The parable in the Gospel reading this morning takes me back to a board game I use to play many years ago. When the weather was bad or darkness arrived way before bedtime, my sisters and I would play the game of Monopoly for fun. Having two older sisters kept me on my toes as they wheeled and dealed their way into financial security. Often times we had to reference the rules to ensure no one was cheating or bending the rules and taking advantage of the little guy!
One of things I most liked about that game was the uncertainty or chance we took with every move we made on the board. Much like life, we never know what is around the corner and what decisions we may face. Around and around the board we go as the years of our life hurry by.
In the game of Monopoly, the person with the most stuff wins! In reality of this life we live, the one who loves God more than stuff and more than oneself is the winner. However, “stuff” can bring blessings and bare spiritual fruit if we are thankful and use our possessions in a Godly way. There is a famous quote from a desert Father “he who has received a gift from God, and is ungrateful for it, is already on the way to losing it”.
St. John Chrysostom compares the good wealth of a man to the Manna sent by God to the Jewish people as they were wandering in the Desert of Sinai. The people were allowed to take as much as they wanted and were satisfied. We know that many of them were greedy and desired to collect more to be put into storage. They discovered that the excess food molded quickly and went to waste. Selfishness brings rot and waste to our blessings from God. St. Peter of Damaskos wrote: “when God is thanked, He gives us still further blessings, while we, by receiving His gifts, love Him all the more and through this love attain that divine wisdom whose beginning is the fear of God.”
In the Gospel, “But God said to him, ‘Fool, this night they demand thy soul from thee; and what thou didst prepare, for whom shall it be?’ “Thus is the one who treasureth up for himself, and is not rich toward God.” [Lk. 12:19-21] Saint Basil instructs us in this manner: “Are you not a grasper of everything? Are you not a robber? You who treat as absolutely yours what you receive that you might dispense to others. He who strips another man of his clothing, is he not called a robber? And he who does not clothe the naked when he could, should he not be called the same? That bread you hold in your clutches that belongs to the starving. That cloak you keep locked in your wardrobe that belongs to the naked. Those shoes that are going to waste with you, they belong to the barefooted. The silver you buried away, that belongs to the needy. Whomsoever you could have helped and did not, to so many have you been unjust. I have spoken to you as best I could. For you who respond, the blessings are ready that were promised you. For you who do not respond, the sentence is already written; and I pray most earnestly that, reflecting upon this bitter counsel I am giving you, you may escape those penalties; that your riches may become instead the price of your redemption, and that you also may attain to those heavenly good things.” [Ib., III:332, §§ 7, 8.]
As we navigate around the board in life, we are to invest out gifts wisely by keeping what we need and giving generously to those in need. For if we give God control of our monopoly, there is no such thing as chance, only ample opportunity. You cannot out give God!
Fr. Gabriel Weller 12/4/16