The passage can be read here.
Have you ever walked around a cemetery? A few years ago, I attended a course in Cardiff and during the lunch hour, I felt the urge to escape the busyness and find somewhere quiet. A large local cemetery was an ideal place to get some fresh air and collect my thoughts. What was noticeable, looking at the headstones, was that the things we strive for are not mentioned. I didn’t see any with the epitaph; ‘he always had a new car’ or, ‘she had a lovely house’. The words of Jesus resonate as much today as they did 2,000 years ago; “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
The request from the crowd could be seen as flattering. The man, we assume, respected Jesus as a teacher or Rabbi and asked him to intervene in a family dispute. Jesus was not drawn in to the argument and instead, revealed the real source of these disputes – greed. As Paul would warn later; “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:10)
The parable is simple but brilliant. There are only two characters and we know who they are. The problem is not that the man was rich or that he made plans. Jesus’ parables often commended good business practices. The problem was that the rich man paid absolutely no attention to the major character in the parable, God. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus taught about; ‘the deceitfulness of wealth’ (Matthew 13:22), here he warned; “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” The man in the parable was a fool, he was ignorant towards God in his business dealings. It seems that Jesus addressed not just the brothers with this warning, but the crowd, and by implication, us as well.
The rich fool speaks to our generation because his attitude is one that is very familiar to us. We are obsessed with material possessions, we watch TV programmes that cater for our own particular lusts, whether it be sport, cars, houses, gadgets or hundreds of other things that are being sold to us. Then there are the ideas that we lust after, fame, celebrity, unattainable beauty and wealth. All of these things will end in dust and even if they don’t, as in the parable, we will be dust and someone else will get to enjoy them. How foolish, to make plans for the future without being ready for the one thing we can all be certain of, death.
I have reached an age where I read obituaries. I tend to check the list of recent deaths on the Wikipedia website every couple of days and the thing that surprises me is that the people listed are all so different; young and old, rich and poor, saints and sinners, they are all there. And that is only part of it, there are thousands of deaths everyday that do not register as rich or famous, they are like the rest of us, ordinary. The stark truth is that we all die and we will all face God. Our possessions, riches, fame, achievements and good works will count for nothing.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)
Lord help us to serve you wholeheartedly and not to be distracted by the deceitfulness of riches. Help us to be generous in our attitude towards you and our fellow human beings.