The Reading is from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (12:16-21)
Every parable of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ is a gift that is wrapped and offered to us. We are invited to take the gift and to peel away the wrapper and the many layers to find more and deeper meaning as we read and study and pray, asking God to open our hearts and minds to His reality.
This parable of the rich landowner is commonly interpreted as a call to be generous with our finances, to give more than we save for ourselves. There is certainly truth to that interpretation, but I see something else here that goes beyond our finances. We could say that the Lord is not so much interested in the finances but in the finances of the human heart.
We as a community are coming off of the wonderful celebration of a great event, the consecration of this church into a true house of God. We are liable to feel a bit of let-down after all the excitement and activity and the thrill of such an event. We are also liable to feel like it is time to rest. In that regard we would be much like the rich man in today’s gospel. He said “I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”
One of the ideas that you will never hear in the Scripture or the New Testament is this “God wants you to be comfortable.” In fact it is often just the opposite. It is hardship, trial, and opposition that allows us to be built up and strengthened. It might be easy for some of us to look back at the last couple of years and months and to begin to take our rest and to celebrate what we have accomplished (though in truth it was not we, but He who accomplished it all). This is misguided thinking and it is the kind of thinking that turns the ship in the wrong direction and heads straight towards the rocks and certain shipwreck. We can’t stop now, we can’t be comfortable and we can’t rest.
The Lord says that the one who is foolish is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God. How do we make sure that we are not foolish? How do we make sure that we are actually being rich towards God? We have to be generous with everything that belongs to us, not simply our finances but our very precious time, our talents, our energies, and our love. These things must be understood rightly as coming from Christ and when they are understood rightly, they can then be returned to the Lord Jesus Christ with generosity. We won’t come to God or to His Church and think that God and His Church are trying to steal our money or our time or our energy or our life. We will see reality and say “I am so thankful to God for His many generous blessings towards me and I cannot help but pour out my life to Him who first poured out His life for me.”
We can act generously towards Christ and His body, the Church through so many different works. One teaches, another visits the sick, another cleans the floors, yet another sets up for coffee hour. One rearranges chairs and tables every week, another purchases supplies for coffee hour. Some teach the kids, others serve in the altar, yet others bake bread or bring food for our meals. Every person has a task and a ministry within the community and without your work the community suffers as if the body is being neglected. It suffers when we cease to be generous and to work with open hearts towards the living God who blesses us continually. It suffers when we begin to count the cost and try to figure out what we are owed or how we are underappreciated or what else we might’ve done had we not been busy with the church. These attitudes are not from the Holy Spirit. He is looking for us to act according to the words of the Lord Jesus who says “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’” (Luke 17:10). If we act daily with this kind of overflowing gratitude and joy, nothing becomes impossible for us.
Most importantly, this life of generosity towards God and towards others is demonstrated through our life of prayer! Think about that. There is nothing which demonstrates our relationship or lack of relationship with God like our focus or lack of focus on spending quality time with the Lord. When we lack generosity towards God, we say “Lord, there is not enough time in the day for you”. But when we are generous towards God and we understand His place, we say “I cannot afford not to spend time with you, my Lord and the love of my life.”
This generosity is not just towards God, but towards our family and friends and parishioners. When we are generous with our time and energy and bring them to the Lord, we are also being generous and serving others by praying together as a community and there is nothing more powerful than communal prayer. This generosity towards God and towards the things of God becomes a complete paradigm shift in our life and it means that we are building up beautiful treasure with God. Rather, we begin to realize that He is our only treasure and only what we build in Him can never be destroyed or taken away from us. We will truly understand that Christ the Lord is our very inheritance, to Him alone belongs the glory, along with His Father and the All-Holy Spirit. AMEN.