Jesus tells the parable of the Foolish Rich Man in the Gospel reading this week. Could there be a more American parable? We have valorized the wealthy, imagining that people like Elon Musk, Warren Buffett, or even Donald Trump have something we should listen to simply because they are wealthy. I am not against people having money, but too often I think we have turned the wealthy into heroes. It has not always been so. The ancient Romans denied senatorial status to anyone who conducted their own business. A senator’s clients could conduct business, even business on behalf of the Senator, but no one who personally engaged in commerce was allowed that rank.
Jesus words about the foolish wealthy man probably need to be heard in that Roman context. Luke’s readers lived in that world. They found it a little easier to see the wealthy man as somehow unwise. He would delay the enjoyment of his wealth until it was too late. His hard driving life had probably stressed his body until he was on the verge of an aneurysm. He died that very night he finally thought he was ready to enjoy it. Someone else who had not labored would enjoy his amassed riches.
Jesus enjoins us to another sort of wealth, being rich toward God. I find that many who are poor have had such wealth. But some who have great resources are likewise rich toward God. We cannot lump all the rich into one basket of wicked people. This fact, however means the preacher will want to ask himself what being rich toward God looks like in this context of our society. Will it be in the way that we use our money? Will it be in the way we speak about anything? How does one become rich toward God? How would one know whether one is rich toward God? Is there an app for your phone which indicates your current balance?