“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
Have you ever heard a eulogy at a funeral commemorating the deceased for his or her wealth?
Eulogies are usually about how someone has been a good parent, a loving spouse, or a faithful friend. We hear about attributes such as being kind, gentle, patient, diligent and loving. We listen to stories about how they have served others instead of themselves, how they have been generous with their time and resources, and how they have volunteered for this or that cause.
What we hear in eulogies seems to confirm Jesus’ warning about greed. Jesus shares the Parable of the Rich Fool, whose land produced an abundant crop. So he decided to tear down his barns and build larger ones to store all his grain. He then said to himself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry. But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself.’” (Luke 12:16-21)
Throughout recorded history people have been consumed with accumulating money and possessions in order to achieve some supposed level of security. Power, authority and fame all contribute to this drive. As a young attorney, I was very career focused early on in my life. Marriage and children started to temper that focus. Then I experienced an encounter with Jesus Christ, and a renewal in my faith that led to some challenging choices between career and family, and later between work and ministry.
Being blessed with abundance is not sinful in itself, but it can become a distraction to what God wants for us because of the temptations of increased self-focus, entitlement, increasing comfort, and isolation from people in need. These are not the kinds of characteristics that usually end up in eulogies. No doubt that is why Jesus urges us to “Watch out!”
When a reporter asked John D. Rockefeller, who at the time was considered the richest man in the world, how much money is enough, he responded, “Just a little bit more.” Although Rockefeller, a practicing Christian, used a good part of his surplus wealth to build hospitals, support numerous educational institutions and other causes, his response demonstrates how insidious accumulating wealth can be.
As eulogies bear out, a kind word, a joyful heart, a loving act of service and sacrifice have lasting effect. They are indeed eternal and, as Jesus characterizes them, “treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.” (Mt. 6:19-20)
What will be your eulogy?