Scripture Luke 12: 13-21 Jan Savory
Greed and selfishness
Jesus tells a story, it’s about Greed, selfishness, sharing or rather nor sharing
A farmer has a bumper crop. Wonderful! he says. Now what shall I do? Oh yes, I’ll tear down these barns and build bigger ones. Then I can store all this grain and I’ll be able to live well for the rest of my life. Sounds like a good plan. And God calls him a fool!
Why is the rich farmer called a fool?
One could easily argue that the rich man is a wise and responsible person. He has a thriving farming business. His land has produced so abundantly that he does not have enough storage space in his barns. So he plans to pull down his barns and build bigger ones to store all his grain and goods. Then he will have ample savings set aside for the future and will be all set to enjoy his golden years. Isn’t it wise and responsible to save for the future? The rich farmer would probably be a good financial advisor. He seems to have things figured out. He has worked hard and saved wisely. Now he can sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of his labor, right?
Not exactly. There is one very important thing the rich man has not planned for — his reckoning with God. And so God calls him a fool.
It’s all about me
Did you notice as I read the passage, he talks to himself, no one else? What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops. My crops -did he plant the seed, weed the fields, harvest a bumper crop all by himself? Hardly likely. He may not have got his hands dirty al all. But does he remember all those, whether family, employees or maybe slaves, who laboured hard in the fields Does he consider that he didn’t provide those perfect growing conditions, just the right amount of rain and heat; no swarms of insects; no blight on the plants? Does he remember that it is God who causes the seeds to grow? No, it’s my crop. It’s all about me.
Just a little bit more.
This is greed , it’s never satisfied by what it desires.. Rather, the opposite is true. There is a story, which probably never happened, about John D. Rockefeller being asked by a reporter, “How much money is enough?” He responded, “Just a little bit more.” But even though we see the danger in that, don’t we sometimes act as if we believe it? The farmer in our story certainly did. It’s all about me!
Is wealth bad?
So, is it wrong to have money? Should we give it all away? Some people, like the rich young ruler in another gospel story and like Francis of Assisi, may be so called. Others, most of us I believe, are called to share what we have, like Jesus’ women disciples: ”Mary, called Magdalene … and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for [Jesus and the other disciples] out of their resources (Luke 8:1-3, NRSV).
There is no one rule for everyone. Much depends on our different personal circumstances — age, stage in life, health, family matters, etc. Jesus didn’t call for a total renunciation of wealth, but rather that we not be greedy and we share. How much is enough is a personal decision, to be made prayerfully with love for God and our neighbours in our hearts.
A question of balance
It is not that God doesn’t want us to save for retirement or future needs. It is not that God doesn’t want us to “eat, drink, and be merry” and enjoy what God has given us. We know from the Gospels that Jesus spent time eating and drinking with people and enjoying life. But he was also clear about where his true security lay.
Life is all about priorities and knowing who or what is truly God in our lives. It is about how we invest our lives and the gifts that God has given us. It is about how our lives are fundamentally aligned: toward ourselves and our passing desires, or toward God and our neighbour, toward God’s mission to bless and redeem the world.
The closing twist in the story
The story has a surprise ending. As this rich man is congratulating himself on his wisdom and success, God breaks in, saying “You fool!” Have you forgotten me? “This very night your life is being demanded of you” (NRSV)”. The Greek word translated “life” also means “soul”.
“Fool, this night they demand your soul from you.” is a more literal translation. Who is “they”? Who or what is demanding the man’s soul? All these barns, all these granaries, all these fields, all this stuff he has given himself over the years. His possessions demand control of his life, lock, stock, and barrel. He now lives in bondage to the very things he thought would serve him. His life proclaims: “It’s all about me!
What about us?
Maybe the farmer won’t die that evening, but will live with his wealth and his possessions demanding his soul. But one day he will die, as will we, and all of the work we have done to amass these things will be useless. What will God say to each of us then? I hope it won’t be You fool, but Well done, good and faithful servant. Amen