Being Rich

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 towards
God.” (Luke 12:13-21)

I grew up on a farm in Kansas until I was a sophomore in high school. Then, my dad bought a
farm and we moved to another farm three miles to the north in Nebraska. For those who have
grown up on farms, we all understand what the person in this parable was doing. He was doing
what he was supposed to do. Grain farmers, and other farmers, do what the man in the parable
did. Farmers will build storage barns or bins or warehouses to store the product so that it can be
sold when the market is right. When I was a boy, I helped my dad put up grain bins to hold the
grain until the price brought the best profit. Maximizing profits is the name of the game in all
businesses, not just farming. Yet, Jesus called this man in the parable a fool.

But I don’t think this parable is about prudent business practices, although, depending on the
circumstances, it could be. The parable that Jesus told is a parable about greed. It speaks
directly to our modern-day parable that says, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” The
parable shows us that thinking like that is shallow and foolish. It is shallow to think that what
and who we are is determined by what we have. The preacher in Ecclesiastes calls it vanity. It is
a vain way of living and thinking. It is vanity, the preacher of Ecclesiastes says, because you
work all your life; you toil all your life. You labor, sweat, and obsess for things that you want
and then leave them all for someone else when you die.

That is what this parable is getting at because it tells us about greed and what greed does to us.
You see, all this man could do was think of himself. When he talked, he talked to himself.
When he prayed, he prayed to himself. He thought only about himself and his life. Not one time
did he mention anyone else: friends, family, children, anyone. God said, “You fool! This night
your soul is required of you. And all of those things – whose will they be?” This is the way it is,
Jesus said, for those who store up treasures for themselves and are not rich toward God. In his
greed and self-centeredness, this man forgot the important things. He forgot to be rich toward
God or anyone else.

That is why I am thankful for churches like Park Hill Christian Church. I am thankful that
PHCC strives to be rich toward God in worship and rich toward others. The prayers for your
community and the good that is done at the food pantry every week for “the least of these”
testifies to that. A life that is lived in generosity for God and others is a life that will never be
shallow or vain or ever wasted.

May God’s blessings be yours this week.