In this new year I am trying to listen to Jesus’ words all over again. I’m trying to hear what he said as opposed to what it might be easy to believe. Context, of course, is hugely important. And so it is impossible to understand them without understanding life in First Century Palestine. At the same time the words are also timeless and matter on their face. So many of the words are jarring. But I can’t call myself one of his followers without considering them. And so my first entry in the, “He said what??!!” category for the year:
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
Leave aside the divisive cultural debates of our day and consider these words that seem to be an attack on the very nature of our world and our economy and our standard of living and on the financial goals of our lives. Jesus was and is a scary revolutionary. I sometimes wonder if we spend a lot of time talking about gay marriage and abortion so we don’t have to consider really tough issues like those.