Wayne Dyer was an American Self-help author and a motivational speaker. On twenty-ninth August two thousand and fifteen, three days before he died he posted a message on his social media site which read: “I have a suit in my closet with the pocket cut out. It’s a reminder to me that I won’t be taking anything with me. The last I wear won’t need any pockets.”
The message of Jesus to us this morning is the need to be “rich toward God.”
The phrase which Jesus uses, “rich toward God” is rather unusual. Basing myself on what Jesus says, I would like to reflect this morning on three ways of living our lives. A person can live one’s life one) by being rich toward oneself; two) by being rich toward others and three) by being rich toward God. What do we mean by these three phrases:
First) Being Rich Toward Oneself: This means that a person amasses a lot of wealth. And he or she considers himself or herself to be rich. But that person is not held in high esteem by others. An example would be the founder of the chain of Saravana Bahavan restaurants. He became rich, but was convicted of murder in 2001 and died on 18 July 2019. Though rich, he did not have the esteem of respect of others.
Second) Being Rich Toward Others: This means that a person accumulates a lot of wealth. He is held in great esteem and honour by others. But the person himself feels stressed, unhappy and worthless. An example would be V G Siddhartha, the founder of Café Coffee Day, who ended his life so tragically on 29 July 2019.
Third) Being Rich Toward God: This means that a person considers God as his real wealth; as his true treasure. And he lives his life in pursuit of God.
In the parable that we listened to today, Jesus calls the rich man a fool. The rich man is called a fool not because he was rich; not because he had money. He is called a fool because of what he did with the money. With his money he pursued himself. He did not pursue God.
He used his money to “eat, drink and make merry.” He used his money to pursue more wealth. He thought that one’s life consists in the abundance of possessions. This is not the truth. This is the lie that the world makes us believe, when it proclaims: “You are what you wear. You are what you drive. You are worth your salary. You are your looks.”
He is a fool because he did not use his wealth to pursue God. The truth is, your true life does not consist in having a lot of things. True life, eternal life consists in knowing God. In the Gospel of John, Chapter Seventeen, verse three Jesus says: “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
Jesus tells us not to follow the Rich fool who became rich toward himself and toward others. Jesus invites us to become “rich toward God.”
How can we become “rich toward God?” I would like to mention five ways:
First) Value and cherish God, – Jesus -, above all earthly things. This means that you will not think, say or do anything in your life that goes against the pursuit of God. In the letter to the Philippians, chapter three, verses eight and nine Paul says: “I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him”
Second) I remind myself that I cannot serve two masters: In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter six verse twenty-four Jesus cautions us: “No one can serve two masters… You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Third) I use the wealth that I have to show how much I value God. God says, “Give and it shall be given to you” (Luke, chapter three, verse thirty-eight); “God loves a cheerful giver” (Second Corinthians, chapter nine, verse seven). Since I value God, I follow his instruction and share the wealth I have with others, especially the poor, cheerfully. In order to give to others I do not have to be very rich. Even if I have only little I can share it. Jesus praised the poor widow who put in two copper coins saying that she had given more than the others (Mk 12:41-44).
Fourth) I protect myself against the temptations that riches bring. The First letter to Timothy, chapter six verse nine says that “Those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires.” I protect myself against such temptations and traps through reading of the Word of God, daily prayer and regular alms giving.
Fifth) I offer myself to God: The greatest wealth I have is my own self. There is nothing better I can offer. So, in order to be “rich toward God” I offer myself to God. As Wayne Dyer reminded us, at the end of our lives, we will not need any pockets. I will have only my self to give to God. So, I begin doing that while I am alive. In the Letter to the Romans, chapter twelve, verse one, Paul asks us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God.
Let us bow our heads in prayer: Loving God, help me to consider you as my true wealth. May I not become a fool by becoming a servant of money. May I use whatever I have to serve you, especially in the needy. Amen.