Toorak Uniting Church

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Parable of the rich fool – what really matters in life?

Luke 12: 13 – 21
Rev. Robert McUtchen
1 August 2010

Parable of the rich fool challenges every person to answer – what really matters in life? What is truly necessary to ensure enduring security and peace?

Does having the objective of a strong retirement super balance put us in a similar place to the rich fool? Who does not wish in retirement to live comfortably, pay the bills, go on nice holidays, not have to count the cents? Where the difference to the rich fool – "soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry?" If some are feeling just a little discomforted by this, so am I! How do we understand it, reconciling Jesus teaching with modern reality, if this is even possible?

What really matters in life? Two brothers disputing an inheritance , a plea to a famous teacher – judge for us! Old testament biblical scholar k e bailey, on palestinian culture recalls an old testament term yashadh yahadh, a community expectation that brothers would dwell together in peace on an estate after the death of their father. This was picked up in Ps 133: 1 – how good it is when brothers dwell together in unity. Subtly this parable echoes the outrage more bluntly described in the parable of the prodigal son. Greed fractures the family unit; under mines the heart of a village community by breaking up the holdings of land, which were the means of life.

Jesus does not further criticise the brother, but his parable highlights the underlying greed. Which presumes securing material possessions is sufficient for security and fullness of life. The fallacy is exposed in the summons – fool this night your soul is required of you….and the things you prepared…whose will they be?

What really matters? A constant theme through the old testament is the love and mercy of God, graciously given, undeserved. In return, God’s invitation to share relationship with him, and like a parent grieves when it is not accepted. I wonder is the end point of greed the moment when in self sufficiency, a man ceases to rely upon God, and trusts in his possessions – exampled by building new barns for his surplus. Self sufficient, does he believe he no longer needs God? The parable warns against presuming self sufficiency in life or death – for in the end, deprived of our material assets, on what and in whom do we have to trust or depend? And that applies now, as it 2000 years ago.

What might God’s mind be? The other readings give a lead. God, having offered gracious love is met by childish waywardness. More bemused than filled with anger. The question – when so much is graciously offered, what are you thinking to seek security elsewhere?

In Hosea God laments the wayward behaviour of his children like a parent, but at the end unable to drive them away. Psalm 107 tells of the grace and goodness of God, ending in v43 with the warning "to consider the lord’s constant love".

In Colossians Paul uses logic to appeal to his listeners – since you are Christs, live another way, a different and better way.

The heart of this parable and readings today is a call to reconsider where lies the centre of our lives. Simplistic to suggest Jesus calls us to give up investment and super. It asks where the foundations of inner being are found – in trusts portfolios and super funds, or in life and love with God. It is a plea to realign every moment of our living and our thinking. To become rich in God.

The theme "what really matters", is found in the Hebrew scriptures – author of Ecclesiastes in chapters 1 and 2 reflects accumulating wealth and power meant nothing – was chasing the wind. Was Jesus aware of this when he formed the parable – nothing I had worked for meant a thing to me – I knew I would have to leave it to my successor? Jesus as a teacher continues that tradition. Being rich in God was what mattered. It was accessible to all, wealthy or poor.

Investing time in the study of God, the ways and deeds of God and seeking to manifest the desires of God, are way to discovering what it is to be rich towards God. Real security is found in these things.

John bell, scottish minister and hymnist, is among those recalling the church to celtic spirituality. Every deed, every moment, from dawn, to evening, is lived in a consciousness of the presence of God. God is present in nature, in the task, in the very light itself. Each task and chore is dedicated to God, and God is invited to be part of every moment. Ask yourself whether adjusting life to recognise God in this way may not be a way to enhancing inner peace and contentment, knowing how near our God is to us in each moment of waking.

The parable is a call to look deep into our hearts and ask what really matters to us, not only in material comfort, but in the source of inner peace for our souls. If money and assets are all we deem important then we may be closer to the rich fool. If, remembering God’s constant love and grace to us, and living as Christs new people, we seek to know God in all moments of life, we will be assured of riches that global financial crises can never threaten; richness in God also means opening ourselves to self giving in God’s service, and the enrichment from discovering new meaning and value in what we offer to God’s creation.

It is a call:


1.
To remember that all material things are not ours however hard we work for them – at most we are stewards of Gods providence, not owners.

2.
To engage with the things that are not of the world, and to keep our eyes firmly set on the one who is at the heart of life itself, who invites us to a strange and profound relationship characterised by love, grace and new beginnings. May God help us to embrace this with passion. Amen.

© Rev. Robert McUtchen, 2010


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