Gospel Reflections for Sun August 4th

30 July 2013


The parable of the rich fool school?

Luke 12:13-21     

It might be stretching it to re-name the Parable of the rich fool in this way - or is it? What does Jesus have in mind here as he tells this story, and how valid is it to overlay this message (warning?) onto a Lutheran School in the 21st Century?

The parable it seems is prompted by the question of a self-centred younger son, who it would appear is not happy about the cultural rules that require the oldest male sibling to inherit two-thirds of the estate and wants Jesus to make a ruling. (It was not uncommon for the Rabbis to hear such property disputes and rule on them.) A key message seems to be a warning on greed.

The parable starts out by describing what would seem to be a logical approach by the farmer. There are prospects of an abundant harvest on the horizon. It makes sense to plan to take advantage of the plenty while it is available. Having grown up on a Mallee farm, I know that thinking. It was important to replace ageing tractors, trucks and other machinery or even buy a new car when times were good. 

As we get deeper into the parable though, there is a resounding focus on "me, myself and I". Ten times the I word or related first person pronouns are used in just a few verses. There is an obsession with self. There is no mention of "other" in any form. 

Multi-dimensional messages emerge from this passage ... both then and now. We are reminded of the importance of focusing on the richness of life centred around God. Perhaps it was written 2000 years in advance to have a swipe at the obsessive materialistic culture of us Western Christians! "Let's tear down our barns and build bigger ones" = "let's get that new giant size flat-screen TV to go with our ipod, iphone ... and oh yes, we now need an ipad."

So let's build a super size new sports and activity centre and/or new library (thanks to Kev 1st time round). It's tough being an authentic Lutheran School that's squeaky clean in the light of what Jesus has to say in the Gospels isn't it! The reality is that we do have to upgrade facilities (and if you like, look good) to ensure our corporate viability, so why not do it when the pickings are ripe? Perhaps Jesus' message to us today is to watch the language surrounding the building of our bigger barns. (Avoid the us, our, aren't we good, type connotations.) Let's focus on the opportunities that such facilities will provide for us to connect more young people and families to Jesus and to make it a priority to build and maintain the spiritual richness of what our schools stand for ... as places where grace abounds and the unconditional love of God is reflected in our day-to-day operations.

One final slant. Some years ago I came across this parable at a Spirituality Summer School in Neuendettelsau. It was used as the cornerstone of Mission One-World's campaign to move European people to give out of their abundance to those in poverty. "Wir haben genug" ... or loosely translated "We have enough!" The Parable of the rich fool therefore may also be a reminder to us in Australian Lutheran Schools to give generously, for we are a very blessed people, we are in fact blessed with having MORE than enough. We are therefore encouraged to strive to build into our school culture the importance of sharing our abundance with those in need.