Proper 13 Year C
The Rev’d Deacon Lynda Hurt
TO WANT more is a basic human instinct. Want for worldly goods is attached to an irrational fear that one day we will not have enough. And the irony is, IS THERE EVER ENOUGH???… enough seems to be just beyond what we have. However…we owe a lot to those that came before us for wanting more… our survival has been dependent on that. By desiring more, we have found ways over thousands of years to greatly improve our quality of life. It’s been said that without a thirst for more we would still be living in caves…OR….the inventions and discoveries in the field of medicine and science that make life more sustainable Human beings are inclined towards life and not destruction or death. So, we can attribute so much of our progress to our instinct for wanting more. But when do we decide we have enough? Or to put it another way, what happens when our desire for more becomes insatiable and isolating.
Jesus has much to say in the Gospels about money and possessions… neither of which are inherently bad. A capitalistic economy is not immoral, …in fact it may be one of the few systems that has the capacity for charity. But in a society where pursuit of self-interest and profit are idealized and even romanticized, it is easy for consumerism to go unchecked. It really comes down to matters of the heart and our willingness to be grateful for our abundance and share what we have.
Today’s Gospel reading is referred to as the parable of the rich fool. Jesus is talking to a crowd of people when he is interrupted by someone asking him to settle a dispute between he and his brother regarding the division of their family inheritance. In ancient times, it was the custom and birthright of the oldest son to receive double the portion of the family possessions…which for most of us might seem like a very good custom if you’re the oldest child. So, this assumably younger brother is asking Jesus to advocate for him and basic fairness as it pertains to his inheritance. After all, he’s not asking for more…just an equal shared, which sounds like a reasonable request. But Jesus recognizes a deeper issue here…one that points to an attitude of greed where one pins their hopes to the security of material things. Jesus rejects the role of arbitrator and instead uses the opportunity to illustrate that a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. (pause) He proceeds, as Jesus often does, to illustrate his point using a parable.
In it, we learn that the central figure, the rich fool, had land that produced abundantly. So much so, that it created a storage problem for him, so his only solution was to pull down his barns and build larger ones that will hold his crops. Just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with pulling down your barns to make room for a bigger yield of crops or whatever you store in your barns. But, it is what he said next that reveals the true character of this man. After he has safely secured his crops in the new and bigger barn, he proceeds to say in a rather self-satisfied way, “I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ His words reflect an attitude of someone who believes they alone are responsible for their abundance and that it is the sole source of security.
It's tempting to think that God is condemning this man’s wealth. He is not. Possessions and wealth are not inherently bad. What he’s teaching here has to do with the blind attitude of the rich man who took for granted that his security and strength is tied up in the things he owns. His possessions became an extension of himself and in the process, he lost his sense of the fragility of life. We know from this parable that on that very night the rich man’s life would be demanded of him, he was going to die, and it is then that God asks him what will become of his things, because, as the saying goes, “he can’t take it with him”. God vigorously “disabuses the rich man of his notion that he is an … [a] self-created entity, and reminds him that life and breath are given (and taken) by divine dispensation”. 
The rich man's anxiety mirrors in many ways our own obsession with protecting our things…we have lockboxes and lifehacks to make sure people don’t have access to our stuff…bolts on our doors, passwords, guard dogs, alarms…it is a human obsession to protect what is ours. incidentally…it is not that such safeguards are wrong or are not needed. But when we become consumed with protecting our worldly possession in a way that destroys our connection to community and the Divine, we lose the part of us that enables us to truly be alive. We are deceived by the notion that wealth gives us freedom to “eat, drink and be merry”, when in fact it’s quite the opposite. The worry alone of losing our stuff can be debilitating and rob us of our freedom to live and love.
This parable challenges us to reflect on where we DO draw our strength and security…where does true peace of mind come from? I don’t think it’s STUFF. For the rich man, it DID revolve around his possessions. And what is striking in this passage, and a sad commentary on self-reliance is the dialogue that this man is having with himself. Let me read that part again. “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ ‘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”. This is a heartbreaking portrayal of loneliness. It appears that this man has no friends and paints the picture of a man who “does not need anyone else”. His material possessions have become the singular focus of his life’s pursuit with no need of the love of family or friends, nor of a community of support.
The rich farmer is a fool not because he is wealthy or because he saves for the future, but because he appears to live only for himself. The land produced abundantly, yet the farmer expresses no sense of gratitude to God or to the workers who have helped him plant and harvest this bumper crop. How differently would his outlook be, if he saw God as the source of all he has.
God designed us to live and share with others in a community of love, not isolated from the world, gathering up earthly treasure to be hoarded. Materialism for the sake of our own self-preservation destroys our concern for our neighbor and our capacity to trust in God. Our true strength and security lie in the promises of God…it is where we find refuge when we have lost all else.
Feasting on the Gospels--Luke, Volume 2 (p. 39). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
 (Keck 2015, 212)
 Feasting on the Gospels--Luke, Volume 2 (p. 40). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
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