This could be the story of Nemo. Nemo in Latin means “no body.” As such, it could mean nobody and everybody. All of us.
Jesus has a way of telling stories that cut to the quick, get us. Get down and personal. This story certainly does that for me. Probably for all of us. It is the story of someone who has more than enough and decides to take life easy. And in the language of Ecclesiastes 9:7 “eat, drink and be merry.”
This story also reminds me of Steven Covey and his Seven Steps of Highly Effective People, the second step: Begin with the end in mind. As an introduction to this principle Covey has us imagine what people would say at our funeral. On the basis of what you know about this un-named man—Nemo—nobody—what would you say about him at his funeral. What defined his life? If you could use a phrase or word to define him what would you say?
“Short sighted.” “Narrow minded.” “Small view of the world.” “Narcissistic.” “Self focused?”
He had amassed a wealth of grain. He lacked nothing. He was set for life. He could take his leisure and retire. The problem was he died that very night. Ouch!
Then Jesus sums up this short parable with the zinger: “Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” Luke 12:15. And again: “Life is more than food and the body more than clothing” Luke 12:23. And again: “do not strive for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying…strive instead for God’s kingdom and you will have all you need!” (indirect quote—Luke 12:29-31). And the gem of this passage, “Do not fear little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”
We can go through life trying to find something worth living for, something to pour our selves into. Something that would make us feel like we mattered and were making a difference in the world.
A factor that affects that desire is the fear of not having enough, not succeeding, not being or doing as well as others like us. The result of course is that we feel like we are failures. We feel inadequate.
In today’s gospel reading we have two brothers whose father has died. They have an inheritance to split and one brother is cheating the other—or at least that is the sense we get from our reading. We do not know the circumstances. Maybe the one brother is more responsible and has taken care of dad through an extended illness. Maybe the one brother worked harder on the family farm. Maybe the other brother was a slacker and irresponsible. We don’t know. What we do know is that one of the brothers comes to Jesus with the request that Jesus force his brother to share the inheritance.
It is a fair request isn’t it? Share and share alike. That’s what we learned in kindergarten. Don’t be greedy. Share.
Yet how does Jesus answer this jilted brother? How would you have answered him?
In so many words He says that is not why I’ve come into this world…to be an arbitrator. Do not let greed get hold of you. Life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions!
Jesus then goes on to tell a parable about this rich farmer who hoards his excellent crop and decides to kick back and enjoy life—eat, drink and be merry! (Eccl 9:7)
In the parable Jesus quotes God as saying, “You fool! Tonight you die!” Then who will benefit from all that you have accumulated for yourself?
We do not know anything about this rich man. Did he have a family? Next of kin? Some sort of will? Those bits of information are not important here. Jesus draws attention to the idea of hoarding what we have rather than sharing it with others.
Life is more than clothing. Life is more than good food. Life is more than the possessions and things we gather around us.
Jesus draws attention to the birds and flowers and comments on how God cares for them—making the point that God will also care for us.
Why seek to accumulate more and better things in life? We have more than enough to share! Strive (seek, pursue) God’s kingdom. Be different than the world around you. Strive for God’s values. Sell your possessions. Give to the poor. Accumulate treasures in heaven.
Heaven, by the way, is not a distant place in the sky here, rather the place where God’s rule and reign have sway. The kingdom of heaven is a way of life that we can live in the here and now. Do not let fear rule you. Be generous. Don’t live for the future. Live to make a difference now. Live generously. Live God’s way!
You want to find your heart? Find your passion? Find something worthy living and dying for to make your dent in the world? Then strive to be kind and generous and good. Strive to be like Jesus in the midst of this crazy world. Let that be your passion.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.