No matter how close family members have become with each other throughout their lives, there is almost always a problem with one issue in particular, namely, finances. Most likely the problem often surfaces when the parents die. Questions arise, for example, such as when the siblings start asking how the family inheritance is to be divided “fairly.”
Is “A” going to get more than “B” because he was the only one who willingly paid off the family house loan? And is “C” supposed to get more than the others since she, virtually alone, took of a sick mother?
The Gospel for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Luke 12:13-21) appears to touch on these issues. The day’s Gospel begins when someone asks Jesus to tell his own brother to share the family inheritance with him.
Jesus, in effect, says “no” signifying that it is not his business to interfere in family legal matters. This task belongs more to a lawyer than to Jesus. However, Jesus does get to the root of the problem by turning the legal issue into a probable moral issue by focusing on the “motivation” of the refusal.
He makes a very significant point, “Take care to guard against all greed… One’s life does not depend on possessions.” It turns out that greed makes one focus more on the self than on others. Quite likely, greed tends to obliterate the needs of others, so, consequently, one becomes selfish.
In effect, part of the lesson is that greed is the opposite of sharing. Having wealth is not the problem. The problem is “What do I do with it when I have it?” Motivation becomes the key as to determining whether one’s wealth s good or bad. How does one share one’s wealth? Good and generous behavior is an excellent example of being wealthy. To explain, Jesus tells a parable.
A rich man had a plentiful harvest. He decided that he would build bigger barns so that his food would last for years. He was thinking of himself. Then the rich man mumbled, “Now that I have enough food for quite a while, I’ll go out and party awhile.” Selfish motivation. Not sharing what he has.
Then the text tells us that the Lord said, “You fool. Tonight you will die, then who will take over your harvest?” One of the things that can present a stark contrast between greed and sharing is the probability of death. No one knows when the moment of death will occur–but it will occur.
Since a principal point in the Gospel is the startling contrast between greed and sharing, the question one asks is “With whom do I share?” An excellent reference point is the final judgement scene in Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 25:31-46).
The Righteous are told: “I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me to drink. I was naked and you clothed me. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was sick and you took care of me.”
The Righteous will ask, “Lord, when did we do this?” And the Lord will say, “When you did this to the least members of my family, you did it to ME.”
How many people do we meet like this and then ignore them? Don’t we believe that we are all created in God’s image and likeness? (Genesis 1:26-27) If so, then that makes us all members of God’s family.
How do we stand regarding the “greed-share” dichotomy? I would suggest that reflection as to how we deal with the above might likely give us an answer. Motivation, death, and sharing will help us become more aware of our family. Then it will be easier to make the choice of what to do with our possessions.