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, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” 16 And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. 17 And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear 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 many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ 21 So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
At some point during one of His teaching sessions, someone interrupts the Lord and asks Him to settle a family dispute over money with his brother.
Money is one of those things that can tear people apart pretty easily, even family members.
Jesus’ response is to ask the man who gave Him the civil authority to act as a judge? His Kingdom was not of this world and He had no part or office in the Jewish or Roman governments. What is interesting is that even as He answers this way, He does act as a judge in this case through His teachings on money and how our view of it can corrupt our souls.
And He does it with a parable of a man who was blessed with a very fertile piece of land that brought him an overabundance of crops. Crops and livestock were wealth. And this man had so much that his barns were stuffed to the rafters with grain, wine, and other produce. He had far more than he could use and he begins to wonder what he will do with all of this wealth.
His solution is a poor one. He resolves to tear down his barns and build bigger ones so he can store more stuff and then he’s going to live the good life.
There is no thought of giving any of it away. No thought of helping the poor. No thought of sharing.
It’s a pretty common outlook, judging by our own society. We live in a consumerist culture where the acquisition of stuff is sold to us as a means to happiness. We live in a society where the ability to be successful and to make a lot of money is the mark of a virtuous character. We live in a society that encourages success and wealth by any means, no matter how short-sighted or destructive they may be, and rewards people for coming up with innovative ways to generate wealth often as the expense of their country, their company, their fellow workers.
We have a distorted view of money.
God’s answer to that man is to call him a fool. That man (and every man) will die. And his money and wealth will pass on into the hands of another. All that he loved and cherished will be taken from him that night. Everything he built will be laid to waste in the grave. That man will pass into the next life a pauper, mean of soul and very much alone.
The grave, in a sense, is the great equalizer for us all when it comes to money. Whether you’re buried in a pyramid, a lavish mausoleum, or in a ditch by the side of the road, we all pass away from this world stripped of our wealth and finery.
And then what do we have left?
Well, if you believe there is nothing beyond the grave, than we all have nothing left, but the name and the memories we left behind. In which case, did we spend our time wisely? Are there people we left behind who are left better off as people because they met us? Did we use our time and resources to make the world a better place for our fellow man? Or did we spent our lives isolating ourselves, ignoring those closest to us in favor of work, or ignoring the suffering of other people so we could build bigger barns to hoard more stuff for ourselves? Did we trample and ruin other peoples’ lives for the sake of enriching ourselves?
For the Christian, we do believe in a life after the grave. We will all be stripped of our wealth by death, but for the Christian, there is the promise of a reward in heaven. And, I believe, that reward will be the fellowship of the saints: the communion and brotherhood of men and women whose lives we did make better with our actions. Those people who were introduced to our Father through our lives, love, and our actions towards them.
Wealth will be lost to us. People will remain who will either carry a part of us onward in their memories or will be brothers to us in the afterlife. Invest your time and energy wisely.
To tie it back into context, Christ’s answer is to both brothers: your money is not important. In this case, they were both willing to sacrifice their relationship with one another for the sake of money. Let it go. Your brother is worth the cost of a few dollars. Harmony and peace of mind is worth more than any sum of money.