Let us pray: Dear Savior, we know that You are our Rock, our Fortress, our Shield, our Great Reward. You are our Safety Net amid a world that is constantly trying to pull the rug out from under us. Today remind us to trust in that safety net of Your grace and not in our ability, possessions, or power. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR REAL SAFETY NET!
TEXT: Luke 18: 18-27
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Historically, people’s social safety nets were their extended families. Families took care of each other when the need arose. They paid debts, they shared income, they even served as undertakers for their own loved ones. There is something quite poignant about children actually preparing the body of their parent for the grave and lovingly lowering it into the grave, isn’t there? It’s the last act of gentle love even if it rips at the heart.
With the rise of the Christian faith, the visible church served as the safety net. Remember how in Acts the apostles took up collections for widows and orphans and how they shared food with their fellow parishioners in need? Later on, the church became the place where the truly needy could get a meal and a safe place to lodge overnight. During medieval times this literally was a God-send. Still later on, during the formation of our country when immigrants were cut off from their families, church folk assumed another aspect in this role of safety net. The whole concept of sponsors at a baptism that agreed to take a child in, if orphaned, and raise them as their own sprang from necessity on the frontier. It was another avenue of comfort in a harsh environment. All these examples were nothing more than Christian love in practice.—Loving your neighbor as yourself.
Of course, in our time the government has assumed this role as the dispenser of the safety net. I suppose it really all began during the Great Depression with Social Security. Over time it grew. Today the government takes care of some folks from cradle to grave—with all the attendant “taking advantage of the system” that goes with such largesse. What we used to do quietly and privately without fanfare is now done publicly. Of course, this has also bred the idea among many that: “Helping a person in need is not my responsibility, that’s what I pay taxes for!” Hence, we have impersonalized the safety net and ultimately no one is really responsible any more. Is this a better way than the “olden days?” Well, you decide.
Everyone, if they’re honest, employs a safety net and uses it daily. No, I’m not talking about welfare, food stamps, or public assistance. I’m talking about whatever you use in your life to insure your own comfort zone. What do you rely on when things get dicey? Who do you turn to when pain or upset comes? What do you use to insure some sort of equilibrium within when turmoil slams into your cozy world? Some people, who often were uprooted as children, view their home as their safety net. As long as they have their own little castle, they feel emotionally secure. Others rely on certain people—a spouse, a parent, a friend. Such dependency isn’t new. It’s been around since Adam and Eve. I had a grandfather who was large, strong, robust, and feared no person and no thing. His safety net was himself. Of course, when leukemia hit him and his health failed, he ended up dying alone in a hospital.—A blizzard interfered with family travel.
The lesson today really gets to the heart of the “safety net” mentality. We’re told that a certain ruler sought Christ out and asked Him this question: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” I find that expression quite telling. Note the word: inherit. Couple that with what we’re told later: “he was a man of great wealth.” Put the two together and you have a fellow who was born to riches and probably inherited his fortune. Maybe he was extra-nice to grandpa? Maybe he did special favors to insure his inheritance through his parents? In any case, he’s used to doing something to get something in return. I guess we’d call it: tit-for-tat. Moreover, the whole idea of doing something for unselfish reasons is unknown to him.
Jesus could read his heart. After all, Jesus is the Son of God. So first, Christ summarizes the commandments 4-8 which deal with loving your neighbor. The fellow jumps on this and replies: “All these things I have kept since I was a boy.” Really? If so, he was the only perfect boy/man that ever walked on this earth. Obviously, this ruler is dripping with superficiality. So, Jesus hits where it hurts, close to home, as it were. “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Elsewhere, Jesus says: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This man’s safety net wasn’t God. It wasn’t Christ. It wasn’t even himself in the strict sense. It was his wealth. He was in love with his money and riches. They could buy him anything—up til now. But, could they buy him a place in heaven? Christ says: No. “When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ Those who heard this asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God.'”
Adopting God as your safety net begins with humbling yourself before the Lord. It begins with realizing that nothing you have or are can save you from hell or give true peace to your soul. Human wealth is just that: human wealth. It comes and goes with humans. You cannot take it with you. But, it is alluring, isn’t it?
The next step toward a lasting safety net is approaching God with nothing but your own inadequacies and the humility that goes along with it. As the old hymn says: “Just As I Am Without One Plea, I come, I come.” God wants a heart emptied of pride because only then can it be filled with His love and grace. Christ gave His life to and for such emptied-out sinners. His huge heart fills our own bodies through faith. What did Jesus have when He died? No clothes, no money, no real friends—the disciples had run away. But, He did have His divine nature. He did have communion with the heavenly Father. And because of that, He knew what the outcome of the cross would bring—our salvation and a trip home to heaven for Him. That “safety net” was enough for our Savior and it’s enough for us, too.
The reaction of the crowd and the disciples to this interchange is telling. If pious people, rich humans, pillars of the social order cannot be saved by their deeds or lives, than who can? Yes, playing the comparison game is but another false safety net we employ to con ourselves into thinking that we somehow can earn God’s favor. But, if none of these human efforts works, what then? You know what. It’s called: grace. It’s called: Jesus is my safety net and He spun it around me on the cross and now cradles me in it every day. It’s His gift to me. “For what is impossible with men is possible with God.” Amen