Summary: God created enough for everyone. We are called to put others above ourselves, especially the less fortunate in society.
Once there was a burglar who was caught and brought before a judge for trial. He was found guilty, and was asked by the judge if he had anything to say before he was sentenced. The burglar stated, “Well, you know, Your Honour, it’s like this. The more a man has, the more a man wants”. The judge replied, “Is that so? Well, I tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to sentence you to 15 years in jail. How many more would you like?”
The brother who wanted Jesus to arbitrate the inheritance dispute with his brother in this morning’s Gospel reading is like the burglar in my story. Both of them were motivated by greed, and only cared about themselves and not for others. The rich farmer in Jesus’ parable was the same way. He cared only for himself and hoarded what he had. He did not want to share his wealth with others. He was so concerned about his earthly success that he forgot about the one person who was responsible for his earthly success-God.
Jesus is NOT telling us not to prepare for our future. In fact, it would be foolish for us NOT to prepare for our future, especially our future life after we die. If we want to have a future with God, we must prepare ourselves spiritually NOW by doing his work in this world and by following his will for our lives. In fact, I’ve been writing and preparing this sermon in mid-summer-a time when farmers prepare for the fall and winter by harvesting the crops that were planted in the spring. Just as the farmer prepares his fields before he plants his crops, we must prepare now for our next lives especially since we never know when we will die. If not, we automatically prepare ourselves for a life in hell.
Jesus is also NOT telling us to sit back and do nothing in the hope that God will provide for us. In fact, Paul says that anyone who refuses to work should not expect to eat. Jesus encourages us to keep just enough of our possessions for our own use and share the rest with the poor. In other words, we must look outward toward others instead of looking inward toward ourselves. True satisfaction in life flows out of fulfilling the purpose for which we were created; namely, to enjoy a loving relationship with God. Wealth and selfishness can never substitute for a relationship with him, and they will ultimately make the heart feel hollow.
For example, in 1923 a group of the world’s most successful men met at hotel in Chicago. The members of that group included the president of the largest steel corporation, the greatest wheat speculator, the president of the New York Stock Exchange, a member of the United States’ Cabinet, the canniest investor on Wall Street, the future director of the World Bank, and the head of the world’s largest monopoly. A few years later, this was their fate: Charles Schwab died in debt; Arthur Cutten died in obscurity; Richard Whitney became insolvent, did time in Sing Sing prison, and was blotted out of the “Who’s Who” list. Albert Fall was pardoned from prison in order that he might die at home. Jesse Livermore, Leon Fraser and Ivan Kruger, the match king, all died by committing suicide. All of these men learned how to make money, but none of them learned how to live. In 1930, Charles Schwab said, “I am afraid. Everyone is afraid. I don’t know, we don’t know, whether the values we have are going to be real next month or not”.
The same thing can be said of the current economic crisis. Most of the material I have heard or read suggests that the crisis was caused by greed, especially with the issue of sub-prime mortgages and subsequent bank failures in the United States. To make matters worse, I’m sure many of you have read about the outrageously high salaries that were paid to the CEOs of these banks. These are almost as bad as the salaries that many professional athletes are paid. At the same time, many people in society are struggling to get by on low wages, social assistance, or by being underpaid for the work that they do.
Why does such a discrepancy exist? It’s because of society. Society tells us that the way to recognize accomplishment in any field-sports, entertainment, business, etc. - is to pay these outrageously high salaries. It is disgusting when a CEO in a large corporation can be paid millions of dollars per year and socialize with the elite of society, when all of the workers who are really responsible for his or her success are paid far less that what they are worth-and in many cases, far less than they need to survive.