“Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” (Lk 12:15)
Our lives upon this earth are a fleeting moment in time. Self-interest, greed and social status are folly in the eyes of God. True wisdom seeks God’s will and uses the gifts of our lives for the enrichment of all God’s people.
The wisdom of Ecclesiastes (1:2; 2:21-23) reminds us that wealth, possessions and privilege will not leave this earth with us at the time of our death. The Gospel of Luke (Lk 12: 13-21) echoes this same reminder as Jesus makes clear the dangers of a self-absorbed life. His parable about a rich man who stores up treasures for himself only to have his life taken from him before he can enjoy the fruits of his labor speaks to us today. Some among us sow division, hatred and a callous indifference towards vulnerable groups within society for self-gain and at the expense of those they demean. The moral life neither piles up treasure nor places oneself above others, but lives in humble service to the common good of all, and especially to those in need of our assistance.
We live in a time of moral crisis. Values are under siege from some of our civil and religious leaders. In fact, some extol a personal, even national, self-interest and of entitlement at the expense of people of color, non-christians and those arriving from a variety of other countries. Just recently, their rhetoric escalated to include people from our inner-cities. The values of common decency are being eroded in our society on a daily basis by the escalating racist and white supremacist language of some to advance their own agenda, while many people of faith sit passively in churches, synagogues and mosques.
In another time, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran theologian, challenged the people of Germany to choose between the life and death of their souls. Today, that choice is ours. We can choose the cheap grace of an intellectual ascent to faith and passivity in the face of evil, or we can choose the costly grace of faith lived in action on behalf of righteousness. The former is mere folly in the eyes of God, even if it is wrapped in the cloak of liturgical worship. In truth, the cheap grace costs little and has even less salvific value. The latter will lead us, as it did Jesus, beyond our places of worship to walk in solidarity with those who cry out for our help.
Let us pray for those who would divide us for self-gain, but let us condemn their actions. In doing so, we choose life and the true treasure of human existence – to live the costly grace and stand for the values of the kingdom of God in opposition to those who would eradicate them from society. May our courage serve as a witness to the human dignity and rights of all God’s people.