Focus on Attitudes toward “Stuff”, Pentecost 8, July 31

Sunday Focus on “attitudes toward stuff” in the Kingdom

The four lectionary texts assigned for this Sunday have a common theme: “wealth”. More specifically, the texts are concerned with attitudes toward wealth. The theme is considered in a variety of literary types: a parable, a piece of wisdom literature, a letter, and a psalm.

 Background- Parable of the Rich Fool -Luke 12:13-21

Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem. People seek him out – the Centurion that wants him who servant was on the road to death; in other cases with the widow of Nain he wonders into situations. Some might come to challenge him or justify themselves, like the lawyer who provided the context for the parable of the Good Samaritan (10:25-37). Others came to Jesus with a complaint. We saw this in a previous exposition of the Mary/Martha story (10:38-42). Actually for this story we don’t know the motivation but it leads to another teaching moment. The gospel reading is here.

Jesus is in the middle of encouraging his disciples to confess even when they are under duress, when he is interrupted by one of the crowd who wants Jesus to settle a financial dispute between siblings. Jesus, however, refuses to enter into the family squabble and instead uses the situation as an opportunity to teach about the seduction of wealth.

The problem the man faced was a common and significant one–how to divide the property between siblings. At that time the older son received twice the inheritance of youngers ones – maybe this is a younger. It may be natural to come to Jesus – Rabbi’s were expected to arbitrate on matters of law, but Jesus is unwilling to play this role.

If Jesus had taken up the man’s challenge and entered into his life, he faced two problems: the first is that his intervention might provide the occasion for the brothers both to turn on Jesus; the second is that Jesus’ intervention would just open a Pandora’s box of more questions until Jesus had actually become the man’s attorney. Jesus may be a healer or teacher or proclaimer of the message of the kingdom, but he isn’t a judge in domestic disputes. . He knows his task and his limitations. Thus, Jesus really isn’t a “problem solver.”

Do you have a clear sense of what you are about it in life? Jesus has an instinctive sense of what he ought to be doing; of when he ought to enter in and when he ought to keep his distance. Jesus’ explanation is “who made me a judge or arbitrator over you? Jesus doesn’t give an explanation for why he doesn’t want to intervene but finds the heart of the matter (abundance, greed) and throws it back to the questioner. Jesus reframes the question and it becomes a parable.

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