A Lesson in Avarice

Luke 12: 13-21
Rom 4:20-25 / Lk 1:69-75

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for though one may be rich, a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.
(Luke 12:15)

All wealth in life is an illusion,
Gold here on earth is in heaven dross;
If your faith is in your possession
A greater treasure will be your loss.

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Friend, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them this parable: “A certain rich man’s land produced a bountiful harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded of you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasures for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”


Our Lord’s preaching was rudely interrupted by this man who was more concerned about his worldly wants rather than the eternal lessons that our Lord was teaching. But Jesus always employed any situation as an occasion to impart His wisdom, and in this instance, He warned His listeners to be on guard against the sin of avarice. A man in the grip of greed or avarice is usually one who is concerned only of himself, and has little concern for others. The rich fool in Jesus’ parable is talking to himself, and refers to himself eleven times (the words “I” and “my”). There is no mention of thanks to God or others for his good fortune, nor even plans to share his bumper crop. In fact, typical of a shrewd Shylock, he even plans to hoard the harvest so that he can wait for a better price, instead of flooding the market to benefit the public.

Jesus warns us against greed not only because it is a major obstacle to eternal life, but because even in this life, it serves no practical purpose, and can even lead to our financial and social ruin. A typical story of greed’s karma is the woman whose road-side property was foreclosed by the bank. The bank sold the property to a big land developer long before the prescribed redemption period expired, and which the latter promptly developed as the grand entrance to their huge upscale subdivision. Seeing a rich opportunity, the original owner took a partner and sued for redemption of her property from the bank. In short, she won the case and recovered her property, now fully developed. The developer offered to buy back the land for forty million pesos, ten times more than what she and her partner had paid the bank to redeem it. But they asked for sixty million, thinking that the developer might bargain for fifty. The developer did not, and instead bought the land beside hers. She ended up with a useless property with a grand entrance leading to nowhere.

Lord, give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Lest, having too much I deny You saying, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or being in want, I steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (Prov. 30: 8-9) Thank You, Lord for everything. Amen.

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