The sense of security derived from material wealth is without peer in its capacity to claim the focus of our lives. Wealth demands from us. It demands a commitment to manage it, to see it grow. It demands our attention and our passion. It demands our time and energy.
The opposite is also true. If you don't have wealth, if you are poor or have overwhelming debt, it can be debilitating. We will crave wealth and things, or be jealous of those who have them. So, whether you have wealth or you are without it, it can consume who you are and it can take over your life.
It is no wonder that Jesus taught so much about a person’s relationship with money. Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables in scripture are concerned with how we handle money and earthly possessions. One of every ten verses in the gospels deals directly with the subject of earthly treasure. Considering the bible offers five hundred verses on prayer, less than five hundred on faith and more than 2000 on money and possessions, it should be clear that the power of money and its capacity to usurp God in life is huge and a stumbling block to spiritual growth. Jesus said more about money than heaven or hell. Why? Because money, unlike any other thing, has the ability to take us away from what truly matters - our relationship with God and our relationship with each other.
This breakdown in relationship comes from greed. Greed is an amazing sin. Probably, greed has had more to do with the downfall of most cultures. Greed can destroy capitalism. With greed, there is never enough. The more you have, the more you worry about not having enough. I told you last year as a people, we in the United States of America have no idea what enough means, and it changes us into a people who cannot trust each other and cannot trust God. Our greed distorts relationships. With greed, the relationship with God becomes not trust but questions. Why God? I want more. I need more and you are not giving it to me.
Humans have a unique ability to sin with anything. We can take what God gives and distort it and when we do, there is never enough. When we distort and abuse God’s creation then there is not an abundance, but instead, too little and we need more. It's never enough!
In the parable that we have today we hear of the rich fool. Jesus, in this morning’s Gospel, confronts the conventional wisdom of his time and ours. We are told, in many ways by our culture, that personal peace issues directly from prosperity and the accumulation of things. The more we have the more we are blessed, and the more God must love us. This accumulation for many is the goal of life.
As Christians, we are the most materialistic religion on earth. Not because things are what we are after, but because we take seriously the physical world, knowing it was created by God and we are called to be stewards of these gifts. As people of faith we live cautiously on the edge that separates the things, the mammon that God has created and given, and putting God first in our lives.
The parable we have from this morning’s gospel ends with these words, "So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God." Rich is a wonderful word. I have the feeling that when I say rich most people think of financial wealth. But when I thought about the word rich, I realize that rich is a word I use to describe things that brings fullness to my life. Rich describes many things; rich relationships, rich colors, rich smells, rich flavors, rich experiences, rich textures. Where do I find richness in my life? I find richness in my relationship with Alicia. I find richness in my relationships with my children. I find richness in being your priest. I find richness in this worship; in this holy time with God. The richness I seek is in relationship; a relationship with God that is transforming; a richness that changes me and changes those around me.
In this moment, we have a great opportunity as we gather around God's altar. An opportunity that the rich fool could not know. We have the opportunity to offer ourselves and experience the truth of God's love poured out. We have the opportunity to be transformed into a rich people - rich in love - rich in forgiveness - and rich in the joy, the joy that comes in and through God's love for us. I pray we don't miss this moment to know and give thanks for our richness.