July 31, 2022
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
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.”
| Centering Prayer |
It’s good to know that Jesus practices what he preaches:
If your brother has a log in his eye,
take the log out of your own eye,
then go directly to him
and help him get the log out of his eye.
Don’t invite others into your dispute with someone else.
Just as importantly, don’t let yourself get sandwiched in between two others who are in dispute with each other.
This important quality is taught in
Introduction to Pastoral Care the first year of seminary.
It is call triangulation.
Don’t do it.
Don’t get caught in it.
Jesus avoids triangulation this morning;
getting himself caught between two brothers feuding over a family estate.
By Jewish law at the time of Jesus
The entire estate went to the eldest son.
So, the argument is coming from a younger son
Without a legal claim
Who desired an abundance of possessions.
It is sad their focus is on the inheritance
and not on giving thanks to God
for the life that made the inheritance possible.
Guard against all kinds of greed, Jesus tells us.
The problem of greed,
as Jesus correctly observes,
is that greed steals the focus away from God,
away from one another
– where life is lived –
and inappropriately places that focus on the abundance of possessions.
When we chose possessions and property over people
we surrender our lives
and find ourselves increasingly isolated.
When we chose possessions over God
we surrender our souls
and find ourselves increasingly without meaning.
The issue does not appear to be one of quantity.
In other words, I find little evidence in the Gospels that wealth, per se, is evil.
It doesn’t matter if your net worth is ten dollars or ten billion.
Rather, the issue is what you do with what you’ve been given.
The stewardship of time, talent, and treasure
Is continually addressed by Jesus
as being one of where your life focus lies.
Do you think about things?
Do you obsess about money, income, expenses, or things?
Because when we do, you’re not thinking about God.
We’re not listening to the whisper of the Spirit
about God’s will for our lives
or our things.
If we keep our eye on Jesus
and live according to the will of the Holy Spirit
God can get anyone through the eye of any old needle.
Life doesn’t consist in the abundance of possessions.
Life only has meaning when it’s lived faithful to the will of God.
Not for nothing,
but when one person has an abundance
it often means
it has come at the expense of another.
When there is a huge difference in wealth,
where people with much
live next to people with little
– poverty, hunger, powerlessness –
a culture of greed and crime is nurtured and fertilized.
I’ve seen the devastating results of income and wealth inequality
In Nicaragua, Guatemala, Israel, and Palestine.
And its associated consequences, exists right here in Monroe County.
Like a meteorological flux in temperature
The resulting gusts of crime and evil
Destroys communities, neighborhoods, and families.
Is this the world Jesus wants to preserve?
Christians cannot be in the business of nurturing and growing greed
in others or in ourselves.
Loving our neighbor means
reaching out from our abundance
to the last, the least, the lost, the left behind,
the poor, the widow, the orphaned, the diseased, and the left for dead.
This is not political.
This is all about the kingdom of heaven that Jesus desires
by the transformation of the earth.
Unlike last Sunday’s mislabeled scripture
(“The Lord’s Prayer” should have been labeled “The Disciple’s Prayer”)
today’s parable from Jesus is correctly titled
“The Parable of the Rich Fool”.
Fools are not unique to wealthy people.
In my humble opinion
fools are evenly distributed across the socioeconomic spectrum.
Today, however, Jesus is talking about a rich fool.
His foolishness operates at many levels.
First, the rich man is a poor planner.
He planted way too much for his established capacity
to harvest, store, market, and transport his crop.
Let’s just say
Math wasn’t his strong suit.
Neither was business, economics, or project planning.
This dude is in way over his head.
What a fool.
Secondly, before you tear down existing production capacity,
wouldn’t it make more sense to build the new, improved barns first,
so that production could be seamlessly transitioned from the old barns to the new one?
What would happen if your contractor walked off the job?
or weather struck and building was delayed
with the fields full of rotting crops?
Even I can see that this would be foolish.
What a fool.
Thirdly, you’d rather place your faith in your storage capacity
than in God?
So, what happens next year when drought hits and your oversized barns are emptied?
Eventually the food is going to run out.
Empty barns are expensive to maintain.
Markets go up and markets go down.
But the everlasting love and sustenance of God never waivers.
It’s foolish to trust in anything but God!
Fourth, eat, drink, and be merry?
Dude, grow up.
What about the farm workers
who made the abundant harvest possible?
Are you seriously thinking of partying it up in front of those
by whose sweat and hard work
pulled you away from the brink of failure?
That’s mighty selfish of you!
How about throwing a party for those who earned it
and not for yourself
and your foolish failure to plan?
Fifth, think of God.
God created the land, the seed, the water, and the sunshine.
God gave life to the seed.
God created the land to produce,
To sustain all God’s creation.
To under utilize or abuse
the fields God created to support humankind
Is an ungrateful response to God’s amazing grace.
We all know a fool when we see one.
So does God.
“You fool!” God says to him.
What God gives, God can take away.
Life, given by God, can be demanded this very night.
… this very moment.
Abundance, given by God, can be redistributed
by your estate and a handful of lawyers in a New York minute.
And what will it have gained you?
Is this the legacy you want to leave behind?
when we make Christ our life’s focus.
This is when we are rich towards God.
when we slice out greed from our heart
and replace it with love of God and love of neighbor.
when we are so focused on Jesus
that the background noise of this world is drowned out
and we can only hear the Spirit’s whisper.
Greed is such an easy temptation;
this is why greed must be greatly opposed.
Who wouldn’t want to see a swelling retirement account,
a beautiful house,
and a swag-o-licious sports car in the driveway?
Who wouldn’t want to attend a church
with a million-dollar endowment,
a new parking lot,
and a perfectly manicured lawn?
Yet, these things have the potential to divert our eyes off the prize.
The prize is Jesus.
God has given us all we need
with overflowing abundance.
The question is
how are we distributing our wealth
of time, talent, and treasure?
Waste is a sign of poor stewardship.
Vital and effective worship and outreach
Is a sign that we are practicing good stewardship,
Making investments in our neighbors,
And taking time for our God.
What kind of stewards have we become?
My eyes are on Jesus
when I share generously out of my abundance.
My eyes are on Jesus
when I encourage others to listen to the Gospel
and apply the stewardship of Jesus to their own lives.
in placing this vanity behind us.
Let us stop building bigger barns
and let us build bigger
the kingdom of God.