Summary: Year C NINTH SUNDAY AFTER PENECOST (PROPER 13) AUGUST 5, 2001
Year C NINTH SUNDAY AFTER PENECOST (PROPER 13) AUGUST 5, 2001
Heavenly Father empower us to use our wealth to help others in need and for good causes. Amen.
Title: “Closet Space”
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 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.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 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. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 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?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
Jesus is inappropriately asked to intervene to settle a dispute about a family inheritance. Jesus refuses because he is neither qualified in law nor does he approve of the underlying greedy attitude causing the dispute. To make his point he tells the Parable of the Rich Fool.
Jesus is teaching his disciples about being fearless in the face of opposition when he is interrupted by someone in the crowd who wants him to stop what he’s doing and deal with his “urgent” request, namely, that he tell his brother to give him his share of his inheritance. Jesus recognizes the greedy desire behind the dispute and uses the occasion to teach about trust in God and avoidance of greed for material possessions.
In verse thirteen, Teacher: Jesus is addressed as a teacher, that is, a rabbi, since he is being asked to act in that capacity. When a father died he had to leave two-thirds of his property to his eldest son; the rest was divided among the remaining sons. In this case the younger wanted his share to be liquidated and the elder, apparently, wanted to keep the land intact. In chapter fifteen Luke will use the same setting to teach the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Such disputes were settled by appeal to rabbis on the basis of the existing law. Jesus declines the “honor” as he typically does. He will not be flattered into behaving a certain way. Having said that, Jesus uses the opportunity to teach about the underlying problem, the attitude of greed.
In verse fourteen, who appointed me: This is a rhetorical question. The implication is that Jesus has no legal standing as a rabbi to act in the matter. He will not settle matters about material possessions, but he will make clear by explanation spiritual matters and proceeds to do so.
In verse fifteen, one’s life does not consist of possessions: The real life of a person does not depend on amount, abundance or accumulation of material possessions. Greed, avarice, longing and planning and plotting to get as much “stuff”- be it land, money, houses, and all that is in them- directs a person’s aim to the wrong ends. Such greed preoccupies one’s attention and ignores what really matters, namely, “wealth” as eternity defines it.
In verse sixteen, a rich man…a bountiful harvest: Such a man would be the “envy” of all. As described he represents the essence of life as a success, a happy man, one who has arrived at life’s point and purpose with all of its contemporary pleasures. In verse seventeen, I do not have space to store my crops: Such are the problems of the rich: no closet space! He has no room to store his “stuff.” There was no question in his mind that his wealth would last or that he would last. His only problem, oh, the cares of the rich!, was where to keep his “stuff.”
In verse eighteen, build larger ones: “Bigger and better,” always seems to be the indisputably correct answer for a rich person with a problem. This rich man enters upon a construction project that will not only solve his storage space problem, but will advertise to others just how rich he is. After all, he will have the biggest barns in the neighborhood.
In verse nineteen, eat, drink and be merry: The rich man has put plenty away not for the proverbial rainy day but for the dry one. Let famine come, he is prepared. He is self-sufficient. With no thought of the needy or his neighbors he proceeds to stuff himself with his stuffed away stuff and enjoy his life.