February 19, 2023*
By Pastor John Partridge
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 Matthew 5:38-48 1 Corinthians 3:10-23
As many of us have put aside a little money for our retirement or just for a rainy day, we may have learned a thing or two along the way. One thing that I first noticed in the 1980’s, and which has had surges of popularity over the intervening decades, were opportunities that are known as socially responsible investments. They may have been around for a long time, but he first time I recall hearing about them, they were mutual funds or other vehicles that deliberately avoided any investments in companies that did business with the South African system of apartheid. Later, we heard about investments that avoided tobacco stocks, or companies that sold alcoholic beverages, and more recently it’s “big oil” or “big pharma,” or whatever it is that seems to be the evil empire of the moment.
Sometimes, socially responsible investment serves an admirable purpose, but at other times, it is not well thought out and actually does damage to the cause that it was trying to promote simply because our world is rarely black or white and because investing in corporations that themselves invest in layers of other corporations can be dauntingly complicated. But this morning, we will find that our scriptures offer us some sound advice, regardless of how much money we have (or don’t have), not for investing in stocks, or bonds, or mutual funds, but for investing responsibly in our eternity. We begin in Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 where…
19:1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.
9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.
11 “‘Do not steal.
“‘Do not lie.
“‘Do not deceive one another.
12 “‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.
13 “‘Do not defraud or rob your neighbor.
“‘Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.
14 “‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind; but fear your God. I am the Lord.
15 “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great; but judge your neighbor fairly.
16 “‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people.
“‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord.
17 “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.
18 “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people; but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
This isn’t exactly the ten commandments, but there is some overlap. But the first verse reminds us that because we worship a holy God, we are called to be holy and live holy lives, but our scripture doesn’t just leave us there. It goes on to tell us how to do that, by being compassionate, and generous, not stealing, not lying, and to avoid the practice of deception in any form (which, I think, would make it tough to be a politician). Keep your word, do not commit acts of fraud or misrepresentation, pay people what they are worth, when you promised to pay them. Care for the disabled and be compassionate toward them, do not favor the rich over the poor, but neither should you favor the poor over the rich. Don’t slander people or gossip about them, don’t do things in your own home that might endanger your neighbors in theirs. Don’t hate people, but instead care for them, help them, and offer guidance and advice to keep them out of trouble. And finally, instead of wasting your time and energy trying to get even for what others have done to you, forgive them, love them, and move on with your life.
This message is so important, that Jesus summarizes it in Matthew 5:38-48 and says…
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighborand hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good; and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Jesus says that holding grudges and trying to get even with those who have harmed us and who have offended us, just creates a horrible and evil cycle of violence. Instead, do what must be done to break the cycle. If they hit you, let them hit you again, if they steal from you, give them more than they asked for, if they need your help, provide more help than that for which they asked, if they ask to borrow money, or tools, or anything else, loan it to them if you are able. The goal is to overwhelm evil with good. Only doing good for the people who do good things for you is the same behavior as everyone else, but as the followers of Jesus, we have a higher calling. We aren’t called to act like everyone else. We are called to act like Jesus and to model his love, compassion, generosity, and selflessness to the people around us and to the world.
In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul explains that through our words, our actions, and the way that we live our lives, we are investing in our future and in our eternity. In 1 Corinthians 3:10-23 he says…
10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
Paul explains that all that he has done is to lay a foundation upon which someone else is building. This reminds us of what we heard from Paul last week when he said that he planted the seeds, Apollos watered them, but it was God that was making them grow. We build with care upon the foundation that was laid by Jesus Christ and what we build will be tested with fire because it must be built to last for eternity. What we are building is not impressive architecture, but changed hearts and lives dedicated to following God. We cannot boast that we are the followers of this preacher, or that televangelist, or this or that politician. We cannot boast about human leaders of any kind if we are building an eternal kingdom.
And so, there are some questions that we should be regularly asking ourselves.
Are we investing responsibly?
As we live our lives, how do we live them?
As we invest in the lives of others, what are we giving them?
As we build kingdoms, whose kingdom are we building?
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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. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com . All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.comThe “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™