by Pauline Simonsen
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Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions (Luke 12:15).
We look at the rich man in Jesus’ parable and think, ‘Tsk, tsk – such greed!’ But actually, Jesus is simply describing our normal human aspirations in this modern world: work hard, increase your wealth, achieve a comfortable lifestyle and then retire and enjoy yourself! Isn’t that what many of us are doing? Working hard now so that in due course, we hope we’ll have a nice house and the mortgage paid off; the kids all grown up and safely established in their own lives; a decent superannuation fund and enough wealth now to retire and take it easy. Or like the rich man thinks, ‘And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry”’ (Luke 12:19).
Ah. Suddenly Jesus’ parable strikes a bit too close to home. What we took to be his exposure of those rich people out there has become an indictment of our society’s faith in endless acquisition and consumption. And of my personal complicity in that faith. ‘Be on your guard against all kinds of greed’ – including my own personal wealth plan.
But note what Jesus warns about here. He reminds us how precarious our hard-earned wealth and comfort are. ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ All my careful wealth planning, hard work, savings and retirement packages mean nothing to me if I die tomorrow.
Jesus reminds us that ‘life does not consist in an abundance of possessions’ (Luke 12:15). We are much more than our wealth status; our lives are much more than our possessions. If everything I have today is taken away tomorrow, then what is left to me?
How are you answering that question right now? Close your eyes and imagine that.
And now imagine Jesus standing before you, offering to be your Saviour and friend. Hear your Heavenly Father saying, ‘Your wealth matters nothing to me. You are my child, claimed by me in your baptism. I have given you all my riches, dear child’. How will you respond to this?
Jesus finishes his parable with an invitation to be ‘rich toward God’. I wonder what he means by that?
Father, thank you for all the good things you have given us in our lives, including our wealth and possessions. Help us to realise that you are the giver and the taker, and our true wealth lies in being your child. Show us how to be ‘rich’ towards you. Amen.
Pauline is a Bible college teacher and spiritual director in Palmerston North, New Zealand. She’s married to Roger – who is recently retired – and she says she enjoys having him home a bit more! When she gets some free time, Pauline loves cooking and reading and likes nothing better than sitting with a cat on her lap and watching the birds in her garden.