This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on July 31, 2016.
The Bible contains around 500 verses on prayer, 200 verses on faith, and about 2000 verses on money. This fact reveals the importance of money in our lives. Jesus had been teaching a crowd of thousands when a man approached him seeking money. Obviously money and the love of money was an issue in Jesus’ day as it is in our day. Jesus had been teaching and warning people about the coming tribulations when this man interrupted him. This man, like so many, was so distracted by money he did not pay attention to Jesus’ teaching. Obviously this man did not want to learn from Jesus, he only wanted Jesus to do something for him. Jesus took advantage of the opportunity to teach the crowd about what it means to be successful in life. This was a topic vital not only to the crowd but also to his own disciples. At first, Jesus basically told the man “Dude, what does this have to do with me?” Then Jesus used the moment to teach on the importance of making the right choices with money. Money can be as big a threat to faith as persecution.
Jesus addressed the issue of greed. The Greek word he used for greed means the desire to have more. He told the story of a rich man plagued with greed. The fact is a person can struggle with greed even if she does not have a lot of money. Jesus defined success by pointing out it is not achieved by one’s possessions. He emphasized this warning by using the phrases “Watch out” and “Be on your guard.” He did this to reveal the underlying danger of giving in to greed. The world measures a person’s worth by his wealth; God views a person’s worth differently. Jesus used this warning as a segue to a parable concerning a rich man. The big question would be if the man would see himself as the main character in the story or not. Jesus told parables not necessarily to make things easier but to invite the person into the story. Jesus did not tell parables just to illustrate a point; he used them to confront people with truth.
The man in the story was an original hoarder. Rather than finding ways to share his abundance to help others, he focused on hoarding more of the harvest for himself. The economy in the area depended on farmers selling or sharing their crops. His decision affected a lot of people. He only cared about his needs, not the needs of others. One main problem with money is that it promises to give what only God can give. In addition money seeks to take the place of God in our lives. When money becomes a god it will lead to greed. Greed lies to us, it blinds us, and it ultimately destroys us. It is interesting to note Jesus did not give the man a name in the story. His riches defined him. Jesus also called attention to the fact that the man’s wealth came from the ground; it was not something he could boast about, God provided his abundance. The man showed his lack of gratitude to God by wanting to keep it all for his own. The man revealed his attitude toward his blessing by repeating the words “I” and “my.” He had no sense of obligation to anyone else. Jesus stated the man thought to himself and talked to himself. He did not consult another person. Luke consistently used a person’s soliloquy to portray that person in a negative light. Other examples of this can be found in Luke 2:35, 5:21-22; 6:8; and 9:46-47.
The farmer never considered that his feasting would likely lead to famine for others. All he wanted to do was take an early retirement and take life easy. That was his big plan. He had won the lottery and he depended on his windfall to make him happy. His motto was “Eat, drink, and be merry.” He forgot the part about “for tomorrow we may die.”
God called him a fool. This is the only time in Scripture we find God calling an individual a fool. He was a fool because this man made plenty of provision for retirement but he made no provision for eternity. God said this man’s life would be demanded of him. The word demanded means to ask for something to be returned. It was required of him to pay his debt and he did not have enough money to pay for his life. This man invested in the wrong stock. Jesus was not condemning this man’s success or even his material possessions. He condemned the man because he invested only in his life to the detriment of others. There is not a problem with possessing wealth but there is great peril in being possessed by wealth. When people are defined by what they own, what they own ends up owning them. One way possessions can own people is by demanding their time and effort. If a person is afraid to lose possessions, that person will spend a lot of time and effort defending and protecting those possessions.
Jesus closed the story by calling attention to people who are rich in possessions but who are not rich in the things of God. The real issue is priorities. Anyone can see their face in this story. We all struggle between storing up treasures here on earth verses storing treasures in heaven. However, when one experiences the grace and generosity of God, it is easy to become a giver. The best way to keep from being possessed by wealth is to be willing to give it away to others. Giving to others in need is one way to store up treasures in heaven. John 3:16 says “For God so loved he gave . . .” That is what love does, it gives. If we are people of love then giving should not be a problem. When we give, we exhibit the nature of God. I wonder whatever happened to the man who wanted his inheritance.
Dr. Ronny Marriott
First Baptist Church, Temple, Texas
Tags: money, wealth, greed, treasures, investments