Saturday, January 12, 2013
Building Bigger Barns
Luke 12:13 ¶ Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”
Luke 12:14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?”
Luke 12:15 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.”
Luke 12:16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly.
Luke 12:17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’
Luke 12:18 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.
Luke 12:19 And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’
Luke 12:20 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?’
Luke 12:21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
In the midst of Jesus' teaching he is approached by a man who wants Jesus to weigh-in regarding his brother's behavior. It was often the case that people would bring their concerns to the rabbi and ask for decisions in religious or even legal matters. Jesus is again responding as one who is not a part of this earthly kingdom. He refuses to be the "judge" or "arbiter" in this matter. Instead he shares with them another story to help draw them into life in the eternal kingdom. In light of the kingdom of God the desire to build up human wealth becomes almost comedic. However, the story is illustrated by the rich young man who simply could not get enough. His barns were already full, but rather than share, he planned to pull them down and build even bigger ones so that he could store up more. Before he could complete his work, he died. Barns full of crops mean nothing to a dead person!
There are two parts to this story but they have the same foundation. The foundation is an understanding that we live life within the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of this world! When we go before the Lord in prayer we often come to him with our requests, but just as this man learned, when we engage in conversation with the Lord, we often come away learning something new and our prayers are not answered in the way we had imagined, but instead we continue to be transformed into kingdom people. Jesus refused to take on the role of an arbiter in civil matters and yet, there are times in which we expect him to do this very thing. We want things made right in the here and now -- we want God to intercede -- we want the laws changed to make things right. And we become exceedingly frustrated when it seems that the Lord won't step in and change these things. But isn't that the very nature of Jesus? He is so kingdom focused that our desires to change things within the worldly kingdoms must seem as a distraction to him. Instead, he continually calls us to come and participate in his kingdom. And this is exactly what he does in this circumstance.
But what about the barns? Did you know that the average home size in the United States has increased 150% in the last 5 decades! (http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/2443194/) Why is that? Is it because we are just as guilty as the rich young man of filling our homes with things and then deciding we still don't have enough room for things so we must build bigger homes! And it seems the more space we have, the more likely we are to fill it. Is this why there are hoards of people in line on Black Friday -- waiting to get more "stuff" to fill the barns! Let's step back a moment and ask ourselves whether our homes are full enough or not…or whether we are guilty of building bigger barns.
The full barns in the story are reminiscent of the story of Joseph. God allowed him to fill up barns full of grain, but for a purpose. The purpose was to be prepared to feed the nations during a time of great famine. The implication from this story is that there could have been a great famine and this man would not have opened his barns to feed anyone. Instead, even that which he raised he felt he had to hang onto as well.
I still remember the day in Moscow back in the early 90's when I had one of those "aha" moments of life. I had the short-wave radio on and it was announcing the evacuation of Americans from a troubled area in the Middle-East. It announced that the Americans in that country were to arrive at a particular hotel for evacuation that very day. Every person was allowed one small suitcase. Grab your things and get out of there now! We too had been through troubling days. We had awakened one morning to discover that our country had two governments and that the tanks had rolled down our streets that night. We had watched the smoke rising from downtown for days as the war raged on in our own city. Schools were closed and I was glued to CNN as they provided us with raw-feed of the battles. And as I listened to the radio I realized there was a chance that one day the call would go out in my city to evacuate -- to grab one bag and be ready to go. That day I let go of the "stuff" of the world. In light of saving my husband and children, who cares about the "things." They just don't matter, and I have to tell you that I have never really desired for things since! I was shocked into a kingdom perspective.
I don't want to build bigger barns. Honestly, I like having a smaller barn! I want to live as a citizen of Jesus' kingdom, even while I'm here on this earth -- and I want to be faithful to share the things he has given me.
Lord, please help me to live daily within your kingdom and may I share from the overflow of my barns! Amen.