18 Sunday - Treasures

From The Connections:

A letter to you — you in the year 2025
As the last weeks of summer begin, we’re aware that a new year is upon us.  Sure, the new calendar begins on January 1, but we all know that Labor Day is the real day of transition each year: the beginning of a new school year, the gearing up of a new programming cycle for businesses and organizations. 
At the beginning of the fall term at a New England high school, the school’s minister offered this first assignment:

“In fifteen years from now you’ll be in your unimaginable thirties somewhere, and that’s worth thinking about.  What will you remember about this year, I wonder?  Will you remember important things or, like me, only disconnected bits and pieces of things like part of a movie you saw . . . ?  Try writing a letter to the person you will have turned into in fifteen years from now, and in that letter jog your memory about at least a few important things.  Write to yourself who the person is right now that you would rather spend a day with than anybody else in the world.  Write to yourself what you hope you’ll be doing with your life fifteen years from now and also the kind of thing you hope you won’t be doing.  Some people say there is a God and some people say there isn’t; set down in your letter which side you would put your money on today and why.  Set down the last thing that made you cry, and the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen up to now, and the nicest thing anybody has ever done for you and the nicest thing you have ever done for somebody else.  The letter should have things like that in it so you won’t lose track of them, and then give it to somebody to mail to you somewhere in [2025], and my bet is that it will turn out to be one of the most interesting and useful letters you will ever receive.”
[From Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons by Frederick Buechner.]

Every one of us, regardless of our age, should consider writing such a letter every year.   The point of the minister’s assignment to the students is to help them realize the preciousness and fragility of this one short life they have been given.  In the busy-ness of our lives, we forget that we have been given the gift of life by a loving and gracious Creator; instead, we let ourselves be ruled by the mindless pursuit of wealth, status and celebrity, a pursuit that steals our time and attention from those we love and who love us.  We live our lives as if there will always be time “later” to do the things our crammed schedules force us to put off: we can always make it up to our loved ones tomorrow or this weekend or during vacation; as soon as this project is done we will be able to relax — but there is always another project.  Our lives are about finding and embracing selfless and affirming love, about discovering how to love one another as God loves us: totally and completely, without condition or limit.  Jesus’ parable in today’s Gospel is a wake-up call to all of us to remember who God calls us to be: his beloved children, brothers and sisters to one another, given life that we might become fully human and live in the love and compassion that is of God.   You might want to write that down for later.  
by Fr. Tommy Lane 

There was a wealthy landowner who lived in the Scottish Highlands. He had a stately mansion overlooking a beautiful valley. But there was a basic emptiness in his life. He had no religious belief, he lived alone, possessed by his possessions.

In the gate lodge at the entrance to his estate lived John his farm manager. John was a man of simple faith and deep religious commitment. With his family John was a regular church-goer, the Lord’s presence was a reality in his home and often at night the landowner noticed John’s family on their knees in prayer.

One morning the landowner was looking out on the valley. As he gazed on the beautiful scene he was saying to himself, ‘It is all mine’ when he heard the doorbell ringing. Going down he found John on the door step. ‘What’s the matter John?’ he asked.’ John looked embarrassed. ‘Sir, could I have a word with you?’

‘Sir,’ said John hesitantly, ‘last night I had a dream, and in it the Lord told me that the richest man in the valley would die tonight at midnight. I felt you should know’.

The landowner dismissed him, but John’s words kept bothering him, so much so that at eleven o’clock he took out his car and went to the local doctor for a complete check-up. The doctor examined him, pronounced him fit as a fiddle and said he’d give him another twenty years. The landowner was relieved but a lingering doubt caused him to invite the doctor around. They enjoyed a meal together and shortly after 11.30 the doctor got up to leave but the landowner prevailed on him to remain on.

Eventually when midnight passed and he was still in the land of the living he saw the doctor to the door and then went up the stairs muttering, ‘Silly old John…upset my whole day… him and his dreams!’

No sooner was he in bed when he heard the doorbell ringing. It was 12.30. Going down he found a grief-stricken girl at the door whom he recognized instantly as John’s teenage daughter.

‘Sir,’ she said, looking at him through her tears, ‘Mammy sent me to tell you that Daddy died at midnight.’ The landowner froze as it was suddenly made clear to him who was the richest man in the valley. 

(This is an abbreviated version of the story of the Scottish landowner which I found in Stories for Preachers  pages 77-80 by James A. Feehan, used here with his permission and published by Mercier Press.) 

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose
Near restful waters he leads me
to revive my drooping spirit.
-man meeting a genie; three wishes; $1B, pooh a piece of paper with a bank, a red Ferrari. Make me irresistible to women; pooh,  he becomes a box of chocolates.
-TV interviewer to a woman: who is your favorite author? My husband. And what does he write? Checks.

He caught a large fish. He looked at it and threw back in the river, tried again and caught another large fish. Again he looked at it and threw back in the river. Then he caught a small fish. He pulled out his frying pan, made fire and began frying his fish. There was another man from the other side of the river watching all of these and yelled to him, "Are you crazy? Here I'm trying to catch a fish the last hour and there you are throwing away such nice fish! What's wrong with you?"
"Nothing', the man answered except my frying pan is small!" 
-Why don’t you buy flowers for me as other husbands do. They die in a week. So could you. I would like to have you around.
-Panhandler at the station. Go to that priest over there. He talked me out of one dollar for his church repair.
-not against investment, not against money or riches
-wealth>dependence on one’s own ability>sense of power>arrogance>Howard Hughes: worth $5B when he died; his frame had shrunk from 6.4 to 6.1 and into 80 lbs. No one mourned him when he died except in Las Vegas –kept a 1m silence.

-Father from India
visiting his son first time and his son takes him to NY. As they walk near 42nd St., the father turns to the son and says, "Did you hear that? the sound of a cricket somewhere here. "Oh dear father, in this cacophony of noises,  you would have got confused". But the father peered into the hedges and located the cricket. "You have an amazing sense of sound, dad", the son remarked. "Oh, no, son" the father protested, "we've all that ability unless we're real deaf. I'll show you something now." He throws some coins on the side walk and dozen heads turn. "You see they recognize the sound of money1"


 Toda we have higher buildings and wider highways, but shorter temperaments and narrower points of view.
We have bigger houses, but smaller families.
We spend more, but enjoy less; we have more medicines but less health; We have much more food, but less nutrition.
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We have finer houses, but more broken homes.
We reached the Moon and came back, but we find it troublesome to cross our own street and meet our neighbours.
We have increased our possessions, But have reduced our values;
Many have higher incomes, but lower morals.
We have more quantity, but are short on quality,
We have learnt to make a living; But not learnt how to live.
We have added years to life; but not life to years.
Many have more leisure, but less good fun.
We can travel long distances; but have trouble crossing the streets!
This age is a time when technology
Can bring this message to you quickly,
But only YOU can decide to act
And make a difference,
OR you can just hit the `delete' key! 

-If you have GOD in your life, food on your table, a roof over
your head, clothes on your back, reasonable income and, love
and faith in your heart...
Be happy and glad.  For anything else that life can offer is nothing more than

-People spend their younger days losing health to get wealth and they spend their older days losing wealth to gain health!
-That they live as if they will never die; and die as if they had never lived
-To learn that a rich person is not one who has the most; but is one who needs the least.” 
The Meeting
Years ago a Chicago restaurant had specially printed place mats at all its tables.
The mats were designed exclusively for the restaurant. And if you asked the waitress, she’d give you one to take home, frame, and hang on your wall.
Let me share with you the wording that appeared on those mats. It went something like this:

"In 1923 an important meeting took place at Chicago's Edgewater Beach Hotel. Attending the meeting were the following men:

"The president of the largest steel company, the president of the largest utility company, the president of the largest gas company,

The president of the New York Stock Exchange, the president of the Bank of International Settlements, the greatest wheat speculator, the greatest bear on Wall Street, the head of the world's greatest monopoly, a member of President Harding's cabinet."

That's a pretty impressive line-up of people. Yet, 25 years later, where were those nine industrial giants?

According to the story on the place mat, the president of the largest steel company, Charles Schwab, died a bankrupt;
The president of the largest utility company, Samuel Insull, died penniless;
The president of the largest gas company, Howard Hobson, had gone insane;
The president of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, was just released from prison; the bank president, Leon Fraser, died a suicide; the wheat speculator, Arthur Cutten, died penniless;
The Wall Street bear, Jesse Livermore, died a suicide; the head of the world's greatest monopoly, Ivar Kruegar, died a suicide; the member of President Harding's cabinet, Albert Fall,  also went to prison but was paroled and died in 1944. Leon Fraizer, (8) Jessie Livermore, and Ivar Kreuger each died by suicide.
Fr. Jude Botelho:

Today’s reading from Ecclesiastes asks what really matters in life. Even the man who has laboured skillfully must leave what he has acquired to someone else who has not toiled for it at all. Pessimistically the wise man wonders: Has he laboured in vain? Does life make sense? The Book of Ecclesiastes, which is a series of glimpses into life, gives thought to these phenomena. Looking at this world the author came up with one main word to describe it: vanity, which in Hebrew connotes 'vapour' or 'a chase after wind'.

Vanity is well illustrated by Aesop's fable of the fox and the crow. The coal-black crow flew into a tree with a stolen piece of meat in her beak. A fox, who saw her, wanted the meat, so he said, "How beautiful you are my friend! Is your voice as beautiful?" The crow was so happy that she opened her mouth to sing. Down fell the piece of meat and the fox seized upon it and ran away. - In our time, vanity could be applicable to the woman who, aiming to prove her contention that men are more vain than women, said in a speech: "It is a pity that most intelligent and learned men attach least importance to the way they dress. Why, right here in this room the most cultivated man is wearing the most clumsily knotted tie!" As if on signal, every man in the room immediately put his hand to his tie to straighten it.

Harold Buetow in 'God still speaks: Listen!'

Today’s Gospel speaks of having our priorities right in life. To many people money appears to be the most important ingredient of life and their constant prayer is that God might give them plenty of money. At times we even ask God to intervene on our behalf in money matters. This does not happen only today but took place even in Jesus' times. A man in the crowd said to Jesus, "Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance." We are well aware how money and inheritance cause family breakups in the best of families today. What is Jesus' response? He could have intervened but he refused to get involved, and preferred the matter be solved by the rightful authorities. Human beings have to take responsibility for their actions and not ask God to intervene in mundane matters. Instead of taking a practical decision in the matter Jesus prefers to point to the principle that should guide our dealings in money matters. "Watch and be on your guard against greed of any kind, for a man's life is not made secure by what he owns, even if he has more than he needs." In the second part of the gospel Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool who messed up his priorities and consequently ruined his life. What makes him foolish is that he spent his whole life storing up earthly wealth and not thinking beyond. If we are building our life on something that does not last we are fools building castles in the sands. The only riches worth pursuing are those that give meaning to life on earth and have eternal value. Is our life principle: "Eat, drink and make merry for today is all that counts!"

"Really Livin!"
In one of his stories Bill Glass, an evangelist tells the story of a multi-millionaire Texas oil man. He wanted to be buried when he died in a solid gold, custom-made Cadillac surrounded by all his wealth. At his funeral a vast crowd assembled to pay their last respects. The dead man was dressed in his finest apparel -the kind Liberace wore when he performed, and was propped up in the front seat of his golden Cadillac. As the car was lowered into the grave, a young boy in the crowd said: "Man, that's really livin!” Bill Glass goes on to emphasize the point of his parable. What we often think of as "'really livin'" is "really dyin". What we often pursue under the illusion of a 'full life' leads only to an 'empty grave'. Today's reading says much the same thing.
Albert Cylwicki in 'His Word Resounds'

The Question
A rich man heard that a certain priest had a 'hot line' to God, and he came to him in search of a favour. He wanted the priest to pray and find out if he, the rich man, was going to heaven when he died. It was a strange request, but when the priest heard that the man was prepared to contribute generously towards the completion of the church repairs, he decided to give it a go. A week later the rich man returned. "Did you find out?" he asked. "Yes I did," replied the priest. "Well then, what's the answer”, the rich man asked very anxiously. "The answer is in two parts" replied the priest. "There is good news, and there's bad news. Which would you like to hear first?" The man was quite nervous, but he ventured to hear the good news first. "The good news is that you are going to heaven when you die." The rich man was thrilled, and excited, and it was a few seconds before he spoke. "That's great. That's the good news. Surely what could be bad news after that? What's the bad news?" "The bad news is that you're going to die tonight!"
Jack McArdle in 'And that's the Gospel Truth'

Candle in the wind
In 1997, at the funeral of Lady Diana Spencer, Singer Elton John brought tears to the eyes of hundreds of mourners in Westminster Abbey when he sang: “Candle in the wind”. Interestingly, this song –with the line “Goodbye Norma Rose” –was originally written for an equally glamorous person, Norma Jeane, who assumed the stage name ‘Marilyn Monroe’ and died some 45 years ago on August 5, 1962 due to an overdose of sleeping pills. Diana and Marilyn share many things in common –both were beautiful and wealthy, photographed by paparazzi worldwide, yet, unhappy in marriage and both died tragically in August aged but 36. Young icons snuffed out like candles in the wind. In vain do we labour for what perishes. Vanity of vanities! All is vanity! All of human life is ultimately meaningless if viewed in itself, apart from God.
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’

Love people and use things
There is a story about an empty village and a stranger who enters the deserted town. Where are the people? All the signs of life are here, nothing is locked, food is on the table, smoke is curling in the chimneys, and stores are open but empty of customers. He doesn’t understand, but he proceeds to have a wonderful time. Soon he is too drunk and happy to realize that the villagers are all on a nearby hill and are desperately trying to signal to him. First they rush outside the town because they were told that a huge bomb in the town square was about to go off. They left everything to save their lives. From a distance they try vainly by gestures and shouting to warn the stranger, taking care not to come too close. They watch him eat their food and drink their liquor, and try on their clothes. But when the happy stranger goes to the bank and flings their money into the air, they forgot everything but their greed. They rush back to the village, beat up the stranger, and drive him out. At that moment the bomb explodes. They all die, except the stranger whom they chased out!!!
John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’

From Fr. tony Kadavil's and Others' Collection:

 1.              “He never saw beyond himself.” He was focused on himself and was selfish to the core. He liberally used the “aggressively possessive” pronouns “I” six times and “my” five times respectively. He was possessed by his possessions, instead of possessing them. Consequently, he evicted God from his heart and never thought to thank God for having blessed him with a rich harvest.

 2.              The foolish rich man “never saw beyond this world.” He was punished not for anything wrong he did, but for the good he failed to do. It was his acts of omission rather than of commission that prompted God to cut short his life. Thus, while planning to build new barns and warehouses to store his wealth, he heard the words all creatures will hear one day from their creator: "This night your life will be demanded of you!"

3.              He failed to become “rich in what matters to God.” He was not thankful to God for His blessings; instead, he considered them as solely the fruit of his own labour. He also failed in his stewardship duties – the returning to God of His portion in paying his tithe. Third, he did not recognize his possessions as loan from God, given to him to share with others. Fourth, he was taken up with worries or anxieties about his wealth. He was starving to death spiritually in the midst of God’s abundance.

 4.              An invitation to share our blessings with others. It reminds us that our possessions are merely loaned to us by God, and that we are accountable for their use. We must be generous in sharing our time, our treasure, and our talents, the three elements of Christian stewardship. Every one of us is rich in one thing or another. The parable instructs us to share these gifts. Even if we are poor financially, we may be blessed with intelligence, good will, a sense of humor or the ability to encourage, inspire and support others. 

5.              Let us control our greed. Our greed takes different shapes and forms. For some it may be the desire for the approval and praise of others. For others it is the uncontrolled desire for power, control or fame. For a few others it takes the form of desire for excessive and sinful indulgence in eating, drinking, gambling, drugs or sexual activities. 

6.              Greed Preying on Sympathy: When the friends of Kristen Clougherty learned she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, they rushed to support her with their prayers and tears.  They raised over $ 40,000. It was all a hoax to get money. She even cut her hair to show the effects of chemo! At Kristen's trial, a scandalized friend observed, "It turns out she was infected with a disease even more deadly than cancer—the disease of greed." 

7.              Lawyer’s and doctor’s greed: A doctor and a lawyer were attending a cocktail party when the doctor was approached by a man who asked advice on how to handle his ulcer. The doc asked the lawyer whether or not he should send a bill for that consultation. “Sure, you should”, he said. The next day the man got a bill from the doc. And the doc got a bill from the lawyer. 

8.              The greedy man and the genie: He picks it up, pulls out the cork and out pops a genie! The genie says, "Thank you for freeing me from the bottle. In return I will grant you three wishes." 1 billion dollar, red Ferrari, irresistible to women. Poof…paper and acc. no. for a billion, car and a box of chocolates.

9.              Bottom line: The media create a world of vanity or illusion: They exaggerate trivial things and trivialize great things. Jesus wants to free us from vanity so we can pursue things that matter. This is difficult for us all. We live in a consumer orientated society. Every 12 minutes of TV, at least, is interrupted by messages telling us what we need to buy for happiness. We want the best for our children, but it is easy to slip in the consumer mentality that says the best for our children is that what we can buy them. That is not true. The best gift we can offer our children is giving them who we are. If we want the best for our children, we have to give them the life of Christ that we share.

 10.           Let me give an example. On June 3, 2007, armed gunmen murdered a young priest named Fr. Ragheed Ganni. They first tortured the priest by shooting his arm off and then proceeded to execute him along with three subdeacons (Basman Yousef Daoud, Wadid Hanna and Ghasan Bida Wid). It happened in the city of Mosul right after the Iraqi priest and sub-deacons had offered Sunday Mass. This dramatic event speaks volumes about how civil strife in Iraq is affecting the country's large Christian community. But the media had no time to report the murder of Fr. Ganni. They had more compelling news that week. They gave viewers a minute by minute report on a model named Paris Hilton. This might appear amusing, but it illustrates the world of illusion that surrounds us. The sad part is that the media not only report what is happening; they create the reality we live in. As Pope John Paul II observed, "If it doesn't happen on television, it doesn't happen." 

11.           Common Characteristic

One day, in Springfield, a neighbour of Lincoln's was drawn to his door by the sound of crying children. He saw Lincoln passing by with his two sons both crying lustily. "What is the matter with the boys?" asked the man. "The same that is the matter with the whole world!" answered Lincoln. "I have three walnuts, and each boy wants two."

12.           A philosopher said: "I was walking in a garden when I saw a tree whose branches were so loaded with fruit that they bowed down to the earth. Some of them broke under the heavy weight. 'Poor tree!' I thought. 'Here's one who was destroyed by the overabundance of his success.' " He continued his walk and saw a shepherd at whose feet lay a dead sheep. A wild dog had killed it. All the other sheep had run into the fold and were safe. They had managed to get through a hole in the fence. But the sheep that was killed couldn't get through because it was too fat, and the dog jumped on it. And the philosopher thought, "Another life destroyed by an overabundance of blessings."

Comedian Jack Benny, from TV's Golden age, had a skit which illustrated how we place money ahead of everything. He is walking down the street when suddenly he is approached by an armed robber, "Your money or your life!" There is a long pause. Jack does nothing. The robber impatiently queried, "Well?" Jack replied, "Don't rush me, I'm thinking it over."

This morning I would like us to think a few moments about our money and our life. Let's see what Jesus has to say about these two subjects.

The background for our story is an incident that occurred in Galilee as Jesus was teaching to a large crowd. A young man called out from the crowd and said: Rabbi, tell my brother to divide the inheritance of our father." Now, Jewish law clearly prescribed that at the death of a father, the elder son received 2/3 of the inheritance, and the young son received 1/3. This is obviously a younger son who is complaining about the inherent unfairness of it all. Nothing will divide brothers and sisters more than dividing up an estate. So it was then, and so it is now. Jesus refused to get involved in a petty family squabble.

Jesus was concerned, however, with the larger implications of preoccupation with the things of this world. He said: Beware of greed, for life does not consist of things possessed. The sum total of a person's life is more than their financial portfolio.

He then illustrated this point by telling a story. There was once a man who had an unbroken run of prosperity. In today's language, he had successfully played the commodities market. So prosperous did he become that his barns could not hold all of his crops. His solution was to tear down these barns and build bigger and better barns. Then, with his financial security in hand, he could sit back and truly enjoy life. His philosophy was: eat, drink, and be merry.

Truth be told, when we hear this story we find ourselves rather envious of this man. A financially successful man-we see him as savvy and wise. Yet, Jesus concluded the story by saying that this man was a fool.

The issue before us this morning is then: what did this man do wrong? ... 
 For one reason or another, most people today are concerned about money. It is estimated that 40% of the marriages that fail are the result of conflict over finances. Colleges report that students are forsaking the study of Liberal Arts for courses in accounting, engineering, and business. Newspapers are devoting entire sections to the subject of money. People who just a few years ago were financially illiterate are now following with interest-no pun intended-rates on Certificates of deposit, Money Market accounts, etc. Young couples are being urged to sit down with a financial planner early in their marriage and map out a strategy for achieving their financial goals.

Of course, some persons are concerned about money almost to the point of desperation. A mail carrier tells of greeting a four-year-old boy who had planted himself firmly in front of his family's mailbox and would not budge. With his feet spread wide and his arms folded, he told the mail carrier firmly, "My mom says she can't TAKE any more bills."
All of us are concerned for one reason or another about money. Jesus knew that. It was no different 2,000 years ago. That is why he had so much to say on the subject. Money is an important part of our lives. Indeed, Jesus noted that we will control our money or it will control us. It will either be a blessing to us or a curse. Consider the story about a rich man whose land brought forth so bountifully that he didn't know what to do with the surplus. Most of us would like to have a problem like that, wouldn't we? The man resolved his problem this way, "I will pull down my barns," he said, "and build larger ones; and there I will store all of my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink be merry." You know the conclusion of the story. That very night God came to him and called him a "fool," Why? "This night your soul is required of you," said God, "and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?" Then Jesus adds, "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

Isn't it interesting that God should call him a fool not a sinner, not a reprobate but a fool? We have to be very careful here. Scholars assure us that parables are designed to make only one point. But the term "fool" suggests all sorts of things to me. Probably not all of them relate to this rich man, but they do relate to some men and women I have known. Let's think of some reasons God may have called him a fool....
Three Kinds of Givers

There are three kinds of givers: the flint, the sponge, and the honeycomb. Which kind are you? To get anything from the flint, you must hammer it. Yet, all you get are chips and sparks. The flint gives nothing away if it can help it, and even then only with a great display. To get anything from the sponge, you must squeeze it. It readily yields to pressure and the more it is pressed, the more it gives. Still, one has to squeeze it. To get anything from the honeycomb, however, one must only take what freely flows from it. It gives its sweetness generously, dripping on all without pressure, without begging or badgering. The honeycomb is a renewable resource. Unlike the flint or the sponge, the honeycomb is connected to life; it is the product of the ongoing work and creative energy of bees. If you share like a honeycomb giver your life will be continually replenished and grow as you give.

When we share we freely give and we acknowledge that all we have is on loan and others have as much right to the things of God's creation as we do.

Keith Wagner, But, I Need It!

Forfeiting Freedom

I was intrigued to read recently of a family that put up a hummingbird feeder with four feeding stations (similar to one that hangs outside our kitchen window). Almost immediately it became popular with the hummingbirds that lived in the area. Two, three, or even four birds would feed at one time. The feeder would be refilled at least once a day.

Suddenly the usage decreased to almost nothing. The feeder needed filling only about once a week. The reason for the decreased usage soon became apparent. A male bird had taken over the feeder as his property. He was now the only hummingbird who used it. He would feed and then sit in a nearby tree, rising to attack any bird that approached his feeder. Guard duty occupied his every waking hour. He was an effective guard. The only time another bird got to use the feeder was when the self-appointed owner was momentarily gone to chase away an intruder.

That hummingbird was teaching a valuable lesson. By choosing to assume ownership of the feeder, he forfeited his freedom. He was no longer free to come and go as he wished. He was tied to the work of guarding his feeder, his STUFF. He was possessed by his possession

David E. Leininger, Collected Sermons,
Making the Situation Worse
When I was a kid, I was often ravaged by poison ivy. The key to poison ivy, once you have it, is not to scratch. Restraining yourself is hard, for your skin itches and you want relief. But scratching only makes poison ivy worse.

Avarice works the same way. We get infected, and we want to scratch, although we know we shouldn't do so. Possessing more and more promises relief, but only makes the situation worse. We keep scratching, but it's no solution.

Jesus issues a warning, a warning inspired by a squabble over inheritance, but one that all of us need to hear. He says: "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions."

Clarence Jordan's translation of this verse brings out its original earthiness. Here's what Jesus says according to Jordan: "You all be careful and stay on your guard against all kinds of greediness. For a person's life is not for the piling up of possessions."

In these few words, Jesus rejects much of what keeps our society humming. He warns us against greed, avarice, the desire to possess more than we need, more than we can use, more than we want.

Charles Hoffacker, Avarice: The Disease and Its Cure __________________

The Dollars Are in the Way

Henry Ford once asked an associate about his life goals. The man replied that his goal was to make a million dollars. A few days later Ford gave the man a pair of glasses made out of two silver dollars. He told the man to put them on and asked what he could see. "Nothing," the man said. "The dollars are in the way." Ford told him that he wanted to teach him a lesson: If his only goal was dollars, he would miss a host of greater opportunities. He should invest himself in serving others, not simply in making money.
That's a great secret of life that far too few people discover. Money is important. No question about that. But money is only a means by which we reach higher goals. Service to others. Obedience to God. God comes to the rich man and says, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" The answer was clear. The rich man had put his trust in things. Now he was leaving these things behind.

King Duncan,, Collected Sermons

Rich in Things, Poor in Soul

This is how I see our situation today: We're killing ourselves on junk food - we watch mindless drivel on TV with vulgar displays of sexuality and horrific scenes of violence; we listen to endless chatter on the radio with never-ending conflict and criticism; we chase after every conceivable form of entertainment and pleasure; all the while, coming up empty and, ironically, craving for more.

We're like children in a video arcade - no matter how many quarters or tokens you give them, when the last game's over, they always ask for "just one more." There's no end to it. In the words of Harry Emerson Fosdick, we're "rich in things and poor in soul."

What's the answer? The answer is that we need to get back to the basics and re-establish our priorities. In a word, we need to put God first. We need to follow the Great Commandment, to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself." (Mt. 22:37-39) It's as simple as that: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." (Mt. 6:33)

Philip W. McLarty, The Parable of the Rich Fo___________________________________
How Wealthy Are We?

From the standpoint of material wealth, we Americans have difficulty realizing how rich we are. Robert Heilbroner, who has written dozens of books on the subject of the economy, suggest that we go through a little mental exercise that will help us count our blessings. Imagine doing the following, and you will see how daily life is for more than a billion people in the world.

1. Take out all the furniture in your home except for one table and a couple of chairs. Use blanket and pads for beds.
2. Take away all of your clothing except for your oldest dress or suit, shirt or blouse. Leave only one pair of shoes.
3. Empty the pantry and the refrigerator except for a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a few potatoes, some onions, and a dish of dried beans.
4. Dismantle the bathroom, shut off the running water, and remove all the electrical wiring in your house.
5. Take away the house itself and move the family into the tool shed.
6. Place your "house" in a shantytown.
7. Cancel all subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, and book clubs. This is no great loss because now none of you can read anyway.
8. Leave only one radio for the whole shantytown.
9. Move the nearest hospital or clinic ten miles away and put a midwife in charge instead of a doctor.
10. Throw away your bankbooks, stock certificates, pension plans, and insurance policies. Leave the family a cash hoard of ten dollars.
11. Give the head of the family a few acres to cultivate on which he can raise a few hundred dollars of cash crops, of which one third will go to the landlord and one tenth to the money lenders.
12. Lop off twenty-five or more years in life expectancy.

By comparison how rich we are! And with our wealth comes responsibility. We should use it wisely, not be wasteful, and help others.

The list comes from economist Robert Heilbroner
Money Is Like Sea Water

Someone asked John D. Rockefeller (of all people) "How much wealth does it take to satisfy a person?" He replied, "Just a little bit more." The Romans had a proverb: "Money is like sea water; the more you drink, the thirstier you become."

Carveth Mitchell, The Sign in the Subway, CSS Publishing Company

Covetousness, or the desire to have more than one has (not necessarily through envy of somebody else) not only leads to strife but also expresses a fundamentally wrong philosophy of life, according to which possessions are all that really matter.

I.H. Marshall, New Bible Commentary, Revised (1970): Luke, p. 908
The Rich Man's Reward

here is an old story about a very wealthy man who died and went to heaven.  An angel guided him on a tour of the celestial city. He came to a magnificent home. „Who lives there?‟ asked the wealthy man. „Oh,‟ the angel answered, „on earth he was your gardener.‟ The rich man got excited.  If this was the way gardeners live, just think of the kind of mansion in which he would spend eternity. They came to an even more magnificent abode. „Who's is this?‟ asked the rich man almost overwhelmed. The angel answered, „She spent her life as a missionary.‟ The rich man was really getting excited now. Finally they came to a tiny eight-by-eight shack with no window and only a piece of cloth for a door.  It was the most modest home the rich man had ever seen. „This is your home,‟ said the angel. The wealthy man was flabbergasted. „I don't understand. The other homes were so beautiful.  Why is my home so tiny?‟ The angel smiled sadly, „I'm sorry,‟ he said. „We did all we could with what you sent us to work with....

(source unknown). 
Out of the abundance we receive, we are to cheerfully give to the poor.  We are to cheerfully support the ministries of the church.  We are to respond joyfully to the extravagant generosity of God.