Jesus said to the crowds, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions” (Lk 12:15). Jesus is responding to the man in the crowd who asked him to be an arbitrator between him and his brother. The brother was concerned that he would not get his fair share, or any share, from the inheritance.
Jesus is offering the man a healthier orientation and perspective, which is to help him to see what is most important in life. Jesus knows the scriptural stories of conflicts between brothers, such as Cain and Abel, Esau and Jacob, Joseph and his eleven brothers. Jesus knew his own culture and interactions of the people of his time. He knew that conflicts over inheritance could quickly escalate into blood feuds and even deaths.
Jesus is helping the man in today’s Gospel and us today to see that what is primary and important is relationships, not wealth. One’s life does not consist in possessions, and this ought not to be our pursuit and primary focus in life. Wealth and material goods are fleeting, they do not last. We will always seek the newest, updated model of this or that, we will become bored quickly and want more and more. Ultimately, we will not be fulfilled, because we have been created for so much more.
We have been created to be in relationship with God and each other. We have been made to worship, and if we do not worship God, we will worship something, and too many of us as Christians, idolize wealth. Dr. Matt Nelson, author and assistant director of the Word on Fire Institute has written that: “Sanity begins with the realization that God does not need us to worship him, we need to worship God. Worship cultivates peace in the soul of the deepest and most lasting kind. When we worship we rest. It is thus the essential human activity, the first of all first things and the secret to real and lasting happiness.”
Let us meditate on the words that Jesus offers us today, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” What is more important to us, our things or God and the people in our lives? Do we place our security in wealth or God? Do we want apparent, temporary happiness or real and lasting meaning and fulfillment? All that we have is a gift from God. What prevents us from sharing with others in need from that which we have received? How we ponder and answer these questions will have an impact on the peace and happiness in our lives.
Painting: Jesus displayed in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels, Los Angeles, CA
Nelson, Matt. Just Whatever: How To Help the Spiritually Indifferent Find Beliefs That Really Matter. El Cajon, CA: Catholic Answers, 2018.