Do we ever realize how much money plays a role in our relationships? How many of our friends are similar or different in terms of economic status? When has money ruined a friendship, divided a family or marriage? How does our personal financial situation affect the way we look at others? The place of money and how it impacts life is one of those topics we avoid because if we are honest, it exposes our poverty.
A man asked Jesus to settle a dispute he had with a brother over the family inheritance. Jesus avoids getting caught in the middle of the dispute. Instead, Jesus gives a warning of what the struggle for money will do to not only this man’s family but also his relationship to the community and finally, God.
A rich man has a bumper crop and he decides what he’ll do with his expanded riches. (Note: Jesus highlights the ground produced the crop, not the man). The man has a conversation with himself about what he’ll do with the bumper crop. He’ll tear down the old barns and build new ones. He never considers community and his place within it. With his riches safely stored away, he’ll congratulate himself saying, “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” Then, his life was demanded and God said, “you fool.”
So what makes the man a fool? He didn’t understand the difference between true wealth and poverty. The man asking Jesus to intervene over the inheritance dispute was at the edge of knowing the poverty of a family ripped apart over money. In Jesus’ parable, the rich man thought his wealth made him independent from the community. However, he would soon know the poverty of facing death — all alone. The rich man thought his wealth would set him up for an easy life. However he would now learn that he didn’t own his life, God did and his wealth would be fought over by others. This is poverty.
We don’t like to talk about money because if we are honest with ourselves, the conversation will expose our poverty. The riches of life are found in family, our engagement and commitment to community and to know that life is a gift from God. Being wealthy is to understand how we are dependent on them.