31 July, Sunday — Folly of the self-centric life

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ecc 1:2,2:21-23
Col 3:1-5,9-11
Lk 12:13-21

So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.

An interjection by a man in the crowd wanting Jesus to arbitrate in a family dispute involving inheritance prompted the parable of the Rich Fool. After refusing the role, Jesus turns to the crowd, warns against greed, and questions the false assumption that a fulfilling life can be found in the accumulation of possessions. He elaborates, by way of a parable, about an unnamed rich landowner whose farm had been extremely productive.

Through an inner monologue, Jesus reveals the man’s thought process to his listeners. The landowner considers his options regarding his unexpected abundance. The repeated use of the first person singular in the parable is evidence that the landowner is preoccupied with himself. He neither consults others on what to do nor considers donating his surplus to the poor. His only focus was to use his surplus to maximise his own comfort. Finally, God interrupts his reverie, denounces him a fool and asks for his life. Author Cornelius Bennema explains: “While the man’s business may have been flourishing, God determined that his life was not, and hence there was no use for it.”[1]

This gospel parable warns against the folly of self-centric accumulation of wealth. The problem is not wealth per se, but what one chooses to do with it as a disciple of Jesus. Instead of the ‘common-sense’ practice of securing one’s comforts in life, Jesus exhorts his followers to use their possessions generously to alleviate need as a way of being “rich towards God.” (Luke 12:21) 

The readings of this week highlight God’s ability to reverse life situations according to God’s judgement of how we conduct our lives. The rich are inexcusable since scripture is replete with instructions about their responsibility to the needy. Thus, the parable of the rich fool contributes to this message by exposing the futility of trusting in material wealth when seen in the light of life’s transience and one’s social responsibility.

As believers who sincerely desire to follow God’s heart and ways, we need to view everything we have as gifts from God to be stewarded for his purpose. We are to “set our hearts on things above and not on earth things.” (Col 3:2) We are challenged to view our prosperity, not as a means of self-enrichment or self-aggrandisement, but rather as a means for blessing others. So that if we do achieve success, others too may benefit from it.

In this way, we build a more just society, antithetical to the phrase, “The rich keep getting richer while the poor just get poorer.” Rather, we build a civilisation that ‘when the righteous prosper, the city rejoices’ (Proverbs 11:10) Because when the righteous prosper, their prosperity lifts everyone around, especially those at the bottom, and makes life better for all. This is the Kingdom of God Jesus envisions on the earth.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Leonard Koh)

Prayer: Gracious God, you called us to be stewards of the gifts and abundance you entrusted to us. Help us to always use your resources wisely and teach us to share them generously. May our faithful stewardship bear witness to the generosity and love of Christ in our lives.

Thanksgiving: In this one brief life you have given me, may I spend it all for your glory and the good of others.

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