Today’s section brings us to the second of four stories in this surah.  This new story seems to punctuate the point made in ayah 28:

Let not your eyes turn away from them [the Scriptures] out of desire for the attractions of this worldly life.

The “parable” begins with two men.  Both have been created and provided with a rich garden of grapes, dates, and corn.  The land of each is well-watered.  Both men have been set up by God to have a bountiful life.  Soon, one appears to turn to idolatry (18:42, “I wish I had not set up any partner to my Lord”) but even more so he turns to a life of materialism.  This man defines “better” by what he possesses.  God has blessed him, but he has become obsessed with the possessions.  This man has lost sight to God, the giver of blessings.  He compares his estate to that of the other man boasts that he has more.  He becomes convinced that the richness of his life is determined by his riches.  He buys the lie that what he has will always be and will always satisfy.  He even fools himself into believing the “Last Hour” will never come.  Essentially he has erected himself and his wealth is the supreme power. 

Then the other man who has never lost sight of God and the Last Hour scolds his lack of faith:

If only, when you entered your garden, you had said, “As God wills.  There is no power not [given] by God.” (18:39) 

Though this second man has less, he is truly the rich one.  He reminds his neighbor that his estate can be wiped away by the more powerful forces of nature in a moment’s notice.  There is a satisfaction to be found that is far greater than anything material possessions and wealth can bring:

The True God . . . gives the best rewards and the best outcomes. (18:44)

To be faithful, obedient, and mindful of God — this is the greatest calling and reward. 

The story ends as the faithful man said it would: the first man’s crops are destroyed by a storm of epic proportions and he cries out in regret for his faithlessness.

"The End of Materialism II," photo by carr176 on flickr.com

For Christians reading this parable, it will likely remind us of the parable of the Rich Fool told by Jesus:

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.  He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.  And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:13-21)

We might also remember the words of Jesus’ brother James:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes.  All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)

This line from the end of today’s Quranic section is a good reminder to those of us who live in an immensely materialistic world:

Wealth and children are the attractions of this worldly life, but lasting good works have a better reward with your Lord and give better grounds for hope. (18:46) 

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