18th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)
The message of this week’s scripture readings seems pretty straightforward: you can’t take it with you. No matter how rich or poor you are, none of your material possessions will mean a thing once you die. So if your life has been spent in pursuit of stuff then ultimately it’s all for nothing. All things are vanity, like Qoheleth says in Ecclesiastes.
Is life just vanity? This would be true if the material world were all there is — if the only things of value were things that we could see and touch, measure and accumulate. If matter were all that mattered, then life would truly be folly. No matter how long we lived or how rich we became, we all end up in the same hole in the ground. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. How depressing.
But is that really all there is?
An Otherworldly Perspective
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”William Shakespeare (Hamlet)
There is more to this world than what meets the eye. Our life is worth more than our worldly treasure. This is the real message of this week’s readings — life is not a vanity. Life has meaning and purpose. There is treasure that you can take with you that has value beyond death.
What we need is a perspective that reaches beyond this world. This is what’s absent in the first reading that leads to despair, and what’s present in the other readings that leads to hope –a supernatural perspective.
Jesus’ parable is about a man who is pleased with himself for storing up enough grain to last him many years. But in the end Jesus says, “‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God” (Lk 12:20-21).
This man’s problem is not that he is too rich but that he is too poor. He might be rich by worldly standards, but he’s impoverished in what matters to God. He stored up the wrong kind of treasure.
It’s not that material wealth is bad. But it matters how we use it and why we seek it. The Bible tells of another man who stored up much grain, Jacob the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. He did not store up grain selfishly, but so that the Egyptians could survive a famine. He gave generously and used his surplus to bless others. For his good stewardship he in turn was blessed by God.
No matter how rich or poor we are, our material wealth is a gift from God and should be valued not for the status it gives us, but in how we use it for God’s purposes. As Jesus says, “Though one be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions” (Lk 12:15).
This world is not all there is, and in the end we will all leave it behind. That’s the reality. So if we are smart, then we use the time we have storing up not the treasure of this world, but of the next. This is why St. Paul tells us to “seek what is above” (Col 3:1) and Jesus speaks of being “rich in what matters to God” (Lk 12:21). The riches that matter to God are things like charity, generosity, kindness, patience, compassion, and loving sacrifice. If we make our heart a storehouse of this treasure, then we will be truly rich not only in this life, but in the life to come.