Sermon preached at St Matthew’s Church, Stretton
On Sunday 31 July 2016 / Trinity 10 (Green) / Proper 13
|Hosea 11:1-11 (OTp769)||God the parent’s compassion for his wayward child: how can I let you go? #Hosea11_1 #TweetingTheBible|
|Colossians 3:1-11 (NTp187)||Since you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above. #Colossians3_1 #TweetingTheBible|
|Luke 12:13-21 (NTp69)||The Rich Fool stores up treasure for himself without being rich towards God. #Luke12_13 #TweetingTheBible|
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above…
Donald Trump has had a tough life. He has worked hard to become the billionaire that he is today.
“It has not been easy for me… I started off in Brooklyn, my father gave me a small loan of $1 million. I came into Manhattan and I had to pay him back, and I had to pay him back with interest.”
So, his father, Fred, who was an actual self-made multi-millionaire, with a dodgy reputation, lent him the small sum of $1M, from which Donald has made his fortune. Along with the 100s of millions he inherited from his father.
But it’s easy to use the parable of the Rich Fool to have a go at someone like Donald Trump. It’s fun, too. But, of course, the parable is not about someone else. It’s about us.
The Dangers of Wealth
Luke’s gospel, in particular, shows how Jesus warns of the dangers of wealth, of possessions. The danger is that we don’t possess our possessions: they possess us! They distort who we are and rival God in our lives.
To be clear: the Bible is not anti-wealth. Many figures in the bible are wealthy and see their wealth as God’s blessing. Contrary to what people often say, money is not the root of all evil. It is our attitude to money that matters:
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
1 Timothy 6:10
Of course, in church, the only time we ever talk about money is when we are trying to part you from yours! So, in order to stop loving money, you should definitely put more in the collection plate! Jesus talks about money, wealth, possessions a lot of the time, precisely because they are dangerous to our spiritual health. Unlike some who claim to be religious, Jesus never tells you to take money out of your pockets and put it into his! But Jesus wants us to be free. And the pursuit of wealth, for its own sake, is a form of spiritual bondage.
The Parable of the Rich Fool
Jesus is asked to intervene in a family dispute over an inheritance. (How many families have been broken by such disputes?) Jesus refuses to get involved, presumably because he knows that the motivation of the appellant is greed. ‘Don’t involve me in your money squabbles’, Jesus says.
‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ V15
Then he told them this parable of a rich man whose land produced abundantly. He has the problems of wealth: where am I going to keep all this stuff I have accumulated? I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones. He doesn’t know how lucky he is! “My grain, my goods”. It’s all me, me, me!
And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” V19
The problem is not with him enjoying his wealth, nor with planning to take it easy. The problem is that he can see no further than the end of his nose. He lives in a universe with himself at the centre. A universe which is empty of all but himself. There is no God in his universe; no neighbour in his world. Like the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31), he cannot see anything outside of himself. He speaks to himself: “I will say to my soul, soul…”
It really is all about ‘me’. Not a thought for the other – no mention even of family, let alone neighbour or God. His problem is not wealth but greed.
Who is the Rich Man?
The Rich Man is you. And me. We are among the wealthiest people who have ever set foot on the earth. And we don’t believe it! That’s because we have advertisers who tell us that we would be happier if we were only a bit richer. If only we had more stuff to store in our barns! You and I know that’s not true. So why do we buy lottery tickets? (I don’t! I’ve never bought a lottery ticket in my life. But I do pray for my dad to win!) Why do we fall for scams? Why are we taken in by advertising?
Our materialistic society wants us to focus on what we don’t have, not on what we do. Without everyone wanting more, capitalism fails. Jesus warns that greed is a powerful way to lose your life. What a terrible way to live! Storing up treasure but not being rich in any way that actually matters (‘towards God’)!
And, it turns out the man with the biggest brain in the universe – Stephen Hawking – agrees. We need to rethink wealth, he says. Because money doesn’t do it.
“The best things in life aren’t things.”