Like the story of Martha and Mary, this section is found only in Luke’s Gospel. It is made up of two parts, a teaching on avarice and a parable to illustrate the point of the teaching.
Firstly, the teaching. A man in the crowd asks Jesus to solve a family dispute about an inheritance. This has echoes of the family dispute between Martha and Mary. Jesus’ answer is in different words, but to the same effect. “Who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?” As mentioned before, it is obvious that Jesus doesn’t wish to relay second hand messages, especially in a dispute.
To the crowds Jesus says, “Watch and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns even when he has more than he needs.”
Then to the parable. It is a parable about making ourselves rich in the sight of God. This is a constant theme in Luke. It is one of his favourite themes. It is at odds with the world of advertising and Storage Centres for excess possessions. It is against the culture of having plenty of good things laid by for many years to come, the culture of eat, drink and be merry and have a good time. “Fool” is the comment of the story teller.
Trust in God can alone bring the security that we seek in possessions. This is ‘poverty in Spirit.’
Do we need to reassess our priorities? We need to be good stewards of God’s gifts. We need to be good providers for our families. We need to be insured and superannuated and have a nest egg for an emergency. Where do I stand on the scale of being avaricious?
That is the point of the story. Materialism and consumerism are all around us.
As a Pastor it is not always easy to explain to people the exact meaning of Jesus’ teaching. Of course we have to provide for the future within reason. Some of us are blest with more than others. I like to put it this way. We can all grasp what it means to be ‘rich in spirit’ or to be avarice in spirit. It means that our whole life is dedicated to making more money and even when we have enough we build bigger barns. The rich man in the gospel story was ‘rich in spirit’. He is building bigger barns.
To be ‘poor in spirit’ is precisely the opposite. Money is the means to the end, not the end. At the end of our life our Balance Sheet will need to show the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, not Cash. The Fruits of the Holy Spirit are peace and joy and love, characteristics of God.