Sermons That Work

What Insurance Policy Do You Have?, Epiphany 3 (B) – 2000

January 23, 2000


Recently, an ad appeared on television. It pictured the advertising media’s image of the ideal American family. The husband and wife were young and appeared successful and had two small children, a boy and a girl. They were sitting in the family room watching their children play. The boy was busy with a computer game and the little girl was pretending to be a ballerina. While the children played, the parents daydreamed. The husband saw his son, grown up, writing computer programs. The wife was picturing her daughter, grown up, as a ballerina performing in a ballet. The ad asked the question, “How can you guarantee the future dreams that you have for your children, if you do not plan today?” The goal of the ad was that the husband and wife needed to purchase a particular type of life insurance to guarantee college and, as a consequence, worthwhile careers for their children.

Just think about all of the different kinds of insurance available: life insurance, health and dental insurance, homeowners insurance, automobile insurance, and many more. The purpose of these different insurance policies is a form of security. It is sort of like purchasing an assurance that everything is really going to be okay no matter what happens. In fact, this need for assurance that all will be well goes beyond the purchasing of insurance, for people have a tendency to look to other things as security, as insurance against the unknown. People are told that they must have just the right job, live in just the right neighborhood, attend just the right schools, and buy just the right clothes and just the right things. The danger in this way of thinking lies in placing one’s security, one’s insurance policy, in the wrong place.

The Gospel reading for today heralds the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come hear, repent and believe in the good news.” The kingdom has come! Christians are living in the kingdom now and it is progressing toward its completion in the Second Coming of Christ. In the Christian’s individual kingdom journey, each one is given the opportunity by God to move closer to the center of the kingdom, to where Jesus Christ is. But moving toward the center of the kingdom, that is, preparing for the coming of the Lord in one’s personal life, calls for a radical change in direction. People must entrust themselves to God’s Word, the word spoken through Jesus Christ, the word become alive and active in Jesus Christ, and not go looking for their own insurance policy. So many times excessive focusing on the part of Christians about success and security leads to compromising their religious values and their personal well-being. When Christians allow activities associated with work or school or personal lives to eat away at time for family, for worship, and for service to others in our community, the good news of Jesus cannot be heard.

While Jesus doesn’t promise that the journey into the kingdom will be a smooth road to fulfilling all of the Christian’s dreams, Jesus does promises that he will be with those who believe in him. Turning to the Lord means turning away from all of those voices telling the Christian to walk other paths-the false paths of security without Jesus at the center.

It is not that any of the security people seek for their personal and family lives is bad in itself. It is good to have insurance policies. It is good to attempt to advance at work. It is good to try to get a good education. It is good to want a decent home, and there is nothing wrong with trying to make one’s personal life more pleasurable. But they are just things! And when people forget about the fact that these are just things, or paths to accomplish their goals, these things become so important in their lives that they take the place of God, family, and personal well-being. Then these things become idols.

In the reading from Jeremiah, God says to put away those detestable idols and don’t let them get in the way of our relationship with God. When Christians let these “idols” get in the way, they forget God and forgetting God is the base of all sin. For Christians, when Jesus is not at the center of their lives, that is, when they are focused on other things, they are actually putting idols in the place of God. This is what Jonah meant when he prayed from the belly of the fish, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” (Jonah 2:9) Each Christian must ask the question, “Do I want to live in the grace of God or in my own insurance policy?

Do not forget that living in the grace of God involves a cost. The first disciples of Jesus recognized that cost when they left all to follow Jesus. Each person called to be a disciple must be willing to give up something in order to receive the good news himself or herself and then bring the good news to others. Ultimately, it means that Jesus becomes the Christian’s insurance policy and not the idols of his or her own making.

In Ist Corinthians, Paul is not telling people that they may not attempt to improve their condition. He is just cautioning them against letting their lives slip so out of focus that they lose sight of the fact that the grace of God coming to them through Jesus Christ must be the true center of their lives.

Paul reminds Christians that position in life, job security, and all of those things do not provide true security. He says that to improve one’s state in life is good, but to be centered on material well being and security, and not on Jesus Christ, is empty. In other words, it is making idols of those things. You see, it is not the Christian’s outward appearance, it is not the position one has in life, the home one lives in, or the job one has that enables the Christian’s success in God’s kingdom. It is not the possessions each has gathered about himself or herself that enables personal security, one’s personal insurance policy, but rather, it is what happens to the Christian on the inside, the spiritual conversion to Jesus Christ.

Jesus came to proclaim the good news that God is with us. But for God to be with us, we must center our lives in Jesus. In fact, the only insurance policy for redemption is Jesus Christ. The only assurance for success in our kingdom journey is our willingness to turn to the Lord. Amen.

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Christopher Sikkema

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