Ecclesiastes 1:2,2:21-23, Colossians 3:1-5,9-11, Luke 12:13-21
What True Riches Are
When we talk of riches we talk of abundant resources, wealth and valuable possessions that one owns. Riches are what we consistently acquire which can be in the form of money and other valuable possessions. When we talk of riches we talk of those things that we consistently seek to possess. We count riches as those things that we possess as ours. But what do we count as true riches?
One day a man bought a large expanse of land where he planted very different types of crops and products. His farm is so vast that he also uses it for livestock farming. On the farm, there are places for piggery, cattle rearing, fishery, snailery and poultry. His farm is so vast that people from far and wide come there for excursion and sightseeing.
Many people consider him one of the richest farmers that have ever lived.
So, during the winter season, there was a disease outbreak that ravaged the entire country and affected people’s farms, crops and livestock.
This affected the farm of the so-called rich man that he would not be able to bear the loss. He lost almost entirely all he had.
This affected his health, seeing that all he had vanished within a twinkle of an eye. He lost everything. Within a few months, it affected his health, affected his memory and then his life.
While dying, He called his entire household and said “To acquire is good but to acquire is still vanity and the most deceptive of all riches”.
Riches, wealth and what we possess are good but how good are they when they would one day vanish before our eyes? How good are they when we will still leave them to die? Sometimes we go to any extent to possess what we want.
Sometimes, we even spill blood, kill, deceive, lie, betray and steal to get what we want, yet we will abandon them to the world beyond. What essence, and what importance are they to us if they cannot lead us to eternity?
What true riches are, are not the ephemeral things that we fight to possess.
Therefore, What true riches are, are not the possessions that will still decay and spoil in our presence. They are not those possessions that we will still abandon here to die. True riches are beyond these.
The readings of today reveal to us how the things we fight to have in this world are vanity upon vanity. They also reveal to us where true riches are and where we should focus our attention in life. What are true riches? Or what do true riches consist of? Let us go into a detailed analysis.
Is Life A Vanity?
Vanity means something, that is worthless and futile. It denotes something that has no meaning.
It is something that is meaningless, worthless, useless, vain and empty. Vanity is from the Latin word vanus denoting a state of emptiness.
In the first reading, the author of the book of Ecclesiastes says “Vanity of vanities, the Preacher says. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity!
When he says “All”, it means everything in its entirety is worthless and useless, including the life we are living. Is life a vanity? Let us look into the background of today’s first reading.
The book of Ecclesiastes, like the Song of Songs, is attributed to King Solomon, the ‘son of David’, though the books were written after the time of Solomon.
The beginning of the book of Ecclesiastes says “The words of the Teacher, Son of David, King in Jerusalem” (Eccle 1:1).
This infers that the book is written by someone who dedicates the writing to King Solomon, it was as if what He wrote is directly from King Solomon.
The reason we are making this background exposition is to explain why the original owner of the words if He is Solomon will, at last, see all on in life as vanity and futile.
Solomon is blessed with wisdom, riches, many wives and concubines and yet after everything Solomon sees them as emptiness.
After God blessed Solomon, the King was distracted with all the luxuries of life He acquired for Himself. When you read the book of Ecclesiastes, you will discover that the emphasis is more on earthly or temporal things in this life.
The author emphasizes them because he wishes to highlight the emptiness in them. There is vanity in them.
Therefore, when we set our hearts on the things of this world, we will one day discover that all we fight to acquire in this world will either vanish before our eyes or we vanish before them.
Therefore, as Saint Paul says in the second reading, we do not set our hearts only on the things on earth, we have to set our hearts also on the things of heaven. Everything that we see on earth will surely pass away one day.
Life is not only limited to what we acquire on earth, life is beyond that. Therefore, is life vanity? Life is given by God, life is not vanity but what we do with life can be vanity. It is vanity when we set our hearts only on earthly things. As we struggle to make it in life. As we struggle to make riches, we have to remember that true riches are beyond what we see with our eyes. True riches are in that which can last forever and not in that which does not last.
Be on your guard against avarice of any Kind.
In the gospel, while Jesus was speaking to the crowd, a man from the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ but Jesus replies to him ‘My friend, who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’
Then Jesus says to them, ‘Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’
This is what led to the parable of the rich fool. In this encounter, we would presume that the man that was speaking to Jesus had a problem with his brother. The problem here is circled on the issue of inheritance.
The man could be the younger brother and his brother may have decided to take everything to himself. It could also be that the elder brother has decided not to share their inheritance.
So, when Jesus is warning against greed and avarice, we would critically point out that Jesus is referring to the elder brother, who decided not to share His inheritance and also to the man who is so much worried about this.
The point here is that there is a serious altercation between the two brothers and this altercation is due to greed and discontentment. Wherever there is an over struggle over possessions and earthly things, there is always a problem. Wherever there is avarice or greed, there is no peace.
The most foolish thing about all these is that we came and saw them and will still go without them. They were there before we came and will be there after we have gone. Hence, Jesus warns against greediness of any kind.
Jesus says “for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs”. Therefore, the more we acquire them, the more we think they will give us a sense of security, only to wake up one day and discover that we have been deceived by our possessions.
Wherever there is greediness, always know there will be no peace. Let us be on guard against avarice of any kind. It will not save us.
The Parable of the Rich Fool and Our Foolishness.
After Jesus has replied to the man, Jesus now gives a parable about the Rich fool.
Almost every commentary and biblical text, named this parable, the parable of the rich fool, but is the man fool as we think? How foolish is the rich man? What makes the rich man foolish? How can one say that a man thinking about His barn of yams is fool?
Let us analyze this and make an application if any.
Jesus tells them a parable about a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, “What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then Jesus says to them “This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’
1. The First point we have to analyze here is that there is nothing wrong with the man thinking about his harvests.
He is more interested in how to build more of his barns to contain his products.
So, He is thinking about how to expand what his efforts have produced. He is celebrating His sweat, his toils and His efforts. There is nothing wrong with this, but why is this man regarded as a fool? These could be the reasons:
2. From the parable, we can state that the rich farmer is a fool not because he is happy with his abundant harvest, or because he is now wealthy but from his statement, we can see that He places his trust and faith on the things he has acquired.
He thinks within himself that he can secure his life with his abundant possessions. Therefore, He relegated God and places His future, faith and trust on the things He has gained for Himself.
Therefore, we make ourselves foolish when we forget that true riches are in God. also when we relegate God to the background and place our faith and trust on the things we acquire or possess.
3. Secondly, from His statements, we can see some sort of selfishness. From His statement, we can see that He is only talking about himself. He is only referring to himself. His statement is full of “I”.
There is no option to share any of his possessions with the poor despite how little. His statement was more of “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” “I will do this, I will do that. I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have enough food laid up for many years for yourself to enjoy; relax, eat, drink, be merry”.
Therefore, we become so foolish when we only centre on ourselves. It is foolishness When we try to gain and make others suffer.
The major problem that we have in many families and political offices today is the problem of the “I” alone.
3. The rich man in all his statements refused to give God God the glory for his harvests and blessings. He did not in any way acknowledge the grace and blessings of God as the source of His blessings. He was busy acknowledging His efforts and what He is to gain.
From James 1:17, we have to know that every good gift, whether they are material blessings or otherwise, comes only from the Lord. It is an act of foolishness when we think everything comes from us and ends in us.
4. Finally, the rich man thinks that true wealth lies in our wealth and what we acquire. He forgets where true riches are. True riches come from our relationship with God.
The rich man thinks that tomorrow is in His hands and he forgets that tomorrow is in God’s hands. Our tomorrow is not in our hands. Our tomorrow is in the hands of God.
It is an act of foolishness when we think that we have secured over tomorrow because of what we have because of our possessions.
What True Riches Are
From the readings, we can also delineate that true riches are these:
1. The Bible is not against having money, nor does it support poverty. The emphasis is strictly on true riches. Proverbs 13:7 says, “There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing…”
This passage first reveals the poverty of the godless rich. Therefore, we are truly rich only when we live our lives on God. We are rich when our relationship with God is so strong.
2. True Riches are not counted in how many cars, houses and possessions we acquire. Everything we tend to possess will also go with us. True riches consist of eternal things. Eternity is where true riches are.
3. True riches consist of those things that can last forever and not things that will never last. Therefore, a man is poor when he does not have Jesus in his heart. True riches are found in God.
4. True riches are riches money cannot buy. True riches are the blessings that come from the anointing power of the Holy Spirit, divine favours, eternal life, divine wisdom, ability to hear the voice of God, understanding of the Scriptures, and long life, True riches are those blessings we cannot purchase with money.
5. True riches are heavenly rewards. They are the salvation, graces and blessings that we get from God. They are also the souls that we win for God, the peace and unity that we maintained, the lives that we touched and the people we converted. When we aim at heavenly rewards in all endeavours, earthly blessings will not elude us (Matthew 6:33).
How To Get The True Riches.
From the Readings, they are:
1. When we learn that everything we have toiled and continues to toil cannot give us security. Then we learn to treat them not as our God but as things that will surely pass away.
2. When we set our hearts on the things of heaven. In the second reading, Paul says “you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Here Saint Paul advises “Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth”.
3. When we kill everything in us that belongs only to earthly life. Paul mentions them as fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires and especially greed, which is the same thing as worshipping a false god; and never tell each other lies”.
4. When we strip off the old self. When we strip off our old behaviour and put on a new self. So, When we change from our sinful pasts to begin a new future.
5. When we guard against avarice of any kind. In essence, we know that a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns.
6. When we focus more on securing eternity rather than securing things that will soon vanish. Also when we focus on our relationship with God.
1. No matter what we have or acquire in life, let us always know that it is not by our power or might. Also, we have to value our relationship with God more. We have to be happy that everything we have, that God made it possible and not that we made it possible.
The rich man valued his goods more than His relationship with God. He didn’t even give God any glory or at least thank God for making things possible for Him. Let us not relegate God, no matter what we have.
2. Secondly, let us learn how not to place a high value on material possession. In the gospel, Jesus says to the crowd, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15). Jesus wants us to place a high value on Him and not on the things that we gradually fade away.
3. Our life does not consist of having lots of things. Life consists in knowing God. In John 17:3. Jesus says “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Life is not having things. Life is knowing God.
3b. Therefore, Life is not just possessing a lot of things. Life is knowing God. It is not a bad thing when your “land produces plentifully”.It is not a bad thing when your business prospers.
Also, It is not a bad thing to receive a promotion and with it a pay increase. It is not a bad thing when your investments increase in value. That is not the evil in this parable. He is not called a fool for being a productive farmer.
God knows this broken world needs productive farmers and profitable businesses. The point is that no matter what we tend to possess, let us not forget God.
4. Our life does not consist of the abundance of our possessions. True Riches are not in the number of things that we acquire. 1 Timothy 6:9, Paul says “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”
5. Life is not only limited to what we acquire on earth, life is beyond that. Therefore, It is vanity when we set our hearts only on earthly things. As we struggle to make it in life. As we struggle to make riches, we have to remember that true riches are beyond what we see with our eyes. True riches are in that which can last forever and not in that which does not last.
At death, a man sees that all the things he has been suffering to gain end within a twinkle of an eye. But yet he does not pay attention to the life beyond until everything takes him unawares. The wise man knows this and takes precautions in whatever he does.
6. The truly rich man is one who is rich in God. He knows that earthly possessions do not last. And in everything he does, he thinks of his eternal life.
He is the man who knows that earthly glory is short-lived but heavenly glory lasts forever. He is truly rich, he who gains the richness of the life that lasts forever.
May God bless you dearest and give us the grace to seek Him with all our hearts. Amen