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Dying to be Rich
“All is vanity and a chasing after wind,” says Ecclesiastes, yet we chase wealth like it will last forever, forgetting that we ourselves will one day die and that everything we have stored up here will be useless to us. Into the tragedy of our human drive to be rich in possessions, even at the cost of being poor in everything else, Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool. It is first told to brothers squabbling over an inheritance, and now it is told to us, some of us squabbling with our relatives or neighbors over wealth and possessions. The rich fool, despite his great wealth, is poor in every other way, eating alone, and even dying alone. In Jesus’ depiction of this fool our own sinful hearts are exposed. We too vainly chase after even more, sacrificing right relationship with God and neighbor in the process. Death comes to the rich fool when he least expects it, as it must come to all of us. How, then, are we to be “rich toward God”? Paul reminds the Colossian Christians of their own unexpected deaths in the waters of baptism: “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” In baptism we are joined to Christ’s death, and we are to be dead to all foolish chasing after more possessions. We have died, not alone, but with Christ. Our lives now are hidden with Christ in God, and in Christ we share a fortune of true riches that also are good for our neighbors. Death will come, but our treasure is already secure. By faith we have acquired abounding riches above, and by faith we are freed from storing up treasures for ourselves here on earth.
Gospel: Luke 12:13-21
In God’s reign, the “rich will be sent away empty.” Jesus uses a parable to warn against identifying the worth of one’s life with the value of one’s possessions rather than one’s relationship with God.
13Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus,] “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”