Jesus appears annoyed when someone asks him about judging an inheritance dispute, and then he tells a parable about a man whose priorities were all turned around.
‘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 towards God.’ [from Luke 12]
What idiot decides that because he has a bumper crop, he should pull down the old barns and build new ones? A selfish idiot? One who simply wants to show off his wealth? Why tear down the old ones unless you want to demonstrate that you have so much, you can afford to act carelessly?
One of the interesting things about this story is how much the farmer thinks of himself: “I will do this,” I will pull down,” “I will store,” “I will say,” “MY barns, MY grain, MY goods.” Jesus says the man has stored up treasure for himself, but isn’t rich toward God.
What would it take for him to be rich toward God? An attitude shift.
Jesus is speaking to people who live and work on farms, or who are very familiar with farming. What would be astounding to them is that this guy thinks he’s the only one who’s done any work! In this pre-tractor society, it would’ve taken many workers to accomplish all this. And though he doesn’t legally owe them anything more than wages, he has a moral obligation to “profit share” with those who’ve made him so successful. Why not announce: “You all have done such a great job this year that my barns can’t hold everything you’ve planted, cultivated, and harvested. Isn’t that amazing! Please come take what you can use so it doesn’t go to waste, and let’s give away the surplus to the hungry in our community.” He’d save money by not tearing down and rebuilding bigger.
Wouldn’t that be a holy celebration? Wouldn’t the farmer feel honored to be able to return something extra to those who’d made him successful?
The God who lives, the God who gives, the God who shares, is the God who requires our very soul. Not to harm our soul, or to heap shame on it, but to liberate it from being owned by the things that don’t care about us. To be owned instead by an open heart that allows us to share what we have, and allows others to share with us. To be able to open our ears, our hands, our hearts, our very souls, to the hearts and voices of others, and by extension, to the heart and voice of God.
© 2016, Melissa Bane Sevier