Sunday 26 after Pentecost

Luke 12:16-21

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“I will say to myself:
Take life easy, eat, drink, and be merry”

At the first reading of this parable, one could say that the rich man does not seem to be such a fool, as our Lord calls him. This man is obviously wealthy, successful, and a good manager of his possessions. Within the parable it does not mention that this man was harming others or even committing certain sins. So why did the Lord call this man a fool?

In the beginning of the parable the Rich man seems to be congratulating himself by saying: eat, drink, and be merry...He says, “soul you have plenty of good things laid up for many years... The rich man, despite his material success, because he vainly put all of his trust in his possessions rather than in God, is a fool. To be rich toward God is to have a life of close communion with Him through faith and works. Indeed, according to the Lord “man cannot live by bread alone, this is something that this rich man has ignored. The Lord is teaching us a lesson through the example of the rich man. Though the rich man could manage his business in life very well, he did not make the best use of his skills. He was a successful manager but an unsuccessful user. He worked well for himself, and yet in the end gained nothing. These are the essential questions provoked by this parable: Is it possible that good things make a good life? And if so When and How? Can a rich man be wise instead of a fool?

The answer is yes… It is possible to possess good things and still have a life of close communion with God; it all depends on how we use what has been given to us. St. John Chrysostom compares the good wealth of a man to the Manna, which God sent to the Jewish people as they were wandering in the Desert of Sinai. The people were allowed to take as much as they wanted unto satisfaction. We know that many of them were greedy and desired to collect more to be put into storage. They discovered that the excess food molded quickly and went to waste. Sometimes when good things are stored, they rot. Our wealth and our goods are similar to a crop: when we sow it in charity it becomes fruitful, just as when we store it selfishly it rots.

Good things can bring blessings and bare spiritual fruit, not in of themselves, but only when we are thankful and use our possessions in a Godly way. This is a famous quote from a desert Father “he who has received a gift from God, and is ungrateful for it, is already on the way to losing it”.

Good things must remind us of God who is the loving provider of all that we have; and to provoke in us prayers of thanksgiving. Good things must be used wisely and moderately for our needs and to serve others. St. Peter of Damaskos says, “when God is thanked, He gives us still further blessings, while we, by receiving His gifts, love Him all the more and through this love attain that divine wisdom whose beginning is the fear of God.

An example of a good steward, and a charitable person can be found in Saint John the Merciful who was patriarch of Alexandria in the early 7th century; whom we commemorate today. He was one who possessed good things and yet still had a life of close communion with God. He was a champion of the poor and needy and considered his chief task to be charitable and to give help to all those in need. There is a famous story about him that most of you have probably heard: “One day, when the saint was visiting the sick, he met a beggar and commanded that he be given six silver coins. The beggar changed his clothes, ran on ahead of the Patriarch, and again asked for alms. St John gave him six more silver coins. When, however, the beggar sought charity a third time, and the servants began to chase the fellow away, the Patriarch ordered that he be given twelve pieces of silver, saying, "Perhaps he is Christ putting me to the test." St. John was able to possess good things and still bare good fruit because he was aware that good things must not take the place of God. Our possessions are good when they relate us to God and man through love.

So, through the prayers of St. John the merciful and all the saints, let us strive to always be thankful for everything that God has given us and to be rich towards God, that is, to trust in God, to have Him as our wealth and treasury of wealth, and not to speak of my goods, but the good things of God.”

To Him be all glory and honor unto the ages of ages.