Life & Soul

The futility of measuring our lives by what we own

(Jerod Harris/Getty Images for GUESS)

The 18th Sunday of the Year
Eccl 1:2 & 2:21-23; Col 3:11-5 & 9-11; Lk 12:13-21 (Year C)

“Make us know the shortness of our life, that we might gain wisdom of heart. In the morning fill us with your love, then shall we exult and rejoice all our days.”

The psalmist’s meditation is both a reflection on the brevity of life and a call to wisdom, a wisdom born of the heart’s deepest longing.

This wisdom of heart is a lifelong discernment of the attitudes, conscious and unconscious, that drive our daily lives. It is for us to discern what fills us with the joy of God’s presence and what distances us from his love.

“Vanity of vanities, the Preacher says. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity!” The words of Ecclesiastes are brutal in their confrontation with life’s superficiality. Vanity, in its many forms, is the indulgence of self to the exclusion of others. As such, it is an unthinking denial of God himself.

With the Preacher, we must have the humility to consider the focus that drives our energies. Is that energy centred on self, or on the God whose love has called us into being?

Throughout history inheritance disputes have tended to reveal the darker aspects of our fallen nature. The generation of Jesus was no different: “Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.”

Jesus refused to become entangled in a self-centred sense of entitlement. Instead, he cautioned against the acquisitiveness that undermines a generous spirit. “Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.”

The parable of the rich man who built barns to safeguard his possessions underlines the futility of measuring our lives by what we own. True wealth is to rejoice in the grace that makes us rich in the sight of God.

Such wealth is beautifully described in the Letter to the Colossians: “You have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed, and he is your life, you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.”

May the Lord give us a wisdom of heart that rests in his love, and a humility that shuns deceptive entitlement.