New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Parable of the Rich Fool
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 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.” 16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 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. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 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?’ 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
We moved into our home in 2001. It was the third move in our then 9 year marriage, so I didn’t look much beyond a few years. So now as we start our thirteenth year in the same home, I am struck by how much stuff we have. When you move frequently, and if you are like me and just detest the chores of packing and unpacking, you tend to purge. When you can tuck stuff in a closet for 13 years and forget about it, you realize at some point that you are one cool whip container short of being invited to film an episode of “Hoarders!’
So how do we find ourselves with too much stuff? I think our American society is rife with messages of excess and enticements of the next best thing. My drawer full of awesome hair products is evidence of that (and I’m not even having a good hair day as I type this). In addition to our visual and audio bombardment of reminders of how incomplete our life is now without (fill in the blank here), we measure our life’s successes through the eyes of currency. As our daughter is ending her high school career, everyone has advice about what she should choose as her college major so she can graduate and make $xx,xxx salary right away. We look with envy on those who have “more” than we have – more money, more square footage in their home, more vacations, more fun = better life! Heck, we are even envious about people’s faith!
Greed is not a nice word – it just doesn’t invoke a warm and fuzzy feeling when we think about the concept. But Jesus is pretty clear in his parable in this passage of Luke’s Gospel. What are we doing with all this stuff in our lives???? If we spent a third of the energy/money/time on our relationship with and service to our Lord, we would have lives that were richer in ways that “things” cannot make us. Oh, and don’t we already know that, yet still fall in the stuff trap anyway?
And we always seem to feel like what we have is just never enough. Americans in particular have terms like “rainy day fund” and “back up plan” in our everyday vocabulary, making us feel like we need more than we have, even though we may have all that we need. Last week’s post discussed the Lord’s Prayer as our format for communicating with God (https://paigehanks.wordpress.com/2013/07/) and Jesus teaches us specifically to say, “Give us this day, our daily bread,” as if we should live for what God provides us today, knowing that he will provide for us again tomorrow and the next day after that. Since we are such control freaks (ok, maybe it’s just me here) we think we better have a contingency plan just in case.
Although I am not a collector of any one thing, I do find that my stuff can pile up around me. It can interfere with my ability to think clearly and focus on the task at hand when I am at work and my desk is cluttered with papers. When things are organized and every item is in its place, I find a sense of calm and ability to focus. Having what we need and not more than we can ever want or use is not what God calls us to do. As Christians, we are commanded to serve others, feed the hungry, take care of the sick and meek among us, and our stuff usually prevents us from doing that in any systematic way.
I find that I can give when I see a need, but mostly just up to the point where I think that giving more may hurt me. That is hard to say outloud and type in this space, as I am ashamed and embarassed to think that at all. I am sure I could give away my time, talent and treasure far more than I do today and I wouldn’t even notice a difference in my own needs – that is my insecurity talking, not my reality. So this week’s Gospel from Luke is just what I needed. I am reminded that I have really greedy tendencies and I want what is mine – I want my fair share. In my mind, my actual fair share is far smaller than the piles and piles of my fair share that I actually have, whether it’s money, space or stuff. And all that excess interferes with my true calling as a child of God. If I am to love and serve God with all my heart, mind, body, soul and will, then I need to get down to the nitty gritty with my stuff. It will be a process with ups and downs I’m sure, but I don’t want my time left in life to be spent hoarding more than I need of anything. If today were the day for perfect healing through death and eternal life, I wouldn’t need a thing I have now besides my uncluttered faith in my Lord and Savior.
Generous Father, you are worthy of all the glory and honor. Help me clear my heart, mind, body and soul and let my will be your will in all I do and say. I commit to loving and serving you through generosity of spirit and with a heart to serve, sharing your many gifts with all I meet. Thank you for loving me enough to give me enough, even though I never deserve it at all. To you be praised. AMEN.