The Parable of the Rich Man: The Importance of Becoming Rich in What Matters To God.
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
20 October 2014
What leads to permanent and lasting happiness? As Jesus points out, becoming “rich in what matters to God” is the key. When we place God first and love our neighbor as another self, we soon begin to experience a perceptible, lasting happiness that is not of this world. It is “other-worldly” because it does not originate from our interior, from creatures or material possessions, but from God himself, whose bountiful love fills us with true and lasting peace, joy and happiness.
In today’s Gospel (Lk 12:13-21), Jesus is questioned about a familial inheritance dispute. He then gives a parable in order to teach about the dangers of the capital sin of greed—the capital sins are thus named because they tend to engender other sins (see CCC 1866). In the parable, we hear of a rich man who reaps a bountiful harvest. Instead of building up riches that matter to God, the man bases his security on material treasures, and plans to tear down his barns in order to build new, larger structures that can safely house his harvest. Elated over the harvest he plans to enjoy in the future, the rich man proclaims, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’ However, God tells the rich man his life will be demanded of him that very night. Death will strip away his false security, and he will be found wanting in what really matters. At the end of the parable, Jesus provides this warning: “Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself, but is not rich in what matters to God.”
Our American culture often promotes the false values of the “good life”—storing up treasure for oneself. This life of material wealth is perpetually held up as the real treasure to be continually desired and sought after. Additionally, contemporary society in the West nourishes a hedonistic attitude and lifestyle. The life of simplicity and asceticism is shunned, while fine dining, entertainment, comfort, power and financial success are elevated, even to the point of being worshiped metaphorically. The words of the rich man, “rest, eat, drink, [and] be merry!” echo throughout our society.
No amount of material wealth, power or prestige will make us permanently happy. On the contrary, the wealthy and powerful are often people whose interior has become barren and turned in on itself, a place where peace and happiness are as absent as rain in the desert. Their ground is spiritually parched, and material treasure provides no healing balm to alleviate the pain. Further, the more material wealth is gathered, the more chained to these fleeting possessions do we become. The greater the harvest, the more urgent is the demand for larger barns. Material wealth is not a sin per se, of course, but it does not lead to the happiness we unceasingly crave and seek.
What does lead to permanent and lasting happiness? As Jesus points out, becoming “rich in what matters to God” is the key. When we place God first and love our neighbor as another self, we soon begin to experience a perceptible, lasting happiness that is not of this world. It is “other-worldly” because it does not originate from our interior, from creatures or material possessions, but from God, whose love fills us with true and lasting peace, joy and happiness. To live as Jesus lived, that is, a life of holiness, is to store up eternal treasure. This treasure is lasting and permanent, and cannot be tarnished or diminished by anything in the world. In loving God we become free, truly free! And all of this is made possible by Jesus Christ, who gave his life in love and for love.
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Photo Credit: Alex Lambley
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel. For more, visit YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.