"A certain rich man’s land produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have any place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do: I will tear down my storerooms and build bigger ones. I will store all my grain and my other things in them. I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things stored away for many years. Take life easy. Eat, drink, and have a good time.’ But God said to him, ‘You foolish man! This very night I will take your life away from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’"
(Luke 12:16-20 NIRV)
By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.
You may not believe this, but 24 years ago—on Aug. 6, 1989—I had the audacity to preach a sermon on the Parable of the Rich Fool to what was considered a wealthy congregation. This young, intense pastor proceeded to tell skilled doctors, lawyers, and university professors how materialism and love for money hinders spiritual growth.
They didn’t like the sermon very much. As you might imagine, I got an earful from the Pastor/Parish Relations Committee at its next meeting. However, I stood my ground and defended my message.
It turned out that the message I gave began a long, fruitful journey for that congregation into a raised awareness of good stewardship.
I share that slice of personal history with you because, recently going through my old sermons, I realized not much has changed in nearly a quarter of a century — since I first delivered that homily. U.S. society seems even more obsessed with the possession of things. A need continues rampant to accumulate whatever the heart desires.
Speaking to people now as it did then, the Parable of the Rich Fool is a clear challenge to that skewed value system. So many people find themselves in possession of everything they think that they have ever wanted, but having little or nothing that they need.
Consider what life was like in 1989 in this country. Some of you will remember firsthand. What do you recall?
If you don’t live in the same house, what do you remember about that former residence? It probably was small, "woefully inadequate" by today’s homebuilding expectations.
For the most part, in 1989 we were one-car families, possessed at most two televisions and perhaps a VCR, and certainly used only a landline phone. We hadn’t quite perfected microwave cooking, and the majority of our dishes took longer to prepare, in the oven or atop the stove.
Cable television networks were not ubiquitous, and the Internet superhighway moved at a much slower speed. Bulky computers sat on desktops and the cost was beyond the financial means of most people. Actually, the majority of TV viewers had access to only three network channels, and if it didn’t come on ABC, CBS or NBC, we didn’t see it!
Today there is so much space in some newer homes that the family members only see one another in passing. The dining room table is the place where no one gathers, and most meals are eaten "on the run." Televisions—flat screens with high-definition—sprout in nearly every room, and landline telephones are nearly obsolete. Many kitchen ovens are rarely used. Personal computers dominate the culture.
Just like the rich fool whom Luke describes, some people today have torn down smaller dwelling places to build or move away to newer and larger ones. Lawyers and accountants are relied upon to track personal finances and figure out taxes. Life is good for many in the United States, where the perception is that many people seem to live in ease and enjoy themselves.
But something is wrong! People have all the things they want, yet there is still emptiness inside. Like the rich fool, they think their lives are made secure by having possessions, but…
Can it be this prophet named Jesus was right when he said that real security is not in the accumulation of things but by triumph over things?
That always leads us to his question: "Where is your treasure?"
Where is your treasure today?
In this simple Bible story, in down-to-earth language, Jesus reminds us that if we are not spiritually rich, if we fail to make God the most important thing in our lives, then, indeed, we have nothing.
During the Civil War, a friend tried to comfort President Lincoln by assuring him that God was on his side. Mr. Lincoln replied, "Sir, my concern is not whether God is on my side, but to be sure I am on His side!"
God has been good to you. God has given you much and, when you see that clearly, you know all that you have is a gift from God — you are an instrument of God’s will.
In the last 25 years I have learned that it’s not a sin to have wealth or possessions. The sin results when that which you have possesses YOU!
How you relate to what you have is a reflection of your spiritual relationship to God.
Don’t you think it’s about time to prioritize your treasures? May no things stand between you and God, who created you, sustains you, and gives you all that you need.
Now is the time to get your priorities in order.
Hear once again the wisdom of Jesus: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."