June 12 2016 sermon
Is It Worth It?
Have you ever been tempted to spend a lot of money on something? Have you ever caved into that temptation and regretted it afterwards? Or was it worth it? Some expensive things are totally worth it. Have you ever been accused of wasting money on unimportant or unnecessary things? I have a lower back problem, and one day when I was at Sears, I saw special mattresses. I lied down on some of them and my back felt so comfortable. Then I saw the price tag! But is it worth it? Ever since that day, I have been thinking if I should invest 2000 dollars to buy a super mattress.
Temptation to spend money is everywhere. But when you’re on a budget, what you do is choose your priorities. And it’s not only money; sometimes we waste our time and energy on unimportant things. Of course, whether something is worth it or not depends on our perspectives and values.
In today’s gospel story, we meet a woman who is dubbed “sinner” covering Jesus with expensive oil, kisses and tears, and wiping it off of his feet. So the Pharisee host called Simon judges her for having spent the kind of money he doesn’t think she has, and also judges Jesus for seemingly not being able to tell that she’s a sinner because, surely a great teacher like him wouldn’t let a woman like her get closer to him! But we learn from Jesus’ retort that this judgemental host didn’t even give him water to wash his feet, a kiss of welcome, and oil for anointment; something a proper host should do. Jesus says to Simon, “I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathes my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment”. I think, what he’s trying to say in a contemporary language is, “Ha, you’re one to talk, you hypocrite”!
But as Jesus says, “sinners” appreciate being forgiven much more than “the righteous”. I put a quotation mark on the words “sinners” and “the righteous” because they are words of judgement, not reflecting absolute truths. When we’re hungry, we can appreciate food better, even food of low quality. When we are thirsty, we can appreciate water much more than when we are not; speaking of which, there is an anecdote of a Buddhist monk 1000 years ago who had to spend the night in a cave during a journey. When he was dying of thirst, he reached out his hands in the dark and found a container of water that tasted like heaven. The next morning he discovered that it was rotten water from a skull lying in the cave. Then he had a revelation that everything is in our head; a fundamental Buddhist idea.
Anyway the point is, when we are thirsty, seeking water is worthy. When we are hungry, seeking food is worthy. When we are considered to be sinners and judged by Pharisees, it is worth seeking forgiveness and salvation using everything we have. I’m not talking about spending a lot of money thinking that it will bring salvation; it’s about where we spend our heart. As Jesus in Matthew’s gospel says, “where your treasure is, your heart will be also”. Everything has a consequence, and in the end we have to ask ourselves, is it or was it worth it? It depends on perspectives, of course. If I spend 2000 dollars on a special mattress for my back problem, it might be worth it, but it wouldn’t be the same with people with no back problem and little money. If I, as a huge Doctor Who fan get expensive Doctor Who costumes or other products, some might think I am wasting my money but I might think it’s worth it; because I love Doctor Who. If we as Christians decide to spare a lot of our time, money, and other resources to serve the church or the needy, those who don’t share our Christian values might consider us foolish. But for us, it’s worth it.
Consider the story in 1 Kings we read today. King Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyard but Naboth wouldn’t sell it to him, so Queen Jezebel got her husband the vineyard by having Naboth killed. Ahab sought a vineyard, was consumed by the desire, and ended up taking what he wanted at the expense of an innocent life. He gained his heart’s desire, yes, but he also gained something else along with it; curse from God. So was it worth seeking?
So when we want something or are pursuing something in our lives, we should ask ourselves if it’s worth it. As Christians, we should also ask ourselves with which standards we are deeming things worthy or unworthy. Is it worthy as Christians to fulfill our heart’s greed while ignoring the needs of our neighbors, or while destroying the environment, or by hurting our fellow humans? Is it worthy for Christians to feel righteous by judging other people who are not like us or who don’t share our beliefs? I mentioned, when we’re hungry, it is worth seeking food; but do we need a 500$ luxury meal? Would all these be compatible with the love of God taught in the gospel of Jesus? Rhetorical question, of course.
This week, I invite you to meditate along with God on pursuing worthy things in our lives. I invite you to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in making life decisions worthy in God’s eyes.
Rev. Sunny Kim