By Dane Neufeld
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 12:13-31
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And 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.” 16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then 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. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But 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?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.”
22 He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 26If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you — you of little faith! 29And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”
When Jesus tells us to store up treasures in heaven, we tend to nod our heads piously. It is the kind of thing that seems true even if we have never experienced the large scale destruction of wealth that can sweep through people’s lives gradually or in an instant. At least part of us expects that while we cannot take our wealth with us, we can count on having it until the time comes. We spend a good deal of time planning for our financial future, securing ourselves against calamity or instability. It is important to put aside money for the future. Jesus is not contradicting this conventional wisdom, but he does show us its limits.
The rich fool stores up his surplus for himself, so he can “relax, eat, drink, be merry.” He does this in anticipation that he will live long enough to enjoy it, but he does not. What is called foolish in this parable is often called wise in our culture. But there is something sad about someone who is not able to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Tragedy will always strike at some unexpected moment.
It is not always easy to draw the line between enough and too much. It is less like a law and more like a spiritual discipline. Tithing, providing for the poor, timely help for friends and family, are God-given ways that lead us into the deeper areas of our spiritual lives. These simple acts help separate our desire for more from our desire for God, two things we often confuse or reorder. “Seek first his kingdom, and all these things will be added unto you.” These are simple words, but ones we can spend our entire lives learning.
The Rev. Dane Neufeld currently serves as the incumbent of St. James, Calgary, after serving 7 years in Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta.
To receive a TLC Daily Devotional in your inbox each morning, click here.