(This meditation was written back in February, but it takes on deeper significance today. This pandemic is challenging our world in so many ways- and we need the eternal and relevant wisdom of Jesus more than ever.)
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then 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; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:13-21 NRSV)
Jesus has several good lessons for us in today’s passage, doesn’t he?
“…one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
After our illnesses and before our move to West Virginia, Jim and I gave away many of our possessions. We moved into a smaller home, and there we discovered a new freedom and joy with our lack of clutter and simpler way of living. However, since that time we have started “collecting” again. We may be more mindful of our purchases these days, but I recently ordered a new set of shelves… to display more possessions…
I needed to be reminded of Jesus’ words. Someone once said that if we think we aren’t attached to our possessions, why do we worry about leaving the garage door open or the door unlocked when we leave home?
“So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
How might we live according to this beautiful phrase, rich toward God? What would a life that is rich toward God look like? We would pay more attention to our relationships than possessions. We would have more time to spend with loved ones, to appreciate nature, to commune with God. We would live with a spirit of generosity, an abiding trust in God’s provision, and a deeper gratitude for all the blessings we have been given. No barns or storehouses can hold these precious gifts found in the life that is rich toward God.
“Friend, who set me to be a judge or an arbitrator over you?”
This question is so pertinent for us today. Jesus doesn’t come to us as an arbitrator, to decide or divide for us. If we are called to share all of creation with one another, we shouldn’t even have these issues. If we are not to store earthly treasures, we shouldn’t argue over inheritances. Jesus gave us his all, and he calls us to a new way of living and sharing the world. Arbitration would be a waste of his time- and ours.
Jesus sees our faults but also our goodness, he understands our pettiness and appreciates our selflessness, he knows our tendencies to be selfish or greedy, and he encourages us to live differently.
Jesus doesn’t want to arbitrate. Jesus wants us to share.
Jesus doesn’t want to judge. Jesus wants us to forgive, bless and love one another.
Are you talking to ME?
Today Jesus is asking, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?”
Have you ever argued over an inheritance or possession? Does the pursuit of earthly treasures consume much of your time? Are there relationship issues you wish Jesus would decide for you? How might you grow in the freedom of generosity today- both in possessions and in lovingkindness? How does this pandemic give you new perspectives about what is important in life?
Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?