One of my elder brothers that go by the name Pius (Mr Pee) is very voracious with books and this began from his seminary days. As a mentor-brother he had a lot of influence on me with regards to reading and intellectual aptitude generally. It was from his collection of books that I read a novel written in my native Igbo language titled Okpa Aku Erieri (Literarily translated as “The One who gathers wealth but could not feed”).
The novel tells the story about a severely stingy and tough-going school teacher called Akubuzo (wealth comes first) who was so miserly that he was ready to starve so that a penny could be saved. His stingy life style was so overwhelming that he could not marry as he saw marriage as a waste of money and resources. In his house nothing was wasted not even items in the waste bin. His servants knew his stringent economic measures and tried as much as possible to comply with his rules or risk starvation for a good number of days.
Towards the end of the novel, the writer made the reader to understand that Akubuzo’s entire acute stinginess was a strategy for him to save money to travel overseas and study. In view of this he was methodically saving every penny that crossed his way somewhere in his house where he dug a hole that served as a safe. By the time he was sure that he had accumulated so much to aid him travel overseas to study he stealthily went to recover the money from the hole only to discover that the entire saving of so many years had been eaten up by termites! Akubuzo ended up generating so much money for termites!
The gospel of today is actually an instructional continuation of the gospel of last Sunday. We can recall that last Sunday our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the parable of the Rich Fool. We identified the problem of the rich man as that of SELFISHNESS which made him to HOARD the blessings he had received from God. Now the hoarding is as a result of the fear of tomorrow; simply put, INSECURITY. Hence he wanted to use the material possession he had to secure a future for himself with his wealth; an act which the Preacher called VANITY.
In the gospel of today (Luke 12:32-48) our Lord Jesus Christ assured his disciples to stand strong in faith (not with material possession) as God will be the one to give them eternal security. What followed afterwards could be said to be the guidelines or the secrets for the attainment of eternal treasure in heaven. The following are the key secrets that we can deduce from the gospel periscope:
The second reading (Heb.11:1-2, 8-17) devoted so much time on this theological virtue. It is from here that we have the classical definition of faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen”. Faith which is a supernatural gift from God dispels fear from us. So when in the gospel our Lord Jesus Christ told his disciples “Fear not, little flock” (Luke 12:32), he was telling them to have faith in him because fear is opposite of faith.
With the presentation of lots of biblical examples, the second reading lets us know that faith involves total dependence on God like in the case of Abraham and Sarah. When we lack faith we relapse into fear and we also displease God (Heb. 11:6).
II) MATERIAL DETACHMENT AND ALMS-GIVING.
Material detachment seems to be a very challenging exercise among many people in our day and age. This is mostly because it involves a lot of letting go and most people are not ready to part with their possessions. This was also the challenge that the rich man in the gospel of last Sunday faced. With regards to this, our Lord Jesus Christ instructed his disciples to sell their possessions and give alms. This may sound unsettling but it should be seen as the ponderable way through which one can locate God. Most people have material possessions standing on their way to God. To sell their possessions here means turning them around from being stumbling blocks to becoming stepping stones for upliftment.
Biblical references abound that strongly recommend almsgiving as an act that is pleasing to God. Sirach (4:31) says “let your hand not be opened to receive and clenched when it is time to give”.In the book of Proverbs (3:28) the word of God says “do not say to your friend go and come again and tomorrow I will give to you when you can give it at the present. In Luke (6:38) our Lord Jesus Christ declared “give and there shall be gifts for you a full measure pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your hands. St. Paul writing to the Galatians (5:13) said that “By charity we serve one another”. The letter to the Hebrews (13:16) says “Do not forget to do good and share with others for such sacrifices are pleasing to God”.
III) ETERNAL TREASURES
In the context of the instructions given by our Lord Jesus Christ he said “Provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is your heart will also be” (Luke 12:33b-34).
The stingy Akubuzo in the novel I read was not attentive to the above otherwise he would have known that moths and termites exist and they can be very destructive. Akubuzo was astute in gathering treasure for his future career but he lacked the knowledge for proper saving. There are still many Akubuzos in the world who are very proficient in gathering material wealth but lack the insightful wisdom of transforming their purses into eternal treasures. If we look at the instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ very well we shall see that material almsgiving is at the service of divine purses; we sow on earth and we reap in heaven!
(IV) WATCHFULNESS AND READINESS.
The life of a Christian should be an attitude not just a religion. This attitude finds expression in constant watchfulness and readiness; in the likeness of a soldier. On account of this our Lord said “Let your loins be girded and your lamp burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks.” (Luke 12: 35-44).
God did not consult us when he created and brought us into existence and he would also not consult us when he decides to end our time here. Watchfulness and readiness are in essence important kingdom virtues that we need to imbibe. The human nature has this habit of over relaxing and assuming that there is still time ahead. But the truth is that the time is not only limited, it will also come unexpectedly.
It was on account of the need to be watchful and ready that our Lord Jesus Christ gave the parable of the Ten Virgin (Matt.25:1-13). St. Paul talked about our being spiritually awake (Romans 13:11). For St. Peter (1 Pet. 5:8) it is an important exercise for us to be vigilant in order to withstand the lure of the evil one. There are many of us who are spiritually and morally asleep. Now is the time for us to wake up and get ourselves spiritually ready because the son of man is coming at an hour nobody would expect!
(V) ACTIVE AND POSITIVE INVOLVEMENT
To be watchful is one thing, to be ready is another and also to be positively active is yet another fact. In the gospel reading of today our Lord Jesus Christ painted the picture of a servant who was awake, ready but negatively active as he was beating up the other servants; eating and drinking and so was punished severely for negative involvement.
To be positively involved requires firstly a deeper knowledge of God and his commandments. Next is a deep and affectionate love for God and our neigbours (Matt.22:36-40). To be actively involved we are expected to be accountable for the opportunities and privileges we have received from God. So we are expected to be watchful, ready and actively doing good in order to secure treasures for ourselves in heaven. Like in the reflection of last Sunday, it will be needful for us to continue to reflection on the classical question of our Lord Jesus Christ:
“What shall it profit a man to have gained the whole world but suffer the loss of his soul” (Mark 8:36).
I wish you a blissful Sunday and a wonderful week ahead.