Rev. Dr. Jack Lolla, Jr.
August 27, 2017
Text: Romans 12:2, O.T.: Psalm 214, N.T.: Romans 12:1-8
There are many authors whose conclusions we disagree with. But there remains an element of truth in them. Karl Marx was concerned about how people identify their worth in terms of what they earn. This results in a conflict between the haves and the have nots that can lead to class conflicts we don’t want to see happen.
Then Marx criticized Christianity writing in Das Kapital, “Religion is the opiate of the people.” He complained Christianity teaches people to minimize the economic injustices they experience in life. Religion tells people to look to the future life beyond this world as their hope.
Marx was baptized a Christian. But he was disenchanted with Christian teaching about eternal life. He saw it as a narcotic to quell the pain of social injustice.
Marx complained Christianity failed to address life in the real world. People would be better served if Christianity combated the injustice of laborers who are alienated by their working conditions. It offers instead the panacea of a future life in heaven where economic inequality, suffering, and pain doesn’t exist.
Marx said, the real world is one of economic exploitation of workers by the rich and powerful. But, is our identity as human beings solely determined by economics? Is personal happiness simply a matter of our economic worth? Is your security and peace, your state of mind, dependent on financial prosperity, or economic equality?
When it comes to economic injustice, God didn’t create this world for the problem to be solved. Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew Mark, and John, “The poor you will always have with you.”
This doesn’t mean the Church should wash its hands of economic injustice. It’s responsible to proclaim the Gospel in a way that uplifts the poor and the oppressed. Jesus states in Matthew 25, “When you do this unto the least of these my brothers, you do this unto me.” He identifies himself with the poor and the oppressed, elevating their position before us. He calls us to serve their needs.
But at a deeper level, Jesus is teaching us we are far more than what we own or what we earn. God renews our lives through Christ. Jesus doesn’t determine our worth by what we own. We people need is a relationship with God that God offers through Jesus Christ.
The world’s economy may be built on private ownership offering security. World peace may seem to depend on wealth giving happiness. World order may be governed by power that needs prosperity. But we’re far more than what we own. Commerce, sovereign wealth, and world order hasn’t and can’t eradicate economic injustice. Our hope lies in something far greater. Christianity offers more than just hope in an afterlife. Christianity offers new possibilities for life in this world.
Karl Marx’s salvation lay in economic equality, and the corruption of a godless government that promises new life for the alienated worker. His worldly hope has failed. It failed because he wasn’t truthful about life.
No matter who you are, and your place is in the world, God has a new life for you through Jesus Christ.
That new life begins through escaping the despair of defining who you are by what you do or do not own. Marx saw people through the lens of what they do or do not own. Christ sees us in terms of God’s love for us.
We need a new mindset that isn’t defined by an economic identity. Who we are depends on faith in being God’s child who’s daily blessed.
When we lose that vision, we lose sight of Jesus Christ’s blessings, we are in danger of losing God’s gift of love. So this morning we’re going to explore the first step to a renewed life – the transformation of our minds.
God is calling each of us to seek renewal in our lives. It is His heart’s desire that we be renewed in body and spirit by our relationship with him! He is there with us and He wants us to find Him in Spirit and in Truth! This takes a renewal of our minds.
A new mind renews life. Christian renewal of the mind escapes the despair of an identity defined by your financial condition. Seeing yourself as God sees you and not as our culture demeans you, renews your mind. Our culture has socialized us to see ourselves for what we own. You need freedom from the prison of financial identity.
At some point in your life you became aware of what you didn’t own. Was it elementary school? Or junior high? Maybe it was senior high school or college. At some point, you became aware someone else had nicer things than you and your family. Their Christmas gifts were greater and grander. Their family vacations were farther and lasted longer. Their cars were newer, their homes better appointed.
Did you feel equal?
I remember dating a girl in college and visiting her one Christmas at her home outside Cleveland. Her family room was filled with stuffed African animals – a lion, zebra, wildebeests, and antelopes. Two elephant feet served as footstools. It was a private natural history museum. I felt out of her league. My father was a barber, not a big game hunter. I lived in a humble home where the carpet was thread bare.
I stopped dating her. She embraced a lifestyle I didn’t or wouldn’t live. I appreciated the simplicity of my family’s life.
When a child or grandchild comes home and tells you their friends have a new entertainment center and you don’t, they’re saying something about their identity. If they emotionally insist you buy them some new technology, they’re crying for equality.
It’s your signal that you have some spiritual teaching to do. You need to be prepared to renew their mind with God’s wisdom.
You know Christ sees all God’s creation the same, regardless of what they have. In fact, Christ especially identifies with those who have less. But young people don’t.
When Christ renews our minds, we see the equality of all people, regardless of their financial situation. We know all God loves all people because we know God loves the world that He gave His only Son not to condemn the world but to save the world.
When Christ renews our minds, we teach our children the equality of all people before God. We especially challenge the world’s efforts to make our children believe they are less of a person because of what they don’t own. They can be all things through Christ who strengthens them!
When our minds are renewed by Christ, we learn our true beauty doesn’t come from appearances. Our beauty isn’t in the styles we wear, our skin’s complexion, our teeth’s whiteness, or the sheen in our hair.
God’s love inspires us to live with integrity, honesty, and industry. God’s love teaches us to live modestly, humbly, and gracefully. We live Christ-like lives – an example of God’s beautiful love. This isn’t an appearance of beauty. It is the beauty of Christ’s love shining through us.
God-given beauty comes from being Christ’s example in our world. The beauty of living like Christ cannot be disfigured or marred by anyone. It can’t be destroyed by false claims made about us or efforts to diminish our appearance. It’s only jeopardized when we give up living a Christ-like life. We only give up living like Christ when we decide it’s no longer beautiful. Then we pursue false forms of beauty as a substitute for Christ.
There is a $160 billion dollar industry that wants us discontented with how we personally appear. It thrives by presenting images of beauty that are artificially created for appearances. L’Oreal, Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubenstein, Max Factor are multinational corporations spreading the message of discontent that you aren’t beautiful, you aren’t attractive.
Inward confidence is sold as the blessing of outward beauty.
Think about what that does to teenage thinking. A youth culture of discontent is marketed by corporate beauty industry executives. It spreads public image as a substitute for personal modesty, humility, service, and grace. Look good, feel good, be good in the eyes of others. It doesn’t matter what God thinks about genuine goodness in you.
The bottom line for these corporate executives and marketing firms isn’t about you feeling good about yourself. They don’t want you to feel good about yourself. What matters to them is if you spend your dollars on their products. Their jobs and balance sheets depend on your personal discontent. When you’re discontent, you’ll buy their product.
In 2003, global beauty industry sales consisted of skin care products worth $24 billion, make-up products at $18 billion, hair-care products at $38 billion, and perfumes at $15 billion. That’s a lot of discontent to spread around the world each year. And that was 14 years ago!
Beauty in Christ-like living doesn’t need a dollar to spend. It needs a life of love to give. It doesn’t need a dollar-driven executive’s approval, or a runway model’s adoration, it needs the sincerity in Christ’s service to give.
My Grandmother Lolla never spoke English. She never had much. Her husband died leaving her with eight children without government assistance. She never was bitter woman who was depressed by the hand life dealt her. She was a kind woman, who lived the Golden Rule. She daily took her children to Church. She was fastidious in cleaning her house, tending her garden, and loving her family. She never wore make-up. Her beauty shined from her gentle smile and loving kiss.
She wasn’t impressed by others living in neighborhoods closer to the beach along Lake Erie. Grandmother Lolla was impressed by Jesus Christ. She had a portrait of Him above her dining room table. She lived like Christ. She loved like Christ. She taught her children the ways of Christ. She lived with the worth of Christ she taught to her children and grandchildren.
My Grandmother Lippert lost her husband when my mother was two. Her modest home burned to the ground seven years later. She went to Church Sundays and taught her three children the Golden Rule. She modelled Christ’s grace. Her beauty wasn’t from looking like television celebrities. Her beauty came from inside in her cheerful voice, her loving heart, and the sincerity of her prayers around the dinner table.
These great women in my life taught us by their beautiful example to resist the temptation to succumb to the culture. Our beauty came from inside, where deep love for Jesus Christ leads us to live like Him.
In the culture of discontent that drives sin-sick America, to be truly beautiful in God’s sight begins with the renewal of your mind. We’re relentlessly tempted to give up our spirituality to marketing designed to destroy our spirituality. Only a renewal of our minds can bring us to Christ.
Outward beauty is but an illusion. It’s there for a moment, then vanishes with age. God’s love endures forever. An appearance can be managed for only a short time. And time reveals all things – especially what you’re trying to hide. A mind consumed with appearances has difficulty dealing with reality. It loses its yearning for life with God.
A mind renewed by Christ will never lose God.
Finally, being defined by what you don’t own and how you don’t look is endemic. But, there’s an antidote offered by our culture – entertainment. Entertainment is the escape from disillusionment. You can live vicariously in lives of celebrities, get excited over their success or failure, laugh at their jokes. All so you can avoid thinking about your discontented life.
The entertainment industry is protected by privilege that can protect stars from the law so they can command our adoration. It is driven by dollars as a form of peacemaking. It creates headlines to attract your passion until you buy the entertainment they market.
Sports industry direct revenue in America totals 14.3 billion annually. Indirect associated revenue in sports is estimated at over 3.8 trillion dollars in jobs and spending. Music industry revenue in America totaled 16.2 billion last year. Total revenue in the U.S. from film, television and the arts during 2011 was estimated at 504 billion dollars. That’s a lot of escape from the discontentment being sold to Americans by marketers.
Each of us is susceptible to powerful economic forces to upset us or to try to escape our upset. This is the problem of letting economics determine your worth. The world’s psychological condition rises and falls on greed and pride.
We who walk with Jesus, try to live like Jesus, and keep the wisdom of Jesus as our guide and inspiration are taking a different path in life. We are walking the road less traveled. It gives us worth when others succumb to despair in this world.
What happens beyond this life is an added blessing from God for us. You are precious in God’s sight. Your life is a sacred gift from Him to live with the peace of Christ that surpasses understanding.
Knowing the difference between appearances, escape, and godliness needs a mind-shaking transformation of priorities and values. Real joy begins with renewing your mind – when you find Jesus’ Way to spiritual insight that is lit by the gift of God’s love. Amen.
 “The Beauty Business,” in The Economist, (May 24th-30th 2003), 69-71.