Joel 2.21-27 / 1 Timothy 6.6-10 / Matthew 6.25-33
Harvest is an important time of year, even though many of us don’t have much to do with farming these days and live mostly unaware of its rhythms and seasons.
Harvest is important because it encourages us to be thankful for the basic necessities of life: our food and drink.
It reminds us that we depend on the seasons and the weather, on soil and small insects, all designed to work in balance by our Creator God.
It reminds us that we depend on the hard work of farmers, packers, transporters and shop workers to receive the food we pick up so casually in the supermarket.
It encourages us to stop for a moment to remember and give thanks for both God’s provision and the networks of people who make it possible for us to have what we need, both of which we can easily forget as we dash into the shop on the way home.
It’s also a time of joy as we see once again how provides for not only us but all creatures and plants on the earth, and how we’re cared for and loved.
But today’s readings also take us beyond this to think about our relationship with wealth and possessions.
Both our second reading from 1 Timothy and the gospel reading tell us to be content with the basics of food and clothing.
So, we might ask, does this mean that we can’t enjoy the good things in life?
Must we feel bad if we have comfort, money and nice things?
Is God a killjoy?
Well, no, not really.
The trouble here is that both readings are presented to us without their contexts.
The way passages are set for reading in church does this sometimes and it can cause some problems.
The verse before our reading from 1 Timothy criticises people who have followed false teachings and think that religion is ‘a means of gain’.
They are people who are focused on gaining ever more wealth and possessions, and think of religion as a means of doing this.
I guess the closest we have to this in modern terms are those TV evangelists who promise that if only you send them some money and do what they say God will make you rich beyond your wildest dreams.
We, though, are to be people who hold wealth and possessions lightly.
Our focus is to be on God, not on anxiously striving to make ourselves ever richer.
We are to free ourselves from the relentless desire to have ever more, to be rid of the love of money that is described as ‘a root of all kinds of evil’, and instead to direct our love towards God.
For although money and possessions are not wrong in themselves, they come with the danger that we might become too caught up in them.
We might not remember that they are gifts from God and instead think that we have a right to everything we want.
We might lose our sense of gratitude and joy.
And in our desire to hold on tight to wealth we might forget to focus on what really matters: loving God and our neighbours with generosity and openness.
In a similar way Jesus’s words in the Gospel about God giving us what we need come just after he’s pointed out that we can’t serve both God and wealth.
Here he’s contrasting being possessed by God with being possessed by our possessions.
If we focus on what we have and want and think we should get, then our lives will be ordered to reflect those priorities.
We risk spending all our energies on aiming for a better car, a better house, designer clothes, the latest gadgets – because we think these are the most important things in life.
If we focus on always having more and better we may forget about our responsibility to care for the earth, to feed and clothe those in need, to ensure justice for the powerless, to protect the weak and vulnerable.
We might become blind to the effects of greed on the environment in terms of pollution and waste.
We might close our eyes to the people who live in poverty and work in harsh conditions to provide us with what we want.
And we may find ourselves consumed by worry about whether we have enough or if it might suddenly be taken away from us through some unseen disaster.
But, if we can reorder our priorities and focus on God, then wealth and possessions fall into their proper place.
They become good gifts from God that we can be thankful for and enjoy without desperately holding on to them.
And they became opportunities for us to use what we have to do good, knowing that as God gives to us he calls us to give to those around us.
For there are many people in need, many people in this country who must rely on food banks and charity to feed and clothe their families.
There are people in other countries, also, for whom war, disease and poverty mean a bad harvest and starvation.
If our focus is on God and his kingdom then our desire will be to follow his example of generosity, to share wealth rather than clinging on to it, to spread God’s goodness wherever and whenever we can.
In short, to strive first for God’s kingdom.
And if we trust in God rather than in wealth then we can relax, knowing that the God who cares for the smallest birds and flowers will understand our needs and care for us even more.
So yes, we can have good things, but Harvest reminds us to give thanks to the source of all good things, to remember our God and to be generous as he is generous.
Then we can be glad and rejoice, knowing that we have a loving and generous God, and we are his people.