Ecclesiastes 1.2, 12-14;2.18-23; Colossians 3.1-11; Luke 12.13-21
It’s good to be back. As I prepared this sermon, I was thrilled to discover that there are certain themes found in the Gospel which not only are found in the Epistle reading but in the reading from Ecclesiastes.
The first is that after our deaths someone else will use or dispose of our property. The modern church’s answer is to urge everyone to have an up-to-date will in a location known by family. The will is our last opportunity to give to the church, our favorite charity, our school or college as well as our family and friends.
The narrator who claims to have been king over Israel in Jerusalem has concluded that in the end our life experience counts for nothing.
What modern term would we substitute for vanity? The Greek word connotes worthlessness because of deceptiveness or ineffectualness according to Bromily’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. It is the sense of futility which the author writes permeates even the search for knowledge.
In the final analysis, it is only God which accords us worthiness and is not deceptive leading one to the conclusion that the search for God, the effort to draw closer is the only non-futile human undertaking.
The rich man in Jesus’ parable is someone materially blessed but is not content. And Jesus makes the point that the rich man thinks his material prosperity will continue. It might but it won’t be his prosperity!
In his letter to the Colossian Christians, Paul enumerates all the behavior which is inappropriate for Christians. He writes first of negative activities involving the body and later goes on to list the negative activities of a particular part—the tongue.
But I am always jarred by Paul’s characterization of greed as idolatry, but think about it. We refer to money as the almighty dollar. Idolatry is any form of worship of a tangible thing by humanity instead of worshiping God.
We spend an inordinate amount of time thinking not about God but about money and what to do with it. About 20 minutes of every hour of television is devoted to commercials with the not so subtle message that we will be complete if only we will buy this product or that one.
Three hours of TV a night translate into an hour of commercials interspersed in the hour long shows; compare that with how long it took us to listen to Paul’s admonition to the Colossians or a 15 minute sermon.
The Bible is filled with examples of the results of idolatry—ruin and pain for God’s people. Are we just now digging out of a very rough part of our history because of the greed and deceptiveness of many in the financial industries.
But Jesus tells the crowd: Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed. What has been the price of our cooption of the majority share of the world’s resources along with the other developed nations? There are many throughout this state who are willing to ignore the threat to our drinking water by drilling and fracking for natural gas in the Marcellus shale.
The important call it seems to me from today’s lessons is to do things, even the mundane, the best we can, for in our effort we war against the charge of futility; there is the call to examine what we do and what place durable goods and just plain money have in our lives, finally we are called upon to treat others equally and rid ourselves of the negative results of too much mouthing off.