This Sunday's Gospel has Jesus rebuke greed with the parable of a rich fool who can't think of any better use for his wealth of grain than building even bigger barns to hold it all for himself and his pleasures ... until he suddenly dies, rich in possessions and poor in the Lord.
It's a reminder that the Greatest Commandments to which Jesus committed His disciples ("Love God" and "Love your neighbor as yourself") are lived out, in part, through our economic lives. The rich fool loves only himself and ignores the need of his neighbors.
But what prompts Jesus? A man asks Him to intervene about an inheritance. No real details, but we're meant to trust that Jesus responds appropriately by chastising the man with a parable about greed. That is, Jesus rejects the demand that He become involved in settling the dispute with a rebuke about focusing on material things instead of our relationship with God, which always also calls us into a loving relationship with our neighbors.
That little "frame story" is pretty striking to me: Churches have long been "invited" to endorse worldly power and worldly economics, and many of our worst sins come from partnering with worldly power. For example, there's the other famous trap set for Jesus around a denarius coin in Matthew 22, where Jesus rebukes them for "giving Caesar what is God's" — the title "divine" that is stamped on the coin.
All Christians need to be careful of all the ways that desiring wealth tempts us away from loving our neighbors. It's all too easy to make ourselves first and others second. But truly loving Jesus transforms us, and we see that transformation when we find that we've arrived at a place where we love all of God's people, and not only ourselves.
Do you have pets in your yard? Notice that I did not say pests. Yard pets include the variety of creatures, some furry and others winged, that live in your yard. They were there before you moved in, and probably will outlast you. They seem to know you and each other. A few will even stare at you when you are outside and almost speak. And those special ones may have a name that you gave them.
These are some of God's creatures, great and small. They are living beings who share a part of creation with you. Perhaps you hardly notice them. Or you may feel quite attached to several of these wild creatures, and they may have become rather used to you, too.
How much less would your world be without them? If there were no birds singing outside your window on a late summer morning, how would you feel? Let's say that no squirrels scampered playfully through the tree limbs in your backyard — would you miss them?
You do not have to be St. Francis of Assisi to appreciate the fullness of God's creation. In case you do, then take a moment to give thanks for your yard pets. They are living reminders that creation is for more than just people such as ourselves.
One of the most popular shows in recent television programming has been the show "Hoarders."
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website (adaa.org), "Hoarding is the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value. The behavior usually has deleterious effects — emotional, physical, social, financial and even legal — for a hoarder and family members." Most interesting is what the ADAA identified as the root cause for hoarding. "The quantity of their collected items sets them apart from other people."
Could the popularity of "Hoarders" be rooted in our shared obsession of being "set apart" from everyone else? Our post-modern and self-described "progressive" society and culture celebrates two inherently destructive ideals: 1) a materialistic measure for personal value, and 2) the idolatry of "self" as the creator of our own morality and destiny; the belief that we are gods unto ourselves.
Society's cultural dogma that is propagated through every medium teaches that you can create your own destiny, you create your own joy and happiness, you give purpose to your own life and you define what is ultimately true. In the words of Billy Graham, "Self centered indulgence, pride and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle." There is never enough for a hoarder. Hoarding ourselves will only leave us spiritually empty and ever longing. As a hoarder hoards at the expense of their own health and that of those closest to them, our culture of self-identity, self morality and self-worship only hurts ourselves.
It wouldn't take you more than an afternoon of research to see how our progressive self-centeredness as a society has only proven to make us more self destructive. In many ways, we have forgotten how impotent we are as gods unto ourselves. Jesus' parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:1321 reminds us of the futility of being self-hoarders. There was a self-made man who said to himself, "Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry." "But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."
There is nothing in this world, and certainly nothing in ourselves, that either has the power to satisfy what our souls ultimately long for or to save us from the death our sin deserves and that we so often try to mask with materialism and pride. True and meaningful life both for today and for eternity is only found in being rich toward God and through a relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ, who has freed us from the bondage of sin and self through His death and resurrection.
Singer and songwriter Elias Dummer sums it up perfectly when he says in his new song "Enough": "Jesus, you are enough for me. With nothing; I still have everything. Jesus, you are enough for me."