Reflections that show an awareness of the providence of God in everyday life.
Wednesday, 6 August 2014
Power Parable: The Rich Fool
Luke 12:13-21New International Version (NIV)
The Parable of the Rich Fool
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Humans are vulnerable creatures, and we know it. The man in this parable has determined to overcome his vulnerability with wealth. Any problem that comes along he would have the power to bribe or buy his way out of, he thinks. The man is already rich at the start--he owns land and barns--but now he is able to harvest much more than usual. What does he decide to do? He seems to think there is no such thing as too much. He will build bigger barns to hoard all the wealth. No relationships with others (no wife, children, neighbours) are mentioned. His self-talk is all confidence: "You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." He has set himself up for the ultimate in leisurely and self-indulgent retirement. He is blind to other uses of his crops and money besides to honour himself. However, the wealth he embraced for the sense of power it could give him cannot forestall death. It has become a snare and will do him no good in the end.
We are vulnerable, and we know it. Those who live in war zones or places where famine has struck will admit it out loud, but those in prosperity still experience it. We start saving for retirement as soon as we start working because meeting or exceeding life expectancy has its costs. Complex tools are given by financial planners so that clients will have enough to be "comfortable." Will it ever truly feel like enough? Do we even consider the possibility that a nest egg could be "too much"?
An opposite parable also teaches that "life does not consist in an abundance of possessions." A hard-working couple with a large family just manages to make ends meet month after month. Giving to the welfare of the church and other people is a way of life, even when it makes them tighten their own belts. When they begin to receive a social security cheque at age 65 they can't believe their wealth. They have no mortgage or rental payments and life simply. They can afford to pay their adult daughter's airfare to visit them twice a year. They lend some of their extra money to a Christian school, and donate back the interest payments. After the wife outlives the husband, she eventually moves to nursing care. At age 95 she passes away at peace with everyone in her life and fully contented; she leaves behind just a few dollars to pass on to each of her children.
This was the living parable of my grandparents' life, and it continues to give me perspective as I make financial plans.