1) The Freedom to Sing
The French have a story about a millionaire in his palace who spent his days counting his gold. Beside the palace was a poor cobbler who spent his days singing as he repaired people's shoes. The joyful singing irritated the rich man. One day he decided to give some gold coins to the cobbler. At first the cobbler was overjoyed, and he took the coins and hid them. But then he would be worried and go back to check if the coins were still there. Then he would be worried in case someone had seen him, and he would move the coins and hide them in another place. During all this, he ceased to sing. Then one day he realized that he had ceased to sing because of the gold coins. He took them back to the rich man and said, "take back your coins and give me back my songs."
Gerry Pierse, Detachment and Freedom
2) Shot in the Wallet
The devil was on the prowl one day out to get the Christian. When he saw the Christian he shot one of his fiery darts and it struck the Christian in the chest. The Christian had on the breastplate of righteousness so he wasn't harmed. The devil shot at the Christian's head but that was protected by the helmet of salvation. The devil figured everyone has an Achilles' heel, so he shot at the Christian's feet that were shod with the gospel of peace so no harm was done. The Christian smirked and turned around to walk away. The devil fired an arrow into the Christian's wallet and killed him.
Beth Quick, Mission: Impossible
3) Do All the Good
Henry Thoreau said, "Be not merely good; be good for something." That was Jesus' challenge to the man who wanted to know what he could do to inherit eternal life. He had been good at making money, in being morally upright and keeping the commandments; but that is not the ultimate good: he must also give of himself and what he has in behalf of others. He needed to also realize that, "The gift without the giver is bare." John Wesley proposed an excellent guide to goodness. He said, and he practiced what he preached:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
At all the times you can,
As long as ever you can.
Someone else has expressed the ideal of goodness in a wonderful way, saying, "I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore, that I can do, or any goodness that I can show to my fellow creatures, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."
Clement E. Lewis, When It's Twilight Time, CSS Publishing Company
4) Real Wealth - Priorities
God creates us with a variety of needs, desires, interests, talents, and opportunities. But these things don't define what we'll be. They're like the bricks, lumber, wallboard, shingles, and tiles we might see piled on the road near a construction site. It's what we make from the raw elements of our personalities that defines who we are; and this is where priorities and choices are crucial.
Jimmy Carter, Sources of Strength, Random House, p. 230.
5) The Failure that Looked Like Success
More than forty years ago, I heard a man describe two paintings he said he had at his home. I have never forgotten them even though I never saw them. One was of the figure in Jesus' story of the rich man whose crops produced so abundantly that he decided to pull down his barns and build bigger ones, and he said to his soul, "Soul, eat, drink, and have a great time, for tomorrow you die." The caption under this painting said: "The Failure that Looked Like Success." The other painting, the companion painting, was of Jesus dying on the cross, the crown of thorns on his head, his chin drooping against his chest, the crude nails in his hands, and all his friends off somewhere in hiding. The caption under this picture said: "The Success that Looked Like Failure."
We would all like to be successful and fulfilled as persons; it is one of the dreams with which our culture imbues us. But when we listen to Jesus, we realize that success and fulfillment don't really come the way we often expect them to. They aren't the direct result of anything we can do to attain them. Instead, they're a gift from God and they simply happen when we are doing the right things with our lives. In God's eyes it is a whole lot better to be a success that looks like failure than a failure that looks like success.
John Killinger, The Real Way to Personal Fulfillment
6) The Success Syndrome
Harvard Medical School psychologist Steven Berglas has written a book called The Success Syndrome. He has found that individuals who in his word "suffer" from success have arrogance and a sense of aloneness. Insider trader Dennis Levine was asked by his wife why he needed the money from insider trading and he really had no answer. Levine says that when his income was $100,000, he hungered for $200,000, and when he was making $1 million, he hungered for $3 million. Berglas says that oddly enough people who find that $200,000 did not make them happy never asked themselves why they thought $300,000 would make them happy. Asked to prescribe a cure for the success syndrome, Berglas said, "What's missing in these people (Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, Leona Helmsley) is deep commitment or religious activity that goes far beyond just writing a check to a charity."
King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
7) We Want It Our Way
The story of Faust by Goethe has become part of our heritage. Faust was a man who longed for romance, academic success, and wealth. Unable to find these on his own, he made a pact with the devil. If he could be granted his wishes, have his true worth made public and enjoy its fruits, then he would give his soul to the devil. Sure enough, he enjoyed marvelous romances, fabulous successes, and much wealth. Oddly enough, when the time came, he was unwilling to keep his part of the bargain. I wonder if there is a parallel here. We put Jesus off, promising, "Just one more of this and one more of that -- then I will be willing to go with you, Jesus." Are we not like little Fausts, wanting to have it our way? After all, we say, we deserve it! And what do we say to Jesus when he comes to claim us?
Thomas Peterson, The Needle's Eye, CSS Publishing Company.
8) Four Questions for Church Membership
A seminary professor named Stanley Hauerwas has a novel idea about how churches should receive new members. A teacher of Christian ethics at Duke University, he has written about the church's need for honesty and has called us to tell the truth as a "community of character."
To this end, he has a modest proposal. Whenever people join the church, Hauerwas thinks they should stand and answer four questions: * Who is your Lord and Savior? The response: "Jesus Christ." * Do you trust in him and seek to be his disciple? "I do." * Will you be a faithful member of this congregation? The answer: "I will." * Finally, one last question: What is your annual income?
You heard me correctly. When people join the church, Dr. Hauerwas thinks they ought to name their Lord and Savior and tell fellow church members how much money they make. It is obvious Hauerwas does not serve as a pastor of a congregation. His idea just wouldn't work, especially in the American church. Most church members believe salary figures are more sacred than prayer, and would quickly tell an inquisitive minister to snoop around somewhere else. What's more, parish experience tempers the questions a minister asks of church members. Most pastors quickly learn how to dance around the issue of money without ever naming it.
William G. Carter, No Box Seats in the Kingdom, CSS Publishing.
9) "Oh Lord, hit him again!”
The parish church was badly in need of repair. So the pastor called a special meeting to raise funds. At the assembly, the pastor explained the need of an emergency fund for plastering the roof and supporting pillars and for carrying out other items of repair. He invited the congregation to pledge contributions. After a brief pause, Mr. Murphy, the richest man in the parish, volunteered to give 50 dollars. Just as he sat down, a hunk of plaster fell from the ceiling on his head. He jumped up, looked terribly startled and said: “I meant to say 500 dollars.” The congregation stood silent and stunned. Then a lone voice cried out from the back: “Oh Lord, hit him again!”
10) Andrew Carnegie made millions in the steel industry.
He worked hard helping the poor and underprivileged. Once a socialist came to see him in his office and soon was railing against the injustice of Carnegie having so much money. In his view, wealth was meant to be divided equally. Carnegie asked his secretary for an assessment of everything he owned and at the same time looked up the figures on world population. He did a little arithmetic on a pad and then said to his secretary. "Give this gentleman l6 cents. That’s his share of my money.
11) A wealthy older gentleman who married a young lovely woman
He was beginning to wonder whether she might have married him for his money. So he asked her, "Tell me the truth: if I lost all my money, would you still love me?" She said reassuringly, "Oh honey, don’t be silly. Of course I would still love you. And I’d miss you terribly."
12) How to Catch a Monkey
With a coconut, some roasted peanuts or rice and a string, tribal people living in the border of forests in Africa, Sri Lanka and India have been trapping monkeys for centuries. At one end of the coconut, they open a hole that is big enough to allow a monkey's hand to push inside. However, the hole is too small for a monkey to remove his hand when he makes a fist. On the other end of the coconut, a string is firmly attached and tied to a tree trunk. The coconut trap, with roasted peanuts or roasted rice inside, is placed along a monkey's trail, and the trapper hides behind bushes with a net. The monkey smells the peanuts and is attracted to them. He puts his hand through the hole and grabs a handful of peanuts, after which it is impossible for him to remove his hand since he is unwilling to let go of the peanuts. Suddenly the trapper casts the net over the monkey and traps it. We too are attracted by different "peanuts" that can be detrimental to our spiritual and physical pursuits. Today’s gospel presents a rich young man who wants eternal life but will not relinquish “the peanuts" of riches.
13) The Success Syndrome:
Harvard Medical School psychologist Steven Berglas has written a book called The Success Syndrome. He has found that individuals who in his word "suffer" from success have arrogance and a sense of aloneness. Insider trader Dennis Levine was asked by his wife why he needed the money from insider trading, and he really had no answer. Levine says that when his income was
$100,000, he hungered for $200,000, and when he was making $1 million, he hungered for $3 million. Berglas says that oddly enough people who found that $200,000 did not make them happy, never asked themselves why they thought $300,000 would make them happy. Asked to prescribe a cure for the success syndrome, Berglas said, "What's missing in these people (Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, Leona Helmsley), is deep commitment or religious activity that goes far beyond just writing a check to a charity." [James W. Fowler, Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1984),
14) Destined to drown with his treasure:
There is an old story about an 18th century man who was moving overseas. His life's savings of gold and silver coins were carried in a big money belt he wore around his waist. The ship hit an iceberg and started to go down. It was sinking so fast that many people had to jump in the water and swim to the lifeboats already launched. The man jumped in, but because he could not bear the thought of leaving that heavy money belt behind, he went to the bottom of the sea. The story ends with this haunting question: "Would you say that this man had his money, or that his money had him?" Jesus tells the story of such a man in today’s gospel.