Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Rich Toward God": In Memory of My Mother, Teressa A. Richardson (June 28, 1956--Feb. 3, 2009)

“Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: the ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’” But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16-21, NKJV).

 Today at the Center for Theological Studies as well as Men and Women in the Church, I give tribute to the woman who gave birth to me back on August 21, 1984, at a hospital in Durham, North Carolina. I pay tribute to a woman who loved me from the first moment she laid eyes on me, and gave me a Christian upbringing, with all the love, encouragement, prayers, and shoulder to cry on she could ever have given me. This same woman raised me to be godly, to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and mind...and to let nothing come between me and my God. She taught my Sunday school class when my twin sister (Danielle) and I were younger, cooked Sunday meals, worked 40-60 hours a week, managed the church finances, sung in the choir, and worked hard, as they say, to “bring home the bacon.” She was a loving and wonderful daughter to her parents, a great sister, and an amazing friend to me and all those who knew her. Yes, folks---this woman is still the queen of my heart after all this time. Her name is Teressa A. Richardson.

On February 3, 2009, mom went home to be with the Lord after having battled breast cancer, lung cancer, and brain cancer for a span of three years. I have cried so many tears since she left me; and I’ve cried a lot of them lately. For those who may not know, I graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC on May 20, 2011, where I received my Master of Divinity degree in Christian Apologetics...and I missed her so much that day. I cried all during the service, and I’ve been crying every day since.

Today at the blog is set aside to honor this amazing woman of God, a warrior who has fought the good fight, finished her course, and kept the faith. As I began to think on what I would say about mom, I remembered a favorite passage of hers that she always discussed with her children, parents, and church members. That passage today will be the above quoted passage: Luke 12:16-21.

The context of the passage involves the story of two brothers, one who wanted the Lord to make the other divide the inheritance with him. Jesus tells them that life is about more than possessions. And the parable quoted above fits in at this ideal moment.

There was a rich man who had so much wealth that he just didn’t know what to do with it. Now, it’s no secret that he was blessed. The text tells us that his “ground” (or field) “yielded plentifully.” This means that everything grew. All of his crops that he planted prospered. For most farmers, to have everything sprout and grow would be a miracle indeed, considering the weather that we’ve been having in North Carolina all summer so far! The rich man had “the Midas touch”; everything he planted prospered. As mom used to say about her parents (my grandparents), “they have green thumbs.” The rich man had a “green thumb.” Nothing but prosperity, wealth, and blessing was in sight.

Now, you would think that at this moment, the man would decide to perform some act of kindness, some act of consideration for someone else other than himself. I’ve read this passage and stopped at this point to say, “Come on, rich man; stop and think. Think about all the poor people that needed food, clothing, shelter, etc. Think about those that needed some wood to warm the fire, or some food to carry them over until their next paycheck, or someone who needed a place to stay.” If his crops were doing that well, then surely, he had money to provide necessities for those who were less fortunate without asking for anything in return. Since the Lord had blessed his crops, you would think that the rich man would’ve gone and blessed someone else.

Mom, when teaching Sunday school, would say, “I just get tired of driving down the road every day, to and from work, and seeing all these beautiful two-story homes with nobody to live in them. Does it make sense to buy a two-story home if you’re the only person living in it? And what about the homeless who walk the streets everyday with no clothes, shoes, or food? Why is it that they have to walk by the rich person’s house everyday and see a reminder that the rich person has so much, but gives so little?” She always thought about helping others. When mom died, my twin and I discovered that she had been donating money to St. Jude children’s hospital to help them find cures for child illnesses. She never told us she was doing it; we never talked about it all that much. She just had St. Jude’s receive a portion of her check every month, automatic draft. The money would go to the less fortunate, and she didn’t mind it. She was blessed to have a Batchelor of Arts degree in Accounting and Economics from Duke University (class of 1978), and she was a senior accountant at the corporate plant she worked for. Mom had a job with great benefits and great pay. She wasn’t concerned about the money that was leaving. It was a small price to pay to be a blessing to children who really needed it more than Danielle and me.

But the rich man did not think about it. For him, any amount was too high to pay to bless someone else. He was only concerned about blessing himself. Do you know that so many church members do the same thing today, when they refuse to tithe a percentage of their earnings to the Lord, when they refuse to give God the firstfruits of their financial increase? Do you realize that, when we do not give to God’s church, we are robbing God? Do you not understand that, when we refuse to give financially, we are starving the poor, making the naked go without clothing, the sick children without medicine, the homeless without a home, etc.? Do you understand that, when we refuse to give financially (not just to the church but to the needy and less fortunate), we are acting just like the rich man---as if we could care less?

Well, he couldn’t care less, really...so he decided to do what all greedy people do: instead of thinking “go smaller,” he decided, “I know what I’ll do; I’ll do it bigger this time!” So he decided to tear down the barns he had (which were overflowing) and build bigger ones. I think that he should’ve looked at the bigger barns and gotten the hint. But greediness clouds sound judgment...and when someone is greedy through and through, there’s nothing anyone can do to turn them around.

But little did he know that, although he would plan to build those bigger barns, he would not get to enjoy them. The very night he intended to lay down, eat, drink, and be merry, the Lord required him to stand before Him and be judged for what he had done with his life. Isn’t that interesting? Instead of spending his last moments making a difference, he decided to spend his last moments on earth thinking about himself. He had studied “ME-ology” way too much!!!

How many times have we heard of stories of individuals doing the same things? How many times have we heard of people making plans to do much of nothing...and then, dying the very night the plans are made? One of my mother’s coworkers had planned to move to the company headquarters. He and his wife had gotten the UHaul, packed it, and were driving to Indiana where he was scheduled to get a bigger job with better benefits. He was not saved though, and all that week leading up to his departure, the Lord sent men and women to witness to him about the Lord, His gospel, and the need for this man to be saved and turn from sin to salvation. The man would listen to the pleas, but he did not respond. The last day at work, the women in the finance department (where my mother worked) witnessed to him again, but no response. Finally, it was after he and his wife got to Indiana that he died. He stepped out of the truck, pulled down the back of the truck to begin unpacking, and fell dead right on the grass with a heart attack. He had been planning to enjoy the new job, new promotion, and new home...but he did not get one hour to enjoy it!!

And this is what happens to folks when they are rich in material possessions, and not rich where it counts---toward God. Mom was rich toward God. She loved the Lord with all her heart, served Him with all of her strength, and put Him before everyone else in her life. I sure hate that each and every one of you never got the chance to know her here. She had a relationship with the Lord that just made you envy her walk with God. I’ve been around a lot of people in my life...but very few have ever made me jealous of their walk with the Lord. Mom was one of those people.

If she could talk to us today, if she could speak a word to those who are reading, she would say, “Be rich toward God. Store up treasure in heaven, not on earth. Be busy doing the work of the Lord. Serve Him fervently, and put Him before all things. Acknowledge His goodness and share His gospel with the lost of the world. And one day, when the Lord returns for you, you will hear the words, ‘Well done, thy good and faithful servant.’” My prayer for us all is that we will be busy doing the Lord’s work, always abounding in the work of the Lord...in this way our labor will not be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). God bless.

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