13Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And 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.” 16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then 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. 19And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But 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?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
What I am Learning:
It was typical for people to ask elders or teachers to settle disputes, usually based on a relevant part of Jewish scripture. The Scribes often took on this role, as did elders who sat at the gates of a city.
Jesus refuses to be distracted from his work to announce God’s reign of mutuality.
At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. 43But he said to them, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.’ 44So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.*
And indeed, in this case he refuses to be put on a pedestal by this man. Very often, when someone submits to Jesus he refuses to be dominant; and when someone tries to dominate him he refuses to submit. Something to think about! This means that often Jesus must engage in a form of conflict with people. This is not the conflict of rejection or rage, but what I would call a healing conflict - one that moves people toward holding one another in an equal way. Some refuse his invitation.
Sometimes we confuse the church with a conflict-free community: a community where we all agree and we all have the same needs and perceptions. When we assume this we really end up shoving our conflicts underground. This energy does not go away, but simply comes out in weird ways. Jesus assumes that conflict is a part of the life of his disciple community - his vision was that we would address it directly and would do the hard work of remaining mutual with each other.
In peasant, 1st century thought a rich man with an abundant crop had a duty to share his plenty with his community since it was a gift of God. He is foolish because he thinks that his security is in keeping the food for himself, instead of sharing it with his community, and making the community stronger. His foolishness is thinking that security and meaning can be found is a full barn.
His is a “foolishness” that today is thought of as wisdom - how much do we worry about our IRA or 401K instead of the strength of our communities?
But by definition the kingdom of God, what we call God's way of mutuality, is all about community. This does not mean that individuals are left out, it is just that very often our individualistic view in the US often underestimates the communal aspect of life and our basic responsibility to one another. Jesus called this man out of his preoccupation with his own family squabble to look at his responsibility to the community around him. Resilient and strong communities are the best form of security for both us and others.