As I read the gospel for this Sunday and reflected on our world, it would have been tempting just to preach about consumerism and greed, but as I looked closer I realised that this reading is about happiness. It is about what truly makes us truly, deeply and lastingly happy and what does not. Jesus is telling us that no matter how financially secure we are, no matter how many barns we have built, no matter how good our life insurance, our superannuation package, our house or car, they will not make us happy. And if we put our store in them, if we count on these things to satisfy us then we are fools!
I think there is also an underlying message here as well. It is about fear. We live in a world riddled with fear at the moment. Fear of Isis, fear of violence and terror, and more subtly; fear of not having enough, of having our wealth somehow taken away from us. Our fear of terrorism is fed by the media every day and no amount of military might or border security or walls, will take away that fear. It is a spiritual disease. This is just like the rich fool. How often is our own greed based in our anxiety that next year we may not have enough? We have extra this year so we build bigger barns so that we can fight off our insecurity and somehow be secure into next year or beyond. We forget Jesus words; “do not be anxious about tomorrow,… consider the lilies of the field.”
Rather than live out of fear and anxiety, Jesus invites us in this parable to trust in God and to live a life where God and love are our foundations. We are invited not to base our trust in earthly things but ion the divine. In and through such love we are “rich toward God” (Lk. 12:21). When we do this we are promised true meaning and true happiness.
This message is extremely counter-cultural. All of our culture invites us to have confidence in ‘things’. Get more and shinier things and you will be happy. It is a market for false happiness. The Happiness Market it turns out, sells no such thing. But the texts this week, in proclaiming “virulent opposition to our world”–its vanity, its greed–point to where ultimate happiness is found.
Rev Gordon Bannon