The following is taken from a sermon series preached at The Southeast Project. You can listen to the audio of this teaching on our sermon audio page at www.wearesoutheast.org
Did you see the news about Kylie Jenner? I know, the answer to that question could be, “What news?” because there always seems to be some kind of news around the Jenner/Kardashian family. In the age of social media, we can’t seem to get away from the tabloids that used to only be in our face when our parents were checking out at the grocery store.
Here’s the thing, why are these people even famous? What have they done? And, these questions are why I couldn’t ignore the news this week.
You see, Kylie Jenner wasn’t on the cover of Vogue, People, or some other random check-out magazine. She was on the cover of Forbes. This is a magazine that advertises itself as “a leading source for reliable business news and financial information.” And, the reason she ended up on this magazine was that they wrote an article about her and they teased it on the cover like this:
“$900 Million Dollar Cosmetics Queen, Kylie Jenner: at 21, she’s set to be the youngest-ever self-made billionaire.”
Now, she is undoubtedly successful, and I think it’s great that Forbes is highlighting women in business. That’s not the question most people had about Kylie Jenner being on Forbes magazine. The debate is whether she is actually a self-made billionaire.
When I think of self-made, I picture someone like Forrest Lucas. He’s the guy that has his name on the football stadium in downtown Indianapolis. He actually started his career driving a semi-truck before inventing his own blend of oil. Kylie Jenner was raised in a mansion with a trust fund. It’s hard for me to imagine someone born into a super wealthy celebrity family as self-made. Pulling up yourself by your bootstraps isn’t the same when you’re talking about Versace.
Okay, so I’m going to talk about judging others in a couple weeks. So, before I go any further, let’s back up a second. The reason I want to talk about this today is that a tweet I saw from The New York Daily News. Now, this is how they interpreted Kylie Jenner’s cover photo on Forbes:
“What are you doing with your life?”
I’m not sure they expected answers because the apparent answer to this snarky rhetorical question is that whatever you’re doing with your life will never compare to Kylie Jenner. Just go back to working your 9-5 job, cleaning up after your kids, mowing your yard, and waiting for your click-list because the rest of the 99% of us will apparently never have the impact of Kylie Jenner.
I love what happened instead. The comments were full of teachers, paramedics, moms, and other everyday people who completely trolled the New York Daily News and shared the impact they were having on the lives of others.
Now, hold onto all of this in your mind, and we will come back to it. But before we do that, I want to go back to a passage of scripture we looked at a couple of weeks ago and then I want to show you how this all connects.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
Now, we all know things like anger, lust, contempt, lying, and vengeance hurt our relationship with God. These are all ugly things that build up in our hearts and cause a lot of damage to us and the people around us. They are things we can quickly point to and call sin. They are the kind of things that separate us from God and separate us from each other. We know that these things are the things that cause the world to be an uglier place. And, it’s not hard to see that these things are the opposite of the life of love, mercy, and grace that Jesus teaches about. So, we expect Jesus to talk about stuff like this. And, as we have read through the Sermon on the Mount, we found those things as Jesus warned us about the damage they cause in our lives.
The people who were listening to Jesus had the same expectations. They had expected this religious leader to tell them things they shouldn’t do. And, he did. What they didn’t expect Jesus to do was to go from talking about how destructive things get in the way of our life with God to talking about how good things can get in the way of our life with God, but that is exactly what Jesus did in this part of the Sermon on the Mount.
And in the verses that followed, Jesus talked about giving to the needy, prayer, and fasting. We could probably add reading the Bible, going to a small group, or attending worship to that list.
Maybe that sounds strange, counterintuitive, or something you might not expect me to say. But it’s something we all need to hear because the biggest problem in the church today are people who just want to play church. They want to read the right things, say the right things, pray the right prayers but they aren’t doing it for the right reason. They were religious, but they didn’t know why.
This is the issue that Jesus was addressing in this section of the Sermon on the Mount.
The problem for the hypocrites, as Jesus called them, was that they had placed the goal posts in the wrong spot. They were aiming at the wrong target. The same thing is true of Forbes and The New York Daily News asking us what we are doing with our lives. They are trying to get us to aim at the wrong target.
Your impact isn’t measured by the things you accumulate or consume. It’s not about the size of your bank account. It’s not about what anyone else thinks about you.
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
Now, remember what Jesus had just been talking about. These people took good things and turned them into things that actually harmed their faith because they were doing these things for the wrong reason. The saddest thing about this is that they took something that had the power to be incredible and they made it mundane and worthless. Listen to what Jesus says instead.
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
When Jesus used the word heaven he was never only speaking of somewhere you go when you die. The entire Sermon on the Mount was this idea that heaven was breaking into earth. It was the idea that we were invited to participate in bringing heaven into the world around us.
This is what Jesus invites us to. He tells us that our time, resources, and energy can be wasted on things that don’t matter or we can invest in something that has a real impact.
I want you to thank about this reality. You have been invited to participate in the Kingdom of God. You have been invited to help create and invite others into that reality. And the best part about it is that God created you for that purpose. You have been given gifts, talents, skill, time, resources, and passion for a reason.
So, with that in mind, I want to extend an invitation to you. I’ve already invited you to a new understanding of giving, prayer, and fasting. I could talk about worship, reading your Bible, or joining a small group. All of these things can be done for the wrong reason or they can have an incredible impact on your life. As Jesus said, it all depends on your focus and why you do what you do.
And, while I could talk about several areas, the specific area I want you to look at today is serving in the church.
Now, for a lot of people serving in the church is done out of guilt or expectation. And that’s the wrong approach. There is a way better way to see serving in the church: you are participating in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus closed this section of his sermon on the mount with these words:
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
We have so many things we can do each Sunday. We all have lists of projects that need to get done. We all have events we don’t want to miss. We all have family that we need to see.
These are all good things. And, all of these things matter. But as Jesus showed us, sometimes good things can get in the way of what really matters.
I want you to be in church on Sunday but I don’t want you to be in church just to keep a seat warm.
I want you to be in church to learn how Jesus wants to change your life. I want you to see that the Kingdom of God is real.
I want you to be in church for that.
I want your kids to learn about Jesus so that the next generation will serve and follow Jesus and show the world the kind of love that the world so desperately needs.
I want you to be in church for that.
I want us to welcome our neighbors and friends into this church. I want us to show them a community that loves them values them (regardless of who they are), and gives them a place to know a Jesus maybe they’ve never heard about.
I want you to be in church for that.
So, as you attend Southeast, or any church, I invite you to serve.
The row of chairs you set up in the morning is for that family who wasn’t sure they were going to make it one more week. The person you greeted at the door wasn’t sure that they would ever feel welcome in a church again until they met you. That mom who is at the end of herself and at her limit finds community during worship as you hold her baby as she sleeps. That elementary student gave her life to Jesus, and now her entire life is going to go in a different direction, and she is going to change the world.
I want you in church for that.