The Holy Gospel according to St. Luke
Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to
divide the family inheritance with me." 12:14 But he said to him,
"Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?" 12:15
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." 12:16 Then he told them a parable:
"The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 12:17 And he
thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to
store my crops?' 12:18 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. 12:19 And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you
have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be
merry.' 12:20 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?' 12:21 So it is with those who store up
treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God." Te Gospel
of the Lord . . .
of God First
We have this lesson today where Jesus is teaching us about
Sorting out the difference between "being an owner of our
possessions" and "being owned by our possessions." Jesus is
stressing the importance of not allowing our trust in material
goods to control the way we act or the way we feel or the way we
might behave toward others.
Central to this lesson is a theme that comes up every once in
Jesus teachings . . . , "We cannot become complacent with the way
things are and we cannot trust in our own resources to provide for
lasting comfort – but we must place our trust in God." At some
level, Jesus will tell you and me that our best behavior, even our
best intentions will never add up to the high calling of God. And
so we're all subject to FOLLY . . . which should serve us by
directing us to God's mercy.
I used to think it rather tragic when my Mennonite friends up
in the Cumberland Valley of PA always qualified whatever statement
they made (mostly referring to agricultural crops) with, "If the
Lord wills it." This statement seemed especially tragic in the
case of the one family whose little child was killed in a farm
accident a few years back – the little boy was playing behind the
tractor and his older brother never saw him there . . . He was run
over by the tractor. In spite of this most deepest of losses, the
family remained steadfast in their faith. "It was the Lord's will"
I heard them say . . . and for a long time I have wanted to fight
their fatalistic view of faith because I cannot except that "it is
the Lord's will" that a young child should be killed. But after
several years of thinking on this, I have a deep respect and
appreciation for the vulnerability of those faithful people, they
place themselves at God's mercy and they teach us about deep
abiding faith . . . definitively not superficial.
But maybe the rich landowner's self resolve is also fatalistic
in its own way.
In the teaching about the wealthy landowner – "If the Lord
Wills" did not apply to the rich man. For he was already set upon
by his own will. He was quite consumed with himself – so much so,
that he thought only of his own well being, (notice all of the
references to "I" and "My" in the parable) and so he formulated
his own plan in order to work out his own happiness.
But Jesus wants us to realize that Self-Sufficiency and
Self-Centered plans and attitudes will not gain Security for the
Soul. "You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of
This sounds harsh to our ears . . . .
Can't we make some financial plans for ourselves? We work hard
for what we got! Some of us are busy at this time of the year with
harvesting all sorts of crops from the vegetable garden . . . so
is there anything wrong with canning and freezing?? (I hope not,
or else I'm in big trouble! Though admittedly, I'm rather
possessive about my canned cherries --
Others of us are doing our darndest to put a few dollars aside
each month for retirement, is there anything wrong with that??
Let me try to clarify what Jesus is saying about this rich
man's plans as compared to our own. We begin in the lesson where
"The Rich Man thought to himself." Right away, Jesus is cluing us
in that something is wrong with the attitude of this man.
We are being invited into the scene of the rich man's
contemplation "of himself." He is devising "a plan for his self
preservation." We are invited to consider what his plan was, and
what he might have done. We are given an opportunity to examine an
alternative path he might have chosen:
Perhaps, having this great harvest, he could have thought of
his hired hands – maybe there could have been some profit sharing!
After all, he was already rich! But instead, he thinks only of
himself. He plots and schemes toward an outcome that will bolster
his already secure position in life. This is selfcenteredness –
not an attribute that Jesus wishes us to harbor.
Most of us – most often attempt to plan out our retirement (and
the filling of pantry shelves) not so much for our personal well
being . . . but the intent is to alleviate our families of any
burden that might come about should we become disabled or
otherwise incapacitated. There is no sin in this. But in this
story the man seeks only his personal welfare/satisfaction – he is
smug in his wealth of material goods and anxious to gain soul
satisfaction for himself.
The lesson points to our need to honor God with all of our
goods and wealth. We are reminded that everything we have is given
to us purely by God's grace -- "If the Lord has willed it, we may
be blessed with wealth or we may suffer poverty," but how will we
react to our lot??**
Thus, we must constantly remind ourselves that whatever we have
belongs to God and is made available to us as a trust. To view
one's possessions in this way surely takes a high level of
spiritual maturity – and that is what Jesus is calling us to .
** We ought to take note here, that it does not matter whether
we are rich or poor in this matter of "Being Possessed" by our
goods . . . any one of us can fall into the sin of being
controlled by life's possessions. A person could even use their
impoverished life as a means to control someone else for personal
gain, and therefore:
We must exercise humility -- Even in the way we carry our
life's burdens. Otherwise our lot in life, whether Rich or Poor,
becomes a stumbling block to our faith. We become independent
operators who plot and scheme like this rich land owner . . . and
the blind eye we cast to others (other than ourselves) becomes a
hindrance to the way of faith and truth that Christ calls us to
Don't become a victim of "the Fool's Folly." Pride is the
downfall of many a person . . . even as we heard in the Psalm
today, "Those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance
of their riches" [Their reward is just that – boasting]. The
Psalmist continues ". . . Truly no ransom avails for one's life,
there is no price one can give to God for it."(Psm49:6-7).
If we are going to boast of what we have made for ourselves in
this life – whatever that is . . . then we must boast in the Lord.
This is what Jesus is pointing us to in this lesson:
Don't merely go through life trying to satisfy your own self .
. . saving your own soul or messaging your investments without
regard to others is selfishness and does not honor God. But if we
boast in what God has done, and if we seek to share what we have
with others – rich and poor alike, then we are more worthy of our
inheritance in eternal life and will be truly blessed in this life
– for such is the Kingdom of heaven.
Let us pray,
Gracious God, It is you who give us all things, give us grace
to accept the lot that is ours and give us faith to believe in the
goodness that you desire for all. Enable each of us to be generous
in sharing every gift you entrust us with. In Jesus name we pray.
In what do we place our hopes, in what do we place our values??
The man in the beginning of today's reading is hopeful that
Jesus will side with him in a dispute that he is having with his
brother – likely the older brother who has the first share of the
family inheritance. In fact, there were laws written in Leviticus
that spell out how a Jewish family is to divide the inheritance:
From Deuteronomy 21:17: The Law provides that a double portion
of the inheritance is given for the firstborn son. If there are
two sons, the elder receives two-thirds (67 percent), and the
second son one-third (33 percent). If there are three sons, the
elder receives two-fourths (50 percent), and the others receive
one-fourth each (25 percent). If there are four sons, the elder
receives two-fifths (40 percent), and the others receive one-fifth
each (20 percent). Deuteronomy specifies that the father's
affection or lack thereof for the wife of the firstborn must not
affect the inheritance right of the first-born son.
To this hopeful young man in the crowd, Jesus says that he will
not get involved in the family dispute over property or money . .
. but instead, Jesus uses the opportunity to tell his listeners
that there are more valuable things in life that we ought to
concern ourselves over – things that are not material nor charged
with "emotional attachment".
THIS IS NOT TO SAY THAT GOD IS UNCONCERNED WITH OUR PHYSICAL
WELL BEING OR THE "THINGS" THAT WE NEED TO LIVE A HAPPY LIFE. But
simply, that Jesus forsees what will become of those who allow
Greed and/or Covetousness to rule their lives.
Living for the sake of keeping one's wealth, and accumulating
"Greater Wealth (especially, when one is already wealthy, as is
the land owner in the story) will not a good disciple make.
Allowing riches to rule our lives does not make soul sense!
In fact some of the greatest atrocities in human history have
been justified in the name of greed and possessiveness.
Rather, ought not become
As human beings we have an innate desire to posseess things and
own things, esp. valuable things . . . like shinny pieces of
silver or gold or jewels. Throughout the ages, men and women have
been willing to risk their life, their health, and their good name
in order to possess what we call riches. It took years, cost
lives, and challenged all who served as members of Mel's loyal
crew. Mel Fisher made a commitment of his greatest personal effort
to find the Atocha, believing every day that the elusive lady was
ready at last to reveal her lavish secrets. Lesser men would have
failed. On July 20, 1985, after more than 15 years, Mel's dream
was achieved, and the Atocha's mother lode was located. Thousands
of artifacts, silver coins, gold coins, many in near mint
condition, period and earlier amazing Spanish objects and wares,
exquisite jewelry set with precious stones, gold chains, disks, a
variety of armaments and even seeds (which later sprouted!) were
recovered. These and more discovered by Mel Fisher and his "Golden
Crew" reflected the richest treasure find since the opening of
King Tut's tomb in the 1930's. The lives of Mel and Dolores
Fisher, their family and all their crew were lifted onto the
world's stage as people who truly contributed to the priceless
historical and cultural heritage of the world.
This man's self-interest clashes sharply with the context in
which he makes his request. Jesus has been teaching people by the
thousands (12:1). He warned them of Pharisaical hypocrisy (12:1).
He told them not to fear those who kill the body but those who can
cast them into hell (12:4-5). He encouraged them to confess the
Son of Man before people (12:8-9). He told them that they will
face opposition, and assured them that the Holy Spirit will give
them the right words when they are dragged before the authorities
(12:11-12). In the midst of these serious concerns, the man
interjects a request for help with his inheritance. In doing so,
he reveals that he has not heard Jesus, but is concerned only
about his personal problem. His interjection is trivial by
comparison with the teaching that he interrupts, and so is
inappropriate and disruptive. . . . How often do our "fleshly
desires" , weaknesses, emotions, get the best of us. While Jesus
wants to build the kingdom in our midst and good things are
beginning to happen . . . in a moment of self-interest -- we are
so easily swept away from the teaching and the giving of faith
that Jesus wants to work in and through us. We can identify with
the sudden outburst of this younger brother . . . because we
become blinded to the things of God, by our self-interest. "I want
what's rightfully mine." or "I'm due what's owed me!" But as we
have seen in this particular illustration, the younger brother was
going to receive what was owed him according the law, which, in
his eyes felt unfair – because he wanted more!
What is of greatest importance is that we remain focused on the
things of God.. What is it that God desires to do in our midst or
even by the possessions that we have?
"Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed" (v.
15). Jesus, who sees the heart, sees greed in this man's heart (v.
15). He addresses his reply, not just to the man, but to "them" --
to the crowd. He uses the opportunity to teach about the danger of
It's not that gaining something like a reward for our labor, or
even an inheritance, is a bad thing. The Worker deserves their
wages, the laborer must be fairly compensated . . . but when we
lose perspective of the things of God, and "goods" or treasures
become our sole purpose for living, Then we have taken a step away
from the kind of faithfulness that Jesus is trying to instill in
For one's life does not consist in the abundance of
possessions" (v. 15).
While the man addresses Jesus as teacher, he does not request
instruction. Instead, he tells Jesus what he wants and asks (or
commands) Jesus to do his bidding. He wants to take advantage of
Jesus' moral authority -- seeks to use Jesus' authority to gain
power over his brother in the dispute over their inheritance.