Too Much Money
The central focus of today's Gospel story is a problem a lot of us would like to have: what to do with too much money and too much of everything. It's a story about a man who is so rich he doesn't know what to do with all he possesses.
If you've ever been to a rock concert in an amphitheater or other outdoor venue, packed with throngs of noisy fans all the way from the stage to the front entrance gate, then you have some idea what life was like for the crowds that followed Jesus from city to city.
We forget sometimes that Jesus was beyond famous, even beyond notorious. He was first century Palestine's equivalent of a major rock star in terms of fame and His ability to command an audience. A crowd of sometimes four or five thousand might follow Him across barren desert and up and down rocky hillsides, listening to His teaching and watching His miracles on any given day.
Saint Luke tells us that by the afternoon in today's Gospel lesson, the Pharisees had begun to treat Jesus with open hostility, challenging Him with such sharp questions that Luke actually uses the Greek word for cross-examining a witness in court.
In this highly charged, dramatic atmosphere, Luke writes, so many thousands had gathered to witness the spectacle that they were stepping on each other as they jostled for a better view. Jesus had been sternly rebuking both the Pharisees and the lawyers, and the mood of the crowd was electric.
It was at that climactic moment that someone in the audience shouted out, "Teacher! Order my brother to give me my fair share of our inheritance."
Jesus shot back, "Man, who appointed Me the judge between you and your brother?"
Then, like a surgeon, He cut right to the heart of the man's question: greed. "Be on guard against every kind of greed," Jesus warned the crowd. "Even when you have plenty, you shouldn't let your life be all about money and possessions."
Then He told today's story. The farmer, whose crop exceeded his wildest dreams, exceeded even the space in his barns to store it, and instead of sharing with his neighbors, he was willing to spend a fortune building new barns to hold not only the anticipated bumper crop of grain, but all of his possessions as well.
Imagine a brand-new Jaguar, or better, a new Bentley or Rolls-Royce, parked in front of each grain bin, its front and rear seats and trunk overflowing with flat-screen TVs, iPods, designer clothes and jewelry, playstation 3, and you'll be close to a 21st century equivalent.
"You've got it made," the farmer told himself. "Retire! Take it easy and have the time of your life," or, literally, "eat, drink and be merry." If you've ever wondered where that old saying comes from, it's from our Gospel reading today; you can find it in Luke 12:19. "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we..." What? Right! "For tomorrow we die!" And Jesus said that very night God appeared to the wealthy farmer and delivered the bad news, and He wasn't gentle.
"Thou fool! This night shall thy soul be required of thee!" You old fool, tonight you die! And your barns full of grain and cars and all sorts of expensive toys — who gets them then? What had the farmer done wrong? What was his mistake?
Was it that he filled the barn with possessions? Or that he filled his life with possessions? It's that he had filled his life with himself and stuff, and not with God.
Don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtime, Jesus told His followers then, or what's in your closet to wear, or what's in your garage to drive. Look at the beautiful wildflowers along the road — have you ever seen such colors? And they never fret about money or worry about tomorrow. If God takes such wonderful care of flowers that bloom today and are gone tomorrow, won't He do the same for you and me?
A friend of mine was in Long Beach, California, recently. Long Beach is a seaport city. Its massive docks are busy around the clock with commercial shipping from every corner of the world. While he was there, a boat very similar to a tugboat was ferrying a crew of workers from an offshore oil drilling platform back to a nearby pier so they could go home.
He told me of a group of noisy seagulls chattering angrily on the railing of the pier because the tugboat had interrupted their fishing. Soon, the oil rig workers had moved ashore with their duffel bags and the tugboat fired up its diesel engines and roared back to sea.
My friend said the angry chatter of the seagulls seemed to change almost to laughter as the powerful propellers of the departing tug churned up the water near the pier, turning the murky shallows into a banquet of free fish for the birds, and they all dived down and enjoyed the feast as soon as the boat was gone.
Noisy, smelly, bad-tempered old seagulls, and yet their God provides in such abundance it's almost comical. Our Heavenly Father knows that we need the essentials of life. And if we seek first His Kingdom, we are promised the other things will be added to our portion as well!
Then Jesus spoke one of my favorite lines from the entire New Testament, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom."
Don't be afraid of missing out on any of the fleeting pleasures of this life. Place your concern on preparations for the next world -- an eternity spent in the presence of God in Heaven, there with our precious Lord Jesus Christ and all the Saints. The time to get ready is now! We may not have long!
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