Tag Archives: greed

Too Much Stuff! A discussion of Luke 12:13-21

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For the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Church reflected on the Gospel of Luke 12:13-21. Jesus speaks about wealth and the problem of greed. This month, we will be reflecting on this Gospel and the topic of greed in our world.

Gospel

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” – Luke 12:13-21

Reflection

  1. The Problem that is Portrayed
    The text begins with Jesus addressing the crowd in a clear warning against greed, which causes us to be ungrateful and discontented. Unchecked, greed causes a desire for more and more stuff and can lead us to inflict harm and injustice on others.
  2. The 5 I’s of wealth
    1. The initiation of wealth – Wealth in itself is not evil, but can initiate the temptation to greed.
      • We notice that the land produced the increase, not the landowner. With the increased wealth, the landowner experiences the temptation to greed. The fact of having more makes him susceptible. The wealth is not evil, but it creates the temptation that leads to greed.
      • In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself. The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family. (Catechism 2402, 2404)
    2. The inconvenience of wealth – He asks, “What shall I do?” Then he builds new barns. Having more stuff makes him anxious and stressed. The increased wealth was inconvenient. And generosity wasn’t an option for him.
    3. The illusion of wealth – Riches lead to the illusion of self-sufficiency. “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!” Wealth creates the illusion that we don’t need God, and that we won’t suffer any further suffering. It can make us less dependent on faith.
    4. The insufficiency of wealth – Our things can’t redeem us; we will all still die. However, the temptation is that we don’t need God anymore because of the achievements afforded us by wealth and power.
    5. The instruction about wealth
      • What matters to God is that we be rich in justice, mercy, love, holiness and truth, and that we be generous sharers of the bounty he bestows. And thus the Lord teaches us to generously share what we have over and above what we do not need.
      • St. Augustine: “The bellies of the poor make better storehouses than barns.”
      • The Lord teaches that the poor we help will welcome us to heaven and speak on our behalf before the judgment seat about how we used our wealth to help them.
      • Therefore, this final teaching or perspective on wealth is to be rich in what matters to God by being generous not greedy.

Further Reading

Questions for discussion

  1. What is your reaction to the landowner’s behavior in the Gospel?
  2. The landowner builds bigger barns rather than sharing his wealth. In what ways do we “build bigger barns” for ourselves?
    • Does this apply to corporations, businesses, the stock market, etc.? For example, Apple has received criticism for having $145 billion cash on hand.
  3. The semi-official newspaper of the Vatican, L’Osservatore Romano, recently analyzed the 2012 publication of a Vatican document on the economy and the poor. It found that 300 children die every hour from malnutrition and there are almost 1 billion people in the world without access to clean water. However, there are now more billionaires than ever: over 1,200.
    • What might be the root cause of this situation?
    • What ways can we begin to address it?
    • If you were a billionaire, what might you do to help?
  4. Wealth isn’t evil itself but can initiate greed. Have you experienced this in your own life or seen it in action somewhere? Think about the topic of the lottery. What do you think happens to the winners? If you won, how would you protect yourself from greed?
  5. Wealth is said to be inconvenient. The idea is that the more we have, the more stress it causes. Does having more stuff make life more stressful? What might that say about the happiness of life in the United States versus life in a third-world country?
  6. Pope Francis recently released an encyclical on faith. What might he be trying to say about faith as it relates to the problem of wealth and greed? Do you think greed creates a tendency to rely on one’s self instead of God? Do you think the wealthy experience the temptation to view their riches as something they earned or something that was given to them?
  7. St. Augustine says, “The bellies of the poor make better storehouses than barns.”
    • What is he advocating?
    • As young adults, we don’t have much money, but we probably have a lot of stuff. What can we do to ensure we are building up treasure in heaven?
  8. It is said that at judgement, the poor who received gifts and blessings from someone will appeal to God on their benefactor’s behalf.
    • What role might this image help in teaching and preaching about being generous to the poor?
    • What role should an eternal perspective play in our efforts for evangelization?
  9. Is it possible to be wealthy and still build up treasure in heaven? How hard might it be?