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Lent 6: Greed
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Hi <<First Name>>,


Last week we looked at the story of the Model Samaritan, a man who, moved by compassion, used his resources and wealth to act mercifully to someone in need.  This week we flip the script and listen to a warning of Jesus about the insatiable lust for more and more, and how that can derail our devotion to Jesus.
 

Reading

Luke 12:15-21

“Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 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. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 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?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
 


Reflection

When Jesus tells you to “watch-out” or “take care” that’s an alarm bell that we should probably listen and respond to.  Jesus warns his disciples to protect themselves against all kinds of greed.  He then adds a reason for this: life does not consist of having more than what we need.  But what exactly is the issue here?   

Greed refers not merely to the desire to have more than one has, but the relentless yearning for more and more, often at the expense of others.  The parable of the foolish rich person that follows immediately after this verse (12:16-21) illustrates and unpacks this warning.  Six times within the space of three verses the rich man focusses solely on himself, with not a hint of concern or awareness for anyone else.  In fact, his whole security and identity seems bound to his riches and possessions.  We should remember, as biblical scholar Klyne Snodgrass points out: “The fault is not in the possessions themselves, but in how tightly we cling to them or the use we make of them (or refuse to make of them). The issue is the focus of our lives and the way that focus determines the use of our possessions.”1  Because of his preoccupation with himself, his possessions and his wealth, God calls him foolish, i.e., someone who lacks wisdom.  And this connects to a concept used by ancient and contemporary theologians described as: Incurvatus in se, or “a life turned in on itself.” 
 


The best way to describe the idea is using the rather unpleasant image of an ingrown toe-nail.  The further the toe-nail grows inward, the more damage it does and pain it causes.  If one is not aware of it, and one does not look after it, a toe-nail could cause serious harm and hurt.  And that connects back to Jesus’ warning to “take care.”  He offers this warning because it’s so easy to be seduced by the things of this world, so easy to fall prey to the temptation that all we are is never-ending consumers who need more and more and who are never content with enough.  In fact, this outward focus is hinted at the end of the parable (12:21) where it speaks of being rich to God.  Being rich to God would include using one’s resources, skills and wealth to benefit those in need (see also 11:41 and 12:33), just like the model Samaritan did.  Jesus models and instructs his followers concerning a life that is not focused inwardly but directed outwards towards the flourishing of all people in community. 
 

Prayer
 

Gracious God, protect us from all kinds of greed.  Remind us that our lives do not consist in having an overabundance beyond what we need.  Help us to be generous, particularly to those who need it.  Help us to be rich to you Lord and to benefit and bless those who need it.   

Amen.
Until next time,

Sean

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