The 10th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 13C (8/1/2010)

On Wealth and Riches

Lessons: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23 Psalm 49:1-12 (3) Colossians 3:1-11 St. Luke 12:13-21

Semicontinuous Series: Hosea 11:1-11 Psalm 107:1-9, 43 (8) Colossians 3:1-11 St. Luke 12:13-21

Prayer of the Day: Benevolent God, you are the source, the guide, and the goal of our lives.  Teach us to love what is worth loving, to reject what is offensive to you, and to treasure what is precious in your sight, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 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.” 16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 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. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 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?’ 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

St. Luke 12:13-21. New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

This week we recall one of the better-known parables of Jesus. The story depicts a wealthy landowner whose fields bring forth more goods than can be stored. And so this landowner decides to tear all the barns down and build even larger ones. That way, the family will have nothing to worry about for years. They can eat, drink, and be merry for a long time to come. But the method this farmer uses to seek out security is ill founded, because even before the construction of the new barns begins, God announces that death is going to visit that very night. And so Jesus winds up the story with these words: This is how it is with those who pile up riches for themselves, but are not rich in God’s sight. The rich landowner is caught in a trap of greed. Security has been sought in riches, but ultimately, it can’t help him.

This is a hard Gospel to read. After all, we live in some of the nicest neighborhoods in Denver. From a local standpoint, we are very comfortable. From a global standpoint, we are wealthy – every single one of us. If we can agree on that, then the question is: do our riches push God away from the center of our lives? Do we spend more time and energy gathering and maintaining our belongings than we do striving to be faithful to our God? Is God our master, and we the masters of what we own? Or have we become enslaved to our possessions: so fond of them that we spend inordinate amounts of energy collecting, preserving and improving them?

According to an old fable, a fly discovered a tantalizing strip of flypaper. It looked so appetizing that the fly decided to make it his own. So after chasing away all the other insects, he landed on the very edge and proudly proclaimed, “This is my paper.” Then he proceeded to partake of the feast. However, in his desire to satisfy his appetite, he tried to walk around and get all he could. Before long, his feet became firmly attached to the sticky surface. Realizing he couldn’t move his legs, he began flapping his wings until they too were stuck to the paper. Finally, completely exhausted, he gave up. It was then that the paper proudly exclaimed, “This is my fly!”

As we come to own more and more, we find that we’re drawn to seek more and more, so that one’s life can become consumed with making more, having more, and doing more. John D. Rockefeller was once asked how much money would enough. He answered, “Oh, just a little more.” Wealth can be a wonderful gift from God, but it is a complicated gift: one that can become a burden. We are thankful to God for what we have received; and we are called to discipline ourselves to keep it in proper perspective.

Ours is not a faith that teaches us that wealth or possessions are bad. Everything we possess has been created by our loving God. It is given to us to have and to enjoy. The issue lies in what priority we give to it. It is only when our relationship with God comes first in our lives that we are freed from the bondage to what is perishable. May God be gracious enough to give us no more wealth than we can handle. May each of us keep our priorities straight, and never let financial concerns become more important than spiritual concerns. And as we struggle with this difficult and complicated issue, may God bless us more and more with a vibrant, active, living faith, in Jesus’ name.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How was the rich man in Jesus’ parable trying to provide for his (and his family’s) security?
  2. Why did he ultimately fail in providing that security?
  3. What did Jesus want the person in the crowd (the one who asked for help with his inheritance) to learn?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Do I consider myself rich (fortunate), poor (unfortunate), or somewhere in between?
  2. How many hours in an average week do I dedicate to earning money and maintaining my possessions?
  3. How many hours in an average week do I dedicate to strengthening my relationship with God?
  4. Is the balance between these two endeavors in my life (wealth and faith) pleasing to God?