This is really part two from last week. Jesus is teaching about covetousness and how to avoid it. Last week we under the parable of the Rich Fool we elaborated on two parts: 1) have faith in the providence of the Father and 2) be busy putting what is given to you to work for the kingdom. The third part rests on the character of the Father. And that is what Jesus bids us to ponder – just who The Father is and how he acts. There are potential God’s where covetousness would be justified. But that is not The Father who for a day clothes the lilies in such riotous beauty to make Solomon blush. You think he’s going to do that and not clothe you with the resurrection body? C’mon. He wants to give you all the treasures of the Kingdom. And he does this because he is our Good Father.
The actual text for the day is v13-21, but part of the set up is in v1-12. Jesus teaches the disciples what I’ll call kingdom priorities. And immediately a man stands up to test those. Jesus jumps right on him and the simplest besetting sin – covetousness. The quickest way to be knocked off of Kingdom Priorities is by desire, even desire for something that might be good. Instead of aligning one’s life around the priorities of the Kingdom, one is consumed with and aligns life around those desires, or worse fear of losing them or never achieving them.
That is the aim of the parable. The Rich Fool already has a lot – his barns are full, but he has acquired more. And his only concern is how he might keep it safe for his own good. Jesus calls this attitude foolish. Foolish for some poignant reasons. Reasons that I think resonate with some current events. (Note: two items addressed here are immigration and the most recent mass shooting as it seems to relate to that. You might not agree. It might make you uncomfortable, but I could not ignore it.)
The conclusion (if not a complete solution) is to hear how the Church Father’s used this. I’d invite you to give it a listen.
The parable at the core of today’s gospel can be highly moralistic. It is something we need to hear, but the parable itself gains it gospel grounding in the life of Jesus. The man at the start gives Jesus the opportunity to talk about life. What the life of Jesus, his questioner’s life and the parable invite us to do is correctly order things perishable and things imperishable in our lives.
When we have those thing properly ordered, then many situations and stations in life become much easier to judge the moral response.
Musical Note: I left in the hymn of the day Lutheran Service Book #732, All Depends on Our Possessing. I think it is one of the sweetest hymn tunes in the hymnal. Nothing flashy, but I’m still humming it. Not an earworm, but it strikes that right blend of melancholy and hope that is perfectly paired with the text. The text comes from the 17th Century Nurnberg church. The attribution is haus-kirche which would be house church, so it probably originated as a pietistic folk song shared among the various meetings much like campfire songs in the 1970s. But this text was caught by Catherine Winkworth, translator extraordinaire. What makes her translations so compelling is that unlike most American German to English translations which are more concerned about an exact translation, Winkworth cares first about the English. It doesn’t hurt that she has some evident skill at poetry. Technically she’s the translator, but most of her hymn translations are relatively free creations that manage to bring German hymns into a pleasant English expression.