Sunday, September 20, 2009

Save Now! God Will Reward You Later!

When I was young one of the hardest lessons I had to learn was to save money. When I was ten years old I began my first job and with my life long battle with saving money for the future. For a ten year old, anything with the word ‘future’ seemed liked I’d never see it, so why save money for the future. Every penny I had to save was a penny I couldn’t spend. Needless to say I wasn’t very successful saving money at ten. It was only two years later when I learned that if I put some money aside then I could buy a new walkman radio that was all the rage in 1981. All I had to do was deny some spending for a couple of months and I would be rewarded with a better purchase later. And thus began my life-long struggle with saving for the future vs. spending now and I wish I could tell you that I won that battle more than I lost.

The lesson of denying what we want now for something better in the future is the message of this morning’s Gospel. “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8.34-35) Lose my life is exactly what I thought about a savings account when I was ten. Why shouldn’t I have what I wanted right away? Why should I have to wait? I had a job and money. If I wanted to buy a toy or a candy bar, that’s what money is for. Save? HA! I could always make more in the future! I wanted it then and nothing was going to stop me….until I turned 16.

As I grew I realized that there were other things that were important in the life of any teenager: gas money or going out with friends. With only a summer job, I had to learn quickly that if I wanted spending money during the winter and spring I had to save money during the summer. And so I learned another lesson: we never know what the future holds so saving now for the future wasn’t losing my life, it was gaining it later.

Our society is obsessed with the here and now. We are obsessed with instant gratification. Immediate financing, no interest for the first 12 months, no credit needed; these are all popular phrases in today’s society and it all boils down to money and how we can get more things to fill our larger houses. And it doesn’t stop with money and owning more stuff. Our obsession with the here and now has boiled over into every part of life; the worst of which is how our society views sexuality. The need to wait for that first sexual encounter until marriage is considered not just old fashioned by many people but downright foolish. We are so worried about now, many of us don’t even have savings accounts.

So it should be no surprise that God wants us to forget about the now and worry about the future: our future with Him in His kingdom. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8.36) What good will it do to have our cars and summer houses in Greece or at the beach when we are faced with death? We all know, “We can’t take it with us.” But I’m not talking about money today, I’m talking about the priorities in life.

We could just as easily say, “What will it a profit a man if he attends every Gamecocks home game, and loses his own soul?” The Lord will not say, “Come you blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you attended a football game; I was thirsty and you went hunting; I was a stranger and you slept in after a night on the town.” (See Matthew 25.34-36) No, God will not reward us for choosing to ignore Him, His Church or His suffering people just so we could enjoy life now. He wants us to save spiritually for the future.

We don’t know exactly what the future holds, but we do know that God has promised to return sometime: we just don’t know when. When we deny what the world thinks is important and spend more time with God, just like saving money for the future, God will reward us in the next life. He said, “There are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.” (Mark 9.1) The power of God is present right here and right now! Every time we witness the Divine Liturgy, bread and wine become the real Body and Blood of God and we are blessed to be allowed to join ourselves to God. We witness the power of God every day, if we choose to acknowledge it. Who do we think brings customers into our restaurants? Do we not think that they could just as easily choose another restaurant? Why do we think we were chosen for a particular job over someone else? Who do we think ‘planted the idea’ that we were better than another candidate for the job who had the same qualifications. If we don’t think God works this way we should think again. God is always blessing us.

In our own Parish we have witnessed the power of God. Just in the past few weeks there have been savings in our emergency expenses. We fixed the water main that was leaking. Many thought it would costs several thousand dollars: it was done for less than $1000. We fixed the walk-in cooler not for the $3,000 we thought it would cost but for less than $2000 and that included fixing the air conditioning for the Community Center. And don’t forget the ‘once in a lifetime price’ for the marble that allowed us to marble not just the new Narthex but the interior aisles as well. God is working my dear brothers and sisters and His power is visible in our Community.

And God knows better than we do how hard it is to choose Him over society. He knows that we are human and that we make mistakes. I make my fair share of mistakes, that’s for sure but still God continues to bless us. Don’t you think the time has come for us to trust Him? Don’t you think the time has come to start saving for something better in the future?

Think back to when you were just a child learning how to save for the future. Think back to how hard it was to deny buying something just so you could have something better later. And now think back to the time you realized it wasn’t so bad waiting for something better. And nothing is better than spending eternity with God in Heaven. God guarantees it.

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