Wealth is for giving away.
Homily 237 –Twentiy-second Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
November 20, 2016
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
One of the definitive messages of the New Testament is found in today’s Gospel reading.
That message is that our wealth, our possessions, are not to be hoarded. Not to be stored in barns, or in banks, or in investments.
This morning’s illustration puts that in stark terms. This man is called “foolish”. I don’t know that he cares.
Perhaps we don’t care either.
Perhaps we are also busily storing up our nest eggs, or our storehouses, so that we too might take our ease. So that we too might eat and drink and be merry.
In that era, eating and drinking, perhaps music, was pretty much it for entertainment. There were basically two states of being: work, and not work.
So the plan to eat and drink and be merry was, in essence, to stop working. To coast.
After all, he had worked hard, and built up a tidy sum. Chances are, he hadn’t enjoyed the process too much. He was deferring his enjoyment until he built up a safe amount.
So that he could enjoy a long retirement.
But his soul was required of him. He wouldn’t have a long retirement to enjoy his wealth.
At least he had an inheritance to pass down. Of course, we’re not told that. And even if he did have heirs, would they have simply withdrawn from the world and done the eating and drinking and taking their ease instead of him?
And is that somehow better?
On the surface, it seems that the man in question was simply going to be deprived of the fruit of his labors. Looking deeper might reveal some other implications.
After his soul was required of him, the next event would be standing before God in judgment. What we call liturgically the “dread judgment seat.”
Remember the story of the servants, each given part of their master’s wealth to manage? The one was given five and earned five more, the one was given 10 and earned 10 more, and the servant was given one – only one, and did nothing with it.
Buried it in the ground. Put it in a storehouse.
And when his master returned – that servant offered nothing.
So too perhaps with this man in his wealth. He hoarded it. Buried it. And did nothing with it.
He didn’t recognize that it was God’s resource, to be used the way God wanted it to be used. Not stored away in a barn, inaccessible to everyone.
Can we be confident of God’s desire? I think so.
He said, “Lend, expecting nothing in return,” which isn’t a loan but a gift. He said, “If a man takes your coat, give him your cloak also.”
When the five thousand gathered and had no food, Jesus said, “You feed them.”
He declared the widow’s mite worth more than the wealthiest giver, because it was given out of poverty and not abundance.
When He preached on the mountain, He said for us not to worry about our food, our clothing – the necessities of life. That our needs would be met.
The Acts of the Apostles said that everyone gave what they owned, and took back only that which they needed. And there was abundance.
The Children of Israel fleeing the Pharaoh were fed in the desert. The Apostles would not allow Simon the Magician to purchase his salvation.
Throughout the Holy Scriptures, the message is abundantly clear. The wealth, the resources, that we have are not ours. They belong to God and have been entrusted to us, to see what we will do with them.
So, what are we to do with them?
We should see the wealth and resources that we have for what they truly are – talents entrusted to us by God, to be used for his purposes.
Clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, providing shelter to those without it. Visiting the sick and imprisoned, providing means to the widow and the orphan and to all who live in need and want.
St. Basil the Great tells us that the food in our pantry and the clothes in our closets are the property of the poor. St. Theophylact in commenting on this morning’s Gospel passage tells us that the storehouse of God is the stomachs of the poor.
The wealth we have is filled with potential good. If we are willing to let go of it.
And in letting go of the wealth, the belongings, we find something that brings true joy. We find that we have been given the whole world.
We find that we have been given relationships to enjoy, family and friends to be with.
Life becomes simpler. Life becomes slower. And we are able to enjoy the love of those around us, and the love of our Creator. Without distraction.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!