Ecclesiastes says, « Go and eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart (…) Enjoy your life, the woman you love. » The foolish rich man seems to have forgotten this invitation when he puts off until tomorrow that which he can rejoice in today. Here, the author offers us her commentary on a parable which invites us to remember to live.
Luke 12 : 13-21
The Foolish Man
By Emmanuel Jacquat
Translation Louise Thunin
Quarrels over inheritance are nothing new. In the Gospel passage from Luke 12, 13-21, the quarrel is merely an invitation meant to lead us to look more deeply. Indeed, the request of the unknown person who calls on Jesus is strange, since, at that time, legacies were not bequeathed equally among offspring. The eldest son received the double, since it fell to him to be responsible for the clan. And in this case, we don’t know if we are dealing with the eldest or a younger member of the family. However, this is unimportant, since finally the real question is not to find out if Jesus is going to comment on the division of goods. The real discussion revolves around the subject of true wealth, that of life. That is why Jesus of Nazareth tells the story, sometimes called the parable of the foolish rich man.
The main character is a man who has amassed bountiful food supplies, because his property was fertile and brought much profit, and so he decided to build larger granaries. At first sight, this man does not appear to be foolish. In our day we would even say he is foresightful. He reminds me of the ant in Jean de la Fontaine’s fable. Like the ant, he is careful with the goods he has received. He is also like the Pharoah who listens to Joseph (Gen. 4 : 1-36) and stores supplies precisely for the future. This man does not work and then waste the fortune he has earned. He seems wise and cautious. And usually in the Bible, the wise and cautious win approval. However, in this example, the man is described as anything but sensible. Indeed, even if he is rich, he is not rich in God, the text tells us. That means he forgot to live. He provided for everything or nearly. He hadn’t thought that he might die at any moment. On the contrary, he thought about the future without enjoying the fruits of his labor. Enjoying his goods doesn’t mean throwing everything away. To enjoy his goods means to be conscious of his humanity and thus of his mortality. Therefore, this man is foolish because he never found the meaning of the richness of life. And that is exactly what Jesus came to announce : the good news is the meaning of the richness of life. A sense of this will not make us immortal or protect us from difficulties that may arise, but the good news allows us to understand the value of life, to take care of it and to share it.
However, it is true that in our day, certain currents of Christian thought tell us that if we are good believers, we will succeed, and when a mishap occurs in our lives, it is Good punishing us. This parable says just the opposite! God’s blessing is not to be measured by our financial or social success. The non-blessing of God is not measured by our failures, illnesses or death. The blessing of God is measured by the good we receive within: serenity, joy, love and sharing. To know that every moment we are accompanied, that we can share what we have with others and count on one another is a blessing. That is also true happiness. True happiness is not sugary or comfortable. Suffering is part of life; The pandemic we are experiencing shows this clearly: no one is sheltered from illness, poverty or sadness. But true wealth, the happiness that Jesus is speaking of in this text by Luke is something else. True wealth is to be free, to take advantage of the present moment and to enjoy life all the while sharing the fruits of our work and living in brotherhood with one another. That is the true treasure that Jesus of Nazareth invites us to experience in our lives.
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