(Ecclesiastes 1.2, 12-14; 2.18-23, Psalm 49.1-12, Colossians 3.1-11 & Luke 12.13-21) – Year C, 2022

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

As we work our way through Luke’s gospel, we have reached a patch of Jesus’ teaching on money, and specifically our attitude towards it.  We shouldn’t be surprised that it comes up regularly.  It’s often said that Jesus preached about money more than any other subject.  Well, that’s sort of true.  Actually Jesus preached about the kingdom of God the most; however he very often used money or finances either as a metaphor (think of the parable of the lost coin, for example), or to examine our attitudes.  And we see this in today’s gospel.

Rather than jumping ahead to the parable, it’s worth taking a moment to note the context in which this story is told.  Jesus had been asked by someone in the crowd to intervene in an argument about an inheritance.  It is a shame that money can give rise to such arguments within families, and it’s the root cause of this that Jesus focused on.  He replied: “be on your guard against all kinds of greed.”

Ah, greed – one of the seven deadly sins. Remember it is not money which is the root of all evil, but the ‘love of money’ (1 Timothy 6:10).  It’s an old, old problem – greed for money and possessions is prohibited in the last of the Ten Commandments: ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s” (Exodus 20.17). Greed and covetousness go together – I want…

And so we begin to arrive at why money is a gospel issue.   Because when our relationship with money is out of sync with God’s will, we become greedy.  And greed is like bindweed, with its tendrils creeping into and taking a hold in different parts of our lives. We start arguing over money, as greed gets into our emotions.  Fearful we don’t have enough, we become angry, resentful and secretive.  It is greed that can fracture relationships, as we start prioritising money and possessions over other things, including relationships with family, friends and neighbours, and above all our relationship with God.  Greed is, therefore, one expression of the sin of idolatry, just as the author of Colossians states (Col 3.5).

Jesus countered this by saying: “for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12.15).  This was a countercultural statement in the 1st century, and it remains so today.  Look at the news, social media, politics and business.  Rich people are considered more successful and more important than poor people.  Do community committees, civic boards and government advisory groups seek out those living in poverty to join them?  Or do they assume it’s wealthy people who have more wisdom?  And how often does a film touch on a truth when a powerful, wealthy person in dispute with someone with little status says, ‘Who will believe you?’  Does money make you more truthful or believable?  Of course not, but that doesn’t stop it being assumed subconsciously.

However, if we look a little closer, the parable itself isn’t simply about forward planning or being wealthy.  The farmer has had a fruitful year, and has run out of room to store his grain.  He had options.  He could have built another barn, though this would have used up some of his clearly fertile land.  He could have sold his spare grain, but perhaps everyone was having a good year (the growth not being dependent on the farmer but on God).  So rather than sell his grain when there is plenty of it, and therefore would fetch a lower price, he plans to store it and sell it at a later date when he could get a better price for it.  One might say he was being a good businessman, a good steward.  

What we are being invited to examine is his motives, and the way it impacts his choices, his actions.  What does the farmer do?  He pulls down his perfectly good barns and builds bigger ones.

The farmer has but one aim in life, and that is to acquire wealth.  Furthermore he felt he was in control of everything.  Count how many times he uses the words ‘I’ or ‘my’.  “What should I do?” “I will do this…I will pull down my barns…I will store all my grain and my goods.”  There is no sense of gratitude to God, or understanding of where his wealth and privilege has come from. He may appear to be a wise and sensible business man, but Jesus calls him a fool, for he is not rich towards God.  

As the author of Ecclesiastes puts it, to focus on money and possessions, status and power that is ’Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” And in psalm 49 we are reminded that we cannot take our money and possessions with us when we die.  As followers of Christ we are to seek the things that are above.  We are to strive for the treasure in heaven. 

When we have an abundance, let us remember and give thanks to the one from whom all good things come, and use those blessings for the good of others.  We can’t divorce our thinking about money from our Christian faith.  They are intricately linked, because how we approach money impacts our relationships, the way we live our lives, and how we approach our faith and our God.

So this week I encourage you to spend a little time thinking about your attitude towards money and possessions.  A few questions to ponder:

  • What is your greatest possession? And what are your priorities in life? How do they relate to each other and how close to your heart and your faith are they?
  • How much is enough for you?
  • How as a community can we shift our thinking from me/I to God/others?
  • And given that this Gospel passage started with a question about inheritance, ask yourself ‘does my Last Will and Testament reflect my Christian faith?’  Even its title tells us that we ought to take it seriously – my Last Testament.  This will be your final act on earth – what message do you want to give with it?

There’s a lot to reflect upon, so let us ask God for his guidance and wisdom.

Let us pray:

Father, sometimes we find it easier to put our trust in our own planning rather than to depend on your provision and faithfulness.  Sometimes we find it easier to accumulate things for ourselves than to be generous to those in need.  Help us to throw off the shackles of greed and set us free from the sin of idolatry.  Show us how to keep money in its proper place, in a godly balance in our lives.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.   Amen

(Artwork: ‘The Man Who Hoards’ by James Tissot (1836-1902))