Great Exchange–Character

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What is the best purchase you ever made, a dream house, a fancy car, or new combine? For a long time, I was pretty sure that my greatest purchase of all time was going to be my Vintage Pro MVP1300 Mizuno baseball glove.  It was the first item that my dad made me save money for, putting it on lay-away at the local sporting goods store. I would visit it each week as I dropped off my few precious dollars, like I was visiting a puppy at the pound—petting the glove, make sure that nothing had changed in the 6 days in between my last visit. Finally, when the last dollar was paid, this glove became a constant companion from the age of 8 on.  It was with me when I first learned how to juggle and chew sunflower seeds during J.V. baseball; it was with me when I went on my first date,  it came with me as I moved across country, it was even there my first week of seminary, but I have to let you in on a little secret. What I was certain was the best purchase ever, has been sitting in my closet, or in a box for the last 7 years.  The great exchange fell flat.

Maybe you can relate. The car you spent hours polishing now sits somewhere as a wrecker, the relationship you pined after is over, after all the late nights at the office and the promotion doesn’t come. Exchanges that fell flat. Today, we are starting a new sermon series called the GREAT EXCHANGE—looking at how our time, talents, and treasures have a bigger purpose. In fact, David in the Psalms tells us that the whole world and everything in it and those who live on it belong to God and today we are going to start looking at why in the world he would trust us with what’s His.  You may be surprised to know that Jesus talks about the exchanges of everyday life more than heaven and hell combined. In fact, 1 out of every 7 verses in the Gospel of Luke focuses on money and management.  Sometimes, we want to scoff at that saying, “The church is only after my money” or “They only care about what I put in the offering plate”, but the reason is so much more profound.  Jesus knows that our appetites point to our affections, our behavior reveals our beliefs.

We are going to see the answer today in a familiar parable, Matthew 25:14-30 where Jesus tells of a master who appoints 3 servants, you probably remember, he gives the first 5 bags of gold, the second 2 bags of gold, and the third a solitary bag of gold. As the master returns, we find his focus isn’t on cash, but on CHARACTER- Matthew 25:19-21: 19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ 21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Unlike the parable told in Luke, we get to see into the true desire of the master for delegating to his servants.This process, which seemed so arbitrary, was actually a way of calling his people into a process of advancement. It was an invitation more than an enigma that needed figured out. God entrusts us with what is his, to make us more like him, to build within us a character that resembles Christ.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it best, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Dying to all the things that ironically cause us spiritual death. Each time we submit, we grow closer to him by using what he gave us to his glory.

Think back to the good ole’ days when you got allowance—your parents probably weren’t all that excited about just giving you money, but if they were anything like mine, they tied the allowance to a series of chores, it was a way for them to start teaching you how to be responsible, how to manage what wasn’t yours so one day you could better manage what was yours, and it gave you a chance with something small to learn something big.

In the show Everybody Loves Raymond there was a great episode where Robert desperate for money gets some from Robert and Debra. They have heard about his circumstances and a few scenes later Robert has transformed from depressed to overjoyed. He decided not to use the money for bills, but for a trip to Las Vegas. When he is confronted, he freaks out saying, “Only a dictator or mom would give money and then tell them how to spend it.” Robert and Debra both freak out because they gave the money with a bigger purpose in mind–and it reveals a character issue.  We sometimes maybe feel the same way with God. Fine, you gave me this stuff, but it is mine. I’ve earned it, worked for it, saved it, why dictate to me how I should use it? We got our own bills, deadlines, issues. Yet, don’t miss the profound nature in what appears mundane. Every day you have the chance to use the stuff around you and within—in a GREAT EXCHANGE—allowing your behavior to reflect your belief, your appetites to reveal your affection. Proverbs 28:6 – “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.”

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