Sunday, July 31, 2016, Reflection on Luke 12:13-21
By Bren Dubay
It was a long time ago. My grandmother died — the woman who had raised me — and the responsibility to take care of her belongings was mine. She didn’t have much. A wig she wore after she lost her hair to chemotherapy. A few clothes. I remember being sad putting those belongings away because there were no memories — no photographs or notes, letters or books. No mementos or funny hats from family vacations. And yet I remember the simplicity. There was something about the simplicity … Maybe I had thought about materialism and greed before packing that bag to deliver to Goodwill, but I do know that since then both consciously and unconsciously this subject of materialism and greed have been working on my soul. I’m a slow learner.
God spoke in this parable we heard this evening. I learned just last night that it is Jesus’ only parable in which God speaks. “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?”
According to Luke, Jesus follows God’s quote with “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”
Greed is for self. Some synonyms are selfish, close-fisted and gluttonous. Some antonyms for greed are charitable, extravagant and generous. All those antonyms imply other. I am charitable to others. I am generous to others. Is this what matters to God? Are we rich when we share?
I look around at the natural world and it is extravagant. And it is beautiful. And it has been shared. It is a gift.
Maybe it’s my age or all the years I have carried inside of me that day I packed my grandmother’s belongings away or maybe it’s immersing myself in this particular way of life for so long and some of the good of it has rubbed off on me, but in me is this very conscious desire to give away. Maybe it’s ego — I’d be embarrassed to whomever it falls to in our community to sort through my belongings. Too much stuff. I think all of us here can look at ourselves individually and ask, “Do I have too much? What do I have I can share? What do I have I can give away?”
And I think Koinonia members can do the same when it comes to our community. We have. There were long discussions about do we build a new dining hall and renovate the guesthouse? Are we doing it for us or for others? If we weren’t such a place of hospitality, I think we would have been fine in the old dining hall. “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” This hall does not belong to any one individual. We are stewards of it and share it and we pass it on to those who are coming after us.
“Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Greed is more than building up and hoarding material possessions or storing up goods in barns. We can be greedy with our time, with our words of support, with our willingness to open our heart to others.
Much to think about. But I end with these questions — All the things we have — to whom will they belong? What does it mean to be rich in what matters to God?