The protagonist of the little parable about the «foolish rich man» is a landowner like those known by Jesus in Galilee. Powerful men who ruthlessly exploited farm-workers, thinking only about increasing their own welfare. The people feared and envied them: doubtlessly they were the fortunate ones. For Jesus, they are the most foolish.
Surprised by a harvest that went far beyond his expectations, the rich landowner finds himself obliged to think: «What am I to do?». He’s talking to himself. In his horizon no one else is around. It seems he doesn’t have a wife, children, friends or neighbors. He’s not thinking about the farm-workers who work his fields. He’s only concerned about his welfare and wealth: my harvest, my barns, my goods, my life…
The rich man doesn’t understand that he lives closed in on himself, prisoner of a logic that dehumanizes him, emptying him of all dignity. He only lives to accumulate, store and increase his material welfare: «I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time».
Suddenly, unexpectedly, Jesus has God intervene. God’s cry interrupts the rich man’s dreams and illusions: «Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?». This is God’s sentence: this rich man’s life is a failure and a foolishness.
He builds his barns bigger, but doesn’t know how to broaden the horizon of his life. He grows his wealth, but diminishes and impoverishes his life. He accumulates goods, but doesn’t know friendship, generous love, joy or solidarity. He doesn’t know how to give or share, only hoard. What of humanity is there in such a life?
The economic crisis we are suffering is a «crisis of ambition»: the rich countries, the huge banks, the powerful of the world… we’ve wanted to live above our possibilities, dreaming about accumulating well-being without any limit, and forgetting more and more those who sink into poverty and hunger. But suddenly our security falls apart.
This crisis isn’t just one crisis more. It is a «sign of the times» that we need to read in the light of the Gospel. It’s not difficult to hear God’s voice in the depths of our consciences: «Enough now of so much foolishness and so much cruel lack of solidarity». We will never overcome our economic crises without fighting for a profound change in our way of life: we need to live more austerely; we need to share more our well-being.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf