Sermon: “When Dreams Becomes Nightmares
Scripture Lessons: I Timothy 6:6-10
Most sermons don’t begin with a quote, but I want to begin with one today. I am not going to tell you who I am quoting yet, mainly because I want you to guess. These words are from another preacher. A preacher who dared to preach on the same topic I am daring to on preach today. Here is what he said to start off his sermon:
“But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. Notice what St. Paul does not say. St. Paul does not say, “People who want to become rich by evil means, by theft, robbery, oppression, or extortion. St. Paul did not say people who want to become rich by fraud or dishonest work. He said simply, “those who want to be rich” – just those who want more, just those who desire more comfort, a larger nest egg, and a sizable monthly income – it is these people, though they may achieve such riches by very legal, just, and innocent means, it is they who ” fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”
Anyone want to venture a guess? It is John Wesley, preaching on I Timothy 6, in a sermon titled: The Danger of Riches. He lived and preached in a society where the division between the rich and the poor, between the haves and the have nots were distinct and real. In many ways, not much has changed in our day and age as it relates to our measures of success.
These words from John Wesley are challenging for us to hear, but they are essential if we are to understand what delineates success in the eyes of our society versus success in the eyes of God.
All of us have grown up with a certain understanding of what the American Dream is all about. For the most part, this dream is characterized by a subconscious desire for achieving success and satisfying the desire for material possessions. It is the opportunity to purse more than what we have, to gain more than we what we have, and to acquire success. We tend to measure our success by the stuff that we acquire.
If we honest with the way things are the love of money and the things money can buy is a primary or secondary motive behind most of what we do as Americans. We want to consume, acquire, and buy our way to happiness. In short, we want it now and so what if there are consequence.
The American Dream for so many people has become an American Nightmare due to two Distinct yet related illness that impact us socially and spiritually. What are these illnesses? They are Affluenza and Cred-ititis. Unfortunately, both can be very contagious.
Affluenza is the constant need for more stuff, bigger stuff, better stuff. We all know this, and if we are honest, again, we know how contagious this disease is. Let me make a public confession: I get a horrible case of it every time I see a classic car. There is this beautiful 1959 Chrysler 300 I saw in Appleton last week at the car show. Also, there is this 1955 Ford T-Bird that I long to have in the garage. You guys out there, and some of you woman, know what I am talking about. In my dreams I can see myself building bigger and bigger garages to hold my toys.
Who here hasn’t come down with a bad case of affluenza in the past year at one point or another?
Did you know that the average American home went from 1,660 square feet in 1973 to 2,687 square feet in 2016, at the same time that average family size was dramatically decreasing? Did you know that there is an estimated 1.9 billion – not million – billion square feet of self-storage space in America? All that stuff has to go somewhere.
The comic George Carlin pointed this out in his great comic routine on “Stuff”
He says” A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you’re taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody’s got a little pile of stuff. All the little piles of stuff. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn’t want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. They always take the good stuff. “
Credit-itis is another type of illness; it is a trend that in America we spend what we don’t have, the same trend that led us into the massive economic recession in 2008. Even though the economy is doing much better. Guess what? The rich are richer and the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is being squeezed. And the sad truth many family, homes, businesses, and churches are still struggling to get out of that financial hole.
Credit-itis is the disease that tells us to buy now and pay later; it is the desire for instant gratification, the impulse to have what I want, when I want it – and I want it now. Did you know that the average credit card debt in 1990 was around $3,000? Today it is over $9300. Did you know that the average sale is around 125 percent higher when you use a credit card instead of cash? Some psychologists say that is because using plastic doesn’t feel as real as when we are handing over cold, hard cash.
Unfortunately, our economy today is built on credit-itis; creditors exploit our lack of self-discipline, allowing us to feed our affluenza; they prey upon our insatiable desire for more and know how to use that impulse to turn a quick buck while simultaneously we are busy trapping ourselves just as St. Paul warned.
For Christians, we know that things like Affluenza and Credit-itis, are just new words for very old sins like greed, covetousness, and envy. The truth is, the problem behind our economy, as well as our affluenza and credit-itis, is not who is in the Oval office, who will be elected to congress this November, or what party is in control of government. No. At the heart of the economic crisis, globally, nationally, and personally – is a spiritual problem – and you can’t fix a spiritual problem with an economic solution.
Our souls were created in the image of God, but they have been distorted.
- We were meant to desire God, but we have turned that desire toward possessions.
- We were meant to find our security in God, but we keep trying to find it in amassing wealth.
- We were meant to love people, but instead we compete with them and engage in a never-ending cycle of contrast and compare.
- We were meant to enjoy the simple things in life, but we continue to complicate our lives with more and more stuff, requiring more and more of our time, burdening us with more and more anxiety, and causing us to worry more and more about protecting it all.
As you can see this isn’t just an economic issue it is also a spiritual one!
How do we move forward?
First of all, scripture tells us that we need a change of heart. And who can bring that change of heart, it is Jesus. We must allow Christ to work in us helping us to determine our priorities. When Christ works in us we desire first to seek His kingdom and strive to do His will. As this happens we begin to sense a higher calling. We were not meant is acquire we are meant to share the very best of our time, talents, and treasures for the sake of lifting up the Kingdom of God!
Each morning we need to get down on our knees and say, Lord, help me to be the person you want me to be today. Take away the desires that shouldn’t be there, and help me be single-minded in my focus and pursuit of you, and your kingdom.
Jesus said it this way: What will it profit you if you gain the whole word but forfeit your life? … If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. Take up the cross.
The cross for Christians, it is the ultimate symbol of selflessness and love. Take up the cross means joining Jesus in loving and serving the world, putting our desires aside so that we begin to desire and long for the things that God desires and longs for – for us and for the world.