Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ And he said to them, ‘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 towards God.’
It is a sad fact that our lives are dominated by worry. We worry about money and time; clothing and food; family and friends; we even worry about what complete strangers might think about us. We set ever higher goals for ourselves, and then we worry about how (and if) we are ever going to reach those, often unattainable, goals. Worry! Worry! Worry! Surely there must be a better way of living.
How and why we worry is different for everyone. If your income is limited your worries may focus around money, food and shelter. Those who commute on a daily basis may find their worries centred around issues of timekeeping and transport. No matter who or what we are, we will have worries, and there will be times when those worries will drive all other thoughts from our minds.
Thanks to the diagnostic skills of modern medicine we know that worrying, whether we call it worry, stress or anxiety, can shorten our lives. Both our physical and our mental health can soon deteriorate and collapse if we spend every moment of every day worrying. So why do we do it?
In today’s reading we encounter a far from typical worrier. Instead of worrying about shortage, this man is worrying about abundance. Like some who have won large sums of money on the various high-prize lotteries, the rich man in Jesus’ parable simply does not know how to cope with his riches. He worried about how to store up that bumper harvest so that he could live a life of self-indulgent extravagance. This man’s worry is associated with another issue that confronts both the rich and the poor, the problem of our greed. We like to gather ‘things’ around ourselves without any thought of others.
Greed lies at the heart of Jesus’ rich man’s hopes, expressed in the well-known phrase: relax, eat, drink, be merry. Let us pray that we might not fall into this trap of selfishness. Let us pray that we might not be overwhelmed by greed. Let us pray that we might exercise our Christian calling by sharing with and caring for those who are worse off than ourselves. Let us pray that we might never dream of a time when we can close our doors to the needs of those around us and wallow in self-indulgence.