Luke 12: 13-21
I once heard a woman talk about trying the Atkins diet and she proceeded to gain 5 pounds. She admitted that just because she could eat bacon and eggs and all that non-carb food, she thought she could eat as much as she wanted just as long as she stayed away from any type of carbohydrate. She then went on to relay a story about a couple that went to an all you can eat buffet. They too were on Atkins. And, after the 13 trips up to the buffet table for more roast beef, the manager yelled out ENOUGH! I guess they have never heard the phrase “in all things, moderation”, or enough is enough.
Today’s Parable of the Rich Fool is another case of enough is enough. Jesus tells the parable to a very large crowd that has gathered about him. In fact Luke indicates that this crowd is rather unruly and trampling on one another. Imagine standing in the hot sun of ancient Palestine with hundreds around you all trying to get a glimpse of Jesus….dust getting in your mouth…..people yelling out to him to get his attention…..and the disciples perhaps trying to protect him…….trying to understand what is happening. Then finally one of the members of the crowd does get his attention.
Let us now hear this parable from the 12th chapter of Luke:
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
WOW! I cannot help but think of my drive to Lake Geneva, WI from St. Louis, MO while I was on vacation. Such BIG barns there are in the Midwest, I had forgotten. And all of the multiple silos connected to the central grain elevator left me in awe – what a system. It’s not like our beautiful New England red barns and their matching silos, oh no. These are mammoth but then again they have more space than we do. Barns were certainly on my mind and in plain sight.
So let’s look at this passage about barns, a rabbi, and one solitary, wealthy man. First Jesus is compared to a judge. But we know a rabbi was not a judge. A rabbi was and still is today a teacher. So when Jesus was asked to judge, he does no such thing but warns against what he saw was really happening from this mans outburst. Back then it was lawful for the elder brother to receive a double portion of the inheritance. Obviously this man was not that brother and he wanted a cut of his dad’s estate. Somehow he felt cheated or denied, but Jesus viewed him as just plain greedy.
Being the good rabbi Jesus seizes the moment and teaches this man and the others by telling a story. A very rich man “McMansions” his barn to accommodate all of the abundance that his land produces. Then he sits back, kicks off his dusty sandals, puts his feet up and says to himself, “I’m gonna relax, gonna eat, gonna drink, gonna be merry, I’ve plenty to last me”. Pretty narcissistic character if you ask me. What he didn’t count on was that night, he would die. And all that was stored in his barn would rot and go to waste, which is so unfortunate because I am sure that there were plenty of poor farmers, and fishermen who could have benefitted from his wealth. This is a classic parable.
This guy made two mistakes – big ones. One, he didn’t thank or even acknowledge God for the bounty of life and two, he didn’t share, he was greedy. He had plenty, he had more than enough. But for this man, who was terribly alone in this world, what he had wasn’t enough to suit his pleasure. This man was not lead by faith, God was not even on this man’s mind. He did not believe in the assurance of God that he would be taken care of even if he gave away all of his wealth, and he did not understand that all he had came from God and was to be shared with others, not hoarded in some gigantic, supersized silo.
Now to his credit (sort of), saving for the future is a wise and prudent thing to do. It’s appropriate stewardship of all of God’s bounty and gives us a sense of stability. But that’s not what this parable of caution is trying to get across and wanting us to know. This parable is warning us against the gluttony of material, stored up goods in a silo of isolation like this rich fool.
What a sad way to live. What an unfaithful way to live. Imagine the good that this man could have done had he trusted and believed in God’s promise to care for him always. I guess he just didn’t understand the concept of “enough is enough” and wasn’t willing to take a risk.
Part of my vacation was spent at Norman Barr Camp in LakeGeneva, WI. It’s been a family gathering place for probably 70 or 80 years and for the last 10 years I’ve gone back every summer to reconnect with family and preach at their Sunday chapel service. Now Lake Geneva is quite the destination for the rich and famous or at least the very wealthy but there are also several small Christian Bible camps. The mission of Norman Barr is to bring urban children out to the lake for some fun, fresh air and God focused living for the week.
So I’m fully aware that our little beloved campsite sits among wealth. There is Stone Manor that boasts of 14K gold plated doorknobs, and the Wrigley estate (chewing gum – and baseball field) has everything electric including an electric flagpole and draperies. My early morning shorepath walks yielded some ‘oh wow’ moments. While this is no comment about the owners of all these estates and mansions, AND they are beautiful to look at, you have to admit, they are over the top.
Do they enjoy Lake Geneva any more than me and my family do? Are their souls filled more so than ours with the grace that the lake offers? The lake is the lake and sitting on the dock and watching the mailboat, or the Lady of the Lake ship go by is the same from any dock I think.
Let’s face it, since the phrase ‘supersize me’ came into existence we’ve wanted more and more, bigger and better.
So how much is enough for you? Define enough for your living. What is it that is necessary for you to live abundantly? It’s a tough question. I get fooled by it a lot. We each will react to this question differently and our answers will be vastly different depending on our circumstances and needs. But there is a point in all of our lives where “enough really is enough”. Unlike the couple who goes up to the buffet 13 times, or the lakeside mansion owner who installs 14K gold plated doorknobs, ENOUGH! It’s that point where all of your needs are met, you are satisfied and content with your living. And, what do you know, there is usually enough for all to share.
Ya know, this parable doesn’t warn against having riches and all that riches can do for your life. It does warn against the outright hoarding of your riches to exclusion of all else – to the exclusion of your family, to the exclusion of people with less, to the exclusion of the needs of the community in which you live, to the exclusion of God as the source of our abundance. It also calls upon all of us, whether we are rich or poor to think about what we want and why. That’s the urgent message that Jesus was trying to relay. This man was not ‘rich’ towards God. He was rich only towards himself and his commodities. And Christ wants us to be rich towards God.
Will our life be measured by what the media says we should have or believe in, or who we should like or dislike, or how we have answered the call to be rich towards God?
This has been the summer from – fill in the blank. Between the conventions and all of the killings and bombings and outright hatred I have been distracted, angered and saddened. It would be remiss of me to not acknowledge the loss of life, the deep pain and fear and give voice to the lament of unresolved, perceived helplessness. How much more? How many more? When will enough be enough? Enough! But we are not helpless. We are not helpless if we live a life that is rich towards God.
For me, being rich towards God means to acknowledge where the gifts of my life come from, my family, my friends, and my ability to find meaning in what I do with my life. Being rich towards God for me is to know that there is a community of people who will support me and love me that I don’t have to go it alone. Being rich towards God is to find grace when the silo is empty and know that that is exactly when God meets me and beckons me forward. Being rich towards God is to reconcile past differences and move on. Being rich towards God is to simply just be myself, in my brokenness with my warts hanging out and give thanks that God called me and named me as beloved.
Being rich towards God is to live through societal, political and racial tensions and stand firm upon the convictions of my faith, that is to LOVE even when I don’t like what is happening and to advocate for justice.
What about you? How are you rich towards God?
You don’t need bigger barns to be rich towards God. Just a bigger heart. Scripture tells us that we have the assurance that God will take care of us, there is no need to hoard. We don’t need bigger barns, only a bigger capacity to trust and to love.
“Look at the birds of the air, they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet God feeds them.’ (Mt. 6:26) Are you not of more value than they?”
May the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.