God? Or stuff?
Homily 378 – 18th after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
October 20, 2019
Epistle: (188) 2 Corinthians 9:6-11
Gospel: (83) Luke 16:19-31
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
One of the striking things about the Gospel reading this morning is that we don’t know the rich man’s name, but we know Lazarus.
When we sing memory eternal to one that has died, we ask God to keep the departed in His memory eternally – thus, we know Lazarus. God keeps his memory eternal.
But not the rich man. The rich man was not remembered by God. His memory was not eternal. And he suffered greatly for that. He was not a generous man.
There are a couple of things to note here – why was Lazarus sent to Abraham? Abraham was the opposite of the rich man. He was perhaps greatly wealthy, but he provided hospitality to strangers.
The rich man did not. Not even the stranger who was known to him, and suffering terribly. He was the opposite of hospitable.
The other is that while this man was rich, he was also selfish. In fact, Blessed Theophylact, in his commentary on the passage, says that the rich man’s soul was entombed – buried – in his body while the body was still alive.
He was alive, but the soul was dead. He feasted sumptuously each day. Not just on occasion.
And after the rich man died, he finally recognized the one who had been with him for so long. He finally knew Lazarus.
Nearly the whole of this chapter of Luke’s Gospel is about money and how we use it. In verse 1 of this chapter, we find the parable of the dishonest servant. Then there is a statement about how the parable angered the Pharisees – who were, St. Luke observes, lovers of money.
And in this very chapter – immediately before the statement about the Pharisees, Our Lord says you cannot love God and money. Not at the same time.
So, what St. Luke does here is really fascinating. After quoting Jesus – you cannot love or serve both God and money – this parable comes up to describe what awaits those who love money.
Which is the central question we are asked today – do we love God? Or do we love money, and the things that money can buy?
God? Or stuff? Because we cannot have both.
Christ Our Lord tells us the outcome – eternal suffering, in exchange for momentary pleasure on earth. Or, for Lazarus, eternal peace and comfort, in exchange for momentary pain and suffering.
St. Paul goes further – he elaborates on this theme. He reminds us that there is a basic principle involved, one familiar to any farmer or gardener. If you sow sparingly – you are stingy with your seed – your harvest will also be small.
If you sow abundantly or generously, you can expect a bountiful harvest. Not only that, but you have to do so willingly, and with gladness – not begrudgingly.
It is very important, particularly in our times when the prosperity Gospel is preached throughout our land, that the harvest is most definitely not more money. That would be transactional – an investment obligation, so to speak.
Our return is eternal, found in peace and love and joy for all eternity – and we get a taste of it even in this life.
Interestingly, St. Paul goes on to remind us that it is God who provides the seed to begin with. God provides the seed, the growth, and the harvest. To what end?
St. Paul tells us plainly. That we may be enriched in everything – every good thing – but not in money. Rather, in grace.
That we may have what is needed in everything, we can be equally generous with everything, or as St. Paul says every good work.
So where are we to go? We can give with abandon – because God provides everything we need, each and every day. Like the Children of Israel in the desert, who received their manna every day, but weren’t permitted to store up any for tomorrow.
They had to trust that tomorrow, God would feed them again. For those of us, especially me, who has learned to be self-sufficient, this is a challenging concept.
Yet throughout the scriptures, this is the model. We receive today our daily sustenance. Our daily bread. We didn’t receive it yesterday, we don’t receive enough for tomorrow. Only today.
Christ tells us to pursue righteousness, and be unconcerned about our needs because God will meet them. This is how we can sell everything and give it away – because we will receive from God what we need.
We begin to trust that God will provide, and we begin to be generous. Over time, we become less like the rich man with no name.
We become ones who detach from the world. We become ones who begin to detach and move into our true calling.
The kingdom of God.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!