Sunday, July 31, 2022
This week's scriptures seem to be directed to the affluent. In a world filled with need, how much is enough? Is it true that the more mindful one is of one's responsibility for self, the more clear one gets about one's responsibility to others?
The story about a rich man building another barn to store his wealth is a response to someone asking Jesus to settle a squabble between him and his brother over an inheritance. Jesus quickly recognizes the underlying theme: greed. Greed begins early in life. We excuse it in children; unfortunately, as adults, we often continue to act like children.
How often is a squabble over an inheritance simply a continuation of sibling rivalry? Which child is favored, who deserves what, etc. etc. etc. These patterns can continue to haunt a person into adulthood. The alternative – to govern oneself more thoughtfully – takes time and effort. Freedom has a price.
Getting free of greed was the subject of a recent article by Arthur Brooks, who begins with a story about the Rolling Stones line, I can't get no satisfaction. Brooks talks about the cognitive challenge of the brain's dopamine response. We feel good when we acquire more, but it's temporary, leading us again to want more. This can be more stuff, more success, more blog posts, more anything: Vanity, as the Ecclesiastes reading sums it up, is a striving after wind (1:14).
Brooks' solutions are interesting and I recommend them. Here, though, I'll focus on the solution Jesus provides: reality. It's a heavy dose – the man in the story dies that night – reminding us to stay grounded in the truth, which will set us more free than any amount of wealth.
Psalm 107 provides a vision of a new reality. In it, a struggling group are greeted in an "inhabited town" where they are delivered from their distress. How does a community become such a place? Could it be that the much-maligned District of Columbia might be operating as one right now, as it responds to the challenges faced by immigrants?
Some options to support the D.C. efforts can be found at donations You may know of other needs in your community. So many chances to leave greed behind and live into a new reality!
Thanks readers! My earlier lectionary blogs, including my 2019 blog on these same readings, continue to be available.