Exploring the Scripture
This text is one of many in the Gospel of Luke that expresses concern that matters of wealth are very much about response to God’s call. It is not that material wealth in itself is condemned. Luke is seemingly concerned about choices surrounding material wealth and the values upheld by those choices.
Jesus is speaking to a large crowd, “in the thousands” (Luke 12:1), after an exchange with some Pharisees. In this prior exchange, Jesus has accused the Pharisees of being concerned with outward appearances of tithing and alms and not the justice and love of God. As he now addresses the disciples and crowd beyond, he boldly speaks about choices.
Our focus parable begins with a plea from the crowd, asking that Jesus command a brother to share inherited wealth. This may reference a well-understood provision in Deuteronomy stating that a firstborn son inherits a double portion of a father’s wealth. Jesus refuses to be drawn into the role of divider. However, he goes on to share a parable about wealth only found in Luke.
The parable begins with a warning about greed and possessions—abundance in the form of crops. Deciding what to do with this abundance is the topic of a conversation between the owner and himself, with no consideration for any other, including God: “Soul, you have…” (v. 19). The focus of this self-dialogue is on creating more storage for selfish purposes and enjoyment. But God enters the conversation, calling the man a fool. Some translations use the word senseless. Strong language even in Greek! God then tells the man he will die that night and points out that others will have all he has hoarded.
To condemn “not rich toward God” (v. 21) suggests the man has not considered God’s values in his choices, only his own. Jesus points out that greed is about self-interest. He has shifted the conversation from the possessions to our attitudes about possessions. Too often we equate possessions with life. When we focus our time and attention on getting and enjoying possessions we have no time, attention or place in our lives for God who is the giver and source of life. Our values about what matters are clearly seen in our attitudes about material wealth. Luke tells us, Jesus will continue to point the way to spiritual treasure rather than earthly treasure as being the richest way of living.
- Material wealth is not It is the choice to aspire to wealth and hold onto it for our own wishes that distracts us from attending to the heart of God and the fullness of life.
- Our values and attitudes about what matters most are revealed in the choices we make about possessions and material wealth.
- God cares that we value and aspire to spiritual treasure.
Questions to Consider
- Have you ever felt possessed by your possessions? What does this take away from in time and focus? How did it affect your choices?
- How does the culture around us define our values about material wealth?
- Do you ever hoard things that would keep you from seeking what is rich in the eyes of God?
- What needs to happen in your life to work toward what matters most to the heart of Christ and Christ’s mission?
- How can material wealth be “re-visioned” as blessing to be shared in harmony with the Giver of all blessings?