Our Gospel reading today begins with a family dispute over inheritance. So often the fights we have revolve around money – whether that be in our homes, between siblings, or even in the Church. I remember visiting a young mum some years ago and all she could talk about was money, and for every good reason, as she was struggling to put food on the table, pay the rent, her medical expenses and so on. She clearly needed support at that crucial time. But the next day I happened to be speaking to another woman who was buying her third house and looking to buy another. I was struck by the huge contrast and inequity between these two women, and it all revolved around money.
Did you know that Jesus spends far more time talking about money than he does about almost anything else? Think about the parables Jesus tells, There’s the ‘Treasure in the Field, the Story of the Talents, the story of the widow who put two tiny talents into the offering box; there is the account of the rich man and poor Lazarus begging at his gate, and of course the story we have this Sunday about the rich farmer who builds bigger and bigger barns, getting richer and richer and not sharing his wealth all for nothing because he dies before he can enjoy his wealth. The list goes on… Jesus wasn’t obsessed with money, but he used these stories to speak about how we might become rich toward God.
We live in a world where we are constantly encouraged to see happiness in terms of what we own. It’s a selfish vision, and Jesus sees to the heart of the matter when he tells his story of the rich farmer. The picture he paints is of a rich landowner who is so obsessed with the idea of being rich and powerful that
nothing and no one else matters. See how often he speaks about himself: “… 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, and be merry.’”
What Jesus shows us in this farmer is a proud, self-made man, who deep down is quite isolated and insecure. There is no talk of friends or family, there is no talk of compassion and provision for others – its as though everything revolves around him.
The big question is what does it mean to be ‘rich toward God’? Does it mean guarding against greed? Does it mean that even our hard well-earned wealth comes from and belongs to God? Does it mean making a priority of the people in our lives rather than personal gain? Some of the happiest people I know are people who are generous with their time and money. What does being rich toward God mean for you and what would you change in your life to live that way?