Monday, July 29, 2013

Rich Toward God

I've been feeling rich lately. Spending a couple of weeks in Africa will do that to you. Or at least it should. I can't remember where it was or who it was, but I remember the feeling I got the first time someone pointed out to me that I am rich. At first surprised, then confused, but finally clear, I recall the humbling sense of understanding what it means to see one's self in comparison with real poverty.

You're rich. I'm rich. You don't have to be a billionaire to qualify. You don't have to be a millionaire to qualify. You don't even need a portfolio. Do you drive a car? Rich. Do you live in a house or apartment with indoor plumbing? Rich. Do you go to the grocery store and pick out what you want to eat? Rich. You don't have to come all the way to Africa to see poverty, but sometimes we miss it when it's living right outside our front door.

This Sunday's gospel is about being rich. There's tension between the man who asks Jesus for help dividing his inheritance and the message Jesus has been traveling the countryside preaching. What does it mean to be rich? Jesus says that one's life is not judged by the accumulation of worldly possessions. Instead, he urges his hearers to be "rich toward God." Unfortunately for me and most other Americans, the former comes a lot easier than the latter.

I want to be rich toward God, and this gospel lesson makes me think that my worldly wealth and my heavenly wealth are inversely proportional. In other words, as my stuff here on earth accumulates, my presence in God's kingdom diminishes. What should I do? Sell everything I have and give it to the poor? Maybe. That sounds tough, but, if, like the man worried about splitting up his inheritance, I can't figure out how to let go of my clutch at worldly possessions, that might be the only answer.

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