Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Gee, reading this passage sure makes me feel like I’m doing life wrong… Don’t bother saving, Jesus says, because tomorrow you may die and not need it. Instead, sell your possessions and trust God to provide. Well, at least He didn’t say to sell all my possessions. And it really reads more “sell your possessions so you can give alms.” I guess Jesus is trying to say that we don’t need what we don’t need. Maybe He doesn’t want us to sell our bed, but do we really need a California King pillow top? Perhaps you need clothes to wear to work, but is that seventh black dress really so important? What if instead of “treating ourselves” to whatever little THING catches our eye, we should think of treating those who don’t have enough to eat with some food.
Instead of spending my days seeking money with which to buy things, I should be spending my day seeking God. That’s not saying don’t earn money! But at work, put God FIRST. Fortunately for me, I chose the path of a “calling,” not of money. I feel called to teach because I can make such a difference in the lives of others. I can help them become better people! (Whether I do or not remains to be seen.) But many days (most days) it is so easy to loose sight of that, and just go to work to pay the bills, or because I have to. And on those days, all I want to do when I get home is sit and watch TV. (The TV that maybe I don’t need…) No! God calls us to find a way to work for Him. Everything can be done to the glory of God, to bring about God’s Kingdom, even a mundane, boring job. And without exception every day that I manage to do this I come home happier and wanting to spend time with my family, rather than with TV or a book.
Still, no matter how I look at this passage, it sounds like God maybe doesn’t want me to save for retirement. That’s basically what the wealthy man did, right? Retire? What a worldly concept, retirement. Let me stop doing what God called me to do so I can spend the next 30-40 years just sitting. Although, it is true that many use retirement to do all the service they didn’t have time to do while they were raising kids. Then again, some don’t. I have no idea what to think. Because, on the one hand, this passage reads like God doesn’t want us to save. But other the other hand, nearly every pastor in the world retires eventually. And even John Wesley, a man who died with like, 17 cents to his name, encouraged us to save.
So I discussed it with my husband. We talked a lot about how maybe retirement the way Americans view it, playing golf and doing puzzles all day, isn’t the most Christian thing in the world. But it’s not WRONG to determine that you’re too old and don’t have enough energy to continue to teach five year-olds all day, and that perhaps it is time to take things a little easier, and to do some volunteering. We talked about fear of sickness, and not wanting to be a burden to our children at the time in life when their money will be tight. We talked about the difference between saving up just for yourself, and saving up for others. We talked about how Jesus says this is how things are for those who store up treasure BUT do not love God.
And I think the key is, it’s fine to save your money to retire, as long as you’re not using that retirement savings to shirk your duties to care for others. And I think it’s about not saving more than you need, or spending more than you need. The key, like in dieting, seems to be moderation. But I don’t pretend to know all of the answers. I admit, the idea of possessions is something I struggle with pretty much any time I read the gospels.