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Ephesians 2:1-10

You were dead, through he crimes and the sins in which you used to live when you were following the way of this world, obeying the ruler who governs the air, the spirit who is at work in the rebellious. We all were among them too in the past, living sensual lives, ruled entirely by our own physical desires and our own ideas; so that by nature we were as much under God’s anger as the rest of the world. But God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ - it is through grace that you have been saved - and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.

This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been saved through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.

Luke 12:13-21

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, “Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.” “My friend,” he replied, “who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?” Then he said to them, “Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.”

Then he told them a parable: “There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, ‘What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: 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.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?’ So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.”

When a younger brother sees an older sibling receiving a slice of delicious cake, and he goes up to his mother and says, “Mother, mother! Tell kor-kor to give me my share of the cake!” Is the younger brother concerned with fairness or his older sibling’s generosity? No. He just wants the piece of cake that he was not able to get. He lacks the power and authority to claim something that he wants, so he tells his mother to do something that he wants do.

When a parishioner goes up to the parish priest and complains, “Father, Father! Tell so-and-so to be more this-and-that”, is she concerned with the other parishioner’s well-being? She only goes up to the priest because She alone lacks the power and authority to claim something that she wants, so she tells her parish priest to do something that she wants to do.

Similarly, when the man in the crowd goes up to Jesus and says, “Master, tell my brother to give me a share of inheritance”, he is not concerned with his elder brother being fair or not. He simply lacks the power and authority to claim how much he wants, so he tells Jesus to do it for him.

Note that Jesus is not concerned whether or not the thing that we want is good or bad. He doesn’t say whether the man who approached him is asking for something that is fair or just or not. He merely says, “I am not the arbitrator of your claims.” In other words, Jesus is not obliged to do what we tell him to do for us, even if that is the fair or just or correct thing to do.

The same situation takes place when we want something but lack the power to do so. That is why we pray to God, “Lord, Lord,” we say, “tell so-and-so that he must be more generous, more helpful, etc, so that I may get what I want.” Okay, so we don’t say that exactly, but that is often indeed the focus of our prayers. We want this, we want that, and we tell God to grant it for us… and then we add, as an afterthought, “if only if it is your will”.

Today’s readings have us concerned not particularly about our actions, but their motives. Sometimes we pray to God, “Lord, you know I’ve never committed any serious sin in my life. I’ve always fasted during Lent, abstained from meat on Fridays, gone to church every Sunday. I’ve always given money to charity, and helped out in church. So please grant my prayer.”

Is this not bargaining with God? Is this not telling him, “Because I’ve done this for you, you’re obliged to do this for me?” Is this not placing ourselves above God, telling him what to do? But God is ever so humble. He does not mind us asking him to do something for him. God is, after all, not as worried about his position as almighty as we are worried for him. What God is most concerned about is - why do you ask me to do this for you?

Do we ask God to do things for us out of love for him and our neighbour? Or do we ask him to do it for us because we don’t have the capability, the power, the authority to do it? Sometimes the line is so fine that we don’t realise that we’ve crossed it.

Dear Jesus, we ask for your grace to be as humble as you are, to serve the Father as you have served, to love God and our neighbour as you have loved. Help us to do all that we do out of love. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Those who know where they stand with God.

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