It was a glorious and dramatic moment for the Golden State Warriors when they finally grabbed the NBA Championship in 2015. It was a record-breaking season for them after working so hard to earn the title for the first time in 40 years. The players, coaching team, and avid fans must have been deliriously ecstatic for the Warriors’ achievement associated with fame, glory and pride.
In 2014, Raymond Buxton, winner of the $425.3 million Powerball® lottery, was in disbelief for hours after knowing that he hit the jackpot. In his words, once the initial shock passed, [he] could not sleep for days. He, at one point, must have thought that he was hallucinating for such surprising life fortune that made him an instant millionaire. How and where would he put all this money?
To borrow some Nichiren Buddhism concepts, it is said that there are 3 kinds of treasures in man’s life: treasures of the storehouse, treasures of the body, and treasures of the heart. ‘Treasures of the storehouse’ refers to material possessions or assets. ‘Treasures of the body’ pertains to acquired skills, talents, or physical health. ‘Treasures of the heart,’ on the other hand, means inner wealth, peace and faith. It is believed that the order of priority of these 3 treasures tells so much of a man’s values. A person who places the treasures of the heart at the highest rank is most certainly to succeed in life because all the other treasures will diminish and deteriorate in time. When man focuses on accumulating the treasures of the storehouse and the body, he becomes attached to it – then later on would suffer when he could no longer satisfy such desire. Nichiren belief dictates that the most important above all, the correct sense of purpose in life is to accumulate the treasures of the heart.
In all sense, this guideline is universal and eternal.
In the Parable of the Rich Fool from the gospel of St. Luke (Luke 12:13-21), Jesus teaches us an exactly the same value about keeping what is everlasting. The rich man’s harvest was bountiful but his current storage was not enough to contain it, so he thought of “tearing down his barns and building larger ones. Where he could store all his grain and other goods and would say to himself, ‘…you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!’” Clearly, the rich man was immensely dazzled by the abundance of his possessions that he intended to hoard them, and later on enjoy them by himself. He was amused by his own problem-solving skill about increasing the barn capacity, and probably by his business management skills that was able to earn such massive harvest.
Jesus does not fault the rich man for being hard working and business-minded, but for his greed. We have to recall that during this time, Jesus was still in the line of speaking about discipleship. Through the parable, he reminds us that greed has no place in God’s kingdom.
Greed is one of the 7 Capital or Deadly Sins among which are pride, lust, malicious envy, gluttony, sloth, and inordinate anger. It is ‘deadly’ because greed gives rise to other equally serious sins. As followers of Christ, we are taught to love God above all things, and then our neighbor as ourselves. But because of greed, or also known as disordered love of riches, we tend to forget the order of priority. Because of the joy that we get from material things, we tend to place love of riches first in the rank, replacing God. Then eventually we forget about our neighbors. We forget about the greatest commandment. Greed intervenes into our relationship with God; it ruins our coexistence with our neighbors. It transforms us to becoming selfish and self-centered individuals. This is what makes greed a deadly sin. As St. Thomas Aquinas says, “greed is a sin against God, just as mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things.”
In today’s age, greed does not only pertain to material riches – as some might say that they are not financially wealthy. Greed can often come in the form of consumerism. Generally, consumerism is defined as the consumption of goods and services in excess of one’s basic needs, usually in greater quantities. Likewise, greed can take the form of over-working, this time not in consuming, but in producing much more to gain more. Sadly, consumerism and over-working have become serious global issues. Both, by the way, are rooted in greed.
It is not prohibited that we celebrate our hard-earned material possessions. But we are reminded that, “one’s life does not consist of possessions. (Luke 12:15)” We are not to dwell on what is physical and visible to the eye, for these will fade away.
The rich man in Jesus’ parable was called a fool because of several reasons; 1) he failed to remember that he will not live forever to keep his treasures, 2) he forgot to recognize that all his wealth came from God, 3) he considered his possessions as his security for the future, 4) he did not fully understand the purpose of his abundance, and 5) he failed to stick to what matters most in life.
It has been over a year since their momentous wins, I wonder how and where the Golden State Warriors and lotto winner Buxton are right now, as far as their state of being is concerned. The elation and euphoria must probably have dissipated. For the GSW, the championship spotlight had been deflected from their side as the Cavaliers have bagged the title this year; while for Buxton, the money may perhaps have diminished over the years. Such tales tell us that earthly glory and riches do not last forever.
St. Paul leaves us with these words from his letter to the Colossians (Colossians 3:1-11), “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”
It is never too late to choose what is everlasting, lest we be called a ‘rich fool.’
Dear Jesus, thank you for probing my heart so I may understand and choose where my treasure is. You remind me everyday of my highest treasure, and that is love of You. Please hold my hand as I consistently and firmly choose you over the riches of the earth. I need you; you are my wealth to everlasting life. Amen.