Pastor’s Blog – A reflection on the Gospel lesson for August 4th, 2019
Scripture Lesson for this week: Luke 12:13-21
“Jesus make my brother give me what I deserve! Make him give me my share of the inheritance!”
Jesus offers an interesting response. “Who made me your judge?” The man might have replied, “You are the son of God, avenge me!” Or at least, he might have been thinking that.
Now I know there is a lot of theology out there that says when we die, we will be judged, but Jesus seems to deny that here. He also denies that idea a number of other times in the Gospels. We are already and always being judged and asked to evaluate our actions. Call it our conscience, call it the Holy Spirit, call it guilty feelings, or whatever you want, but those senses of having done wrong are a deep part of what it means to be human. Though Jesus denies being a judge, Judging the man who asked the question, in the moment, is actually what he is subtly doing. To be blunt, the judgement of God is not an after-death judgement. It is happening today.
We want other people to be judged, we perhaps long for a time when God will punish “those people,” but that ultimately goes against the deep core message of Jesus. If we return to God, we are forgiven. God forgives and forgets. Period. So, if we are forgiven, then what is there to be judged on when we die? Yes, I know long held traditions don’t change easily, but this is a powerful issue upon which to meditate.
The reality is we want there to be a judgement because we think it is not fair that other people might get away with actions that we are not able to get away with, or we have no power to get revenge, so we want God to take that revenge for us.
There is another reality. No one, absolutely no one, knows what is going on in the hearts and minds of another person. We have no idea how they might be suffering in a self-imposed emotional hell on earth. Perhaps we might all be a little more compassionate and less judgmental. We also have no idea what will happen after death, how God will eternally interact with us, or what we will experience. We live in hope of the abundant and eternal promise that Jesus offers. What Luke tells us over and over in his Gospel is that we can experience that eternal hope, the presence of the eternal Kingdom now, in subtle ways, when we follow the Way of Jesus. We don’t have to wait for the kingdom just as we are not waiting for judgement. The way of Jesus being taught in this piece of Scripture is the perspective that generosity (the opposite of greed) is one of the ways we can experience the subtle Kingdom gift.
In today’s story, Jesus tells us to “Watch out! Be careful how you think about other people, be careful how you treat other people! Do not be greedy but live generously!” OK, I put a few words in Jesus’ mouth, but that is what he is saying. Lack of greed and generosity go far beyond money. They affect our every thought and action.
For instance, are we greedily hoping we get a relationship with Jesus in heaven while all those other people burn? What a horrific theology! We have a choice in understanding how God is, how God loves, how God forgives. What is the reason behind choosing to imagine an angry God? What is the reason for not building kingdom relationships with our enemies today? Are we writing off those relationships hoping God will take care of those people? I believe the answers to these questions are generated from the health-state of our souls. This is the case for the brother who comes to Jesus as our story opens. Jesus can’t fix the broken relationships that caused the family schism. Jesus won’t give the man what he asks for because the man has before him the difficult self-work of reconciliation. Now, the man can walk away angry, cursing the unfairness…and probably did.
There is an alternative. Generosity in everything. Generosity as a way of life is what Jesus is asking of us. “Guard yourself of ALL kinds of greed,” he says. The rich man in the parable had a choice. The LAND produced abundantly. He had little role in the situation. He could have realized the incredible gift he had received and shared it with everyone in his community. He chose greed. Imagine the joy he missed! Imagine how much fun it would have been to give huge grain bonuses! What a shame to have missed that joy. What joy is the brother missing by not striving for reconciliation? What emotional freedom is being missed by not, at the minimum, even if reconciliation is impossible, generously forgiving his greedy brother?
What are the resources God might be inviting us to share? What gifts and talents have we been given that could bring tremendous joy if we shared them? Perhaps it could be something intangible like forgiveness. If you have experienced that gift, how might you share it? With a little thought effort, the gifts we have to share will become a rather long list. Perhaps what is holding us back from sharing is judging whether other not people deserve to receive the gifts. If that is the case, then for God’s sake, what joys are we missing?