If this parable (Luke 12:13-21) does not give us pause, I cannot think of anything else that will. And this is clearly a matter of life and death; eternal life or eternal death, that is! What shall we do to avoid being called “fool” by the Lord and be wise enough to stop storing up earthly treasures for ourselves to become rich in what matters to God?
The letter to the Hebrews offers us the surest way: Let us persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2 And, if we are still hesitant or feeling ambivalent about doing both: storing up heavenly treasures for ourselves and, at the same time, trying to grow rich in what matters to God, St. Paul makes our choice a no-brainer.
If we are not fools, we shall live with the deep-seated conviction that, in Christ, we find all riches that matter to God.
What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Romans 8:31-32
If we grow rich in Christ, everything else that is necessary for life will be given to us. Any other way, any other pursuit would fall into the categories of vanity, of total futility mentioned by Qoheleth. (cf. Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23)
We shall consider first the obvious way of growing rich in Christ: i.e., the one of finding our security and surety in the love, power, care, protection that the Father offers us in our oneness with his Son Jesus Christ. Now, this is easy on paper, but not in practice, because we are bombarded around the clock by messages and real-life stories that tell us how certain desirable things are guaranteed to make our life great and us quite happy. Influenced by a consumerist culture, we might adjust and alter our life to attain as many of the must-haves out there as possible and which we can afford. At times, our quests could border on foolishness, and we might prove ourselves totally unwise in God’s eyes. Do we fail to see the patent connection between material things on the one side, and some suicides, robberies, assaults, wars, exploitation, injustices, appalling disparities, and anxieties of all sorts on the other?
The simple and courageous solution lies in separating what we truly need from what we want and desire. To help us in this vital distinction we should stop looking at those who have more than we have and consider those who have much, much less. To this end, we do not need necessarily to look at people in mission lands; we can look at those who live among us. Then, the logical conclusion will be that, if we spend our days content with what we have as far as adequate food, clothing and shelter are concerned, we should be happy relying on the power, care, and protection that the Father has for us.
Now, for the second reason why we should keep our eyes fixed on Jesus: we must grow rich in the Truth that is Christ. Mind you: we, or anybody else for that matter, cannot possess the Truth because it is the Lord himself, but, guided and ruled by Jesus as Truth, we can plow right through the toxic and treacherous non-sense and falsehoods of ideologies that are proffered by relativism and, thus, in complete opposition to Christ the Truth. Here, too, there is a continuous choice to be made: to buy into the hollow treasures tendered by ideologies espoused by the world of relativism or grow rich in knowledge of God by adhering to Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Nine years ago, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis worked together to come up with a splendid Encyclical on Faith, called Lumen Fidei (the light of faith). A point that is masterfully made in it is the contrast between the truths revealed and taught by Christ and the falsehoods of relativism. The truths revealed and taught by Christ are given to us out of infinite love evidenced, beyond all telling on the Cross, in order to guide us to genuine joy and endless life. The convenient and self-serving falsehoods of relativism, purported as most desirable treasures by this world, create chaos, exploitation, violence, despair, and death.
Now, since the riches of Truth are meant by the Father to be enjoyed by everyone, Jesus Christ has entrusted them to his Church, specifically into the hands of those whom, across the millennia, he has appointed teachers and shepherds over us.
…you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth. 1 Timothy 3:15
The foundation of truth whittled down to its essentials must be the concrete implementation of the new commandment of loving each other the way Jesus loved us from the cross. And, since it is about eternal life and eternal death, Jesus offers us a dramatic description of its final chapter for each one of us at the Last Judgment (cf. Matthew 25:31-46). He could not be more specific or more perfectly clear: we are to use what is in our possession beyond what we need for a decent and dignified life for ourselves and those who depend on us, to attend to his needs which are confronting us in the least of our brothers and sisters in their wants.
Let me add a caveat. Some attempt to silence their conscience and to look good by giving an occasional token of solidarity to faceless poor in their community and/or in missions lands. This is fine only if it is more than a token, prompted by a generous heart and only if it is done after the needs of one’s family and relatives are fully met.
And whoever does not provide for relatives and especially family members has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8
This is how we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and grow rich in what matters to God.