Rich toward God

Proper 13 (August 1, 2010)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Eccles. 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23; Ps. 49:1-12; Col. 3:1-11; Lk. 12:13-21

We spent the week in Palestine/Israel, introducing new MCC staff to partner organizations who are working on a variety of development and peacebuilding projects. The hospitality was humbling. On several occasions, simple “meet and greet” encounters turned into dinner invitations that spanned several hours.

Bishara Awad, president of Bethlehem Bible College, gives MCC worker Ingrid Rodrick Beiler a tour of BBC's new building

While in Jerusalem, we celebrated Cindy’s 60th birthday with a party on the Mt. of Olives. What better place to observe this significant milestone!

Celebrating Cindy's birthday on the Mt. of Olives with chocolate cake and ice cream

Our son Jeremy has finished his summer internship in the West Bank, working on a wastewater project. He will spend the next week with us in Amman before returning to the United States for his fourth year of university.

Jeremy (center) with two other interns who worked at the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem this summer

In the region this week the Arab League agreed in principle to restarting direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians – subject to timing deemed appropriate by Palestinian leaders. The talks are to address the core issues of the conflict.

The Common Lectionary readings remind us that, no matter how wise or wealthy we may be, we are mortal. Therefore, we should store up treasures toward God rather than being greedy or placing our trust in things that are fleeting.

In the Old Testament text, the Teacher laments that all of life “is vanity and a chasing after the wind.” (Eccles. 1:14) One can toil an entire lifetime to accumulate possessions, only to leave them to another who did not toil for them and who may be foolish rather than wise (2:18-23).

The psalmist also writes about the brevity and futility of human life. “Fool and dolt perish together and leave their wealth to others.” (Ps. 49:10) Even the powerful who name lands after themselves will die like the animals (vv. 11-12).

In the Epistle reading, Paul warns that greed is idolatry and challenges, “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Col. 3:2)

In the Gospel reading, Jesus also warns: “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” (Lk. 12:15) He tells the parable of a rich man who planned to store up goods for many years in advance so that he could “relax, eat, drink, (and) be merry” (v.19). On that very night he died. Jesus challenges us to be rich toward God rather than storing up treasures for ourselves (v.21).

We are rich toward God when we set our minds on the matters of God’s kingdom – trusting God rather than being greedy; tending to relationships rather than accumulating possessions; practicing hospitality rather than focusing on ourselves.

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