Ephesians 2:1-10; Luke 12:13-21
Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”
Jesus refused to get roped into a property dispute between brothers. Resorting to litigation was a band-aid solution for a surgical wound.
Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
As usual, Jesus guided the crowd from the commonly accepted, superficial view of things to the interior depths of the heart.
Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
The rich man’s soliloquy sounds, on the surface, prudent. Financially responsible people care about insurance, retirement, property, stocks, bonds, and bank accounts. Who expects a sudden disaster or an overnight death?
But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”
Jesus smashed the rich man’s illusions with the reality of death. All of his calculations went toward the luxury and indulgence of bodily life, with no regard for the good of his soul or that of his neighbors. The unreflective man gave no thought to whom he would leave his stockpile at his passing. An echo of the wise and sorrowful Qoheleth can be heard in Jesus’ words:
And I detested all the fruits of my toil under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who is to come after me (Ecclesiastes 2:18).
Riches that do not outlast the body are not true riches, but are fleeting treasures that “moth and rust destroy” (Matthew 6:19-21). Jesus, the Son and Heir of an indivisible inheritance, drew his listeners to seek the truly abundant life in God “who is rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4). Every merciful thought, word, and act conforms us to the Father’s heart through Christ in the Holy Spirit, and makes us citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20).