Rev. Rosemary Webb
4th August 2013
From Selfishness to Loving God

Those of us who have children and indeed grandchildren know that some of the earliest phrases spoken are ‘I want’, it could be a kiss, probably a biscuit, a toy, whatever, but they want it and they repeat it, and that phrase can quickly be followed by ‘It’s mine’. Inborn in all of us there seems to be the desire to possess, to have, and whilst we grow out of that initial wanting, society still encourages us to want more, to desire what is bigger and better.

Perhaps when we first hear this parable we might wonder what the rich man was doing wrong. Indeed I was brought up not to waste money but to save it for a rainy day. So why did Jesus call the rich man a fool?

What did God expect him to do? He had a thriving farm, his crops were plentiful, he couldn’t use them all at once, so surely the best decision was to build larger barns, store the grain until he could use it. To guarantee an income for his old age. Now I have very little knowledge of the intricacies of farming, but I do know that I cannot hoard my tomatoes, plums or pears because they will become rotten, they will be useless, no one will have benefitted from them. If I have more than I need I can share them, offer them to other people, but I cannot save them for next year.

And in all his plans there was one thing the rich man had not planned for and that was his sudden death, anything hoarded is only of any use as long as it can be used.

The rich farmer is a fool not because he is wealthy or because he saves for the future, but because he stores more than he can use, he can only see things in relation to himself, he is selfish. He believes that if he stores vast quantities of goods he is protecting himself, that his possessions will bring him security and happiness. It is as if he has drawn a circle round himself and cannot see beyond it. He talks as if the world owes it to him, that he has earned it, that all he needs to do now is ‘eat, drink and be merry’.

His land has produced abundantly, yet he expresses no sense of gratitude to Almighty God or to all his workers who have helped him plant and harvest this bumper crop, who have probably put far more into it than he has. He has more grain and goods in storage than he could ever hope to use, yet seems to have no thought of sharing it with those who have helped him, and certainly no thought of what God might require of him.

He is blind to the fact that his land not only belongs to God, but that his life is a gift from God, and that God can end it at any time. He seems to have lost the ability of seeing himself as part of God’s kingdom, but rather as some self-sufficient entity reliant on no one but himself.

The reading from Colossians sets out quite severely what is required of us. We are reminded that through baptism we are children of God, and as such we are to try to see life as God sees it, to see ourselves as God sees us. Which I believe is not as someone who has done well, who has achieved great success, but as how we live among others, how we show love, how we respect each other, and most of all how we serve God.

Greed is one of the more obvious forms of selfishness, but Paul has given us a long list of sins, which to me are all forms of selfishness, all things which are done or uttered with a total disregard to others. Portrayed I believe very graphically last week by some young fool on twitter. Not a fool because he was storing up goods he couldn’t use, but a fool for he appeared to have a total disregard for anyone but himself. As with the rich fool he appears to have forgotten about the future, forgotten he has both an earthly life and a life when he will meet God face to face. But I do also have a degree of sympathy he was immature, and when I was that age anything you wrote could be burned, thrown away, it was not stored on some disc or something for eternity,

As I wrote in the magazine this month I do believe the media has much to answer for. It makes heroes out of celebrities, encourages the young to think they can be invincible. Life is hard, life is about taking a lot of knocks, that you have to learn from your own mistakes, but I do believe that as Christian adults we have a duty to protect, to criticise the media to demand that it is a suitable forum, that what it transmits is suitable for children. We pay good money to allow the media in all its forms in to our homes; surely we should have some say, a right to protect the young.

Today’s society is all about achievement, even in a recession people are bombarded with adverts, can be made to think that they will be judged by what car they drive, rather than how they lead their lives.

Let us go back to Colossians. We are reminded what it means to be a child of Christ. It means following Christ’s example, to resist the temptations that life can throw at us. Which I don’t believe means having a miserable life, but making sure that the life we lead doesn’t cause misery to others, to make sure we don’t have enjoyment at the cost of others. If we wouldn’t like something done to us then why would someone else. And truthfully if we really hurt someone else is it truly possible to be happy ourselves.

We are being reminded of what we need to teach. The rich man thought he had prepared himself for a long and happy future, without any worries, only to discover there
would be no earthly future. That his future lay with God and that nothing he had done was worth anything in God’s eyes.

Money, materialistic things do not bring long term happiness, no amount of wealth can keep families happy. In fact the words in the parable ‘tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me’ are as topical today as they were in Christ’s time. Money causes divisions, it causes selfishness.

It may be possible to buy yourself into a club, into the right enclosure at the race course, but it does not buy you favour with God. When God sees us he looks beyond the superficial, he sees into our innermost thoughts, there is nothing we can hide from him. Our loving Father not only gave us our lives, but gave us gifts we can share with others, the most important of which is the gift of love.

Often like the rich fool we become tempted to think we are self-sufficient, that we are in control. Fortunately God never stops loving us, his love and compassion is never ending, he never stops waiting for us to turn back to him, to get our priorities right. And we are not being offered the stark choice between enjoying life or serving God, but the chance to enjoy life through our commitment to follow Christ, to live a life of compassion and humility secure in the knowledge of God’s love for us.