In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.
No one likes being called a fool. It’s just not nice. Unless you are intentionally acting like a fool—then I guess it is ok. But in the normal course of life, no one likes being called a fool for things they are not meaning to do. Take King Solomon. We was given wisdom from God that surpassed everyone in his day. Yet in our Gospel lesson today, he is called a Fool by the same God who gave him that wisdom.
Solomon had it all in his day. He was king of God’s Chosen People which had a lot going for it during his day. Solomon’s father David had united the 12 Tribes of Israel under one banner after ridding the land of all its enemies. He was given a peaceful kingdom in which he didn’t have to focus on defense so he was freed to pursue whatever he chose. Many travelers brought him exotic gifts and so he could fully pursue the background of his gifts. “Oh wow that is a really cool animal. I want to know everything there is about animals.” And then, he had the freedom to do so. He was not restrained by time or money, so he could (and did) pursue a PhD in Biology just to satisfy his curiosity. And then when he finished that, something else would pique his interest, and he would go find out everything there was about that subject as well.
But he was not just a person who amassed a great wealth of knowledge—he had the freedom to pursue anything that tickled his fancy. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Not counting all the tributes coming from explorers, or merchants, or even that coming from kings to the west, nor from the governors of his own lands, Solomon had an ANNUAL income of 666 talents of gold. I did a little research, and in today’s market, that is roughly 1.1 BILLION dollars a year! According to some sources, his peak net worth was an estimated 2.2 TRILLION dollars. The bible tells us that during his reign, gold and silver were as common as stones. He was so rich that he didn’t even value silver—he had too much of it. Even his drinking cup were made of gold. He seemingly had everything.
But we are given a glimpse into his thinking in out OT lesson today. The book of Ecclesiastes is Solomon toward the end of his life providing wisdom to be passed down. And he says of all of this: “I have seen everything that is done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and a striving after the wind.” All of this wealth and he considered it worthless. (O that I had his problem.) Solomon after all had divine wisdom that enabled him to see that there was something missing.
Jesus makes a comment about such an amasser of wealth in our Gospel lesson today. A man is upset with his brother because he would not share his father’s wealth with him, and he asks Jesus to intervene. Jesus, of course wants none of it, but he does speak to the man’s inner desire. “Take heed and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” At which point, Solomon chimes in, “Tell me about it.”
Jesus goes on to demonstrate what he means to the man through a parable. “The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully…” Notice here, Jesus lays the praise for the bumper crop, not on the man’s ability to farm the land, but on the land itself—thus making it come from God, the creator of the land.
Yet notice also the man’s mentality. “And he said to himself, ‘What shall I do; for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And 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 you for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” The man uses “I” six times, “my” five times, and he is so wrapped up in himself that he talks to himself, and then, within that internal monologue he has to create a whole other character that is also himself! Guess who he gives credit to for the bumper crop?
Jesus goes on to call this man “Fool!” Now calling someone fool has a very specific meaning here. In the OT the word indicates one who rebels against God, or has forgotten him. He forgot that it was not he who was the force beneath the crops forcing them skyward. It was not he that sent forth the rain to water the crops. The man did some work probably, maybe he was just the landowner and other people did all the work, but he took all the credit for himself. God gave him an opportunity, but all he saw was a windfall for himself. Solomon calls this vanity.
Now Paul chimes in on the poor Fool and tells him, “Put to death what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Put to death those things which distract or even draw you away from God, O Fool. Put on instead, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another, and…forgiving each other. And Above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Paul counsels the Fool, be thankful. Combat covetousness by giving generously. That is the best way to prevent the I, me, my mentality of the Fool. When God blesses you with something, be equally generous back with praise to God and then pass it on to those whom he loves—namely everyone he created. When God blesses you with something, even something you worked especially hard for—unlike the Fool—give back to God as a remedy against the mentality of the Fool, he who forgets God. It’s hard to forget someone whom you regularly honestly thank, even for such things as daily bread and a regular paycheck.
Paul says, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Back to Solomon. This thanksgiving is that Solomon neglected and it cost him dearly. When God gave him his gift of wisdom, he told him, that this was a conditional gift. “If you walk in my ways, keeping my commandments and statutes, then this will remain with you.” But as he piled up more and more wealth, he forgot God and he ceased having God’s wisdom which caused him to lose everything God had given him. His great wealth became as nothing to him—all is vanity. His wives and concubines took him away from God. He even built altars to foreign gods—even gods who required child sacrifice—within eyesight of God’s Temple in Jerusalem.
Fool! Jesus calls him. He who lays up treasure for himself and forgets God forgets that it is God who has the authority over your soul which is greater than all the wealth even that Solomon was able to accumulate.
Beloved, you are not Fools. So give generously that you may remember God and that you may not find him calling you Fool when your soul is required of you.
In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.