13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” ( Luke 12:13-21 NRSV)
What’s in your wallet?
No, really. Take a look inside your wallet and see what’s in it. Probably credit cards, cash, medical id’s, driver’s license. What else?
Recently, I turned out a closet of “stuff” I was storing. In one box I found my deceased father-in-law’s wallet. Yes, most of the above were in it: his Medicare Card, driver’s license, credit cards. In another pocket I found what were probably far more important to him: pictures of his family; the printer make and model for the next time he needed ink cartridges; even his Army Pocket Orders (he fought in World War II.)
This was the pocket that moved me the most. It reminded me of his injury at the Battle of the Bulge, of the many pictures he printed out of family and friends, of the great love he held for my husband and me, our son and our grandsons. In that wallet were representations of what mattered to him.
What’s in your wallet? I’m afraid mine is not the least bit interesting. Only what I need. No pictures, nothing to remind me of the past, nothing that indicates what’s important to me. Hm.
Today’s scripture passage speaks to a decision: to whom am I rich, God or myself?
We’re the wealthiest nation in the world, financially. We’re the poorest in the world, spiritually. Church membership is down so low, that churches are closing. There’s a rise in the “spiritual but not religious” population. Perhaps this has been brought on by our polarized religious beliefs.
What’s wrong with the farmer’s decision? He’s obviously a good farmer (and a lucky one.) He knows how to save and he’s astute. What’s wrong with that? If he gives it all away, he’ll be out on the streets begging with the rest of them.
It reminds me of Joseph. Jacob had 12 sons and a daughter. Joseph was born to his beloved wife Rachel and was his favorite. All the elder brothers knew it and were jealous. Joseph was well aware of it and, in the way that teenagers can rub the truth in, he made sure that he was the special one at every turn. Finally, his brothers could take no more and through a series of foibles, he was sold into slavery and taken to Egypt.
After several years in the local prison, it came to Pharaoh’s attention that this Hebrew man was an interpreter of dreams. Joseph was brought into his presence and heard the dream. Joseph explained that Egypt would enjoy the next seven years of plenty. The crops would be bumper crops and everyone would eat well. But, following that would be an additional seven years of famine.
Then he proposed a plan. Assign someone the job of building barns (ring a bell?) and storing the grain during the first seven years. When the famine arrived there would be plenty of grain for everyone. Pharaoh jumped on the idea and assigned Joseph the task.
What’s the problem with the man in Jesus’ parable? His problem is that he forgot to give thanks to the One who grows the seed. He didn’t say thank you to God for the bumper crop. He neglected look around and see his neighbors — all of them: the poor, the alien, the children. And he failed to find balance between looking out for his future, giving thanks and caring for the neighbor in need.
How then should we live? Save more? Spend less? Give more? That’s not really very helpful, is it? How much more should we save? How much less should we spend? How much more should we give? We need boundaries on our decisions and we need to understand our values, our ethics and our love for God and God’s people.
How then should we live? It all depends.
First, what are your priorities? Is it to save everything in fear of a coming need? Or is it to turn to God and care for the neighbor?
Next, look at your faith and trust in God. Is life only good if others see your abundance? Do you spend more because you want others to see your wealth? Or do you make your money work for you instead of allowing it to use and control you?
The Good News is that God has already set our old self aside. When we turn to God and away from fear of insecurity, we become people with new life in Christ. We resist this good news because it’s hard to believe that God loves us warts and all. We resist because this new self who looks upward and outward feels vulnerable and afraid. What if I give too much? What if I don’t save enough? Will God love me is I say no?
Yet, Christ stands there looking on as we look up and outward. Holy Spirit stands willing to guide our decisions and create appropriate boundaries of spending and giving and saving.
We can’t turn on the news, pick up a newspaper or our smart phones without seeing the poor, the alien, the disenfranchised struggling for food and health and education. The task is insurmountable.
Feeling guilty will do little. Prayer and conversation and identifying what bugs you the most is the first step to take action. What is needed? Your money, your time and talents?
We can be rich towards God because we set our minds on God by looking upward and outward. The farmer in the parable could only look inward. It was all about himself and his own security. If God is seeing the person in you that has been moved and transformed by Christ, then how can we not live as if that is the best and truest part of you?
After all, it is.
All glory and honor be to God.