Being Rich in God

On August 29, 2016 by saintlukesgresham

Deacon Laurel Hart

You fool! Now if someone were to say that to me, chances are I’d be pretty offended. No doubt my temper would flair, my ears would block any sounds and my mind would cease to think any rational, clear thoughts. After many hours – at least 24 – I might be open to listening to the truth behind the words and ready to learn some valuable lessons.

We all have material processions – those things which are important to us – in truth most of have excess stuff in our lives. Oh, we need the basics for daily life, clothes like shirts, pants, shoes and coats – after all this is a wet climate in the rainy seasons. A bed for sleeping, comfortable if we’re lucky – some pots and pans, a few dishes, silverware from which to eat the food we’ve prepared. Some chairs for sitting, a TV for entertainment, a computer to link with the outside world. If you’ve worked for a living, maybe you have a few dollars set aside for your “golden years”. But stuff can begin to build up – especially if you’ve lived in the same house for 25 years as I have. Has anyone here had to clear out the home of an elderly parent so they could be moved to new, possibly safer living space? In addition to all of the difficulties such a transition is- what to do with mom or dads possessions can be a biggest head ache. While we may believe that we have been able to keep our belongings to a minimal level over the course of our lifetime, when you have to downsize, suddenly you’ve become a hoarder and resemble far too closely the man in the story from Luke. But it is rather overwhelming to think about where all of their things are going to go — and to whom. And it causes you to wonder if you should start now — that is, sifting through your own belongings. It’s not at all easy. How do you choose what to keep, what to give up? And, what are the criteria? A family connection? A special memory? Or, do you just keep it all, and forever, and let others figure it out? The rub about this story from Luke is that we do not think of our possessions as greed, but as meaningful. They matter. Deeply.

This isn’t a parable about selling all you have and giving the money to the church. It isn’t summons to give away all of your possessions and devoting yourself completely to God. This is about distractions – not about owning things.

Each man is focusing on one thing – himself – the resources they might yet acquire or the addition to already abundant stores. The young man is focusing on what he does not yet have. According to Jewish inheritance practice the older son would receive 2/3 of the estate and the younger would receive the remaining 1/3 – the presumably younger son wants someone to tell his older brother to divide the inheritance in equal portions. Jesus warns the crowd that the value of a person life is not measured in the abundant of possessions. In the economy of those times when one person had more had more it meant that others had less and less. Then we have the older man. Did he set out to make a stupid decision? Calling the man foolish is rather like shock treatment – to get his attention – to prevent him from losing his life to possessions. But his focus is only on himself – storing up grain for his own use over a very long time. Unlike the story of Joseph, who advised pharaoh to store the extra grain during a time of plenty so as to have food for all people during a time of drought – the older man is thinking only of himself – he is not storing to share his wealth.

Shouldn’t the value of our possessions, in the end, be about not what we accumulate, but what we have that has meaning — and meaning should be determined by our joy in sharing our abundance with others – around our table, in our church home, in the community at large. Isn’t Jesus asking us where our heart is? We need to listen carefully to Jesus’ last verse — a warning about those who store up possessions for the self, and yet are not rich toward God. Jesus tells us this parable to exposes our human greed and anxiety about money.

Who is God asking us to be? Is God asking to live with our eye seeing outward – seeing those around us in pain or need – to share our possessions whenever and wherever we can?

What does it mean to be rich toward God? What does it mean to renew relation with God?
Maybe being rich in God is using resources for benefit of others as the Good Samaritan did.
Or possibly being rich in God is intentionally listening to Jesus’ word as Mary did.
Being rich in God – can be prayerfully trusting that God will provide for the needs of all our lives today, tomorrow into eternity. Amen

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