2012 - Vol. 61
Can’t Take It with You”
By Jeanne Kun
parable... shows the pointlessness of greed. Possessions, even an abundance
of possessions, cannot give us security; they can only give us an illusion
of security. And that illusion can distract us from the true source of
our security, God’s care for us. The folly of the rich farmer lay not in
his having full barns, but in his believing that his full barns were all
The request that
prompted Jesus to tell this parable might seem to be a rather innocent
one. Someone in the crowd just wanted to receive his fair share of his
family’s possessions. But to Jesus, the man’s concern with money betrayed
the fact that he had missed the point – he
had focused his attention on the things of this world rather than storing
up treasures in the kingdom of God.
George Martin, God’s Word Today
So Jesus distanced
himself from this man’s personal concerns and proceeded to tell a story
about a man with so much earthly wealth that he thought his future was
secured. The rich landowner had “ample goods for many years,” so why not
“relax, eat, drink, [and] be merry”? It’s easy to imagine this man at his
leisure, enjoying the fruits of his labors.
So why is this
man a fool? Don’t we all take measures to provide for our future security?
The problem with the man in the parable is that he didn’t have his priorities
straight. The wealthy man put all his trust in his possessions instead
of putting his trust in God. He sought happiness and security by stockpiling
his wealth, not even thinking of sharing it with others. We know from his
monologue that he was self-centered – the
personal pronoun “I” appears six times and the possessive pronoun “my”
five times – so the possibility
of sharing his abundance with others apparently never even crossed his
mind. He didn’t thank God for his prosperity, nor did he seek advice from
anyone about how to put his surplus to good use. His only thought was to
build a bigger barn in which to store his wealth for his own future. He
was so preoccupied with his possessions that he idolized them, letting
them usurp God’s rightful place in his life.
the man was confronted with his imminent death, the senselessness of his
actions was made plain to him. God himself says: “You fool! This very night
your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose
will they be?” (Luke 12:20).
landowner’s actions and his perspective on life were based on a set of
falsehoods – which is why he
was called a fool. How easy it is to deceive ourselves just as this rich
fool did. We’re susceptible to the same all-too-human tendencies that he
was, and our vision can be just as short sighted and distorted. We try
to control our own destiny, when it is God who has ultimate control. Perhaps
we base our security in riches and things we can see, forgetting that we
can only be secure in God. Or, focused on our own well-being and interests,
we neglect the needs of our neighbor. We forget that all we have comes
from God – it’s not really ours.
We mistakenly live for the present, giving no thought to securing our eternal
of the rich fool is another of Jesus’ pointed and disquieting reminders
that we are not to invest ourselves in the perishable riches of earth,
but rather in the enduring riches of heaven, that will gain us eternal
interest (Luke 12:21, 33). When we perceive the truth about God and the
fullness of life that he offers us, we’ll be eager to be “rich toward God”
(12:21). “For where [our] treasure is, there [our] heart will be also”
(Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34).
for the poor is incompatible with immoderate love of riches or their selfish
tenth commandment [“You shall not covet... anything that is your neighbor’s”]
forbids greed and the desire to amass earthly goods without limit. It forbids
avarice arising from a passion for riches and their attendant power. (2536)
Lord grieves over the rich, because they find their consolation in the
abundance of goods. (2547)
for true happiness frees man from his immoderate attachment to the goods
of this world so that he can find his fulfillment in the vision and beatitude
of God. (2548)
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Eye of Evil, Eye
you envious because I am generous?” the landowner asked the grumblers.
The literal translation of the original Greek of Matthew’s gospel would
be, “Is your eye evil because I am good?”
“evil eye” is the eye of envyn in Hebrew by the Jewish sage Ben Sira around
200 B.C., was later translated into Greek by the author’s grandson. A passage
from this Greek translation reads, “The eye of the greedy person is not
satisfied with his share..... An evil eye is envious over bread, and it
is lacking on his table” (Sirach 14:9-10). A similar expression equating
the eye with greed, avarice, and envy was used again by Ben Sira in Sirach
31:13. Jesus refers to the state of the “eye” as healthy or unhealthy,
calling it the lamp that brings light or darkness to the rest of the body
Gifts of Love
In Calcutta, we didn’t have sugar; and a little Hindu child, four years
old, he heard Mother Teresa has no sugar. And he went home and he told
his parents: “I will not eat sugar for three days. I will give my sugar
to Mother Teresa.” After three days, the parents brought the child to our
house. In his hand he had a little bottle of sugar.... the sugar of a little
child. He could scarcely pronounce my name, but he knew he loved a great
love because he loved until it hurt. It hurt him to give up sugar for three
days. But that little child taught me that to be able to love a great love,
it is not how much we give but how much loving is put in the giving.
– Mother Teresa of Calcutta,
Sometime back two young people came to our house and they gave me lots,
lots of money. And I said, “Where, where did you get so much money?” And
they said, “Two days ago we got married, and before marriage we decided
we will buy no wedding clothes, we will have no wedding feast. We will
give you the money.” For a Hindu family that’s a big, big, big sacrifice
because wedding day is one of the biggest days in their life. And again
I offered, “Why, why did you do that?” And they said, “We love each other
so much that we wanted to share the joy of loving with the people you serve,
and we experience the joy of loving.”
In the Words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta
– Mother Teresa of Calcutta,
A Fruit Always in Season
Uncovered: The Parables of Jesus, by Jeanne Kun (The
Word Among Us Press, © 2005). Used with permission. This
book can be ordered online.
Kun is President of Bethany
Association and a senior woman leader in the Word
of Life Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
Someone 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
Desire for More
is the Greek word for “greediness” or “covetousness.” It carries overtones
of an insatiable desire for more and more. The verb form is commonly used
to describe the actions of those who try to take advantage of others or
strive ambitiously for gain, and the adjective is descriptive of one who
never has enough.
named pleonexia, or avarice, one of the evils that come from within
the heart and defile a person (Mark 7:21-23). St. Paul included it among
the characteristics of the ungodly and wicked (Romans 1:29) and of those
who are alienated from God by their hardness of heart (Ephesians 4:19).
Christians who have been buried with Christ in baptism and raised up with
him, we are to “put to death” in ourselves “whatever is earthly: fornication,
impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed –pleonexia
– (which is
idolatry)” (Colossians 3:5).
1. Why do you
think Jesus refused to judge the dispute between two brothers about their
inheritance? What does the parable indicate about how God judges people
like these brothers?
2. Jesus said,
“One’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15).
According to his parable, in what should our life consist?
3. The Old
Testament describes a fool as one who lives as though God does not exist
(Psalm 14:1; 53:1). In what ways did the rich man forget about God or act
like he did not exist?
4. In concrete
terms, what do you think it means to “store up treasures” for ourselves
(Luke 12:21)? To be “rich toward God”?
to Jesus’ words in Luke 12:22-34, which immediately follow this parable,
we should trust in our heavenly Father to meet our material needs. How
does his teaching build on the message of the parable?
1. What forms
of greed do you recognize in your life? Desire to acquire things for their
own sake? Selfish attachment to your possessions? Hoarding? How can you
guard against such attitudes and practices?
2. If you find
yourself at times basing your security on material goods, income, or achievements,
why do you think this is the case? What would help you trust less in worldly
things and more in God?
3. In what
ways does a preoccupation with satisfying our material needs keep us from
serving God and his people? What might help you increase your focus on
the values of God’s kingdom and on eternal life?
4. Make a list
of the qualities you think are necessary to be a good and prudent steward
of God’s gifts. Which of those qualities would you like to grow in?
5. What have
you learned about God and what is important to him from this parable? About
yourself and what is important to you?
Still yourself and quietly meditate a while on the inevitability of your
death. In this light, are there any ways that you should change how you
relate to status, possessions, and material goods?
Reflect on the following passages to deepen your insight into the parable
you have just studied:
said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there;
the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the
LORD.” (Job 1:21)
day long the wicked covet,
but the righteous give and do not hold back. (Proverbs 21:26)
your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for
you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ
who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in
to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity,
passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). (Colossians 3:2-5)
is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing
into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food
and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich
fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires
that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is
a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have
wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. (1
for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty,
or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who
richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good,
to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up
for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that
they may take hold of the life that really is life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
life! Are you “storing up” things unnecessarily? Take some time this week
to begin to sort through your clothing, household goods, and other possessions.
Donate what you don’t need or aren’t making use of to a charitable organization
so that others will be able to benefit from these items.
If this is
a big step for you to take, begin slowly and ask God to guide you.