Monday, August 24, 2015

Hoarding and Self-indulgence or Sharing (Luke 12:13-22)?

Global society and culture are Olympian; that is, they are structured in terms of devotion to six gods that the ancients thought lived on Mount Olympus. These six Olympian gods are (1) Jupiter, god of politics; (2) Mars, god of war; (3) Vulcan, god of technology; (4) Venus, goddess of sex; (5) Pluto, god of money; and (6) Bacchus, god of consumption.

Globally, every one of us human beings has two personalities. Each one of us is both fully Olympian and fully Christian. Our Olympian personality conforms to social and cultural norms by devoting itself wholeheartedly to those six false yet enticing Olympian gods. Our Christian personality devotes itself to Jesus Christ. Which personality we express varies from one moment to the next.

In the Parable of the Rich Fool, Jesus contrasts devotion to the gods with devotion to Abba (God the Father) through him (God the Son) by the power of the Holy Spirit.

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 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.” 16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 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. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 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?’ 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God” (Luke 12:13-21, New Revised Standard Version).

First comes a disputed inheritance (Luke 12:13-15). We are not told whether the person complaining to Jesus was being cheated by his brother or just coveted a share of his brother’s inheritance. We only know that Jesus refused to get involved. He regarded the whole issue as nothing more than an expression of greed by both brothers (v. 15).

Greed, of course, is nothing more than an expression of devotion to Pluto. Our Olympian personality is wholly self-centered. In its devotion to Pluto, that personality measures its meaning in terms of money.

In their hostility toward one another, these brothers are both expressing their Olympian personalities. Jesus rightly rejects any involvement.

With his rejection, Jesus offers a parable. Jesus tells the story of a rich man who witnesses to his devotion to both Pluto and Bacchus.

Through no merit of his own, this man’s land produces a surprisingly large crop. The man responds as all self-centered lovers of Pluto do: he hoards the whole crop. Pluto teaches us that, if we earn or receive money or wealth, then it is ours to do with as we wish.

With this unexpected abundance, our rich man can also indulge his devotion to Bacchus: Pluto’s twin god. The motto of Bacchus is just this: eat, drink, and be merry. Pluto would have us hoard all our money. Bacchus would have us spend all of it on sensate pleasures.

Jesus wisely reveals these machinations of Pluto and Bacchus by calling this rich Olympian, and our own Olympian personalities, foolish (v. 20). Pluto and Bacchus justify all the hoarding or self-indulging we may wish to do at the expense of others. What’s worse, they drive us to define our lives in terms of such hoarding and squandering.

In happy contrast, the words of Jesus free us from such foolishness. Instead he teaches us to be rich toward God (v. 21) by sharing his light, love, and life with others with the assurance that he will take care of the rest for us.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.