Sunday, July 31, 2022
By: Kilpy Singer, Associate Rector
There are a few topics which our culture considers “off limits”, like for dinner conversation with new friends or at family gatherings. Politics, religion, money. But it’s funny, isn’t it, that some of our least favorite conversation topics seem to be Jesus’s favorites. All throughout the Gospels, Jesus teaches and preaches and prays about those very things like politics and money that make us so uncomfortable. Like in our scripture today. With little obscurity, Jesus talks about greed, about money, about possessions. And while I can’t speak for you all, I found it a little uncomfortable. In part because it’s felt personal, and in part because it was challenging. Is Jesus really asking me to give up my inheritance, or my retirement account? Am I supposed to feel bad for having things? What is Jesus really saying to us here?
Looking at the passage, the younger brother asks Jesus to get involved with his family business. He wants his brother to divide the inheritance with him, and this actually seems pretty reasonable. Wanting to split the family money evenly is a decent way to handle things, but for some reason it sets Jesus off into parable mode. Well, if we look back at the context of the time, we can start to see why. At the time, it was customary for the eldest son to be responsible for the estate, and he did this with the family inheritance. Younger brothers were allowed to have portions of the estate, but the eldest always received more, because he was in charge of more, and supposed to keep things going for future generations to live off of. So, the more the younger brother takes, the less the older brother has to handle the needs of the land and the larger family. Based on that reality, the younger brother starts to look a little less reasonable and a little more greedy…since he’s concerned with his own welfare, over and above anyone else.
To warn the younger brother about the consequences of such a mindset, Jesus tells the story of the landowner whose fields produced abundant crops, so much that they required whole new storage facilities. Things were so good that he was taken care of not only for the present moment, but for the future, and what else was there to do but eat, drink, and be merry. Once again, that seems pretty reasonable. Work hard, play hard. You earned it. But Jesus doesn’t call this man a fool because he worked hard and had savings to show for it. No, Jesus calls him out because of how he thinks about and uses this money, this good fortune.