The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 12:16-21
One of the least popular subjects for a priest to talk about is finances. I’m aware of that. I know how people react when their finances are called into question. But we would also be wise to remember that according to the Apostle Paul “Money is the root of all kinds of evil.” Sometimes the feelings that we hold about money are rooted in pride and not in meekness and love. Sometimes the way we behave with our money is self-gratifying and self-glorifying but often it is not glorifying of God or His house (The Church).
In today’s gospel reading Our Lord Jesus Christ tackles this very important subject of personal finances. His approach is truly revolutionary and completely the opposite of nearly everything that everyone is telling us in the world around us.
In the story told by Our Lord, there is a rich man who has everything he needs and then some. In fact he has so much that he no longer has a place to save it all, so he decides that he will tear down the old barns and build bigger barns to house all his extra savings. He can now relax, eat, drink and be merry. If only he had a glass of sweet tea, he would be living the American dream. What an amazing life!
There is however, one huge problem. That very evening of the same day that he has made all of these grand plans to save even more, this man will die. That is bad for 2 reasons. The first is that all of the riches he was saving will go to waste now. Possibly they will sit in the barns and spoil, possibly the government will come and seize the extra. But what is more important is not what will happen to the extra crops he has saved, but what will happen when this man must stand before the throne of God! How will he answer God for the way that he was greedy and self-serving with these abundant riches that God poured out to him? How will he answer such a generous God from such a stingy heart?
The Lord Jesus loves us and He chose not to hide any of the important stuff from us. His teachings are relevant to everyday life. His teachings are meant to guide us practically and to enlighten us and elevate our minds to a new reality….His reality (which is ultimately THE reality). We are pouring our hearts and souls into our work, into building our personal portfolios and securing strong financial foundations for ourselves and our families but the truth is that the material portfolio is a small matter when compared to the spiritual portfolio. We base our success on whether we can retire safely and securely and whether we can send our kids to college. God plans our success according to different criteria and that should have life-changing consequences.
For instance I think about this church and the numbers of children that are raised in this place. They have had years cultivating great relationships and a spiritual life together. But what happens when it is time for them to go to college? Often they are allowed to go to school far away, with no church and without the support and relationships they have developed through their life here in the church. Later we are surprised that we may not recognize these young adults when they return to us. They have changed their beliefs, their friends, and their habits. And often, not for the better. We did all the work and invested all the time to benefit our kids and in the end we may find that they are worse off because we’ve followed the wisdom of the world around us.
The rich man in today’s gospel reading plans to retire according to the wisdom of the world and indeed God will force him into a sort of retirement that very night. Which retirement plan will benefit this man when he goes to meet God? Ultimately the reading is about how and where we use our money, especially our extra resources. But even more so, this reading is about where we are focusing our priorities in life. No one gets anywhere without a goal. Because the goal dictates the actions that must be taken and the road that must be travelled. Christians, our goals have very little to do with this material world. Our goals must be eternal. They must have godly value and godly significance or they will simply vanish away.
Everything this rich man worked for ended up being a waste because it was not used to glorify God and it did not benefit this man’s relationship with God. While the man’s neighbors would’ve been very impressed by this man and his shiny new barns, the Lord calls the man “Fool”! And that is a very serious name thing, which is why the Lord tells us that we must never call anyone fool.
God doesn’t want your money. He wants your heart. God doesn’t want to take what you have worked so hard to produce. He wants to know that you are grateful for all that He has allowed you to produce. When we think about giving, we sometimes act like God or the Church is a thief trying to steal from us. But listen to the words of the Lord in the prophet Malachi “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” So it is a serious part of Christian discipline and behavior to give from one’s heart but there is more. We must each give but we must do so with the right spirit. As St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:7 “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver”. I would say this applies not only to finances but to everything that we do as Christians. If we do things, or are asked to do things, we must do them without grumbling and with cheerful hearts. We give with real joy. Our joy is a sign of the gratitude we have towards God for all His generous blessings towards us.
We are getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving. Are you truly thankful to God for all that He has richly given you?
And glory be to God forever AMEN.