Sermon Text: Be Really Greedy!
Luke’s Gospel story has a lot of impact and punch, thanks to Jesus telling it, and it is a story which presents a number of succinct messages we ourselves might seriously consider today in our own lives. Perhaps we can relate to some of the persons and situations we hear of in the story. (All scripture ultimately points to us!) First of all, let’s imagine being present in that crowd we just heard about; we are among people who are listening to Jesus and suddenly we all hear a really loud single voice with sound cascading forth throughout the mass of people, with words intended to land directly on Jesus’ ears – which they do! The voice belongs to a man; we hear him to be a greedy man, a petitioner who is calling out over the crowd to get Jesus’ attention. The man has a very anxious and selfish request for Jesus, one made more complicated when he tries to have Jesus take sides in a family dispute over money, over an inheritance. It might also include livestock and land. Jesus is Jesus once again, firm in his refusal to arbitrate a quarrel in which two brothers have allowed a wedge of greed to be created between them. And Jesus is also gentle, a bit subtle even, as he calls the man “friend”, yet indicates quite convincingly, “I am not going to be drawn into this dispute!” Jesus is not really saying that he does not wish to help the man, but he wants the man and everyone to know that money and possessions never substitute for the real stuff of life.
Now, Jesus is clear in his warning to the man, to the people listening, and to all of us that we are to guard against greed in any form. Yet imagine a second voice calling out over the crowd of listening people. Whose voice is it? Is it Jesus’ voice? Is it yours? Is it someone you know? Who would be bold enough to yell to that man, “You are a very greedy human being. And if that’s the case, well then why not be really greedy? Intensely greedy! Instead of wanting everything for yourself, why not desire this inheritance, this money, this wealth for everyone? How about not settling for anything less? How about being really greedy for others?” We do not want to be content with insisting on gaining the best and most of everything for ourselves. Why not go after the best for everyone, for anyone? A wise man has said (and written) that if we give the same energy and time and resources to others that we demand for ourselves to satiate our own personal interests, we could actually make a huge difference in the lives of other people, especially people who really need to be given the things we believe we are entitled to in life.
Many of us might privately admit to being greedy at one time or another in our lives with a restlessness to acquire more. Greedy for money, status, pretty clothing, good food. Greedy for attention, recognition, love, acceptance, respect. It is part of our human experience. So how about being greedy, or shall we call it “hungry”, for the welfare and needs of others in our families, our communities, our country, our world? Desiring, calling out for the manifold needs of the world can be a tremendously motivating force. The greed will take on a different look as it is harnessed and mastered and made tender in our having an irresistible passion for everyone. Jesus would look at us and see transformed people, with more love and amazing care for one another!
Can you imagine someone in church encouraging any of us to be more greedy? (It’s an offering of love, to be sure! We are as concerned about the poor as Luke is throughout his Gospel account.) We do need to yearn deeply for the welfare and growing needs of our brothers and sisters throughout the world - for diapers and food, for the freedom we believe God desires for all persons to have on any borders or boundaries of existence, for medicine and proper health care, for all people to have adequate sanitation, warm showers, nourishing food, respect, meaningful jobs, safe homes, safe havens, security and to experience happiness wherever they may be. To be free from violence and oppression, indifference, sickness, intolerance, and pain. And above all, may we be greedy for love, God’s love, to pour down on the whole world, on everyone! Then we will ALL be rich in what matters most to God.
St. Luke reminds us that God has sent us into the world to care for one another, to be hungry for the life, time, energy, resources we require for sharing God’s spiritual and physical inheritance upon our lives with everyone. When we call out to the Lord seeking his attention, may we remember that the unnatural state of greed can be transformed into giving to others and trying to understand their needs exactly as we understand and desire our own. If we are going to be greedy, may we be really greedy for the world! To wait for this hunger no longer being defined as greed, but fashioned anew as deep compassion, peace, love, and responsibility for others. AMEN.