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Series: Puzzling Parables
Today: Guard Against Greed
Rev. Laura Brewster
Introduction: Parables invite us to consider where we fit within the story as well. The Parable of the Rich Man: One day a man told Jesus: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” The laws of inheritance were clear at the time. The law said that when a man died, his oldest son would receive a double portion of the inheritance (Deut. 21: 17). It seemed that the man who approached Jesus wanted more than he was allowed by law, and he wanted Jesus to help him in his quest. But Jesus refused to intervene. Instead of helping the man make acquire more wealth, Jesus provided a lesson of even greater value. He did so by telling the Parable of the Rich Man. (Read Luke 12: 13-21.)
The man in the parable became wealthier than anticipated. He then had to decide what to do with his riches. He didn’t ask God for guidance though. The thought of giving to persons in need never crossed his mind either. Instead, the man simply decided to build a bigger storage facility for all he owned. One commentator notes: “There is no one else in the story – just the man and his possessions – until God speaks to him.” (The New Interpreter’s Bible, volume IX) At this point, God calls the man a fool.
What’s So Foolish About Storing Up Wealth? The man was a fool because he thought that if he had enough money, he could control his life. He didn’t realize that he could not add a single day to his life. He was also a fool because he made no room in his life for anything but seeking wealth. There was no room for God, family, or the community. Rev. J. Ellsworth Kalas writes, this man wasn’t just a fool, he was a damned fool. That is, the rich man was so foolish that he was in danger of losing his relationship with God and his very soul.
What Does the Parable Say to You?
We are challenged to see what the parable has to say to us. As we’ve noted before, parables invite us to place ourselves within them. This parable invites us to “hold a mirror before us and asks us to take a good look at our own inner lives and listen to our own inner voices.” (The New Interpreter’s Bible, volume IX, page 256) What have we been telling ourselves about the wealth we have gained? Have we been foolishly telling ourselves: it’s mine! It’s all mine!
The Holy Spirit can help us keep the right perspective on wealth. Through scripture and additional avenues, the Holy Spirit reminds us that we have not been blessed solely for our own benefit and pleasure. We are blessed so that we might be a blessing; we are given to so that we might give to others.
Practice Steps to Guard Against Greed:
In addition to reading the scriptures, consider doing the following:
• If your garage is packed with stuff, sort through it and give some of it away.
• Review your spending habits. How does your charitable giving compare to your other spending? Does the order need to change?
• When you find yourself wanting what someone else has, stop to pray for contentment with what you have.
• If you rent a storage unit, go through it and give away half of the stuff.