Jesus tells the sad story of a rich man who found security in material things and forgot about the most important thing: love of God and neighbor. After a bountiful harvest, the man rightly asks himself: “What shall I do?”.
In fact, all of us need to see ourselves as administrators of the goods of the earth and we need to ask ourselves: “What shall I do?” Our response should not be that of the rich man, who plans to store up earthly treasure, sit back and relax. Saint Cyril of Alexandria writes that the rich man does not look to the future. He does not raise his eyes to God. He does not cherish love for the poor, nor does he sympathize with those who suffer. Saint Augustine says that the rich man did not realize that the bellies of the poor were safer storehouses than our barns.
Imagine if the rich man had said something like: “This is what I shall do: I will sell the extra grain and give to the poor. I will build a school and a hospital and will give to the Temple. And I shall to myself, ‘Now as for you, you have received many good things from the Lord; I thank him and and ask him to show me his ways so that I may serve him and his people”. The Lord would have looked down on him, and when the rich man died, the Lord would say to him: “Welcome into my Kingdom, good and faithful steward, for what you did for others, you did to me”.
Commenting on the first part of our Gospel passage, Saint Ambrose teaches that what we need to seek is not the inheritance of money, but rather the inheritance of immortality. And Saint Augustine sees that greed divides us, while love unites us. We guard against greed by filling ourselves with love. Covetousness is a pitfall of the devil and hateful to God; Paul calls it idolatry (Colossians 3:5).
Jesus teaches that we must be on guard against all greed. Our lives are not measured by what we possess, but by who we are. What matters to God is not our net worth, but rather our response to his love and mercy.
Saint Paul is one who has his eyes fixed on God and he invites the Ephesians to contemplate God’s saving action through Christ. Like the rich man, we too once lived according to the age of this world, and followed the desires of the flesh. But God, in his mercy, has brought us to life with Christ and saved us through grace. By grace, we have been saved through faith. “God has rescued us by raising us in some sense above the spiritual death that was the consequence of our sinful way of life (Rom 5:17-18; 6:2-4), ‘the age of this world’ (see Rom 12:2; Gal 6:14), the power of the devil (Col 1:13), and ‘the desires of our flesh’ (Rom 8:1-10; Gal 5:13-25)” (P. Williamson, Ephesians, Baker Academic, 61).
In this life, we begin to experience the benefits of salvation, yet a more glorious future awaits us. The grace that saves us is a gift of God that we welcome and not something we produce on our own. It is not a result of our works. This grace of salvation comes to us through faith, through a personal commitment that includes belief, trust and obedience. Through grace, we have been re-created in Christ Jesus. “‘Created’ emphasizes the radical newness of life in Christ. Jesus’ resurrection began the new creation and our re-creation was accomplished when we were joined to our risen Lord through faith and baptism” (P. Williamson, Ephesians, Baker Academic, 65).
Saved by grace, freed from sin, re-created in Christ, we are called to accomplish good works of love and charity. We are called to a new life, different from a life of sin and transgression. “Good works are important as a goal and outcome of our faith, and Paul wants us to know that God is also at work in the good works that God has prepared in advance” (P. Williamson, Ephesians, Baker Academic, 65). In this way, we live according to the Spirit and carry out God’s loving will all men and women.
–Readers may contact Fr Jason Mitchell at email@example.com.