06Aug

The rich fool

Lift your eyes to heaven daily and never forget the spiritual realities of life. Because life is short and its ultimate purpose is not to build up treasure on earth but in heaven. That is the message of the Gospel this morning. And it is sound advice because we wont be happy, anyway, unless we learn to feed ourselves spiritually for we are children of God. Which means we were made for him, that we belong with him and he with us. And any life that excludes him, yes even a very privileged one in earthly material terms, is a tragedy of epic proportion. 

That is the point of the parable. The rich man is cruising in life. There were always good harvests. He had good land. So he grew richer every year. But disaster awaited him because he neglected his spiritual life. So when he died very suddenly he was not ready to stand before God in judgement. All that magnificent grain was no use now. How much better had he stored up treasure in heaven. Truly life on earth is short but eternity, by definition, will last forever. 

Notice Jesus does not condemn the wealth at any point. The politics of envy has no place in the church. There is nothing wrong with being rich. Just so long as we are in a right relationship with God. So if you are wealthy- good for you. Just don’t neglect your spiritual duty. Make sure you give to the life of the church and ever support the needy. Those with plenty make good friends of God but he does expect all of us to be generous with what we have been given. And, rich or poor, we have all been given something in life materially. So learning how we should deal with wealth is important for all.

The key to getting it right is to understand better the ancient biblical concept of stewardship. God made Adam his steward in the garden. It is what he asked of Israel when he gave them the promised land. But what does it mean to be ‘a steward’ for God. 

Well the ancient office of steward was given to the one who cared for the kingdom when the King was abroad. To be a steward was therefore a great honour. But it was still ultimately a life of service. The steward did not get to sit on the throne and play at being King. He was looking after something until its rightful owner returned. We begin to see how Christian teaching considers all that we have been given in life as belonging ultimately to God not us. It is his world and we are simply asked to care for it. Not to live self indulgently as demigods within it.

This point becomes even clearer when we understand what the bible means when it says we are made in the image of God This does not mean, as the foolish imagine, that we look like God or are somehow mini-gods. Far from it. Consider a ten pound note. It bears the image of the Queen but is not a mini queen nor does it look remotely like her. It is a bit of paper. The image is there however to remind us that British money ultimately belongs to the crown, to the Royal mint. We just get to use it. So if we are made in God’s image- it is a statement that our lives ultimately belong to him. We are servants not masters in life, albeit ones with awesome responsibility. But out lives ultimately belong to him.

So we need to learn, as Christians, to live with an appropriate sense of duty to God. This is radically counter cultural today for our world is self obsessed and deeply self indulgent. Nevertheless we have to learn to be humble before God. Life is about responsibilities not rites! The man in the parable missed this point. He thought that because he had worked hard and done well it was all his own to do with as he liked, he forgot to consider what God might want of him. He neglected his duty to others. And he paid dearly in the end.

To be steward is to understand God has given us responsibility. That is awesome. He trusts us. He hands us life in this world and trusts us to live it in accordance with his will. Furthermore, if we need his help, the gift of grace, he’ll give that too in abundance. If we learn how to ask for it. But everything we have and are given belongs to God. So we should treat everything in our care as belonging to God and learn to be grateful for it. So we teach our children the faith because they, like us, belong to him. We use our money virtuously because it is his gift for which we are accountable. The same for our bodies, they are to be temples of his spirit, we are not free to use them profanely. For they too are his ultimately. He made them.

The rich man could not take his treasure with him because it was not his. It belonged to this world. He had no eternal claim over it. All those bountiful harvests ended up feeding somebody else once he died. His house went to someone else. In the end life went on perfectly well without him. It always does. For we are only passing through this life and none of us are here forever. So consider this week all that your are responsible for temporrily. What are you doing with the life God has given you. Are you being a good steward or a selfish demigod. That is what he will ask when you too die and leave your grain and barns behind and stand before him in judgement.    

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