Two weeks ago Fr Gregory warned that we should not just do things “because every one else does it”. Last week I was talking about how we take a higher standard than society and certainly the law, because we are to love our neighbours; it isn’t just a case of not harming them. Society tends to think that doing anything is ok so long as you do not hurt anyone of course. This week, we again see Christ warning us that society has not got it right. There may be a theme developing here.
Now, our rich man building his barn was quite rational in some ways. He had assets, real wealth and was proposing to get them stored so that he could relax. The dire warning of course was that he had to face departure from this life and so face judgement. It is stark and final when we face the reality of death. This is not a frightening prospect for God loves us and wants us to enjoy the delights of eternity with Him, but it does mean we need to do things right, to do them as God desires. This is actually delightful here on Earth as well, as it brings abundant life, joy and the delight of knowing God.
If people believe there is nothing beyond this life, and that here and now is all there is then rationally the thing to do is simply enjoy yourself as much as you can. It makes sense in these terms to be selfish. You may look after friends and family because they will also look after you, but selfish people expect a pay back. Many people are quite hospitable but only because they want something. Some people entertain lavishly, but it is for customers, clients; people with whom they want to establish connections. They do not really entertain simply for pleasure, or to help, or even just to get to know people. They are selfish, pure and simple. This is a direct route away from God who is so generous with us. Being free from purely selfish desires and loving people means a positive pay back rather than a negative one. It means that love increases and in fact by loving selflessly you get ever more Christ like, more attractive and freer to live a life that is more abundant.
If you believe in God you will want to be more like Him. You will want to be more loving and more help to others.
We are not told what options our rich man may have had, what else he could have done with his produce and his wealth. We are not given any detail on the people who were in need when he proposed to spend his time in idleness. Christ did not need to do that, as He reminded us, the poor are always with us. We do know that at the last judgement we shall be asked if we fed the hungry, and clothed the naked. The blessed Theophylact in that great book: “The Explanation of St Matthew’s Gospel” said this in Chapter 25, the passage read on the Sunday of the Last Judgement in Great Lent:-
“For whatever [a man] has in excess of his needs he has stolen from the those in need who have not received anything from him, even if he does no obvious injury; because he has locked things up that are in need”.
It is not enough to meet the social or legal obligations about not injuring your neighbour. You are to love you neighbour. We are called to help them out from what we have and that which do not need.
I am not saying that we should be irresponsible with what we have, and I am not saying that we should necessarily give everything away. We should, however, remember that all we have depends on God and that we will have to account for how we used what we have, property, money, time and talents.
There is nothing wrong with having money, but there is a lot wrong with seeing it as an end in itself. The man with the wealth in the parable was like that. He was a miser in short. The reason Christ once told a man to sell all he had and give the money to the poor was, I think, because in that case he was worshipping wealth. It had become more important to him than God.
So the man in the parable did not use his assets as he should. Like all of us he needed to be aware of the reality that he faced.
Now one of our brothers here in this congregation said something very insightful recently. He was talking about his late wife and said that someone could write a book about her. It would be worth reading and people could learn a lot about her. They would no doubt get some benefit. The thing is they would have head knowledge. They would have a lot of information. He had heart knowledge; he knew her in lots of ways; he had experienced her love and returned it. It is like that with God. We can read the books, we can discuss the information. We can know about God. We need heart knowledge though; we need to experience the love of God, and one way we do that is by opening ourselves up to love others. We experience God when we truly put Him first. We need Him as our Lord, the ultimate Boss. Experiencing God comes through the sacraments, through receiving Holy Communion and in loving others. We find as we do this that we grow ever more into Him and as we open to Him we are truly transformed.
I can only say it truly does feel like one’s heart is alive, no longer a “heart of stone”, but truly alive. To live the life of God is not merely a biological process; it is to be really spiritually vibrant.
As we become increasingly more Christ-like we learn to honour Him in everything, feeble and often failing in the task.
There is a great paradox in all of this, because as one puts God first, things fall into place and one feels spiritually richer with more true friends that one ever had by trying to be selfish.
A Christian living for God lives more and experiences more than a miser ever could.
I am talking about Theosis here, becoming more God-like. A person attempting that, with the grace of God and the Holy Spirit within is blessed and becomes a blessing to others.
That is the challenge, not to be fearful of God or to put anything else in the way of our relationship with Him. Accordingly we must make God the most important centre of our lives and acquire heart knowledge of Him, not just information about Him.
I hope and pray that we may all continue in this spiritual growth; that we may truly worship God and that at the end of our lives here on Earth we may meet Him with great joy. To those that love God, the joys of the Kingdom are an imperishable inheritance in the heavens but known first here on earth with family friends and those we are called to serve.
To God be the Glory, now and ever and to the ages of ages.