“Someone in the crowd”—it often begins that way, doesn’t it. Someone in the crowd makes a request. Someone in the crowd poses a question. Someone in the crowd that follows Jesus asks, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” I wonder, who is in that crowd that follows Jesus? Who are those listening for his answer?
I suspect most there in the crowd are people others overlook—day laborers, women, children, the many landless poor. People who have little to cling to. People who cling to Jesus’ every word. People hungry for hope.
There are others in that crowd too—the curious, the on-lookers, the ones who wonder why all this fuss over a carpenter from Galilee
—people with position, place and power
—people with land to divide
—people with inheritances to squabble over
—people with an abundance of possessions
Elbowing his way to the front of the crowd, a man angling for his share of the family wealth. He says to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”
To him, to those standing in the crowd, and to you and me as well, Jesus issues an admonition, tells a parable, offers a teaching s.
“Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions,” Jesus says to the young man who asks the question.
Then he tells the parable of the rich fool—
a man who believed that his life consisted in an abundance of possessions,
a man suffering under the misguided notion that what he had defined who he was,
a man who lived for himself alone.
That parable of the rich fool is really an invitation—
*an invitation to turn from isolating and ultimately self-destructive ways of living to a life lived in accordance with God’s shalom;
*an invitation to turn from focusing on what one has to focusing on what one has to give;
*an invitation to turn from emptiness to fullness of life.
I wonder how those in the crowd received that invitation. I wonder how they heard that admonition. Did the “haves” in the crowd that day even suspect he was talking to them. Did they hear his invitation to a different way of life—a way apart from greed. He says to them, “Be rich towards God.” What does this mean? How can we be rich towards God?
Richness towards God begins with the notion that we are all woven into one cloth, we all share one humanity.
Being rich towards God means understanding and operating from a recognition of the fundamental unity of God’s creation. We cannot afford to avert our eyes from human pain or suffering wherever they occur because when we do we look away from God.
Being rich towards God means living in solidarity with all of God’s people. We are rich towards God when we are rich towards the children of Palestine and the children living in poverty here in New Mexico—a state with the highest child poverty rate in the nation.
Being rich towards God requires recognizing that what we do with what we have matters both here in this community and throughout the world. We are rich towards God when we stop and assess the impact of what we have and what we do with what we have on those standing in the crowd with us—both here in this community and throughout the world—for we all wear the face of God.
In the teaching that follows the parable of the foolish farmer, Jesus offers a way for people to be rich towards God. “Sell your possessions and give alms,” he says to the “haves” standing before him. He might well have said, “Share what you have with your brothers and sisters standing here with you.”
To all of us standing in the crowd, but especially to the “haves”—and we, as people living in one of the richest country of the world, are members of the “haves” in the world–Jesus issues an invitation to a life of richness towards God. We can hear this as an invitation to us as individuals. An invitation asking us to look closely at what we have and what we do with what we have.
But we can also hear this as an invitation to our Live at Five worshipping community, an invitation to the congregation of St. Michael’s, and invitation to the church. We are all invited to live lives rich towards God. We are all invited to shift our focus from what we have and what we can get to what we can do for others with the resources we have at our disposal.
Jesus follows this parable with a teaching. He tells those within earshot, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear….Do not be afraid little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give alms.”
Being rich towards God means living without fear, trusting in God who gives us more than we shall ever need.
Being rich towards God means living in confidence that God’s kingdom will come.
Being rich towards God means living generously because that is the way God lives.
The envelope lies open on the table. How shall we live into the invitation?