Things Money Can’t Buy
October 10, 2021*
By Pastor John Partridge
Job 23:1-9, 16-17 Mark 10:17-31 Hebrews 4:12-16
There are several well-known phrases that we’ve probably all heard.
We’ve all heard that “money can’t buy happiness” and we’ve probably all heard the Beatles sing “Can’t Buy Me Love” in which Paul McCartney sings: “I don’t care too much for money, Money can’t buy me love.”
Let’s be honest, money is powerful and can do many things, but there are things that all the money and power in the world can’t change. And that idea is an integral part of what today’s scriptures have to say. We begin in Job 23:1-9, 16-17, as Job complains that as he is suffering with the loss of his family and his fortune, he cannot seem to find God.
23:1 Then Job answered:
2 “Today also my complaint is bitter;
his hand is heavy despite my groaning.
3 Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
that I might come even to his dwelling!
4 I would lay my case before him,
and fill my mouth with arguments.
5 I would learn what he would answer me,
and understand what he would say to me.
6 Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power?
No; but he would give heed to me.
7 There an upright person could reason with him,
and I should be acquitted forever by my judge.
8 “If I go forward, he is not there;
or backward, I cannot perceive him;
9 on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him;
I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.
16 God has made my heart faint;
the Almighty has terrified me;
17 If only I could vanish in darkness,
and thick darkness would cover my face!
If we listen, Job’s words hold some interesting contradictions. Job insists that he wants to find God, to give voice to his arguments about his innocence and insist upon hearing God’s answers. But, at the same time, he understands that while he expects that God would listen, he knows that God is not likely to engage in an argument and he hopes that God would acquit him of any guilt. We also hear Job insist that he has been searching everywhere and wants to find God, but at the same time finds the idea of meeting God a terrifying prospect that makes him wish that he could be invisible and disappear into the darkness. Job essentially says that he can’t find God but he’s afraid that he will.
Job knew that he was a faithful man who had once had money, power, and the blessings of God. But he also knew that his money, power, and faith, amounted to nothing in comparison to an all-powerful creator God. Job understood that no matter how much he demanded his day in court there was nothing that he could do to sway God’s opinion.
We often forget that. We forget how powerless we really are and how powerful God is. In our modern era of spaceflight and computers, a time when we have bent creation to our will by moving mountains and stopping the flow of rivers, we are persuaded to think too much of ourselves. We have lost Job’s fear of the power of God and have come to believe in a domesticated God that bends to our will. To be fair, we aren’t the first to have done so. In Mark 10:17-31, Jesus meets a man of wealth, and probably some power, who has become so accustomed to getting what he wants that he has become arrogant and blind to his own shortcomings.
17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it isto enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
28 Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
It might be reasonable for you to wonder why I said that this man was blind to his own shortcomings. And, in answer, I would point to how Jesus answered his question about eternal life. Jesus begins to recite the ten commandments, from the middle. He skips past the parts about honoring God, lists almost all the rest, and then deliberately skips one. Remember that this is exactly the sort of thing that people memorized in the synagogue in preparation for adulthood, so we can be reasonably certain that everyone listening was silently reciting the ten commandments to themselves as Jesus recited them. But rather than taking note of the commandment that Jesus skipped, the man arrogantly declares that he has kept all the commandments since he was a youth. But the commandment that Jesus skipped is the one that the man stumbled over. Do not covet. Don’t covet your neighbor’s wife, and don’t covet your neighbor’s stuff. And to make that point even sharper, Jesus tells the man that to find eternal life, to prove that he didn’t covet money, he would need to give away his wealth.
The disciples, I think, got Jesus’ point because they are terrified by his answer. Jesus is teaching that it is easy for money to tempt us away from God. Money has a way of making us want… more money. The disciples knew that while it was easy to say that we didn’t steal or kill, everyone wants more money. If Jesus is going to use that as a measuring stick to get into heaven, then no one can get in. Peter protests by saying that even though he likes money, and may even covet the money of others, he has demonstrated his love for Jesus by leaving behind his family, friends, and his job to follow him. And Jesus agrees. This was the point he was trying to make. But Peter had the humility to see and acknowledge that he fell short of God’s standard.
The disciples realized that they could of great wealth and great power do not. They are deceived by the illusion of control that is brought by wealth and power and they become arrogant and blind to their own shortcomings. That is why Jesus says that many who are first will be last and the last will be first. The people who have everything, and who get to be first in line for everything, will have deceived themselves into believing that they are right with God, but the people who have little, and who are often last in line, are aware of their faults and their need for God.
The writer of Hebrews describes God’s judgement this way in Hebrews 4:12-16:
12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.
14 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Peter and the other disciples were terrified when they realized that the desire for money and power, something that almost all of us want at least a little of, was a sin that could keep us out of the kingdom of God. God is the righteous judge.
Because our faith is in Jesus Christ, and because he was tested and lived his entire life without sin, we rest in knowing that he is our high priest. Jesus stands between us and God, and between us and judgement. Because of Jesus, we approach the throne of God, not with fear and the terror of judgement, but with boldness and confidence in the grace of Jesus. We know that through Jesus Christ we will find mercy and grace in the place of judgement.
Sir Paul was right. Money can’t buy me love.
Money can’t buy happiness.
It can’t buy peace, cheat death, find God, calm fear, buy forgiveness humility, repentance, righteousness, or admission to heaven. God will not be domesticated. All the money and power in the world won’t do us any good on the day of judgement and many people will discover that they put their trust and faith in the wrong places.
We will all render an accounting of our lives. Not only for our actions but also for the intentions of our hearts. Perfection is the standard of God and not one of us is perfect. The only thing that will save us on the day of judgement, is the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ.
Job searched for God but was terrified of what he would find when he met him.
But we look forward to meeting Jesus with humility and boldness… because in him, and in him only, do we find…
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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, 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 Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. 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 secretary@CUMCAlliance.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 https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.