Psalm 107: 1-9, 43
I have to admit that I love Mother Teresa, I love her spunk, her honesty, and her passion. I admire that she gave up all of her worldly possessions to live and work among the poor, but sometimes I wonder if she really had an impact. Sure, I am talking about her in a sermon today but there are still poor people in the world, and there are still people who live comfortably in wealth while so many others don’t live at all, they simply survive. So if Mother Teresa didn’t change the world, was she a fool, or are we fools for living in the top 1% of all people in the world while others live vastly different lives than the lives we live in America.
In Jesus’ time the inheritance was given to the firstborn son, a system that daughters and second and third born sons found to be a little restricting and naturally wanted the wealth of the family to be divided, at least among the boys. So, when a young man was faced with the fact that his older brother would be the sole inheritor of the family fortune and would be greedy and keep all of the money, the younger brother went to Jesus and asked for help. I can see this man’s train of thought, he had a decent shot with Jesus. How many times have we heard Jesus rebuke people for being greedy? How many times have we heard Jesus demand that we take care of one another? And how many times have we heard Jesus stand up for the underdog? But that is not what Jesus does in this case.
First, Jesus tells the man that he was not sent here to be a judge or arbitrator. Essentially saying that he has better things to do with his time than focus on getting this man an “equal” share of money. But he doesn’t stop there, Jesus tells this man a parable where he tells him that he will not help him get money from his brother, but he shouldn’t have even asked because the younger son, who will not see any of the inheritance is the luckier son. The man who will have nothing is luckier than the man who will want for nothing. Does that make any sense to you? It doesn’t make much sense to me.
In the parable, the rich man says to his soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, and be merry.” What a beautiful notion it must be to think that you don’t have to worry about taking care of yourself for many years and because you have worked hard in the past you get to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor now. But that is the notion that Jesus say will get us into trouble because our life is being demanded of us.
In the parable it says that the rich man’s life was being demanded of him the very night he spoke to his soul. Was the rich man killed that night? Did the rich man stand before God that very night and only had to offer the produce he had grown on earth? Was he cast into the outer darkness for having only produced abundantly the things he could grow on his land? Possibly, but I don’t think heaven or hell is the point of this parable. I think the point of the parable is to say, what you do on this earth matters not unless you do it for other to the glory of God.
You see the man in the parable did things only for himself. He worked hard for his money but he used his money only for personal benefit. I think what scares me most about this parable is that there is a part of me that wants to defend this man’s actions. I may not have enough money to build a new house or to feel confident in the amount I currently have and no longer feel the need to stress about money but I have enough to get by and in a lot of ways I am better off than a lot of people. But even with that said, when I see someone bag for money on the side of the street I don’t always give them money. I have not given all that I have or even all that I am to those in need. So where do people like me fit into this parable? Are we like the rich fool? Have we lived a life worthy of the sacrifice Jesus made?
The rich fool’s life was being demanded of him that very night. I don’t think the man was killed or even that he died that night, instead I think that his life, just like ours was being demanded by God to live a life with God and for God. Much like the rich fool I think we are in the same boat, that our lives are being demanded of us this night and every night. When we lay down to sleep and think about our days, we have two choices: we can say to our soul, “soul you have done well for yourself today. Rest and relax, you have earned it.” Or we can say, “Soul you have done well for others today, you have worked hard to better the world. Even if you only did one small thing, it mattered greatly to a beloved child of God. Rest, relax, and prepare for tomorrow.” What do you think people like Mother Teresa said to her soul at night? What do you hope to say to your soul tonight?
In the beginning of the sermon I asked if Mother Teresa made a difference and if she was a fool. Well, Mother Teresa gave up her worldly possessions to move from her home in Macedonia to work with lepers in Calcutta. Throughout her life she personally helped countless men and women who suffered from a debilitating disease. Later in life she founded the Missionaries of Charity an organization that today consist of over 4,500 sisters spread across 133 countries. This organization doesn’t just help lepers they run hospices and homes for people with leprosy, TB, and HIV. They run orphanages, schools, medicine dispensaries, and mobile health clinics. The organization adheres to the mission statement of, “a wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.” To answer my first question Mother Teresa has certainly made a difference and through her legacy she continues to make a positive difference in the world. But was she a fool?
Yes, I think she was a fool but maybe and hopefully not in the way you think. Mother Teresa did something that has rarely been done before, she gave her entire life to others, something that many would consider unwise and or not good personal judgment. The rich fool had good personal judgment, he worked hard to take care of himself and he was successful. In that sense Mother Teresa was foolish when she considered her own personal riches, lifestyle, and care but that is because her eyes were set not on earthly things instead they were set on heavenly things. In terms of living a life for God, Mother Teresa was in fact wise. This is not to say that she didn’t have faults or shortcomings because she is human, just like us. But in the truest sense, Mother Teresa lived into her humanity as a child of God. And just like us and the rich man from the parable her life was being demanded of her every single night and she could say that she had given her life to God by serving others. Can we say the same?
Mother Teresa had a couple of ideas about sacrifice. In her book “In the Heart of the World” she writes, “Sacrifice, surrender, and suffering are not popular topics nowadays. Our culture makes us believe that we can have it all, that we should demand our rights, that with the right technology all pain and problems can be overcome. This is not my attitude, (she says,) towards sacrifice. I know that is it impossible to relieve the world’s suffering unless God’s people are willing to surrender to God. To make sacrifices, and to suffer along with the poor. From the beginning of time the human heart has felt the need to offer God a sacrifice. (But then she asks) What is an acceptable sacrifice? One that is good for the people of God. One that is made on behalf of the world.”
So if that is the case, what is our acceptable sacrifice to God? Is it a sacrifice we make once? Or one that we make every single days of our lives. And is it one that speaks to our soul?
I like the idea of speaking to your soul every night before bed, but of course that means I am held accountable in a way that is sometimes difficult. There are nights that I know that I haven’t given my all to others. There have been days where I passed someone bagging on the street and didn’t stop to give them money. There have been days where I have said something I wish I had thought twice about, and there have been days where my selfish wants have gotten in the ways of other unselfish needs. And I am going to venture to say that there are night where even Mother Teresa felt that way. But nonetheless, our lives are being demand of us this very night and every night. So my question for you is: What will you say to your soul tonight?