On Sunday July 31st I led worship at Scotton Chapel. Worship began when we sang ‘My God how wonderful thou art’, which always reminds me of my mother. She used to say she was sure she would get a crick in the neck if she were lying prostate gazing on God! I like the worshipful hymn but it always makes me smile when I think of mum’s words! I led the opening prayers and the Lord’s Prayer, before Colossians 3.1-11 was read. We sang, ‘Spirit of the living God’, before I gave a short talk based on Colossians to remind us that our former lives have been buried in baptism and have been raised to new life through the resurrection of Jesus. To put on their new nature and continue to be renewed and changed to the likeness of Jesus as we focus on Jesus Christ and walk in his way with his help. We sang, ‘Captain of Israel’s host and guide’ before I read the Old Testament reading from Ecclesiastes 1.2;12-14; 2.18-23. Then members of Scotton Chapel took part in a dramatised version of Luke 12.13-21 before we sang, ‘Take my life, and let it be’ and I preached.
It was apparently not uncommon for people in Palestine to bring their unsettled disputes to a respected Rabbi, as the man had come to ask Jesus to make his brother divide his property with him. Jesus however refused to be mixed up in anyone’s disputes about money, but it gave him the opportunity to tell his followers what attitude they should have to material things. Why did Jesus call the man the rich fool? The central character was a man who was so rich that when his farm produced a bumper crop, he did not know what to do with it. He thought he had only one alternative to build some new and bigger barns to store all his crops and goods there. He decided to rest, drink and be merry as he thought he would no longer have to work. He was self-centred and never thought of giving his surplus away to help those in need. However God said; ‘Fool! This night your soul is demanded from you; and the things you have prepared – who will get them all? This is what happens when you store up riches for yourself and are not rich in God’s sight.
It was at the height of his prosperity that the rich fool died. Most people would have looked up to him, because he was wealthy. Yet a Galilean peasant, Jesus, had the audacity to call that man a fool. He was not dishonest and worked hard. Jesus did not criticise him for being rich; we all need somewhere to live, something to wear and something to eat, but if we accumulate money for the sake of it and neglect our relationship with God, we are in danger of becoming like the rich fool. The rich fool appeared to work non-stop, probably neglected his family and failed to see how much he depended on others like his workforce.
The writer of Ecclesiastes emphasised the futility of toil and struggle, when he said ‘everything is meaningless’. He felt even his struggle to gain wisdom had been futile. He lamented too that all he had toiled for would be nothing, because he would have to leave it to his descendants; they might lack wisdom and waste the result of his toil. The Psalmist in Psalm 49 agreed that accumulating riches or wisdom as all people die and leave their wealth to others.
What do these passages say about our lifestyle and priorities? Paul in Colossians showed us that the point of life as Christians was not to strive for material possessions, but to seek to grow closer to Christ who is our life. Our sinful nature has been buried in baptism so that we are freed to live our new life for and in Christ. We are to kill self-centredness, private desires and ambition; we have to stop the desire to want more as that desire can never really be satisfied, as we can never feel we have enough. Only as we turn our eyes on Jesus, look full in his wonderful faith, can we find that the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.
We sang, ‘God of grace and God of glory,’ before I led the prayers of intercessions. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘Be thou my vision.’ The small congregation took part in the act of worship and enhanced it.