Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, tell my
brother to divide the family inheritance with me." But he said to him,
"Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?" And he
said to them, "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for
one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions." Then he told
them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he
thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?'
Then he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones,
and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul,
'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be
merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being
demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So it
is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward
The lesson of this parable is obvious to all. But it is
perhaps as difficult to put into practice as its is obvious. To be in this
world and not of it, to collect the necessary goods of this world by honest
labour and yet remain detached from them, to possess but not be possessed by
worldly riches, is an ideal to which our weak human nature responds very
A large percentage of Christians, however, do respond to the
challenge manfully and loyally. They earn and use the goods of this world, while
at the same time they keep God’s laws and earn wealth for heaven. Some there
are who renounce even the right, which is theirs, to possess the necessary
things of this world, by taking on themselves the vows of religion. Thus they
set themselves free to devote their whole time and energy to the service of God
and neighbor. Others, and they are of necessity the more numerous, have to own
the world’s goods in order to provide for themselves and their dependents, but,
while so doing, they never let their temporal possessions come between them and
their God. To do this is not easy, but God’s helping grace is always available
to the willing heart.
There is still a third group – those who resemble the
foolish man described in the parable. Like him they are so enmeshed and
ensnared in their desire to collect good things for their earthly life. They
forget that at any moment they may have to leave this earth and all they
possess in it. They may not have large barns or grain-bins bursting at the
seams with the fruits of their fields or their market dealings, but they have
allowed their possessions, large or small, to become the prison-house of their
hearts and thoughts.
In their mad rush for earthly treasure they give themselves
no time to stop and think of the really important thing in life, namely, that
soon they must leave this world and all it holds dear to them. But it is not
the departure from this world that is to be feared. Rather, it is the arrival
at another for which they have made no preparation. That other world of which
they have often heard, but which they shrugged off as something fir for the
weak-minded, will not open before them in all its awe-inspiring immensity.
They will have a momentary glimpse of the eternal beauty and
happiness that they lost for a “mess of pottage,” before they enter the
unending valley of sorrow which they elected for themselves when, during their
period of trial, they chose earthly baubles instead of God.
This has been he fate of foolish men and women in the past.
It will, also, be the fate of many more in the future, it could be my fate,
too, unless I remain ever on the alert to keep myself free from the snare of
worldly wealth. I must remember that it is not the quantity of this world’s
goods which I possess that will be my undoing, but the quality of the hold
which they have on men. There are and will be millionaires in heaven, while
many in the lower income-brackets will find themselves excluded.
No man will be excluded from heaven because he lawfully
possessed some of this world’s wealth, but a man will exclude himself from eternal
happiness if he lets the world’s wealth possess him to the exclusion of God.
The fate of the rich man in the parable need not, and should
not, be mine. I have still time to stop building larger grain-bins and barns,
and to turn my attention instead to collecting some treasure for heaven. Thanks
be to God. Amen.