Luke 12:13-21 Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, "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.
Reflection I doubt that Jesus heard of “Earth Overshoot Day.” Have you? This past Monday, July 29th was the day we humans began using up nature 1.75 times faster than our planet's ecosystems can regenerate, according to the Global Footprint Network that has been making this calculation since 1987. For the balance of this year, our current total usage of food, timber, fibers, carbon sequestration and our natural resources is equal to using up 1.75 earths.*
Jesus warns, “Take care. Be on your guard. Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Here we trip over the question buried in the mountains of stuff stacked in our garages and storage units. “What does life consist of?”
According to the voice of God that breaks into Jesus’ parable and addresses the man who is gloating over his ample store of riches, the hoarding man is a fool. What the greedy man has accumulated is not life. In fact, he is as good as dead because life consists of being in right relationship with God (rich with God) which is born on the shoulders of being in right relationship with one another. Nothing about ‘stuff.’
You see, being in right relationship with God we are blessed so that we will be a blessing. We hear this when the Lord says to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Gen 12.1-2)
Abundance is pure gift, blessing. All that we have is gift, is blessing. This is foundational to who Jesus is and who we are. We are blessed to be a blessing not to build bigger and bigger houses in which to hoard our blessings, not to gloat over the “many retirement years we can eat, drink and be merry.” “So beware. Take guard. Do not be deluded, deceived by clever words and shiny objects. One’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
Here, in the so called civilized western world, we are encouraged to acquire lots of stuff. Bigger houses, flashier cars, name brand everythings, expensive vacations, elite educations, mountains of must haves for the kiddos, and don’t forget insurance, even policies for life to be redeemed when dead.
How do these things stand us in right relationship with God and one another? Do we see that all we have and all that we are is blessing bequeathed to us, not because we earn or deserve it? not for us to collect and accrue? Rather, to enable us to be a blessing? I believe it is time for us to take God’s counsel to Abram to heart, “I will bless you, and make your name great, (in other words, provide you with many blessings) so that you will be a blessing.”
As people who claim to follow the way of Jesus we are meant to be especially sympathetic to the needs of the poor, the vulnerable, the widow, the orphan, the suffering and the stranger. What if instead of continuing to accumulate stuff, instead of using up nature 1.75 times faster than our planet's ecosystems can regenerate, what if we took an honest inventory of all of our blessings and decided to keep what we actually need for a decent life and distribute the balance as blessing for those without? What if we chose to ‘be rich toward God’ rather than stuffing our storehouses? I suppose that would mean putting our faith in God and God’s blessing, rather than our selves.
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