Luke 12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ 14But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ 15And 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.’ 16Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?”18Then 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. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” 20But 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?” 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’
A first draft...
When I was young I began to read this text from Luke. This was before I began to read the Bible.
It was in the story of the bad guy in the Wild West who would not let go of the gold, so he was dragged under by the quick sand. The good sheriff who was following him was able to claw his way out, unencumbered by the weight, and told the moral tale to his deputy. Luke was in the tale of the pirate who would have made it to shore if he had not been drowned by the weight of the treasure in his bag. I think there was a variation in a Phantom comic, too.
Then there was the monkey who was caught because he would not let go of the biscuit in the jar. If he had let go, he could have pulled out his hand and gotten away. But he held on. That sounds like Rudyard Kipling.
And there was the Hyena in Africa who smelled fresh meat on the wind and turned to the right. But the wind changed and he smelled other meat from the south and went that way, to the left. And then the wind changed again, and he turned back, and eventually... he split in halves and fell down dead.
Greed kills. Money and possessions separate us from God. It seems so obvious. And we have Jesus here telling the same story.
‘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 towards God.’
What more can we say. It seems so obvious! The fact that so many people tell the same story should warn us just how dangerous possessions are, and how hard it is to be free of them... There might just be a deeper story.
The problem is not the possessions, as though they were bad in themselves. If we don’t have food we starve, and if we don’t have clothes we freeze. Possessions are good and necessary... to a point.
The problem is in the heart. Where is our heart? Where is the centre of our affections, the things we really live for, and the things that make our security? What is driving us and keeping us alive?
For many of us, it’s just staying alive! It’s hanging onto our lives.
That makes sense. What’s the point of not staying alive?
But Christianity is based around one of those odd contradictions; the one who saves their life will lose it, Jesus said!
Real freedom is being able to let go of life. Real joy is being able to let go of life, and just enjoy whatever is, for its own sake.... just living in the moment God has given us. Real life is rich towards God.
One of the scholars says “this farmer has sought to secure himself and his future without reference to God... He did not consider that his life was on loan from God.” (Green: The Gospel of Luke)
Our life is on loan. If we try and hold on to it, we will lose it all the sooner because the holding on will rule our lives, and we won’t have time for living. We’ll be like the boy given a toy for the afternoon. He spent so long plotting to try and work out a way to keep it longer, that he didn’t get to enjoy playing with it, before he had to give it back! We all know big boys have toys, too. And even the girls...
Sometimes I see this thing about life on loan. It is so obvious. I see where the real treasure is, where the pearl of great price is lying. It changes my whole life and sets me free. It wipes out the things in my life that control me, and tug at me, and drag me down. It’s amazing. And then I lose it. I can’t see it.
Do you know what I’m talking about?
Is there some dragging nagging thing in your life, what we sometimes call a besetting sin? And some days it’s gone... or joy of joys, it sticks its head up, ready to rule your day again, and you smack it down with one swift dismissal... the pushing a way that is usually a great effort, which usually fails.... and the thing is gone... and we’re free.
I had that experience when I first thought about life being on loan. It was startling. It was real. It changed me. It was duck-rabbit...I can't always see it... but I have tasted freedom and I want to go back more and more.
Or perhaps you’ve had one of those days where a grief that follows you like a shadow, is just not there. You get to the end of the day and realise it was not there once. You never even thought of it. The day was just free.
It’s not that there were no problems. You still had to go to the doctor, or change nappies. You still don’t know how to deal with some problem at work. But the dragging, dogging shadow, that hovers around you... was not there. Life had a different quality.
Living a life on loan, free of possessions, free of having to keep it safe and secure, is like that.
These experiences are little tastes of our heart putting its treasure in the right place. So it is with those who store up treasures, NOT for themselves but who instead... are rich towards God.’
These experiences are the rewards of what might be called being converted to the kingdom. It’s called being sanctified... made holy... different. It’s a life-long discipline or project. We will always be working on it.
The thing is, we can work on it! Experiences like these are not just an accidental things that happens some days, or happen to some people and not to others. The whole thing of following Jesus, and of living compassionately, is about training us to have our treasure in the right place, and to have our heart focussed on that treasure.
And in our society, one of the most practical things we can do to achieve this is shed possessions. One of the most practical spiritual things we can do is live with as little stuff as possible. It’s not only good for the bank balance and good for the planet. It is good for our soul and our salvation. Don’t store up treasures for yourself and your safety. Don’t trust in riches. Trust in God.
Andrew Prior 2010
Would you like to comment?
Click to add feedback