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Sermon 10/31/04
The Free Lunch – Isaiah 55:1

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The Free Lunch

Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1)

Have you ever heard the words, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch?”  New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia spoke those words in 1934, and the phrase was often used by economist Milton Friedman.  Most of us have heard it and understand it means that you can’t get something for nothing.  It’s a concept known in economics as “opportunity cost.”  Even if something appears to be free, there’s a catch.  You may get free food at the grand opening of a store, but the owner of the store has in mind that you will become a regular customer and he hopes you’ll tell your friends so they’ll be customers too.  The “free” food is a “loss leader,” drawing you in so you will spend your money.

Though it is possible to seem to get a “free lunch” (like when a company cuts costs and gains competitive advantage by polluting the air), someone ends up paying the cost of the “lunch.”  In the example of polluting the air, there is a social cost that is permanent, lasting and very expensive.  The cost is paid in the lungs and lives of our children.

The following two items are examples of excessive frugality, from –

This is a true account.  “One of history's most miserly millionaires was John G. Wendel, who died at his home in New York City. Seeking to keep their inherited fortune in the family, Wendel and five of his six sisters remained unmarried. He instilled such frugality in his sisters that when the last one died in 1931, it was found that although her estate amounted to more than $100 million, she never had a telephone, electricity, or an automobile. Her only dress was one she had made herself and worn for nearly 25 years.

The following is an apocryphal account of what might have happened when Mr. Wendel died: “His sister asked the newspaper how much it would cost for a death notice. They responded, ‘Two dollars for five words.’  She asked, ‘Can I pay for just two words? – Wendel dead!’ The reply was: ‘No, two dollars is the minimum. You still have three words.’ She thought a moment; then she said, ‘Cadillac for sale.’

Most spend either far too much or far too little in life, not realizing that money like everything else we have is just a gift from God that was intended for us to help others.  “Our” resources are actually “loaned” to us for HIS purposes.  He DOES give to us bountifully and freely, though quite often not like we would expect.

Char Sims is a member of our Prayer Team and a regular attendee at the Sunday Fellowship of Friday Study Ministries.  She is a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy and told us about a recent instance when the Lord “spoke to (her) heart” –

She said, “I was feeling down and came into my room to be alone with the Lord and pray. I was feeling like my life was going nowhere and here is what the Lord said to me: ‘Char, right now I want you to have ‘horizontal vision.’ Don't look around you or focus on what is going on in the world. At this time in your life, I am your employer and your job is to get well (I have breast cancer). Your bank account is my Word – and you will NEVER go bankrupt!!  And your greatest asset in this life is prayer. Know that I love you and keep your mind and heart on these things!!’”  OUR solution for Char might include an immediate physical healing and then winning the lottery.  But God meets needs in a much higher way.  Our greater need might be a pat on the arm when nothing else will do.

Char spoke about a recent time in chemotherapy.  She told of “a little lady in her 70’s,” who was receiving “multiple needles along with a number of drinks full of chemicals.”  The lady, who had no hair, reached over to Char next to her, patted her arm and comforted her.  There are times in cancer and other severe problems, when money is worthless compared to the loving touch of someone who understands your distress.  God gives FREELY to those “who have no money,” (Isaiah 55:1), reaching out through those who care.

As in our verse for today, God sends people and no doubt He sends His holy angels to us, and they are like comforting “waters” in a desert.  We are given His Spirit, who is “wine and milk” to those in need, for He knows that money and even our health will melt away in a moment.  We need so much more.

Isaiah Chapter 55, continues in verse 2 with the excellent question: “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?”  I teach a study in Psalms each Thursday morning to somewhere between 15 and 50 people.  Most are elderly and almost all of them are in wheelchairs.  If you asked me for one word that defined what they all have in common, it would be this one: SURPRISE!

Just “yesterday” they were young, vital, with homes, sufficient income, cars, children, hobbies, and plans for the future.  And now, all of that is gone.  Instead of working at jobs or serving within families where they care for others, they now can do little and are being cared FOR!  And they’re astonished at the change.

Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).  Cancer is like a “rust” that destroys us.  Aging and illness are like “thieves” that steal everything we hold dear.  And yet, God has good purposes in all that He allows.

There was a song written in the 1920’s, called “The Best Things in Life Are Free”.  It pointed out that the sun, moon, robins and flowers are free to all, not unlike a walk on the beach with the one you love or a baby’s smile.  Or the gift of life from the Son of God.

The “free lunch” that God gives is indeed “without price.”  There are no strings, but in reality, the great price was already been paid by God Himself.  Jesus observed, “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36), and we are set free through His death on the cross.  It was costly for God, but it’s honestly and completely free for you.

Thank You, Father, for giving us EVERYTHING in Your Son, who died that we might live.  We trust in You now.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

Tel: (562) 688-5559
PO Box 92131
Long Beach, CA 90809-2131
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)


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