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The Rich Fool

  • International
  • October 22, 2012
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This Sunday’s reading begins a section of Jesus’s teachings on the theme of material possessions. Probably no part of Jesus’s message inspires greater resistance. This is because the accumulation of wealth and property is very much part of our nature, and in the conventional thinking, riches are seen to be a sign of God’s blessings

This passage begins with a request for arbitration in a quarrel over inheritance, and ends with a parable on the dangers of avarice.

As Jesus addresses the crowds, a man begs him to intervene in a property dispute. However Jesus refuses to be drawn into the argument, realizing that any decision given, no matter how objective, is always viewed askance by the losing party.

Instead Jesus uses this occasion to warn the people about the dangers of avarice, of envying someone else’s property. Wealth by itself does not give life, he asserts. Wealth is meant to serve you, not dominate you. What then gives life? In a word, God’s will.

The Gospels accept that it’s important to have enough. That’s why we pray “Give us today our daily bread”. But whatever is more than enough, what is surplus must be shared and given away. This is God’s will, and it is this which brings happiness to the giver, as well as to those who receive. It is the sharing of wealth which will bring about a better society – more equitable, more just, more unselfish, more generous.

But ah, how much is enough? Advertising today promotes the ‘good life’. It tells us we can never have enough. It makes us avaricious, wanting to consume more and more, never mind the others. Its symbol is the rich man in the parable who looks forward to enjoying it all. But what if he were to die suddenly? Of what use is all his money? To think he could buy happiness and security. Foolish thought!

Today’s Gospel challenges one of our dearest obsessions – the accumulation of riches.
It asks us to be satisfied with what we have, and share our surplus with those in need. In this lies our security, our peace and our salvation.
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