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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, July 30, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Luke 12:13–21

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 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 prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” (NRSV)

The situation is familiar. Someone in the crowd listening to Jesus must have been thick in a family dispute over an inheritance. He waves from the back of the crowd, trying to get the wise teacher, Jesus, to step in and arbitrate. I suspect many of us have encountered ugly disputes over furniture, dishes, silverware, land, vacation homes, saving accounts left by those who have died. In my family there was a very troubling decision on the part of a family member to reward the favorites and to give a pittance to the others. The hurt lives on in the affected parties. Someone in my family could have been waving their hand in the back of the crowd, trying to get Jesus’ attention to ask about what they could do, given what happened when the will was read.

Jesus does not take the bait of the man who wants an arbiter. Rather, Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool. What is challenging about this parable is that the rich guy is not a jerk: he did not embezzle, he did not mistreat his workers, there was nothing illegal. He worked hard, made a lot of money, was probably conservative, careful, someone others might respect, even. So, what’s the issue? It is that this dude is living out his life for himself: he talks to himself, he makes all of his plans for himself, he is so proud of himself, he probably would have had a portrait of himself on every door of the barns, the storehouse? His life shrunk inside as his possessions expanded exponentially. Jesus says he was a fool. In amassing it all for himself, he filled his life with things and crowded out his very life.

Has your life become so full of things, of securities, of possessions that seduce you into thinking that this is the purpose of living? Maybe what Jesus is saying here is that holding our life, possessions, friends, family tightly squeezes out true life. By contrast, living life as a gift to be cherished and with easy relinquishing is the practice. I think it was the great philosopher Søren Kierkegaard who said that life should be held like we’d hold a thistle. If we grasp it too tightly, it will prick us. But if we hold it, with hands open, lightly, it is rare and remarkable in its beauty.

It is hard, O God, in these days to hold our lives with ease and grace. Yes, these tough times make us want to grasp the tangibles, because we think they will bring a measure of certainty. But you, O Jesus, remind us that you are our certainty, our deepest trust. Help us to hold our lives gently and with wonder. Through Christ. Amen.

Written by Lucy Forster-Smith, Senior Associate Pastor for Leadership Development and Adult Education

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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