What I’m Thinking: Greed and Grain

Jesus had some pointed things to say about a family dispute over inheritance. None of it had to do with the dispute. All of it had to do with greed.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the twelfth chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 12:13-21). A man in the crowd asked Jesus to intervene in a family argument over inheritance. When the father died, one of the sons received the inheritance and did not share it with the other.

Whatever the justice of the situation, Jesus simply refused to get involved. Instead, he issued a stark warning about the pursuit of greed.

He illustrated it with a story about a man who had lots of fields and wondered what he would do with the grain once the harvest came. So he built up barns. But when the harvest arrived, so did the end of his life, and instead of eating, drinking, and being merry, he had to stand before God and account for his life. This is one of the few of Jesus’ parables in which God was a character. Frequently there are characters in Jesus’ stories that we sort of identify with God, either by close association — being like God — or by contrast — being as much unlike God as Jesus could imagine — but in this one God is present as part of the story.

That’s a signal to us that when Jesus talked about the evils of greed, he was not kidding.

Jesus’ concern about greed and about holding onto possessions, about not sharing with others: that was a major part of his teaching, a major part of what he believed the Kingdom of God was not about. God’s reign is one of sharing. It is not one of keeping.

Because, you see, there was another solution. Jesus didn’t even mention it. There was another solution to the question of what to do with the great harvest instead of building barns. The landowner could have given the excess away.

Giving the excess away was a part of the foundational law of Israel. Gleaners were to be allowed to follow the reapers at the harvest, to pick up the fallen grain. The edges of grainfields were to be left unreaped so the travelers and the poor could pluck grain from the sides of the road.

Jesus’ warning about greed is timeless, I’m afraid. If I’m honest, I have to admit that in the contest between Jesus’ words, between the prophets’ words, between God’s words and greed, greed all too often comes out on top.

Let us take heed of Jesus’ reminder that God’s way is not greed’s way. Sharing — sharing — is the economics of the reign of God.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: , | Posted on July 25, 2022

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