PARABLE OF THE RICH-FOOL
(A biblical reflection on the 18th ORDINARY SUNDAY [Year C] – 4 August 2019)
Gospel Reading: Luke 12:13-21
First Reading: Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23; Psalms: Psalm 90:3-6,12-14,17; Second Reading: Colossians 3:1-5.9-11
The Scripture Text:
One of the multitude said to Him, “Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?” And He said to them, “Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And 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. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry. But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:13-21 RSV)
In today’s Gospel, a man asks Jesus to intervene in a legal dispute about how to divide his deceased father’s estate. This would not have been unusual because those who disagreed on important matters often called upon rabbis like Jesus to settle their differences.
Jewish Scriptures are made up of two main parts: the Law and the Prophets. The Law, which the Jews called the Torah, corresponds to the first five books of the Christian Bible and contains the rules and regulations God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai. These laws pertain not only to religious matters but to just about every aspect of daily life as well, including such things as repaying loans, compensating for injuries, and inheriting property. Because of his knowledge of Sacred Scripture, the rabbi was more familiar with the statutes in the Torah than anyone else in the city or town, making him the most logical person to settle a disagreement about how one should interpret or apply a particular law.
A dispute over inheritance was a serious matter in Jesus’ day because money and property brought both social and religious status. It’s obvious how someone would be able to climb the social ladder if he were rich, but the connection between wealth and one’s religious standing needs an explanation.
The Jewish people thought of the laws in the Torah as a blueprint to holiness. Following the laws guaranteed holiness but breaking them, even if one did not know what they were, made a person a sinner. Therefore, holiness was not possible for the ordinary person for two reasons. First, the poor were not educated enough to be able to read the Torah and, secondly, working long hours to support a family prevented the poorer Jews from studying all the laws. A rich man, however, could be holy because he had the time to read the Torah and study the laws. The fact he was rick was proof that God favored him and was pleased with his observance of the law.
Jesus makes it clear in today’s Gospel that material wealth does not necessarily translate into spiritual riches. The truly wise person is the one who is more concerned with pleasing God than with obtaining the creature comforts of this world.
Neither money, nor clothing, nor power, nor popularity, nor anything else you value on earth will count when you stand before God’s throne. How much time do you spend each day accumulating the good things of this world and how much time do you devote to strengthening your relationships with God? What does this say about your priorities?
(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 304-305.)
Prayer: Holy Spirit God, come into my life more fully. Teach me to value the treasures of the Kingdom of God, and so come to possess them. Help me to consider the needs of others before my own, and keep me focused on things above, rather than on the things of this world. Amen.
Jakarta, 2 August 2019
A Christian Pilgrim