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.” – Luke 12:13-21 (NRSV)
Jesus tells us this story about a certain rich man who was enjoying the abundance of the land. His crop was so bountiful that he didn’t have enough room in his barns to store it all. Thanks be to God! As he is considering his wealth, he decides to enjoy it today and in the future.
And God calls him a fool.
Is Jesus against enjoying the fruit of our labor? Is Jesus opposed to having a good time? I don’t think so. If I remember correctly, Jesus turned dirty water into over 100 gallons of fine wine so the party wouldn’t end. Jesus also told his disciples to remember him whenever they shared a meal and a cup of wine. Abundance and success are not sins. So what’s the problem?
We may remember the story of Mary anointing Jesus with an expensive jar of nard. The disciples were indignant because she hadn’t sold the nard so they could feed the poor – and not just a few poor, but more than the huge crowd of 5,000 Jesus had once fed (it seems nard can also be multiplied to feed the multitude). Jesus didn’t condemn the woman because her actions were meant to honor Jesus. But in this parable, Jesus does condemn because this man isn’t honoring Jesus nor is he feeding the poor.
Rather he is hoarding God’s abundance.
This man has at least two barns that are already full to overflowing. He has enough grain to feed his family. He has enough wealth to tear down his barns and build bigger ones and feed his family for several years.
This man may tithe, but the attitude of his heart is not rich towards God; it is not rich towards his neighbor. He is rich only towards himself. He is rich only in things that seem to promise security – but it is false security because it could disappear in an instant and he can’t take it with him. Jesus teaches us that our security is not found in physical things and that God’s abundance is to be shared with others.
I have a lot of thoughts and feelings regarding the budget proposal put forward by the White House this week (especially since it comes on the heels of the CBO’s estimate that the American Health Care Act will strip 24 million people of their health coverage). While the budget proposal does include reductions to foreign aid (which I grieve for both human and national security reasons), I am also angry and sad about its domestic agenda.
We may not agree on the causes for climate change or its extent, but now it is something we no longer even want to consider. We no longer care about the arts and humanities (I might not like everything the National Endowment for the Arts considers art but I believe art enriches our humanity). We do not think we should fund legal aid for those who need help navigating our justice system.
We do not believe the federal government should help support water and sewage systems in poor communities. We want to eliminate Community Development Block Grants because it is not important to support urban renewal even though at the same time we are significantly reducing programs to help train those who don’t have the advantages of the suburbs. We believe that eliminating before- and after-school and summer programs will make America great – as will significant reducing need-based aid to college students.
We will tear down all of these barns that have been a part of creating our abundance.
And then we will build bigger barns.
We will build a barn to house detained undocumented immigrants, without regard for their family status or reason for being here. And it needs to be big, because we believe they don’t have the same rights as us, and we hold them for indeterminable amounts of time. We will build a barn to house more enforcement personnel. We will convert our “savings” from tearing down our old barns into more hardware for war: ships and jets and our nuclear weapons arsenal.
Rather than a farm that grows things that bring life to the world, we will become a gated community trying to find security in things that rust and bring life to no one.
We will eat, drink, and be merry – convinced that nothing will ever be demanded of us. That we can stockpile all we need. That are big, full barns can make us safe. That power means more than well-being.
And if we do, we are fools.
We hoard our abundance from those who are in need. We hoard it from creating beauty in art and sustaining our environmental beauty. We hoard it from those who just want a meal we could so easily spare. We are rich towards no one. And we foolishly believe that this makes us great.
Merciful and just God, we forget that all we have comes from you. Even though we toil in the fields, we experience abundance only because you cause the rain to fall and the sun to shine. Forgive us when we place politics above people; power above peace. And forgive us when we stand silently and idly by while others do it in our name. It takes a miracle to break us out of our greed and fear. May you work in bold and clear ways so that do not become fools. Amen.
 John 2:6
 John 12:1-8