We read together Psalm 14 and the story of the Rich Fool from the Message and from the NIV, followed by a quote from Amy – Jill Levine:
“Down through the centuries, starting with the Gospel writers themselves, the parables have been allegorised, moralised and otherwise tamed into platitudes such as ‘God loves us’ or ‘be nice.’ If we stop with the easy lessons, good though they may be, we lose the way Jesus’ first followers would have heard the parables, and we lose the genius of Jesus’ teaching.
Too often we settle for the easy interpretations: We will be forgiven, as was the prodigal son; we should pray and not lose heart, like the widow with the judge. When we seek assurances from parables, a genre that is designed to surprise, challenge, indict & provoke is domesticated and their teaching limited.”
Here are the various interpretations of the parable that we considered:
- “You can’t take it with you.” This was considered a good interpretation in the past, but it is largely discarded now.
- Warning against “greed.” The rich fool is portrayed as an example of greed. The Greek word for “greed” carries with it overtones of an insatiable desire for more and more, he’s rapacious; his desire for more and more can never be fulfilled. Apparently the verb form in the Greek is commonly used to describe the actions of those who try to take advantage of others and strive rapaciously for gain, and it describes someone who never has enough.
- Warning against “living as though God does not exist.” In the parable God calls the man a “fool”! Psalm 14 v1: The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Here the Psalmist speaks about the “practical atheism” of those who live as though God does not exist – who live in contempt of God and the poor. A fool in the bible is someone whose words or actions deny the existence of God. The Greek verb translated –“eat drink and be merry” literally means “to make merry in a feast”, it is used to describe the decadent Dives who “feasted every day” while Lazarus starved at his gate. He is a total moral failure who disregards his social responsibilities.
- “We are blessed to bless others” and “are not to devote our lives solely to the accumulation of wealth.” This landowner was materially blessed by God; his land produced a bumper crop. Instead of using his blessing to further the will of God, all he was interested in was looking after himself and growing his wealth. We are not blessed by God to hoard our wealth just for ourselves. We are blessed to be a blessing to others, and we are blessed to build the kingdom of God.
- Warning against being “self-centred” and “self-obsessed”. The wealthy landowner’s thoughts (the dialogue he has with himself) are for Jesus an example of wrong thinking—the rich fool focuses entirely on himself. In just three verses he uses “I” 6 times and “my” 5 times.
- “Do not be controlled by wealth.” A literal translation from Greek is: “They are demanding your very life from you.” Who is “they?” in this context, the answer is, the things – all the “stuff”, all his possessions, all his wealth. And so, you could translate verse 20: “Fool! This night they shall require your very life from you; now who owns whom?” Jesus point is that all the “stuff” the rich man thought he owned actually owns him! It dominates his life. Jesus’ point is very clear: you were not made to “run on” wealth; you were made to “run on” God.
- Warning against an unwillingness to fulfil one’s “moral obligation to the poor”. Luke uses a Greek word that means more than just land, it means an extensive amount of land. The rich fool sees his prosperity as entitlement, Jesus’ audience would have been well aware that huge wealth was built on the backs of others. Large estates resulted from the expropriation of smallholders land through debt default. In Jesus’ view, there was a moral obligation for the rich fool to put his bumper crop onto the market at a fair price for the benefit of the poor of the land. But instead he stores the crop in order to drive up the price and so sell it later for an even bigger profit. His decision will have dire consequences for others; it will lead to starvation for many and death for the weakest and poorest. Hence, God’s judgement upon him.
We continued our worship by talking about three biblical heroes – Amos, Isaiah and Micah. We read Amos 2: 6-7, 8: 4-7, 5: 21-24. Isaiah 1: 11-17, 21-23, 5:1-2, 7. Micah 2: 1-3, 7: 1-3, 6: 6-8. Then considered the following Traidcraft campaign called Justice Matters:
Trade and business links us all with the rest of the world.
- Nearly a third of FTSE 100 companies do business in developing countries.
- UK foreign investment provides around £14 billion to developing countries each year – far more than we send in aid.
But justice matters in trade and business.
A few irresponsible British companies are abusing or exploiting people abroad – and getting away with it.
- Destroying livelihoods through toxic pollution.
- Forcing people out of their homes to make way for new mines or plantations.
- Threatening violence if anyone questions what is going on.
People who work for or even just live near the operations of some British companies abroad are suffering. We wouldn’t find this acceptable – why should they?
At the moment, there’s a gap in British law which means that it’s almost impossible to prosecute big companies for causing serious harm abroad.
There have been 303 allegations of abuse by 127 British companies over the last ten years – but not one prosecution. That needs to change.
More than two-thirds of British business leaders agree that companies operating in developing countries should be accountable in the UK for any harm they cause there.
Traidcraft thinks justice matters in trade and business.
JUSTICE MATTERS case studies:
Magige Ghati Kesabo from Tanzania lost his eldest son Emmanuel, who was shot and killed at a gold mine owned by a UK-based company.
‘My family depended on him so much’, he said, ‘He was going to look after me when I got old and now he is gone.’
Through a British solicitor who took up his case Magige was able to bring a claim in the English civil courts against the company, which resulted in an undisclosed out of court settlement. But no-one has ever been prosecuted for the death of his son.
Felix and his daughter Bertha live close to a British owned copper smelting plant at Kankoyo in Zambia. Seven-year-old Bertha is badly affected by acid fumes emitted from the plant.
Felix explains: ‘She says: “I feel my chest – I can’t breathe, Dad” It’s getting worse and worse. When she starts coughing, she can’t stop. She can’t play out with her friends because she’s so badly affected by the fumes.’
The company which owns the plant – listed on the London Stock Exchange – has never been held to account for the impact it is having on the local community.
It’s why Traidcraft does business differently:
paying a fair price, there for the long term, helping businesses grow.
It’s why Traidcraft supports small-scale farmers to produce more, so they can feed their families.
It’s why Traidcraft campaigns for all trade and business to be fair, and it’s why we’re calling for British businesses to be prosecuted if they abuse or harm people abroad.
If justice matters to you, join with Traidcraft, and help us make a difference.
The Justice Matters petition
We the undersigned call on the British government to update the law so that large UK companies can be prosecuted for the most serious cases of causing harm abroad.
Sign online at: www.traidcraft.co.uk
“God is the lover of justice, one who protects and champions the oppressed: this is God’s nature. If this is the kind of God we have, then clearly God’s people have got to be the same.” JOHN STOTT.
Barbara began our prayer time by pointing out that the signs of autumn were all around us – the trees in beautiful autumn colours, leaves falling like confetti in the breeze. But also that autumn is the herald of winter, and for many people suffering now: the homeless, the refugee, the elderly, those who have to choose between eating and heating, those in war torn countries – winter will bring even greater hardship and suffering. We took fallen leaves and wrote on them the names of countries, situations and people we wished to pray for, we then laid them on the cross at the centre of the bandstand.
We closed our worship by sharing bread and wine.