Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced 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 tear 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; relax, 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 the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:13-21 ESV).
–By Elizabeth Ahlman
This past Sunday was Erntedankfest in Germany. This is a time to give thanks to God for the harvest. The church is decked out with the fruits of people’s gardens — apples, foliage, buckeyes (those were from my 7 year old), grapes, flowers, jams and jellies, and more. The people were certainly ready to give thanks to the Lord for all of His goodness!
But the strangest Gospel reading is paired with this day. It strikes me at first glance to not be what you’d typically expect. I was expecting something Thanksgiving-like as we’re used to in the US. Something nice about thankfulness or abundant crops or something. Instead, in the middle of a day of thankfulness for the harvest and a beautifully bedecked sanctuary, this Gospel reading beats us down and points its finger at us: “Don’t you trust in this bounty,” it wags the finger, “Don’t just lay up stuff here on earth and horde it. Fools! For some day you die, and what good will all this do you?” Odd, but perhaps not so much.
Sometimes it is right when things are looking good that we lose sight of what really matters. When the money is flush, or the fridge is full. When the cars are paid off and the mortgage is doable. When the iPhone is affordable. When it comes fairly easy (or at least, easier than it has before), right in that sweet spot where God’s abundance is so overwhelmingly abundant that we’re feeling fairly comfortable, that we tend to forget Who gave us that comfort in the first place. We start to horde it and work on building that cushiony-comfy spot up more and more so that it won’t go away, because you never know when it might just slip right back out of our hands. Oh we are so like this man. We are not rich towards God, and even when we are, we just run into another problem: we start to pat ourselves on the back and trust in our own goodness. “Oh look,” we say, “I have done so many good things with my money and my time and my talents. I’m pretty good at this.” Then we’ve just traded one earthly treasure for another; one god of our own making for another. Money for self-reliance. Wealth for good works.
Either way you slice it, we’re in trouble. We aren’t relying on anything with staying power, and we can’t take it with us. We haven’t been “rich toward God” in that we have not trusted in Him above all things — whether they be the fruits of the earth, the coins in the hand, or the good works in our back pockets. But God has been rich toward us. He has laid up treasure for us in Heaven. God the Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take on flesh and to live a life of trust in God in both times of poverty and times of abundance. Jesus never yielded to self-reliance. He never trusted in money to give Him all that He needed. He alone trusted in God above all things, unto death. Now He, our greatest treasure, sits at the right hand of God and pleads for us to be forgiven and made alive. God has poured out abundantly on us all the riches of that treasure chest that is His Son and the gifts He won for us. He pours it over our heads and places it into our mouths. He bombards our ears with it until they are dripping with Words. He harvests us into His store rooms, counting us the firstfruits, and He teaches us again to fear, love and trust in Him above all things. He makes us His treasure. That is something for which to give thanks, indeed. It is something for which to deck the church with the good gifts of God.
Let us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, we give thanks to You for all that You have given us for this life and the life to come. Continue to reap us as a harvest for Your kingdom and equip us to cultivate others through the proclamation of the Gospel, so that all may be gathered into Your treasure chests through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.