Someone in the crowd said to Jesus,
“Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”
He replied to him,
“Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”
Then he said to the crowd,
“Take care to guard against all greed,
for though one may be rich,
one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
Then he told them a parable.
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.
He asked himself, ‘What shall I do,
for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:
I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.
There I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself
but is not rich in what matters to God.”
The Gospel According to St. Luke 12: 13-21
The “someone in the crowd” on this day came to Jesus with a complaint about an inheritance that he thought should be divided up between him and his brother. We don’t know the whole story, but Jesus did and he graciously responded with a parable to illustrate to him the spiritual lesson he needed to learn. Jesus’ method, so to speak, still works today. We are all someone in a crowd seeking answers for the dilemmas in our life, and Jesus knows our whole story. What Jesus had to say then, he still speaks today–this is what I treasure about the gospels–it is the good news I need for every moment of my life.
Let’s consider together this interaction from St. Luke’s narrative. Jesus warns the brother, as he does us, to take care to guard against all greed because our quality of life here on earth doesn’t rely on the accumulation of earthly goods. We know that in theory, but how do we follow Jesus’ advice to become rich in what matters to God? The parable Jesus then tells has been referred to as The Parable of the Rich Fool, for the man, so caught up in his greediness, doesn’t seem to consider treasuring what matters to God. It seems that he believed that the accumulation of money would give his life purpose. He certainly isn’t alone in his greediness, what began in Eden plays out in the habits of the human condition!
St. Augustine wrote that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. Like the rich fool, the restlessness of the human condition drives us toward immediate satisfaction from whatever fascinates or consoles us–all under the umbrella of over-weaning fear or pride. The rich fool’s pride was obvious, our’s might not be so obvious. The man’s question of what shall I do to satisfy my restlessness is the question that sends each of us down paths that may appear benign enough. But do they make us rich in what matters to God?
Consider Jesus’ words again, “‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong? ‘Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” St. Augustine taught people to seek the invisible rewards of God in loving what is good, loving what God has created, but only if they are lovers of God. That’s the tipping point, isn’t it? He exhorted his congregation to pursue what they love in the right order: heavenly things before earthly ones, the LORD before everything else.
Here’s the thing, it’s much easier to pursue the things we see rather than the things we don’t see! We can’t quantify charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity. And how do we quantify temperance, justice, prudence, and fortitude or faith, hope, or charity? I’ve referred to this before by considering them as investments that roll back dividends into our lives, all for the sole purpose of glorifying God and attracting those around us to do the same. It’s the most simple and difficult method to guide us away from being fools!
Father, reveal to us how our restlessness for you is misguided by our drive to eat, drink, and be merry with the temporal wealth of this world.
Draw our wandering hearts back to you, and open our eyes and ears to the abundance of your blessings. May we treasure what you think about us more than what those around us think of us.
Holy Spirit of God, train us in storing up the eternal riches of God’s glory as you guide us into the abundant freedom of detachment from this world’s empty treasures.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be, world without end.