Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

Luke 12:13-21
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 13–Sunday Between July 31 and August 6 Inclusive)
analysis by Mike Hoy

13Someone in the crowd said to him, “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.”

DIAGNOSIS: Unhealthy, not-wealthy, and foolish

Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Greedy
Excuse the pun, Ben Franklin, but would you have ever imagined how the pursuits of health, wealth and wisdom would, ultimately, leave us with none of the above? Today, people are asking, “how much are people worth?” And the sense of worth is not predicated by those asking on any theological basis (or so they think). The brother (perhaps younger brother) in the narrative above believes that he has some sense of his worth–and its more than the standard law might allow. He wants a more “fair” split of the inheritance, and comes to Jesus with this request (v. 14). But this younger brother, like the rich landowner, could never get enough. Greed has absorbed his life. But greed may have economics advantages, contributing to the ongoing manufacturing of economic-capital (ever since Adam Smith). Many so economically-minded have followed that so-called “wisdom.” Truth is, we are also wrapped up in that economy, and greed is deeply in us all.

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Diminished
The life of building bigger barns has left us self-centered–storing up treasures for ourselves. But at what cost? At the cost of deluding (diluting?) our souls into visions of security that wealth can buy (v. 15, 19). Nevertheless, when crisis hits, these manufactured versions of security leave us bankrupt, and our souls greatly diminished.

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: Foolish
The final judgment of foolishness comes from God. “You fool!” may not be normally acceptable language in a Puritan household; but the judgment of God calls its like it is (v. 20). Our prospects and securities have been misplaced, and our hearts have wandered far from the stable investment in God; indeed, we could not get back to that fount of security if we so wanted. For all our worldly wisdom, we are left lacking in the final arbitration of God’s reckoning.

PROGNOSIS: Healthy, wealthy, and wise

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: Wisdom’s Wealth
If there is wisdom from which we are to benefit, it comes from the One who calls us “friend,” even when we least deserve it (v. 14). The rich offering of God is the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. He offers us the security of life that comes on the basis of his merit, and changes the final arbitration of God’s reckoning into a promissory note–not “you fool” (except in the Pauline sense of being “fools for Christ”), but “you child, embraced by the Father!” This is God’s new economy (from the Greek, oikonomia, “household”).

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Enriched
How do we truly get to relax, eat, drink and be merry (v. 19)? It comes only from the source of new economy generated in Christ. Trusting in that economy as security-enough is what it truly means to be “rich toward God.” (v. 21) And nothing can take that security from us. It is God’s gift in faith!

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Treasured, Treasuring
Having the prize already, what more do you want? How about the world! What could be better for the brother in this narrative is to get his family back, and the whole world with it! The reaches of God’s household are far. But the claim of Christ extends to them as well. “Whose will they be?” Jesus asks of the treasures that others have hoarded? They are His, and if His, then ours to steward and ours to treasure. In the economy of Christ, there is health, wealth, and wisdom enough to share.


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