The Lord said this parable: “The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And 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. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” As He said these things, He cried out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Luke 12:16-21 (Gospel of the 9th Sunday of Luke)
Today’s Gospel reading is one of the most sobering passages in the entirety of scripture. A man spends many years amassing lots of material goods. Along the way, he continues to upsize his property, tearing down barns and building larger ones. He rejoices in his sense of security—He has built up a lot of stuff over many years, he has earned the opportunity to relax. He is living the “dream.” And then God comes to him, as he is relaxing, and delivers a harsh truth, “This very night, your soul is required of you, and all those things you have, whose will they be?”
We are encouraged to be like the rich man from the youngest age. Work hard in school, so that we can get a good job, so that we can make a lot of money, so that we can enjoy the good life, and so we can have some sense of financial security in our old age. This is the “American dream.” I guess you could say it was the American dream. We aren’t so much into saving and security anymore but we are into stockpiling up goods for ourselves.
At the end of life, the only thing that riches can buy is a more expensive casket and a nicer headstone. Our material goods will not follow us into eternal life. You can’t wire money there. The goal in life is to be rich towards God. If we achieve material wealth, that is a blessing. But we do not achieve wealth, at the end of life, it really doesn’t matter. In our services, we pray that we will have sufficiency for ourselves and to share. The one who has amassed a lot of wealth is not just supposed to get bigger and bigger and acquire more and more. He is supposed to help those who have nothing. This is not a political statement, nor should we wait for a government mandate in order to do that. Becoming rich towards God is seeing the need in one’s own life, and finding room in one’s own heart to share with those in need.
Many people, including me, are putting away for retirement. I hope there will be a day that I don’t have to work, that I can relax and enjoy retirement from my life of labor. I contribute to an Individual Retirement Account, or an IRA. Every month, I put some of my material riches away, hoping they will accumulate to the point that I will be able to retire from work.
All people, whether we acknowledge it or think about it, are eventually going to die. We are going to stand before God for judgment of whether we are worthy to enter the Kingdom of heaven or not. And our judgment is going to be based on our spiritual riches (being rich towards God), not our material ones. It is therefore incumbent on us to put away spiritual treasures—love, kindness, charity, prayer, worship—into an Eternal Retirement Account (ERA). So that at the point we are going to die, we can look forward to an eternity of blessedness in God’s Kingdom.
Because we don’t know when our souls will be required of us, we should be motivated to put into the ERA on a daily basis, so that if our soul is required of us tonight, that we will have a made a deposit today.
There are sadly, a lot of foolish people out there who are not concerned with being rich towards God. They are doing exactly what Jesus says in the Parable today. They spend years collecting and collecting, putting more and more treasure away for personal use, hesitant to share their treasure with charitable causes for fear that there won’t be enough treasure left. They acquire more and more, seeking the elusive security. There is no sense of a ceiling as far as riches and security. And there are lots of people, who at the moment that their soul is required, realize far too late that they may be materially rich but are spiritually poor.
There is nothing wrong with attaining material riches. There is nothing wrong with putting away for retirement. But along with possessions and retirements accounts, we need to be putting in our Eternal Retirement Account on a daily basis.
One more thought—having experienced Hurricane Irma a few years ago, it was a reminder that all of our material things can be wiped out by a disaster at any time. Therefore, it is not the material things that should be of utmost concern, but the spiritual things that cannot be wiped out by disaster, and that will be the determinant of whether we are rich towards God.
Lord, Your Cross is life and resurrection for us Your people; and trusting in it we extol You, our God, who has risen. Have mercy on us. (First Resurrectional Praise, Plagal 2nd Tone, Trans. By Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Make a spiritual deposit into your ERA on a daily basis!
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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