Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23
2Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
12I, the Teacher, when king over Israel in Jerusalem, 13applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. 14I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.
2:18I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me 19—and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? 23For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.
The Word of the Lord.
1Hear this, you peoples; give ear, all you who dwell in the world,
2you of high degree and low, rich and poor together.
3My mouth shall speak of wisdom,
and my heart shall meditate on understanding.
4I will incline my ear to a proverb
and set forth my riddle upon the harp.
5Why should I be afraid in evil days,
when the wickedness of those at my heels surrounds me,
6the wickedness of those who put their trust in their own prowess,
and boast of their great riches?
7One can never redeem another,
or give to God the ransom for another’s life;
8for the ransom of a life is so great
that there would never be enough to pay it,
9in order to live forever and ever and never see the grave.
10For we see that the wise die also; like the dull and stupid they perish
and leave their wealth to those who come after them.
11Their graves shall be their homes forever, their dwelling places from generation to generation, though they had named lands after themselves.
12Even though honored, they cannot live forever;
they are like the beasts that perish.
1So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
5Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. 8But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
The Word of the Lord.
The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 12:13-21
13Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus,] “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And 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.” 16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then 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. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But 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?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
The Gospel of our Lord.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
God’s Word is many – many things.
Sometimes our Lord speaks words of comfort and love to us. Reminding us that no matter what this life brings our way – we are his beloved children forever and always.
Sometimes our God encourages us and cheers us on. Boldly reminding us – we CAN do this. We are never alone. Our God is with us each and every moment of our lives.
Other times – God’s Word aims to move us from complacency to action and service. God reminds us we are ALL called to feed the hungry – comfort the hurting – and share God’s love.
And sometimes – like today – God’s Word makes us squirm. It is a swift kick in the pants. It makes us uncomfortable – because Jesus says something to us – we just don’t want to hear. That we would prefer to ignore.
I mean seriously – who ever wants to hear from their Lord and Savior that he thinks they should – “Take care! Be on guard! Take heed against ALL kinds of greed – for your life does not consist in the abundance of possessions . . .”
Eww! OUCH! I don’t know about you – but personally – those sentences hit home! They hit a nerve. They make me squirm – A LOT!
Because I like stuff. I especially covet yarn! Oh – how I covet yarn! In fact – I covet ALL of the yarn in the entire universe. Sock yarn. Cotton yarn. Wool yarn. Linen yarn. Hand-dyed and machine-dyed. Self-striping yarn. Speckled yarn. I covet ALL of IT! If it is yarn – I likely want it!
I am absolutely incapable of leaving a yarn store without acquiring more yarn.
I understand your problem with material possessions – probably isn’t yarn – BUT – I DO think ALL of us have a lot more in common with the rich farmer in our Gospel reading for today than we would like to admit.
When we get money and stuff – we hang on to it. We hang on to our material possessions long after they have ceased to be useful to us. We have basements – closets – garages and attics filled to bursting with things we don’t use. Or how about those off-site storage places that are EVERYWHERE these days?
We hold on to our money and our stuff so tightly our knuckles turn white. We have so much more than we need or can use. And yet – we insist on holding on to these things because – it is ours! Even when sharing could bless other people.
We run around like a bunch of toddlers hoarding and chanting – mine! Mine! MINE!
We are possessed by our possessions! Our stuff owns us! We know – we spend FAR more time thinking about our stuff during an average week than we do our God!
The rich farmer in Jesus’ parable went to desperate lengths to keep all of his wealth just for himself. He never dreamed of sharing it with anyone else.
Jesus tells us the farmer desperately wanted to hang on to every last bit of his earthly wealth. He didn’t want to lose a single grain of wheat. So – he tore down his original barns and built bigger barns – which was both expensive and time consuming. But it was worth it to him – because he longed for the security and comfort he thought he would have once he was surrounded by his wealth.
Finally – once he had all of his stuff all safely stored away – the rich farmer thought he had it made. He even said to himself – now I can relax and enjoy my life.
But – Jesus tells us – the rich farmer died the very night his barns were finished. (Talk about a blunt commentary on human mortality.)
This parable was Jesus’ response to an argument two brothers were having about how their family inheritance should be divided.
Jesus saw these brothers were putting a greater value on stuff than on their relationship with one another. And Jesus wanted these two bickering brothers to see – stuff really is just stuff! And stuff should never be the focus of our lives. Stuff is never more important than people!
And yet – Jesus is not telling us in this parable that we are wrong to own things or to save for the future or even to enjoy the things of this world.
What Jesus is telling us is – that it is wrong to center our lives on material possessions and money and stuff. Our God and people should ALWAYS come first – ALWAYS!
Life is more than possessions and wealth. Our relationships with our Lord – with our families – with our friends – with our sisters and brothers in Christ are what really matter.
Our lives should be centered on our God. Because – in the end – what really matters – actually ALL that matters – are God and his love for us. AMEN.