A Provocation: Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 9 (13): August 4, 2019: Luke 12:13-21

13     He said,
              someone out of the crowd,
          said to him:
               Speak to my brother
                    to divide
                         with me
                    the inheritance.
14     He said to him:
                    who appointed me
                         as judge
                         or divider
                    over you?
15     He said to them:
                    Guard from all greed.
                         Not in the excess that anyone has
                         is his life,
                              nor out of his possessions.
16     He said a parable to them
         he said:
              Of some guy,
               it produced well,
                    the estate did.
17          He was considering it fully
                   in himself.
              He said:
                   What will I do?
                    I have nowhere to gather my fruits.
18          He said:
                   This I will do:
                         I will tear down my storehouses
                              and better ones I will build.
                              I will gather there
                                   all the grain and my goods.
19                    I will say to my life:
                                  You have many goods
                                   to be stored up for many years.
                             Be happy.
20          He said to him
              Elohim did:
                        In this night
                             your life,
                             they ask it from you.
                                  What things you prepared,
                                        whose will they be?
21          Thus is the one that stores up for himself,
                    and is not
                         into Elohim

Again, there is a Provocation from three years ago that you might want to check out. Go to https://provokingthegospel.wordpress.com/2016/06/30/a-provocation-eleventh-sunday-after-pentecost-luke-1213-21/

One little thing: the parable that Jesus tells starts simply:

               Of some guy,
               it produced well,
                    the estate did.

By now you might be accustomed to to odd way I translate Greek. I try to get the language to do in English what it is doing in Greek. In Greek, first we meet the guy, and then we discover that this random guy is rich. Only then do we get to the heart of the matter: “it produced well, the estate did.”

You don’t have to make the sentence this way. If this were a story about productive land, we would meet the land first. But this is not a story about productive land. It is a story about some guy, just a random rich guy, who thinks he comes first.

But consider the situation. There is this random rich guy, he has an estate. The land is productive. So far, so lucky. But productive land means there is a crop in the field. Do you suppose that this random trust-fund baby gets the crop in by himself? There were no John Deere tractors and no combines. Getting the crop in required workers. A lot of them.

Did you notice that the random rich guy never mentions them? He only talks about “my fruits,” “my storehouses,” “my grain and goods.” “I will tear down…,” he says. “I will build….” My bet: this boy has soft rich-kid hands that have never held a hammer, not even once.

His basic misunderstanding is that he can’t see the people who are actually doing all the work. Jesus tells us that this is a story about greed. But if that is true, then greed is not an inner desire, a coveting, or anything like that.

Greed comes down to not seeing the people who are doing all the work.

How are you with a hammer? Could you run the machines that are necessary in road-building? Have you ever taught a roomful of five-year-olds to do math?

Guard from all greed.

2 thoughts on “A Provocation: Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 9 (13): August 4, 2019: Luke 12:13-21

  1. wow!

    I wonder if it could be “humility” too. See others, see the gifts of God, don’t just see yourself.

    But how does the parable answer the guy who wanted Jesus to divide the inheritance? The guy who wants an even share of the inheritance doesn’t need to be humble, does he? And it isn’t greedy to want a fair share, is it? This is Jesus at his most cryptic. Argh!

    I guess:  Jesus didn’t want to be bogged down splitting slices of pie fairly for people. He wanted to teach people to love each other and to love God. So he deliberately doesn’t answer the question: “Hey that’s not my mission. You can find a village arbitrator for that sort of question. Let’s talk about something else, like greed.” Instead he just avoids the question and turns it to good use.


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