18th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 31 July 2016 – Closing the Gaps
Comedian Steve Wright once quipped, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” It would be easy to interpret this gospel as a bit of wisdom about hoarding goods or decluttering our lives. One could also say it is about giving to others from our abundance. That typical commentary would not do justice to the deep seated message in this gospel.
Upon closer look this story about the wealthy landowner has to do with something else that defies generalized interpretations. Being attentive to the needs of others, in light of the ways in which we live, requires a more challenging investigation of this text. How might we act in light of it?
Today’s gospel is an example of someone who, somewhere along the way, was misguided. He thought that by piling up riches he would be happy. In short order, God said to the rich man, you are foolish to stockpile things that do not really matter in the big picture.
Lutheran theologian from Camaroon, Elisabeth Johnson, wrote that this gospel asks us to think about how our lives are fundamentally aligned — toward ourselves and our passing desires, or toward God and our neighbor? What should the wealthy landowner have done? “The same thing anyone else in that position should have done: distribute the surplus to others, immediately.” So says, John Pilch.
I think there is more, too. This biblical text is not only about sharing financial resources or getting rid of stuff to make room for what really matters in our lives. Each of us also has an abundance of knowledge and particular gifts which are often far more valuable than money. Giving to others generously requires careful, persistent evaluation. What is it that I have that others need?
The passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes urges us to take delight in what we have and, in light of our pledges to one another and our covenant with God, not to overlook what others need.
Let’s take a moment now to think of the abundance that exists in any area of our lives — financial, talent, time, material goods. What is it that we might share with others? Let’s name it to ourselves.
Now imagine what would happen to us if we shared our resources to the point that our own lifestyles would be transformed!