In an essay written in 1860, John Ruskin, a social critic, tells a story about wealth and possessions. Ruskin writes about a man who had jumped from a sinking ship. The man, found afterward at the bottom of the ocean, had strapped to his waist a belt with two hundred pounds of gold attached to it. Ruskin asks this question, “Now, as he was sinking — had he the gold? or had the gold him?” (read the whole essay here.)
In Luke’s Gospel chapter 12, Jesus makes a very clear warning to us about greed. He says in verse 15, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” And then he tells a great story about a rich man who has been blessed with a very abundant crop to harvest and has to decide what to do about it. In the story the man thinks only about himself and God calls the man on his selfish and greedy treatment of his abundance and reminds the man that he can’t take it with him when he dies.
I must admit that even in the simple abundance in my life, I feel the sharp poke in the chest from Jesus every time I read this story. That said, I can’t help but feel some sympathy for the rich man who is just topping up his RRSPs and maximizing his pension. Yet, isn’t that what makes this story and teaching Jesus continue to be so relevant because it is important waring to us, his followers, especially today. In our culture we are taught to feel that more is never enough and we seldom are called to stop and ask when is enough truly enough. Basically, with this story Jesus is saying that we are fools if we store up treasures for ourselves and we do not share abundantly with God.
Ok, so now that Jesus has our attention (poke, poke) and we are throughly warned. How do we go about sharing abundantly with God? How do we , as the scripture says, be “rich toward God”.
Jesus is pretty clear that we are being “rich toward God” when we are helping those in need. We are are being “rich toward God” by loving our neighbour as ourself.
Jesus also gives us some pretty clear direction on how we can be “rich toward God”, when in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 25, Jesus says, when “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (verse35 and 36) and when he is asked, when did we do this for you, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these … you did it to me.”