In a famous commencement address, novelist and essayist David Foster-Wallace said this:
Does that idea ring true to you? Has your experience of the COVID crisis given you any new insight into this?
As Jesus is teaching, a man in the crowd interrupts to ask him to adjudicate in his favour in a dispute with his brother over their inheritance (rabbis often acted as judges in questions about the application of the law). Why do you think Jesus responds as he does?
Having challenged the crowd that “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions”, Jesus tells a story where the twist comes from the unexpected reality of death. How does Jesus’ vivid dramatization of the rich man’s death in verse 20 reveal the short-sighted foolishness of his thoughts and actions up to that point?
What impact does the story have on you?
Jesus concluded his parable with a challenge to the crowd: will they store things up for themselves like the rich man, or be “rich towards God”? He immediately explains to his disciples what he means by that: the attitude to money and possessions he calls them to have as children of a generous God.
What reasons does Jesus tell them not to worry about their financial security, and which do you think are the most significant? What impression does he convey of God’s character and his attitude towards these disciples?
Imagine a 21st Century person who wholeheartedly and thoughtfully trusts what Jesus says here. How might they think and act?
(Note: It might be helpful to bear in mind that the evidence we have from Jesus’ life and encounters with individuals makes it clear that he didn’t mean in verse 33, ‘You must sell all your possessions and own nothing’. We see in Luke 8:3 and elsewhere that he received, without rebuke, the hospitality and generosity of a number of disciples, particularly women, out of their ‘own means’. It is clear that they continued to possess ‘means’ to give out of, and in that sustained radical generosity they were following the intent of Jesus’ teaching in these verses.)
In the Bible, ‘heaven’ is not a place in the clouds that souls go after they die, but rather God’s space, which intersects with human space in various ways. The ultimate future the Bible describes is a complete union of God’s space and human space, which it calls ‘the new heavens and the new earth’ or simply ‘the new creation’, when God will resurrect and restore the world and come to dwell personally with his people forever.
How does Jesus challenge, in verses 32-34, our instinctive idea of the relationship between generosity and security (cf. verse 18-19)? What do you think of his claim that we need to invest our resources in the same place we want our hearts and lives to be invested?
For many of us, the COVID crisis has brutally foregrounded our human insecurities – the fragility of our happiness, our future plans, even our very lives – and has shown up many of the things we look to for security as insufficient or unreliable.
Do you think there is anything we can find true security in which won’t ultimately, in Foster-Wallace’s words, eat us or others alive?