Reflection on the Parable of the Rich Fool Luke 12:13-21
This scene from Luke’s gospel was described some two thousand years ago; a story about arbitration in an inheritance case will still resonate with the contemporary reader. A member of a family approached Jesus to intervene in the contestation of a will. Perhaps the person recognised his wisdom, or that Jesus was fair in his dealings with people or as a Master, that he would be familiar with Jewish inheritance law. We can imagine the perplexed look on the person’s face, when Jesus said he could not tell another person what to do or act as a judge. Then Jesus followed this with a story.
Riches – hoarding, storing or sharing into the future?
The land was good; the soil produced abundantly and we are aware of the fecundity of the land in Israel. The landowner is already wealthy and yet decides to stockpile the crop. What were his options? Other responses might have been: gratitude or enough is plenty or take only what is needed or share with the poor. However, as with today’s ‘orthodoxy’ (in the minority world) more is better, we consume our way to happiness and the entrepreneur makes plans for more.In spite of all the negative headlines, scandal, fake news and a fine of $5 billion dollars as in the case of Face Book who has made record profits and is planning to expand into the world of digital currency networking. Imagine FB and banking!
Jesus spoke about the successful landowner as a fool; one can imagine that his hearers found it difficult to reconcile the two. Luke had a practice of upsetting the norm, and the proper use of possessions was a major concern to him. Just as in the story with Martha, we recognise that the frantic pace of her busyness cannot be sustained, so too, we are slowly realising that the frantic exploitation of natural finite resources cannot be sustained. Enough is Plenty.
We now know that the planet Earth is 4.5 billion years old. If we equate this to 46 years, then we humans have been around for four years; the industrial revolution began one minute ago and in that time we have destroyed 50% of the Earth’s forests. This is not sustainable.
“I consume therefore I am”
Like St. Dominic we too are called to preach about the untruths of our time i. e. more is more better and that we consume our way to happiness. What is the true cost to planet earth and indeed to ourselves? “What did you do once you knew?”– is a very thought provoking poem by Drew Dillinger, it challenges us to wake up from our foolishness. Enough is plenty!
“We are joined in a splendid universal communion”
I believe that today we are slowly beginning to understand the wisdom of Jesus, that to live in the present moment is wise, to live in a sustainable way is vital so that future generations (of all species and the whole community of life) might live. Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’gives a wonderful description of the education in spirituality needed to be both prophets and deacons in our world today:
Conversion calls for a number of attitudes, which together foster a spirit of generous care, full of tenderness… it entails a recognition that the world is God’s loving gift and that we are called to imitate his generosity in self-sacrifice and good works… It also entails a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from other creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion.
Two little children were placed in two very different rooms; the first room was full of every kind of toy, the second was full of horse manure and a spade. After twenty minutes the first child was in tears because there was no drum. The second child was digging furiously, when asked what was he looking for, he said, ‘with all this manure there must be a pony in here somewhere!’
Sr. Colette Kane OP
Luke 12:13-21 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Parable of the Rich Fool
13 Someone in the crowd said to him,
“Teacher(Master), tell my brotherto divide the family inheritance with me.”
14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?”
15 And he said to them, “Take care! (watch) Be on your guard against all kinds of greed(avarice);
for one’s life (your true life) does not consist (is not made secure) in the abundance of possessions.”
16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly (rich harvest).
17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place (nor enough room) to store my crops?’
18 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.
19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’
20 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?’
21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”