Homily St Mary’s Marlborough, 28th July 2019, 8am
Seventh Sunday after Trinity: Colossians 3.1-11 & Luke 12.13-21
One of the things that makes me feel at home in the UK is a familiar awkwardness in talking about certain things, one of which is money. Whether it’s deciding how much to spend on a retiring colleague or a friend’s wedding, or the moment the bill at the restaurant needs to be paid, we feel a bit embarrassed having the discussion. For the record, the expressing ‘going Dutch’ was something completely alien to me until moving abroad! However, also on a more serious note, relationships have been broken and families torn apart when it comes down to money. I am sure most of us will have heard someone saying, or indeed said ourselves ‘It’s not about the money’, and we start wondering ‘isn’t it?’.
The first thing to realise then this morning, as we hear the parable of a rich man, is that we’re not the first generation or culture who have this problem. Greed is part of our human nature, and we all have it in us, the temptation to want more, and more, and more. And it is not just money that shows this tendency, but also food and drink, power and fame. We continue to want more, never being able to be satisfied.
To a certain extent, I suspect, it is our biological instinct to survive. We are looking for safety and security for ourselves, our relatives and particularly our children. But just as the rich man in Jesus’ parable, we too will be at risk of wanting too much. Jesus this morning is not advocating poverty, nor telling us to sell everything we have – that’s another story. However, we are warned here against greed, the desire to always want more than we have. To replace our barns for bigger ones because of the abundance we have been given.
The only remedy for this is to realise that our security, and even more importantly our fulfilment, does not lie in the things we obtain, not even in the things we achieve, but in the realisation that we have been given the gift of life in all its fullness and abundance. That is also what Paul means when he urges the Colossians in his letter to set their minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
However, that change in attitude is easier said than done, and I believe that it is the discipline of a lifetime rather than a decision we make once and for all. Being rich towards God requires a constant effort, but in turn will result in a constant reward – in contrast to accumulation goods, which requires a constant effort too, but results in most cases to a constant desire for even more.
What a life focussing on the things above looks like is different for each of us, but it will have some elements in common. Generosity is one of them: realising that we have far more than we require and the ability to share. Seeing the beauty of simplicity is another one: there is little that can trump a beautiful sunset, the smell of summer rain or the company of good friends.
So we see that less becomes more. I’m not saying that we should not enjoy things that cost money, but that we can also enjoy the things that don’t. It matters how we live our lives, and the best way is not by feeling guilty but to remember to be thankful. God’s gifts cannot be stored, they are to be shared and celebrated. Love, friendship, beauty: we can only appreciate them, not keep them to ourselves. That knowledge is what will set us free, free to live our lives as children of God, and free to be ready for our heavenly life when it comes.