The American Dream and “No Risk” Investments

Source: Out of Egypt
Fr. James Guirguis | 21 November 2019

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (12:16-21) 

In today’s gospel we are told the story of a rich man who was blessed with great crops on his land. He was so blessed with abundance that he did not know exactly what to do with all of the extra crops that he had. In fact, he had run out of room for them in his barns. So he had an idea, he would tear down his barns and build newer, larger barns to store all of his goods. In the parable, the rick man says to himself “I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’”

What the Lord Jesus has described here might well be called the parable of the American dream. From a young age, people are taught that in this country they can become anything they want, they can get rich, they can retire early and live a life full of pleasures and distractions. I’m not saying that you can’t earn a great living and retire early. If the Lord blessed you with talents and good work and a good work ethic and you have the ability to earn enough to retire from your occupation, that is not a bad thing. The crucial question is, what comes next? For the rich man in today’s parable, what came next was stockpiling goods for himself, relaxing, being comfortable and enjoying the “pleasures of life.” Some of you are thinking, “so what’s the problem?”

The first problem is that this kind of life of pleasure hardens the heart and leads us away from God. This kind of life assumes that there is no after-life. It assumes that we will live forever, or that when we die, we will not have to answer for our choices and actions in life. But according to the Lord Jesus, that is exactly what will happen. In addition, this type of living puts all of the emphasis on what we have, but little on what we possess within us. But in the wisdom of God, He looks at the world in the exact opposite way.

He doesn’t care about what you have and what you wear, He cares about what is inside you, in the heart. Have we prepared ourselves to meet Him? St. Leo the great writes “This should be the careful consideration of wise people, that since the days of this life are short and the time uncertain, death should never be unexpected for those who are to die. Those who know that they are mortal should not come to an unprepared end.” St. Ambrose agrees when he writes “The things that we cannot take away with us are not ours either. Only virtue is the companion of the dead.”

A life of pleasure,comfort, hoarding of wealth: None of this is part of what it is to be a Christian. Our Lord reflects this when He calls the rich man, “fool.”As Christians, we can’t take rest in our wealth knowing that others around us are struggling and suffering. The wealth that we have comes as a gift from God who has rightlyordered so many circumstances in our life and allowed these blessings to be showered on us. A Christian, one who has a living relationship with Christ, looks for ways to show his gratitude to the Lord for all of His rich blessings.

Our Lord Jesus says that worldly, materialistic people are foolishpeople, who only lay up treasure for themselves. “So is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God.”We want to be the opposite of this. Poor towards ourselves and generous towards God. So what does it mean to be rich towards God? We are rich towards God by the way that we give to the poor and those in need, and by the way that we support the work of the Church. In the writings of the Church fathers we have many writings regarding supporting the poor and needy. Listen to what St. Augustine says as he begins by quoting Proverbs,

“The redemption of a man’s soul is his riches.” [Pro 13:8.] This silly fool of a man did not have that kind of riches. Obviously he was not redeeming his soul by giving relief to the poor. He was hoarding perishable crops. I repeat, he was hoarding perishable crops, while he was on the point of perishing because he had handed out nothing to the Lord before whom he was due to appear. How will he know where to look, when at that trial he starts hearing the words “I was hungry and you did not give me to eat”? [Mat 25:42.] He was planning to fill his soul with excessive and unnecessary feasting and was proudly disregarding all those empty bellies of the poor. He did not realize that the bellies of the poor were much safer storerooms than his barns. What he was stowing away in those barns was perhaps even then being stolen away by thieves. But if he stowed it away in the bellies of the poor, it would of course be digested on earth, but in heaven it would be kept all the more safely. The redemption of a man’s soul is his riches.”

St. Augustine tells us that the safest place for our money and treasures is not to be found in gold hidden in a safe or in the stock market or in the savings account or even in bitcoin! It is not even safe when it is wrapped up and hidden under the Christmas tree. The safest place to hide whatever we have, is by giving it to the poor. Because the Lord says that whatever you do unto the least of His brethren, you have done unto Him. Imagine that for every dollar you invest, you would get $1000 dollars in return. I believe we would all jump at the chance to take part in that investment. Yet, this is exactly what the Lord Jesus offers us. He tells us to invest whatever we might have, even if it is only two mites and He will reward us with a great spiritual blessing and heavenly reward. We cannot fathom this fully.

This parable also gives a great opportunityto remind you that part of being generous in spirit and showing thanksgiving to God for all that He has done for us, is to be generous with the Church. The church is not a business. It is the center of our Christian life, our hospital, our place of refreshment,our home. It exists here to minister to the needs of each and every person that enters. So whatever we give with love, is magnified and multiplied through the work of the Holy Spirit and it becomes a blessing to everyone who enters or will enter into the church.

The church offers each and every one of us so much; much more than we can possibly comprehend. Whatever we offer back to God is simply our way to say thank you and to show gratitude to God for His generosity and blessings towards each of us. May we each look for new ways to be rich toward God, who has shown unfailing and eternal generosity towards each of us, through His only Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and glory be to God forever, AMEN.

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