OT XVIII Eccl 1:2; 2:21-23; Col 3:1-5, 9-11; Lk 12:13-21
A family put up a hummingbird feeder with four feeding stations. Almost immediately it became popular with the hummingbirds that lived in the area. Two, three, or even four birds would feed at one time. The feeder would be refilled at least once a day.
Suddenly the usage decreased to almost nothing. The feeder needed filling only about once a week. The reason for the decreased usage soon became apparent. A male bird had taken over the feeder as his property. He was now the only hummingbird who used it. He would feed and then sit in a nearby tree, rising to attack any bird that approached his feeder. Guard duty occupied his every waking hour. He was an effective guard. The only time another bird got to use the feeder was when the self-appointed owner was momentarily gone to chase away an intruder.
That hummingbird was teaching a valuable lesson. By choosing to assume ownership of the feeder, he forfeited his freedom. He was no longer free to come and go as he wished. He was tied to the work of guarding his feeder, his STUFF. He was possessed by his possession
The common theme of today’s readings is the futility of the greedy acquisition of wealth and power because everything and everyone is “here today and gone tomorrow.”Therefore, the meaning of life cannot be found in possessions but in the sharing of time, treasure and talents with the needy. The first reading, taken from Ecclesiastes, reminds us that the greedy acquisition and the selfish hoarding of goods are useless because when the hoarder dies he goes to eternity empty-handed, and his heir gains, and perhaps squanders, his riches.
Jesus did not condemn the man in the parable for eating, drinking and being merry, nor even for being rich. Rather the man was called foolish for building bigger barns. The point of the story is that the entrepreneur was planning to store more of his wealth than he needed to eat, drink and be merry. Look again at the words of the story. The man says, "What shall I do for I have nowhere to store my crops?" Not true! He has barns. His problem is that his harvest has been so great that his present storage facilities will not hold all of the grain. So he decides, "I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain. Then and only then will I have ample goods to eat, drink and be merry." Again, not true! He already has ample goods. He does not have to live in the moment. He has barns for his future. They may not be as big as he would like, but he has plenty to eat, drink and be merry. The man already has enough wealth to enjoy Shalom. He has a sense of well-being and security because God has generously blessed his land with fruitfulness.
He was called "foolish" because he did not recognize that his wealth had brought him happiness and that it could do the same for others if only it were not locked up in those bigger barns. His sin was not that he had become wealthy, but that he wanted to hoard all his wealth. His sin was not that he ate, drank and was merry, but that he was withholding the means for others to do the same. He had become a bottleneck in the flow of Shalom blessings to others.
The story, so understood, is not a teaching condemning the foolishness of gathering wealth. It is rather a parable which condemns the refusal to share the wealth we do not need. It warns about the shortsightedness of failing to be a good custodian of the abundance that God entrusts to us.
Greed is like poison ivy. The key to poison ivy, once you have it, is not to scratch. Restraining yourself is hard, for your skin itches and you want relief. But scratching only makes poison ivy worse.
Avarice works the same way. We get infected, and we want to scratch, although we know we shouldn't do so. Possessing more and more promises relief, but only makes the situation worse. We keep scratching, but it's no solution.
Someone asked John D. Rockefeller (of all people) "How much wealth does it take to satisfy a person?" He replied, "Just a little bit more." The Romans had a proverb: "Money is like sea water; the more you drink, the thirstier you become."
Suppose a robber approaches us tonight and ordered, "Your money or your life!" What will we choose? Will I say impatiently, "Don't rush me, I'm thinking about it.? Well, we may not get much time. Think about it now.
Let’s get back to the basics and re-establish our priorities. Let’s get rich in what matters to God. We need to follow the Great Commandment, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37-39). It’s as simple as that: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt. 6:33).