Sermon, August 11: Mine, All Mine

Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”…Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then 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. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have treasured, whose will they be?’

We all have our hoards. They may be junk we can’t bring ourselves to throw away, or something valuable or even cash, but the thing that’s the same about them all is that our stuff speaks to us of the stories of our lives. 

So where does greed begin? The answer to that question seems to be different for different times and places. For some people –  like St. Francis or Mother Theresa – owning two sets of clothes seemed like owning one set too many. For others, owning two or more houses seems reasonable and appropriate. It’s all very subjective, this matter of how many possessions we can heap up before they become the focus of our lives.

Perhaps part of the problem is that we think of greed as a function of owning – we think about how many things we can count as Mine, All Mine. When the rich man speaks in this parable, he speaks only to himself, and only about himself: Like “what should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” “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. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry’ 

But, for Jesus, greed doesn’t seem to be so much about possessions as it is about relationships, or maybe that old church word, stewardship. This whole story, remember, was prompted by that one in the crowd who shouted “Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me!” 

This suggestion of a quarrel between siblings is surely about ownership, but it is just as surely not only about ownership. Families and societies whose relationships are comfortable tend to regard possessions as more fluid, flowing from those who have them to those who need them in a relationship of mutual support.

And this sense of mutual support speaks to the center of the need vs. greed controversy. The Greek word translated as greed literally means “having more” – having more than your share, more than your need. It does not mean anything at all about something that can be measured in terms of how much or how many. Greed is about denying our awareness of the needs of others, even our awareness of our essential connectedness to each other and to God. 

The isolation of this man resulted from his failure to see how the ways in which the stuff of his life connected him to others and to God, who gave him the land and the life and the soul that he regarded as his own. And so, he was totally isolated: alone in life and alone in death. 

Because it is only when we open our hands to let go, that the love which connects us to God and to each other can be poured into them.    Amen.

Posted by Rev. Barbara Ewton

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