August 4, 2019 — Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s readings come as a pat on the back from Heaven for all of us striving to live a stewardship way of life. They remind us why we live the way we do, make the choices we make, and leave other things aside. Let’s face it, if we truly embrace this way of life, there will be people who find our choices downright foolish. Today we will see what God thinks. Spoiler alert: turns out Christian stewards are not the fools!
Our First Reading from the book of Ecclesiastes contains the famous line, “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” The narrator, Qoheleth, points out that we toil and labor all day, worry all night about our work and all we still have to do, and for what? Essentially he asks what is the point of constantly “stressing out” about things that won’t last anyway? That’s no way to live! Christian stewards already know this. We live for a higher purpose — we live for our God and for the things that matter to Him. Our time, talents, and treasure have an everlasting focus because we recognize that these things are all gifts from God and we use them in gratitude to give Him glory.
Our Second Reading, from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, reminds us how to go about making decisions so that we can make the best use of the gifts we have been given. In making decisions about our use of time, talent and treasure, he gives us this advice: “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” He adds, “Take off the old self with its practices and put on the new self which is being renewed for knowledge in the image of its creator.” This is precisely what is taking place within us as we embrace the spirituality of stewardship. We find ourselves living in a continuous process of sloughing off our selfishness (the “old self”) and living more and more for God and others.
To many people in our materialistic world, setting priorities that are not focused on earthly goals like wealth, status and power, is foolish and naive. But look at what Jesus has to say about priorities in today’s Gospel passage from Luke. He makes it clear that life is not about “stuff.” “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
Then Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the wealthy businessman who thought he had everything figured out. The man had such an abundance of “stuff” that he didn’t have room to store it all. So, thinking of earthly things and not on what is above, he decided to build a bigger place to store all that stuff. Patting himself on the back, he thought about what good times he would have in the years ahead. But, Jesus tells us that day would turn out to be the man’s last day on the earth. And he had spent it thinking only of himself. How foolish! What vanity of vanities!
Don’t be ashamed of living differently from the people around you. Be confident as you set priorities based on what is above. You are wise in God’s eyes, Christian steward. And you will be rich in what matters most.