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THE FAITHFUL SERVANT

Read­ing Time: 10 minutes

(Wis 18:6–9; Heb 11:1–2.8–19; Luke 12:32–48)

But the fruit of the Spir­it is love, joy, peace, patience, kind­ness, good­ness, faith­ful­ness, gen­tle­ness, self-con­trol; against such things there is no law” (Gal 5:22–23).

Introductory Words

After present­ing his con­vin­cing and theo­lo­gic­ally foun­ded argu­ment in defence of his stand that life’s worth does not con­sist in the abund­ance of a person’s mater­i­al pos­ses­sion, Jesus invites his dis­ciples not to pre­oc­cupy them­selves with the things of the world. They should neither worry for life, for what to eat, for what to drink, what to wear nor for life itself because God, the abso­lute pro­pri­et­or of life knows how to provide these things and how to take prop­er care of life too. Atten­tion! This is not a call to lazi­ness. It is dis­heart­en­ing how some people espe­cially in Niger­ia lock their shops, teach­ers who aban­don their pupil in the classrooms and work­ers who absent from their duties all in the name of pray­er. More wor­ri­some is the fact that these things hap­pen on nor­mal work­days. When Jesus in Mat­thew 6:34 says we should not think or worry about tomor­row since tomor­row will take care of itself, it does not mean we should not have plans for tomor­row. Jesus made such state­ment due to the last phrase of that same verse. Jesus advises people not to begin today to worry about tomor­row because today’s troubles are enough for today. This is a ser­i­ous psy­cho­lo­gic­al advice. People should learn to lim­it their wor­ries to each day. If to today’s wor­ries you add that of tomor­row, you know the con­sequence. Both Luke 12:22–30, Mat­thew 6:34 and even Psalm 23 are not invit­a­tions to idle­ness and lazi­ness. They are calls to seek first the king­dom of God so that every oth­er thing will be easi­er to obtain (cf. Luke 12:31). There­fore, if we should worry, our worry should be how to gain God’s king­dom and not how to gain mater­i­al wealth. This Sunday read­ings (espe­cially the Gos­pel) are built on these words. It is about being faith­ful. Hence, the faith­ful servant.

God disposes His kingdom

After the psy­cho­lo­gic­al pre­par­a­tions, Jesus draws his dis­ciples’ atten­tion to the theme of last Sunday Gos­pel read­ing – the eph­em­er­al­ity of mater­i­al riches. As if frightened, alarmed and threatened (cf. do not fear in Luke 12:32) by the fate of the rich farm­er in Luke 12:13–21, Jesus assured his dis­ciples that it is not God’s inten­tion to hide or with­hold His king­dom from them. Such assur­ance is expressed in these words “do not be afraid, little flock, for your Fath­er is well pleased to give you the king­dom” (Luke 12:32). Yes, God is always ready to open the king­dom but that is not without con­di­tion. The con­clu­sion of the epis­ode of the rich farm­er that what happened to him is the same fate that awaits those who enrich them­selves with mater­i­al things, but who do not enrich them­selves towards God (cf. Luke 12:21), shows the king­dom was not opened for him. For God to open his king­dom to any­one, there are terms and con­di­tions that must be stud­ied attent­ively, and must as well be accep­ted and respec­ted. It is not the respons­ib­il­ity of any­one to set such con­di­tions. They are con­tained in the invit­a­tion to “sell your pos­ses­sions and give alms” (Luke 12:33). Who­ever wishes to inher­it the king­dom should not store his or her wealth. Rather, he or she should sell them and dis­trib­ute the pro­ceeds to the needy. This is the sense of sell your belong­ings and give alms. Alms implies the needy, the less priv­ileged of the soci­ety and of every fam­ily, group and com­munity. The com­mand to give alms should not be lim­ited to mater­i­al assist­ance alone. It is a gen­er­al instruc­tion with vari­ous branches. Again, it should be linked to the rest of the pas­sage. Sell your pos­ses­sions and give alms means, share with oth­ers whatever you have, mater­i­al, spir­itu­al and otherwise.

The key to God’s kingdom

As I explained above, the king­dom of God has terms and con­di­tions. To the law­yer who wanted to find out from Jesus what he must do to inher­it etern­al life, Jesus presen­ted the example of the man who became vic­tim of brig­ands who left him almost dead. At the con­clu­sion of that story, Jesus invited the law­yer to go and fol­low the example of the Samar­it­an who proved a good neigh­bour to the wounded man (cf. Luke 10:25–37). In Luke 10:38–42, Jesus reminded Martha that her worry for too many things espe­cially, the worry for mater­i­al sat­is­fac­tion is a ser­i­ous obstacle to etern­al life. With the story of the rich farm­er in Luke 12:13–21, Jesus shows how greed in its diverse forms could deprive people of etern­al hap­pi­ness. Greed in fact, does not allow people to be rich towards God. Again, in Luke 18:18–30, we find the epis­ode of a young man who wanted to find out from Jesus what he must do to inher­it etern­al life. After everything and espe­cially, after his con­fid­ence in prov­ing his observ­ance of the Torah since his youth, Jesus asked him to go, sell all his pos­ses­sions, dis­trib­ute the pro­ceeds to the poor, then come and become his dis­ciples, this way, he will inher­it etern­al life. The con­clu­sion of that story is that this young man went away sor­row­ful because he was very rich. Like Pil­ate, he pre­ferred his worldly pleas­ure and glory to etern­al life. Many Chris­ti­ans are still vic­tims of this defect. Make your choice and bear the consequence!

To save the dis­ciples and Chris­ti­ans from the danger of excess­ive atten­tion and uncon­trol­lable attach­ment to mater­i­al pos­ses­sion, Jesus invites his dis­ciples and all believ­ers to dis­pose of their mater­i­al belong­ings. In con­trast to the world’s pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with mater­i­al pos­ses­sions, the dis­ciples and believ­ers are to be char­ac­ter­ized by exceed­ingly great gen­er­os­ity, espe­cially in giv­ing to those in need (lit­er­ally, to give alms). The invit­a­tion to give alms should attract our atten­tion. It is an indic­a­tion of neg­li­gence, lack of love and care, abuse, oppres­sion and injustice. Take for instance Niger­ia, where only 20–25 per­cent of the entire pop­u­la­tion enjoy the wealth of the nation. In such cir­cum­stance, it is clear that the poor or the needy masses will have to depend on these super rich for sur­viv­al, a situ­ation that breeds cor­rup­tion, oppres­sion and injustice. In such con­text, Jesus’ invit­a­tion to sell all and give alms should be inter­preted as resti­tu­tion. Yes, the rich should return the com­mon good, which they have arrog­antly usurped, mak­ing them­selves gods to be wor­shipped by the ignor­ant and needy masses. Sim­il­arly, those who have denied oth­ers justice, truth, what is due to them, must give alms by return­ing what they have stolen.

By selling all and giv­ing alms, the dis­ciples will provide them­selves purses that do not wear out, a treas­ure in heav­en that will nev­er decrease, where they can neither be stolen, nor des­troyed (cf. Luke 12:33b). This is the mean­ing of the meta­phor “money­bags that do not grow old” in Luke 12:33. Since a person’s heart is nat­ur­ally attrac­ted by his or her pos­ses­sions (spir­itu­al or mater­i­al), inclined and resides where his or her treas­ures are, the dis­ciples must ensure they pos­sess spir­itu­al treas­ures and store them in the heav­enly barn so that their hearts will also be there (cf. Luke 12:34). This way, they would have cor­rec­ted the errors of the young man who wanted to share his treas­ures with his broth­er, and that of the rich farm­er who wanted to store his wealth in earthly barn (cf. Luke 12:13–21), and the young man who pre­ferred his mater­i­al wealth to etern­al life (cf. Luke 18:18–30). This is the key to the king­dom, which it has pleased God to give them. The nature of a person’s heart is reflec­ted in the things that one val­ues most. Fur­ther­more, by stor­ing their treas­ures in heav­en, they would have suc­ceeded in seek­ing first the king­dom of God, the found­a­tion to gain every oth­er thing.

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