Skip to comments."Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise" (Sermon on Hebrews 4, Mark 10, and Ecclesiastes 5)
Posted on 10/20/2012 1:21:31 PM PDT by Charles Henrickson
Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise (Hebrews 4:1-16; Mark 10:23-31; Ecclesiastes 5:10-20)
Youve all heard the old saying:
Early to bed
And early to rise
Makes a man healthy,
Wealthy, and wise.
And theres some truth to that--although, right now, its a little hard to get early to bed when youve got three-and-a-half-hour playoff games to watch! Even so, the point remains: A good, self-disciplined routine of rest and work, each in its own proper place, can lead to an increased opportunity for the good life.
But today I want to speak to you about something more than just the good life, as commonly defined--in other words, as simply a happy, successful life in this world. No, I want to speak to you about something more important and more long-lasting than that--although it will have great meaning also for our life in this world and how we live it. Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: yes, but in a far greater way than the saying suggests. Its the health and the wealth and the wisdom that God provides us with, which is good for both this life and the next. And so I must amend our little poem to fit the theme, as follows:
Surely what God
Most surely supplies
Makes a man healthy,
Wealthy, and wise.
Healthy, wealthy, and wise. Well be looking at these three things today from the perspective of our three lessons--the Epistle from Hebrews, the Holy Gospel from St. Mark, and the Old Testament Reading from Ecclesiastes, in that order.
We begin with Hebrews and the aspect of being truly healthy. You know, in the old saying we quoted at the start, the idea of being healthy is tied to getting the right amount of rest: Early to bed, and so on. Well, here in Hebrews, our true health, health for both body and soul, is likewise tied to rest--finding Gods rest, and entering into it. The writer to the Hebrews says: So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered Gods rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest. . . .
Rest. For Old Testament Israel, God provided a day of rest, called the Sabbath. This was the day, every week, on which the people of Israel were called to cease from their labors and to rest in, and reflect on, the work the Lord God was doing for them. The Lord God had brought Israel out of slavery in Egypt and brought them to himself. They were his people, and he was their God. He would take care of them. He would provide for them. He would protect them. He would lead them on their journey and lead them into the Promised Land, where they would find rest. Rest from their enemies. In a land flowing with milk and honey. A land of blessing and abundance. A place where every man could sit under his own fig tree and enjoy life. The good life. That is the Old Testament concept of rest. Its a good thing. Its the healthy way to live. Trusting in the Lord and his care. It is faith, based on Gods promises, that you can stop and rest for a while, that everything doesnt depend on you and your frenzied activity. The good Lord is in charge.
Do you want to be healthy? Yes? Well, are you getting your proper rest? Let me explain. In our frenzied and strenuous efforts to find the good life, we can actually miss the goal. We think its all up to us. And we think of the good life only in terms of acquiring things we can enjoy now, in this life. We take our eyes off the prize, the real prize, of life with God, righteous and at peace with him. We live, too often, as functional atheists, as though there was no God. We live in a self-contained bubble. And that spells trouble. For one day, that self-contained bubble will burst. The bottom will fall out of life--bad health, bad marriage, bad finances--all sorts of bad stuff. Then comes the ultimate in bad stuff, namely, death. Death and the judgment, when we have to give account to God. How do we overcome that? By our own efforts, works, and labors? That wont cut it. Not good enough.
No, the answer is to rest from our labors and to rest in Gods completed work. Its the Sabbath rest concept again. Its the Promised Land concept again. Only just updated to the Jesus version. For the Sabbath rest and the Promised Land rest were pointing ahead to the perfect rest we find only in Christ. The work he completed for us, when he cried out on the cross, It is finished!--that saving work of Christ supplies us with perfect righteousness, pays off all our debts to God, and opens up the door to everlasting life, where we will enjoy perfect health with glorified bodies in a restored creation. Jesus Christ is our Sabbath rest.
We enter that rest through faith in Christ. We rest from our labors and trust in his. Jesus invites us to do just that when he says, Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give your rest. . . . For my yoke is easy and my burden is light, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, even now, we find rest for our souls, knowing that our salvation is secure in Christ. He is our great high priest in heaven, through whom we can come to God with all our cares and troubles. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
So there is our health, namely, finding our rest in Christ. Secondly, where is our wealth? For that we turn to the Gospel reading from Mark. Ironically, though, in that reading, Jesus warns against wealth, saying that having a lot of money can be an obstacle to saving faith. You see, people can trust in their riches, rather than in the God who has provided them with those riches. In that way, wealth can become an idol, like we saw last week with the rich young man. As Jesus says, How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! . . . It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. So whether we have much money or not, the point is we dont let worldly wealth take the place of the heavenly treasure we have in Christ. Being wealthy in worldly terms is not the be-all and end-all.
But interestingly, there is a certain wealth we do acquire when we come to Christ. Jesus puts it like this: Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
You see, when you become a Christian, you come into Gods family, the church. And its a great big family, spread all around the world. Its a caring family, where brothers and sisters love one another and look after the needs of those who are hurting. We voluntarily share our wealth when we see a brother in need. So Ive got houses and family literally all around the world, places to stay, people who will help me out--and, conversely, people whom I will help out when I see them in need. Thats how it works in Gods family, the church.
And in the age to come eternal life. What wealth and treasure we possess! We are in line for an eternal inheritance, life everlasting, through our risen Savior Jesus! For, as Paul tells the Corinthians, you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. Truly we are rich beyond all measure!
Healthy. Wealthy. And now, third, wise. For that we turn to the reading from Ecclesiastes, part of the Wisdom Literature. Ecclesiastes takes a balanced view of worldly prosperity, on the one hand, saying, You cant take it with you, and, on the other hand, saying, Its alright to enjoy life, to eat, drink, and be merry, as long as you keep it in perspective and you recognize that this is a gift from God.
As [a man] came from his mothers womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. . . . Just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? Thats the one side, the transitory nature of wealth. Then the other side: Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil--this is the gift of God.
So to sum it up: The good life is OK, if youre blessed to have it, but realize that it is transitory--it wont last, it could be taken from you at any time--and receive that good life as the gift of Gods grace that it is. This is true wisdom.
Healthy, wealthy, and wise. Our lessons today tell us how it happens. Hebrews tells us that health for both body and soul is found in the rest that Christ brings us into. In Mark, Jesus says that our wealth consists in the treasures that are ours as members of Gods family, the church, and as heirs of eternal life. And finally Ecclesiastes reminds us that wisdom keeps everything in proper perspective, that we realize how fleeting earthly wealth is, while still being able to enjoy the blessings God gives us.
Healthy, wealthy, and wise. Whether or not youre early to bed and early to rise, here is where the secret lies:
Surely what God
Most surely supplies
Makes a man healthy,
Wealthy, and wise.
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,
As I swore in my wrath,
They shall not enter my rest,
although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: And God rested on the seventh day from all his works. And again in this passage he said,
They shall not enter my rest.
Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, Today, saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered Gods rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Mark 10:23-31 (ESV)
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, Then who can be saved? Jesus looked at them and said, With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God. Peter began to say to him, See, we have left everything and followed you. Jesus said, Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Ecclesiastes 5:10-20 (ESV)
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.
There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. As he came from his mothers womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.
Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil--this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.
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