Read Luke 12:13-21
Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge... Read More…
Meet Sister Marie Andre Mitchell
Sr. Marie Andre Mitchell is a South African by birth. She entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in Constantia, Cape Town on 12 January 1957. Read More…
Qoheleth, a preacher and pessimist, wrote Ecclesiastes about 300 years before Christ. The sages of the time struggled to find the meaning of life. His description of the man who must leave the fruits of his own skill, industry and success to someone else, prepares us for the gospel parable.
It is a question from a man in the crowd about inheritance that leads to the parable. It was not uncommon for people in Palestine to take their unsettled disputes to respected Rabbis. But Jesus refused to be involved in problems of inheritance. Out of that request came an opportunity for Jesus to tell his followers what their attitude to material things should be. He had something to say to both of those who had an abundant supply of material goods and those who had not.
The parable is a warning against covetousness and avarice. It is not sensible foresight that Jesus was against but the anxiety that becomes an obsession. A person's main interest dominates their thoughts.
From a worldly point of view, the man in the story had done well. His fields had produced fine crops and his barns were full. One could easily argue that that the rich man was a wise and responsible person. Yet, the rich farmer is called ‘a fool’, not because he is wealthy or because he saves for the future, but because he appears only to live for himself. His reaction was not to thank God for his success or to share his possessions with others, he simply wanted more of the same. He never saw beyond himself. There is no parable that is so full of the words, I, me, my and mine. When the rich man talks in the parable, he talks to himself. Instead of finding happiness in giving, he tried to conserve it by keeping things for himself. All his plans were made on the basis of life here, with no thought of life hereafter. But God had other plans. He spoke directly to the man who had never thought to speak to God. God called him ‘a fool’ a word forbidden by Jesus to his disciples (Matt. 5:22) but familiar in the Psalms for people who denied God (Ps 14:1). He was so busy trying to secure things for himself that unlike the Psalmist of today he had not reflected on the brevity of life. He is blind to the fact that that his life is not his own, but that his life belongs to God and that God can demand it back at any time. The rich farmer learned the hard way what the writer of Ecclesiastes realized – quite simply, that you can’t take it with you.
It is not that God does not want us to ‘eat, drink and be merry’ and enjoy what God has given to us. We know from the Gospels that Jesus spent time eating and drinking with people. It is all about priorities. It is about who God truly is in our lives. It is about how we use the gifts that God has given us. Our lives and possessions are not or own, they belong to God. We are merely stewards of them for the time that God has given us on this earth.
Jesus had something to say to those who had few possessions. The thought which Jesus prohibits is anxious thought or worry, God looks after the birds and the flowers how much more will he care for you,”you of little faith”(12:29). “Strive for his Kingdom and all these will be given to you as well” (12:31). Let God always be at the center of our lives and then all will go well.