Sunday, August 4, 2013

5 lessons from the rich fool

May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

It would be easy to think that our Gospel reading today – often called the parable of the rich fool – is only something that is of relevance to wealthy people. That, I'm afraid, would be a mistake. We must remember who it is that Christ is speaking to: he is addressing a crowd made up of ordinary people. Some of them may have been wealthy – at least one came from a family that had enough to cause an argument over how the inheritance was to be divided … but, of course, given human nature, that doesn't prove we are talking about a whole lot at all – but the rest would have been quite poor, as most of the followers of Jesus were poor … fishermen, farmers, carpenters, labourers … which means that Jesus was addressing his words to all people, not just those with money to burn. Rich or poor, we all have much to learn from this parable.

So what lessons are there for us in it? Well, we'll call lesson number one the reminder that we should never think our Lord is talking to 'the other fellow', especially when what he has to say is hard or tough. Almost everything Jesus has to say is directly targeted at each and every one of us. 

The next lesson is a reminder that life is short and we never know when it will end. This is something that Jesus speaks of elsewhere. We do not know the day nor the hour when 'our lives will be demanded of us.' And we need to be ready; because while it might not be for many years, it also might be this very night … or even within the next few minutes.

The third lesson is that we must not fall into the trap of thinking that wealth, property, or the pleasures of this world are all that there is … or that they are the most important things in this life. There is nothing wrong with them in and of themselves – God created them along with the world and when he finished his creation he declared them good – but they are not the be all and end all of human existence … and if we start behaving as if they were, then we start behaving like the rich fool … and remember, as I said at the beginning, Jesus wasn't only talking to the super-rich. A poor person can be just as obsessed with the material things of this world as a wealthy one … poverty is not a virtue unless one has chosen poverty, rejecting the material comforts of this world for the sake of the kingdom. The poor man can just as greedily purse money, possessions, and comfort as the rich man … and if the only difference between them is that one has succeeded in his aims and the others has failed miserably, then that doesn't make the one who failed somehow morally superior to the one who has succeeded.

Our fourth lesson is the reminder of what is of most importance – being rich towards God … or to put it in the words we hear in St Matthew's Gospel, laying up treasure in heaven, where neither rust nor moth corrupt, nor thieves break in and steal. When it comes to the end, what matters most is being right with God, not how big a pile you leave to be divided up between your squabbling relatives …

Which brings us to our final lesson: why does it matter if we prefer to eat, drink, and be merry over being rich towards God? Do I really need to answer that question? In the parable, the rich fool doesn't thank God for all the blessings bestowed on him, doesn't share his good fortune with others, thinks only of himself and his belly and how he is going enjoy himself for many years … is there any doubt what his ultimate fate is to be, this man to whom God himself says 'You fool?' Our final lesson is a reminder that in the end we must all face God's judgement … and what that judgement will be depends on whether we have made earthly riches or being rich with God our priority.

So to summarise: Christ speaks to us all in scripture; today's parable reminds us that life is short, that wealth and pleasure are neither all there is, nor the most important things in this life; that being rich towards God is what is really important; and if we refuse to accept that truth, then we must be prepared to pay the ultimate price … a price that I pray that neither you, nor I, nor any of God's children may, with God's grace, never find themselves in the position of having to pay. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment