun shines through the clouds, so God shines through the people and things of our world. When we are raised with Christ and clothed with a new self that is renewed in knowledge according to our creator, we see and understand that God shines through the people and things of our world, we honor those things as gifts from God, we thank God for them, and we treat them accordingly. We live a life of thanksgiving and praise, one in which we receive from God and give back to God in a circle and a cycle of loving communion.
Jesus said to the crowd, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). Indeed, one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions; rather, it consists in communion with God, for it is in communion with God that we are rich toward God, rich in thanksgiving and praise, and rich in loving action. The excess grain in our barns is not there to ensure a future that may never come; instead, it is there so that we may glorify God with it, perhaps by feeding those who don’t have enough grain, perhaps by feeding the cattle starving in the next village. Only God knows, and he will let us know if we see and understand the situation with a Christian perspective. May we do so. Amen.
Sermon preached by the Rev. Amy Johnson at the Canton Community Baptist Church, Canton, CT, Sunday, August 7, 2016, the Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost.
*Image is from www.lyricquotes.com