Saturday, September 3, 2011

"The Tapestry of the Kingdom II" - Reflections on the Parable of the Rich Fool - Luke 12:13-21


Read the Parable of the Rich Fool here: Luke 12:13-21
Reflections on the Parable of the Rich Fool – Luke 12:13-21
Last week we focused on the Parable of the Friend at Midnight and saw that the parable was one that pointed to the importance of community.  It taught us that the Kingdom of God is a complex and colorful tapestry where all of God’s people are woven together and where we are all interdependent with each other.  As citizens of the Kingdom, or the Realm of God, we are linked one with another and we have responsibilities for one another.  This is not easy for us.  In our culture we celebrate independence and being self-sufficient.  But this “rugged individualism” takes a terrible toll on so many.  It leads to a lot of loneliness; it leads us to keep to ourselves; and it leads to a lot of individual greed.  And since we do not understand ourselves in relationship with a broader community many among us (including many of our political leaders) have lost any sense of corporate responsibility.  We are in it (life) for what we can get out of it and the game is played in such a way that getting ahead is to be done any way necessary – no matter who or how many others are hurt in the process – as long as me and mine get ahead.  Unfortunately, this very popular and prevalent view is condemned unequivocally by today’s parable.
The farmer in the parable for today has been very successful.  This year’s harvest has yielded better results than he had expected and he now has more than he can even store and maintain.  What to do?  Well, he (quickly) builds larger barns to store his grain and then congratulates himself on his wealth and cleverness.  So what is wrong with all of that? Why is he called a “fool?”  Isn’t he just being a responsible farmer?  Well, yes – so far so good.  The problem is not in his windfall per se, or even his efforts to manage it.  But rather, there are two problems with this man and his response – and it is these two things that prompt Jesus to call him a “fool.”  First, read through the passage carefully and notice all of the “I” statements: "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...."  As David Lose states:
The relentless use of the first person pronouns "I" and "my" betray a preoccupation with self. There is no thought to using the abundance to help others, no expression of gratitude for his good fortune, no recognition of God at all. The farmer has fallen prey to worshiping the most popular of gods: the Unholy Trinity of "me, myself, and I."
Within the context of the First Century, this is attitude actually runs counter to the culture and to Jewish Law and so would have been a surprise (though being self-centered was not new even back then).  But there were social and legal constraints on it.  For us, however, the attitude is not so unusual.  In fact we celebrate this kind of thing, don’t we?  But being a part of God’s Kingdom calls forth a different response: a response that sees individuals as part of a community; a response that calls forth a sense of responsibility for others.  Being a part of God’s Realm is being a part of a Tapestry where we are all – all of us, of different nationalities, races, social conditions and on an on – are linked and woven together.
So, the man is a fool because he sees only himself and his own needs and cannot see his connection with the community.  But, there is another issue also – again from David Lose:
He is not foolish because he makes provision for the future; he is foolish because he believes that by his wealth he can secure his future: "Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry."
In other words, he is guilty of idolatry.  His ultimate trust is placed in his possessions.  Possessions are good.  There is nothing wrong with possessions – until they take over our lives and we begin defining life in terms of our possessions.  And of this we are all guilty to some extent or another.  
Like the parable of the Friend at Midnight, the parable of the Rich Fool calls for us to recognize that we are part of the Tapestry of the Kingdom of God.  We are, as believers and followers of Christ members of a community, not just individuals.  Consequently, we have responsibility for others with whom we are interwoven and interdependent.  Additionally, this parable calls on us to look at our own habits of acquiring possessions and demands that we question whether we are placing too much faith in money or the things we own.  Ultimately it is Christ that saves us – not our money or our things.  Not only that, but all that we have and all that we own is not ours anyway – it is God’s.  And if we have been blessed by God then how do we respond in a way that gives thanks to God and is responsive to our responsibility as a part of God’s Tapestry?  

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