FATHER FRANCIS MAPLE
DOES WEALTH BRING CONTENTMENT? Lk. 12:13-21 We can’t live on fresh air. Money plays a large part in all our lives. Most of us have to concern ourselves with earning a living. That concern occupies a sizeable portion of our waking hours. Making ends meet requires careful planning and hard work. We also have to provide for the possibility of accidents and the probability of old age. To ignore such matters is to invite disaster for ourselves and our family. In this world no one can lead a responsible life without giving some time and attention to money. Jesus realised this and so devoted much of His teaching to how we are to cope with money and possessions. In today's Gospel He told the story of a farmer who had accumulated a fortune. His wealth was measured not in money, but in produce. His land had produced such a bountiful harvest that he had to build additional storage space. He had enough to last him for the rest of his life. He could live comfortably, even lavishly, without ever working another day. The surprising part of this story is the way Jesus ended it. We would have said the farmer was a tremendous success, a man to be admired and even envied. We would hold him up as an example for young people to follow, but Jesus did the exact opposite. He called that man a fool. He labelled his life a failure and warned others not to repeat his mistake. Why do we think differently from Jesus? Here was a man who had made a good living, who had managed to save, provide for his old age and was able to take an early retirement. What's his mistake? According to Jesus the farmer had put all his efforts into accumulating wealth for the future, with no thought of his eternal salvation. This was foolishness indeed. Let us go back to the story in the Gospel. What did the farmer do wrong? He was not dishonest, nor did he cheat anyone of what was rightfully theirs. But in his eagerness to acquire wealth he left no time for God. There were not enough hours in the day. He was up early in the morning and had no time to pray before starting work. By the time he had finished his work in the evening he was too tired to pray. As a result, all that mattered was his work. God had gradually been pushed out of his life. All this wealth and financial security had made the farmer complacent. He began to think that he did not need God in his life. He had made himself cosy and comfortable and he had protected himself from every danger that life could bring. With all his money he had built his own heaven on earth. That is why Jesus said, "How hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Having amassed his wealth, the farmer became greedy. He wanted to keep everything for himself, rather than share with anyone else. This was what Jesus condemned not the fact that the farmer had become rich, but that he had stored up treasure for himself alone. How richly God would have rewarded him, if only he had shown some generosity to those less fortunate. Most of us may feel that the story of a rich farmer has very little relevance to our own lives. We are not wealthy landowners; we are ordinary people struggling to make a living. We have a mortgage to pay, children to feed and clothe. It is wise to save money and make provision for our old age. These responsibilities have to be faced we cannot evade them. God knows all this, but despite all the pressures He wants us to put Him first in our lives. In fact, if we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness all these things will be catered for. We may never be extraordinarily rich, like the farmer in the parable, but do we set our hearts on acquiring possessions? Do we think we would be happier if only we had a bigger house and car, a faster computer, the latest music centre or a better three piece suite? Hasn’t experience shown us that happiness is transitory, and it won't be very long before we are looking for more, bigger and better things? If we really think that these things will make us happy and contented, are we making the same mistake as the farmer? Whether we are rich or poor, there will always be demands made of us. We are forever being confronted with collections for charities of one kind or another, and it can be very irritating and exasperating. But let us not forget that in comparison with the Third World we are millionaires. We can afford to share a little of our wealth, and in giving let us give cheerfully, because God loves a cheerful giver. Lord Jesus, we thank you for all you have given us. Let us learn to be content and not to forget those who are in need of our help. Let us not make the same mistake as the farmer in Your story who thought there were pockets in shrouds.
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