About stinginess and loneliness - the rich grain farmer
13 And one of the people said unto him, Master, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me. 14 And he said unto him, Man, who made me judge or arbitrator over you? 15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of all covetousness: for no man liveth by having much goods. The rich grain farmer 16 And he told them a parable, saying, There was a rich man whose land had borne well. 17 And he thought within himself, and said, What shall I do? I have nothing where to gather my fruits. 18 And said, This will I do: I will break down my barns, and build greater ones; and I will gather therein all my corn and my goods; 19 And I will say unto my soul, Dear soul, thou hast a great store for many years: have now rest, eat, drink, and be of good courage. 20 But God said unto him, Thou fool! This night thy soul shall be required of thee. And to whom will then belong what you have prepared? 21 So it is with him who gathers treasures for himself, and is not rich with God. Of false and right sorrow 22 And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for the life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. 23 For the life is more than the food, and the body than the clothing. 24 Behold the ravens: They do not sow, they do not reap, they have no cellar and no barn, yet God feeds them. How much more are you than the birds! 25 Who is there among you who, however much he cares, could add a cubit to his length? 26 If ye then are not able to do the least thing, why do ye care for the rest? 27 Behold the lilies, how they grow: they work not, neither do they spin. But I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of them. 28 If therefore God so clothe the grass which today is in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, how much more shall he clothe you, O ye of little faith? 29 Wherefore ye also, ask not what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, and be not troubled. 30 After all these things the heathen of the world seek: but your Father knoweth that ye have need of them. 31 Rather, seek his kingdom, and this will be yours. 32 Fear not, little flock. For it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell what you have and give alms. Make for yourselves purses that do not age, a treasure that never diminishes, in heaven where no thief approaches, and which moths do not devour. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:13-21)
My dear friends, dear women,
"are Christians allowed to buy endowment insurance?"
It is inconceivable what a discussion about this topic flared up in my former home church. The reason and occasion for it was the parable of the rich merchant, his storage barns, and God's reaction to his "hoarding."
May I, may I not?
Many of these questions come up if we leave out everything that has to do with Jesus' personal environment, cultural circumstances and transfer 1:1 what we read as if it were not told in a context, with a background that points to other things than the question of life insurance and pension.
It is striking in what context this parable is told.
So there is a man who approaches Jesus almost harshly to clarify a legal matter.
This is not unusual at first. Rabbis have often clarified legal matters, the man had a dispute with his brother - however, he also knew from the outset "who is right here" - and expects from Jesus confirmation of his understanding of justice - his own self-justice. This sibling relationship is broken, the second party is not present, and ultimately this man expects Jesus to cement this breakdown of the relationship, to lift him up and condemn the other accordingly. But this completely contradicts the nature and action of Jesus, as we meet him: he calls to serve one another, to seek reconciliation, to seek dialogue when one feels unjustly treated by the other, to forgive "seventy times seven". He does not judge accordingly, but rudely rejects the man by calling him "man", and then he tells a parable that confronts such a material attitude.
In the Middle Eastern cultural area, the family, the environment plays a much greater role than we live out today in our Western nuclear family and individuality society.
Jesus always calls to community - to togetherness and to mutual respect and appreciation - even beyond religious and social boundaries.
Whether the Samaritan woman at the well or the Good Samaritan - these parables are provocative and confronting for the Jewish society of Jesus' time, always about exclusion and Jesus' attention to those who seek him with all their heart. He heals the blind, the lepers, the paralyzed, he honors children, he honors women. It is the oppressed and the needy to whom he wants to pave a way back into the social community, he exhorts to welcome and says that he will not reject anyone who comes to him. In Jesus' teachings, relationship is clearly at the center: relationship with God and relationship with one another. Everything else is secondary, is put on the back burner.
The rich merchant, however, is obviously a rich, lonely man.
He does not confer with his stewards, with his friends, with his wife or his sons-no, he lapses twice into soliloquy and is to himself the only counselor he has. Strikingly, he does not seek God either- he does not go into prayer to clarify what to do with the abundant blessing that has come to him: it is "all his" in his eyes "to him" and also serves "him alone." It is his barn, it is his grain, it is his goods. Obviously so many that he doesn't even know where to put them.... But there is no one who has a share in it nor the will to add anyone.
He makes a plan to safely stow away all that "belongs to him". Even bigger barns. Even bigger storage facilities than the ones he has already created for himself. So that he lacks nothing in the future.
There are several things that catch the eye: Solitude was not common in Jewish society, egocentricity was not desired. Moreover, the Jewish ( and also the Christian!) understanding of property is that of an entrusted good, which one does not take away and is pure blessing, to which there is no claim, no guarantee nor a "right". Man works, God blesses - and everything can be reclaimed in a moment - yes, life itself is a "fiefdom", something borrowed, entrusted, which at the end of the day belongs to God alone and over which God rules.
The rich steward seems to have completely forgotten this. Not only does he claim his wealth for himself alone, but he also wastes no thought on the fact that God can reclaim what has been entrusted to him at any time. In his calculation, neither God nor his environment, his people, his family nor his village environment appear. In short, a good comparison with the rich merchant is the stingy old businessman Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens' " The Christmas Story" .
Why does one hoard?
Why does one save and why is one stingy?
Well, here too, one inevitably encounters two reasons: The first is fear of scarcity, it is the quick gathering of what is there because it could be lacking the next day. The second reason is, in fact, loneliness: if no social environment is built up that is benevolent and generous to one's own neediness, then on the day when "the barns burn down" the fear is indeed well-founded.
And so he continues to work, and he accumulates, for a distant, lonely future, which God then does not grant him. What a terrible life!
What is the admonition? It is the admonition to understand that all that is given to us comes from God, that nothing, nothing is our own right, that God Himself gives and takes away-and that where there is abundance, joyful sharing is better than stockpiling for uncertain days.
In fact, the Lord's Prayer contains a small detail that we tend to overlook in our individualistic society: "Give us this day our daily bread" Bless us again today, with all that we need. Us. Us. Not me. Man is not an individual product, but created for relationship and integration. For joyful sharing with one another, for fellowship, laughter, for mutual advice and encouragement, and for understanding that anxiously holding on to what is given to oneself ultimately leads only to isolation and a loss of relationship with God.
For despite all the wealth that the rich merchant has accumulated, he still suffered damage to his soul: he lacks community, he lacks friendship, he lacks social acceptance. He lacks a sense of purpose and a social task. And he lacks God. For the peace he wants to give his soul with goods and food, he finds only where his gaze returns to the Giver of all good gifts, who proved to him long before that His blessings are abundant and overflowing to meet his fear of lack.
Recognized- he did not.
May we give thanks for what we receive. May we share what we have in abundance. And may we learn that God's grace and blessings are new every day- that we may become free, joyful and secure in His love- good stewards of what is entrusted to us.
Sibylle/Daughter of Zion.
Bible. Luther Translation 2017, here: www.bibleserver.com
Dr. Kenneth E. Bailey (ed.): Jesus Was Not a European. Middle Eastern Culture and the Life World of the Gospels, SCM Verlag 2018, pp. 359-361.
Other biblical passages: Mt 18:21, Lk 10:27, Jn 13:34, Jas 1:17, Acts 2:44 ff, etc.
Worship: Fernando Ortega: The God of Abraham praise (instrumental).