A wise man of another faith tradition once told me to hold life and things like a precious teacup. Do not put it on a shelf worried to use it - or break it. Use it daily: love it. Then if one day it happens to fall and shatter you will have enjoyed it completely.
It is actually a story about impermanence. In Christianity that is not a common term, but instead we speak about inheriting the eternal Kingdom vs the World; about Spiritual things and temporal things; or about Spirit vs Flesh; About grass that withers and Treasures in Heaven.
Jesus teaches us the story of the “rich fool” to help us see how ridiculous it is for us to store up possessions. They are impermanent. They are earthly. They are susceptible to moths and rust.
But he also tells this story in quite an interesting fashion: The man has this awkward internal dialogue with his self. He doesn’t look to God or the community for answers. Instead he is completely self-reliant for inspiration, advice, and comfort. He also doesn’t look to make his life rich towards others. He isn’t thinking about the community, and he seems to be confusing his eternal soul with his temporal self.
The suffering of our temporal self is the topic of the Letter to the Colossians in which Paul reminds us to “Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).” These are manifestations of suffering. “But now you must get rid of all such things-- anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. To paraphrase Jesus, it is not what goes in the mouth but what comes out that profanes us.
And Returning to the teacup metaphor: In the chapter of Luke just leading up to this one, Jesus says,“Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” The passions are what hurt us when we are attached to outcomes and things: When we prioritize stuff over the “stuff of life” (Living)! Luke 12 actually has a theme about letting go; not worrying about what we will wear and what we will eat. He says 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life[b]?
The World offers us so much candy. Like kids in a candy store we walk through life obsessed with things we can’t have. Or once we've gained them, then we worry incessantly about them: how to store them, insure them etc. We suffer when we are attached to things that disappear, break, wear out, what is temporal. And we fight over them.
Jesus is asking us to be “rich toward God.” So what does that mean to you? If God is Love, then to be rich toward God, always means to be rich toward one another and God’s Creation: The Living. Jesus models a life of celebration, living fully: of turning water into wine, of deep conversations with disciples and friends, engaging in theological arguments with those he disagreed with - all usually over meals. How do you wish to be like Jesus?
One of my friends is discerning to become a religious. She is taking her first vows in the order of St. Margaret in the RC church. One of my classmates at GTS and fellow priest (ordained with me) has also been an Episcopal nun for twenty-five years. They have a particular call to Poverty. That is how they feel called to be “rich in God.” They are uninhibited by collecting things - And there is massive freedom in it!They can give to the community without the burden of things - and all of the emotions and worry that go along with having "stuff."
You and I do not need to give up marriage and belongings, but it is interesting to get into the mindset that there is freedom in letting go. There is freedom from grasping, clinging, storing up, and worrying!
Jesus even said this about himself: When he was in the garden after rising from the tomb, he said to Mary Magdalene “Don’t cling to me.”
He also told the disciples, “I must leave you so the Holy Spirit can come.” In letting go there is freedom to LOVE even greater in the moment.
In letting go as Paul says, “you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.”
We may not have to give everything away, but remember to practice attention and love to what is living. That is being rich toward God. Love people fully while you have them, so that you are assured - and they are that you’ve appreciated them. That is being rich toward God.
Use your gifts while you have them. Don’t hide your light under a bushel!
That is being Rich toward God
So when the grass withers and the Tea Cup Breaks…You have enjoyed it thoroughly, lovingly, richly!
Jesus said, “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”