Rich toward God

Scriptures: Second Reading Colossians 3:1-11; Gospel Luke 12:13-21

Let us pray:

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer, Amen.

A well-off farmer harvests a bumper crop with no place to store it. Not wishing to concern himself with the problem of waste, he plans to tear down the old barns, construct larger ones, store up his crops, and then sit back and enjoy the excess. What’s wrong with this picture? Audrey West writes,

“To be sure, saving for future material needs is one component of proper stewardship of God’s bounty. Appropriate concern for the future is balanced, however, with the injunction to give glory to God and to care for one’s neighbor, to provide for the poor and the marginalized, for those without access to the world’s wealth or even to basic needs of survival. We should note that the man in the parable demonstrates neither of these twin aspects of stewardship—return to God and care for neighbor—mainly because he has become so focused on himself that he has forgotten both the God who caused the earth’s bounty and the neighbor without access to that bounty.”[1]

Poor farmer; so rich in goods yet so poor in faith that he cannot see beyond “his” harvest, “his” barns, and “his” own life. What else has he forgotten? God is the author of life and death, and Creator of the land that produces food for its inhabitants. He has forgotten to give thanks to God, and he has forgotten to look beyond “his” own life circumstances to others.

Understanding this parable in any cultural context other than our own – whichever socio-economic strata we belong to – can be tricky. That means there may be more than one way to take this in. A potential universal message, however, seems pretty clear: the parable is calling on all, rich and poor alike, to ruminate deeply on what we want and why we want it. Are we seeking treasures to store up for our own pleasure and security? Are we determined to ignore greater need than our own future stability? What about an understanding of God’s blessings and our true life’s purpose?

Do we find ourselves sliding into some semblance of a prosperity gospel, allured by standards of an American Dream depicted by modern cultural consumerist media? Or can we stand firm in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and concentrate our riches toward God? Our worship is almost ended for this day, but I would invite you to consider in table groups at fellowship hour the following question, which is printed on the chalkboard in the fellowship hall: “What does it mean for us to be a people who are “rich toward God?”

If you need to unpack that a bit more, think of it this way: For what did you toil and save? If you are retired now, is that the be-all, end-all of the goals you had during your career? What would Jesus have to say about all of that? If you are still employed in your career, how might today’s teaching in Luke affect your fiscal perspective and habits both on and off the job? For what does this congregation toil and save? Does the history of money matters in the congregation itself suggest areas for further reflection? What were the money values of the founding generation? Is giving driven by mission, or is mission limited by giving?

Commentator Patricia Lull writes, “when all is said and done, today’s passage invites preacher and congregation alike to place their trust in… God’s eternal economy of Christ’s grace and mercy.”[2] And maybe, just maybe, it might be worth thinking and reflecting on what is mission itself for a congregation of our demographics in this valley at this time in its history.

May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.

[1] West, Audrey. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16).

[2] Lull, Patricia. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16).

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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