It’s almost spring break at Harvard, and the question “What are you doing this summer?” is now starting to crop up. It is not yet in season, but as we all finish applying for our internships, our fellowships, our study abroad, etc. this summer, this question is bound to follow and to be the subject of much anxiety. With that in mind, let’s go to today’s reading, Luke 12:13-48:
The Parable of the Rich Fool
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Do Not Be Anxious
22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
You Must Be Ready
35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
Jesus’s first parable offers a warning to those of us worrying about our summer plans. The rich fool is too occupied with his own future success to recognize his current position. He does not consider that the worldly things he is striving for are not as important or secure as he imagines. He does not recognize the more immediate and key concern of the state of his own soul. His worries about worldly things have distracted him from what really matters.
Like the rich fool, we Harvard students have worked hard and succeeded, but we are not satisfied. We press on towards greater and greater achievements, always saying to ourselves: once I finish get this internship, once I ace this midterm, then I can relax, then I can be happy. But Jesus points out that we make a grave mistake in doing so. What is required of us is not material success, but our souls.
To emphasize this, Jesus offers more reasons why we should not be anxious about worldly things. If God cares for flowers, for birds, will he not care for us? This passage is well known and straightforward, but near impossible to obey.
Yet, Jesus does not stop here; his message is not simply to not worry about worldly things. Rather, He gives us something else to worry about, something much more important to worry about. The weakness and unimportance of worldly aims, such as food and clothing, are followed immediately with the incredible importance of Godly aims – that we must always strive to do the will of our master God.
Jesus’s closing parable presents an inversion of the first. No longer do we examine the rich fool who is over preparing for the future, who is too occupied with preserving his wealth to see the precariousness of his mortal position. Instead, we examine the servants who are too lazy to obtain a future return. If the servants will just wait a little bit, their master will come and serve them, but instead they eat, they drink, they abuse their position. Distracted not by the promise of future pleasure, but immediate temptation, they fail to do their master’s will.
This parable tempers the call not to worry, with a warning not to simply follow one’s inclinations. We must not only stop worrying about the worldly, we must redirect our care, our concern, our time towards God. Just as it is not enough to stop caring about one’s grades or summer plans, and instead spend all one’s time watching Netflix, it is not enough to throw away the idolatry of worrying about worldly things. Those desires, that worship of the worldly, cannot simply be eliminated but must be replaced with a correct desire, with the worship of God.
So let’s not worry or worship our summer plans, let’s save our worry and our worship for the kingdom of God.
Greg Scalise ’18 is a Philosophy and Classics concentrator in Pforzheimer House and features editor for the Ichthus.