13 Someone from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
14 Jesus said to him, “Man, who appointed me as judge or referee between you and your brother?”
15 Then Jesus said to them, “Watch out! Guard yourself against all kinds of greed. After all, one’s life isn’t determined by one’s possessions, even when someone is very wealthy.” 16 Then he told them a parable: “A certain rich man’s land produced a bountiful crop. 17 He said to himself, What will I do? I have no place to store my harvest! 18 Then he thought, Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. That’s where I’ll store all my grain and goods. 19 I’ll say to myself, You have stored up plenty of goods, enough for several years. Take it easy! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself. 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool, tonight you will die. Now who will get the things you have prepared for yourself?’ 21 This is the way it will be for those who hoard things for themselves and aren’t rich toward God.”
35 In everything I have shown you that, by working hard, we must help the weak. In this way we remember the Lord Jesus’ words: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
To all people, and especially the 1%, Jesus said, “Guard yourself against all kinds of greed.” How much do you want in life? How much of what you want do you need? Ephesians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5 identified greed as a type of “idolatry,” of loving things more than God. Jesus’ sad parable reminded us that “one’s life isn’t determined by one’s possessions.” The day comes for all people when the only question is, “Who will get all the ‘stuff’ I’ve accumulated?”
Lord God, I can best guard myself against greed when your Spirit is living within me, guiding and shaping my life. Please shape me into your self-giving image. Amen.
My first career was working as a paralegal for a medium-sized law firm in Iowa. One of the services we provided was to probate estates and I usually enjoyed working on those because there was a lot of interaction with the heirs. I liked the process of helping with identifying and noting all the assets and making arrangements for everything to be distributed according to the will. Sometimes, though, something about the probate process brought up old feelings of hurt in the family. Maybe one sibling felt they deserved more than the other or there's disagreement over who inherits Mom's wedding ring. It was sad when these disagreements resulted in a split in the family. There usually wasn't a lot of money or assets involved, but that didn't matter when greed reared its ugly head.
Greed always tells us that we don't have enough but if we had just a little more then we would be happy. Unfortunately if we give into greed we find there is never a limit to what we want. Part of this is due to our market culture which feeds this dissatisfaction. For example, we've undertaken a lot of remodeling projects over the twenty-plus years we've lived in our current house. Still, when we recently listed our house we lost some potential buyers because the colors we chose several years ago don't match the current trends. We will soon be moving into a new house that does match current home decor tastes but in ten or maybe even five years it too will look dated. Do we need to continually be in remodeling mode to stay in style? How much money should we dedicate to this every year? What is the impact on the environment of constantly discarding and replacing stuff? What is the impact on my heart and soul if I give in to the greedy desire to always have the newest and best?
One of the last probate cases I worked on at the law firm involved two sisters whose mother had just died. The mother had a couple of savings accounts that she held jointly with her daughters. One savings account was much larger than the other. The daughter who was named on the larger account was also the executrix of the estate. Even though her mother's desire was that she inherit the most she insisted on pooling the funds so they could be divided evenly between her and her sister. She insisted her sister not know she did this and wanted her to believe their mother had divided her estate equally among the two of them. I don't remember the details about what families squabbled about over estates but the unselfish generosity of the woman who put her sister's feelings above financial gain has always stayed with me. Not only did she benefit her sister, I'm sure her decision gave her peace and lasting joy that would have eluded her had she kept the extra money.
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