|by Angela Lambert|
July 31st, 2016; 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel of Luke 12:13-21 NAB
Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves
but are not rich in what matters to God.”
Greed comes in many forms and we can be quite talented at excusing it with innumerable rationalizations. The man in this encounter masked his greed with a case about justice. We don’t know the circumstances surrounding the inheritance but Jesus, who knows the truth in each of our hearts, shows greater concern from the man’s motive than the actual facts of the case.
Greed has a vicious way of undermining our relationships with God, each other, and even ourselves. We often operate with the mentality of the farmer in Christ’s parable. The modern equivalent would go something like this: Work hard in school and be successful in a bunch of extracurricular activities so you can get into a good college, so you can get a good job, so you can make a lot of money, so you will be secure and happy. Yet, how many people follow this plan and find themselves at 40 years old burnt out, lonely, empty inside, and suffering from health issues related to the stressful pace they have been keeping for decades. Ironically, we are both the richest country in the world and the most depressed. We keep a frenzied pace only to find ourselves exasperatedly sighing the same words of Ecclesiastes “For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun?” (2:22).
What is the point?! We clean the house and it’s messy again in a matter of hours. We finish a project at work and another lands on our desk the next day. Our kids finish one sport’s season and another begins. Days fly off the calendar, then weeks, then years. Everyone has to find a balance between work and life. We have to be prudent, work hard, and plan for the future. The problem is, it’s just sooooo easy to work and plan for more than we really need and miss out on the good stuff right in front of us. Rather than plopping on the couch and watching a movie with our kids we run another load of laundry or get some work done on the computer. Instead of going out with colleagues and deepening friendships, we put in a couple extra hours at work to get ahead.
Jesus reminds us to work and plan for our eternal future too. We are made for meaning, purpose, and love. Moreover, we are spiritual beings made for eternity with God. Work labored for greed will produce a temporary reward, but work offered in love and service to God will bring eternal joy. It will likely bring a deeper earthly joy as well. Having the respect of others because of your position can feel good but it can also feel empty, not to mention add paranoia that someone will try to take it from you. Having the respect of others because of your character is priceless and immune from circumstances.
Greed is an inordinate desire for wealth. Every day we must pray and reflect on what really matters so we invest our time and efforts wisely and in the right order. Through the grace of Christ, we have the opportunity to escape the crazed rat race and endless running on what feels like a gerbil wheel going in circles. If we have the courage to surrender greed we can gain immeasurable wealth unaffected by the volatility of the stock market or our boss, and which produces deeper pleasure than money can buy. Working for your kids will mean more than working merely to afford fashionable clothing which will quickly be out of fashion, or a beautiful boat which won’t be as much fun without kids there to enjoy it with you, or the perfect house which will just be outdone by the Jones’ house that will be built next door in a year. Doing work that improves the lives of others will give you deeper satisfaction than a simple paycheck. No matter what your profession, how you conduct yourself and to what end is up to you.
As a teacher, I am reminded of this at graduation parties. Our bonus, though not monetary, comes in the form of seeing kids we helped develop turn into amazing human beings. It’s the emails from college or stopping by our classrooms to tell us everything they are up to or how something we taught them has stuck with them that is worth more than any zeros on a check. Similarly, I know wealthy individuals who find great joy in putting it at the service of the Lord and seeing the fruits of those spiritual endeavors. God promises in 2 Corinthians 9:6 “Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Be generous with God and labor to sow what matters so you can be “rich in what matters to God.”
- Reflect on what matters most in your life. Consider what gets in the way of those things versus what develops them.
- Prayerfully consider what is “enough” for you. What would be sufficient and what work is necessary to meet that goal?
- Ask God to reveal any desires that have become excessive or obsessive. Is there anything you are grasping after or worried about that prevents you from enjoying the gifts God has already given you?
- What kind of work or charitable contributions brings you a feeling of satisfaction?
- Do you find meaning in aspects of your job?
- Do you enjoy providing for your family and seeing them thrive?
- Do you have charitable projects you care about?
- Has greed ever undermined your relationship with God? With another person? With being true to yourself?
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Evaluate your investments in God, others, and yourself. Decide on one thing you could do for each category to enrichen that relationship in your life.
- The opposite virtue of greed is generosity. Do something generous this week.
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016
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