Old potato houses and imposing barns contribute to the charm and mystique of Aroostook County’s farming country. Often in disrepair and forgotten, they still hold treasures, not treasures of harvest but troves of memories and tales of generations of hard working owners. Their emptiness still echoes with laughter of children jumping from the rafters into the hay and with remembrances of bountiful or meager harvests, of dreams fulfilled or shattered, of some good and some difficult days. They speak of valuing and working the land.
Jesus once told a parable about a rich man who faced a quandary. (Luke 12:13-34) His barn was too small. He had no room to contain the superabundant harvest that had been gathered. So, he had a reasonable question. “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?” Regrettably, his initial and only answer was self-indulgence. “I will do this: I will tear 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.”
That response to our universal inner need for happiness and security, was misguided. There was a disconnect between what he thought would satisfy his soul and what he should have known would. As a Jew, this man should have known Old Testament teachings about tithing and the observance of harvest festivals and about sacrifices that expressed gratitude to God for the abundances of life. He would have known the moral law, God’s Commandments, the essence of which Jesus condensed into loving God with all one’s being and one’s neighbor as oneself. He would have understood that God loves the poor and disenfranchised and wants justice for all. Somehow, none of this meaningful tradition or teaching had reached his heart. He had no sense of moral obligation to others or gratitude and love for God. He had no aptitude for “giving back.” As a result, his self talk (“I will say to my soul”) told him several lies about the deep desires of his soul! He believed he could nourish his spirit with “ample goods”, that joy and security could be found in the temporal, that the more he had the happier and safer he would be.
Belief in self sufficiency and his deficient understanding of his need for God caused our farmer to miss out on life’s true meaning, which God explained to him. “… one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” “ … life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” Life is about “being rich toward God,” not about treasure hoarding !
We all need God‘s generosity. Without Him, there would be nothing “good”; Our lives would be very dark.(James 1:17) Life is meant to be about desiring Him and being like Him. A life that treasures God will care about the things God cares about, and He cares about humanity! Remember, our parable teller is Jesus, who is our example for living as God created us to and is also God’s expression of His love for us. Because of Jesus’ selfless sacrifice for our sins, redemption and restoration to a relationship with God can be ours. Jesus said evidence of that relationship would be to follow his command to love–our brothers, our neighbors, the afflicted, the poor, the disenfranchised, the weak and lowly. (John 13:34)
We have every reason to live thankfully and generously. Our spiritual barns are full! He has lavished His love on us so that we can love others lavishly, has blessed us so others may be blessed by us, has given us much so that we may give much, has extended us grace so we can dispense it to others. Living generously and investing in the lives of others does not create an alliance with God, but its absence reveals a lack of that relationship. And placing God’s priorities above ours will bring soul-satisfaction. If we “Delight (ourselves) in the LORD, he will give (us) the desires of (our) heart”. (Psalm 37:4)
Wealth had become the farmer’s idol. It had displaced God. So, God spoke. He did not say that wealth is evil or that it should not to be enjoyed but stressed that man’s soul is eternal and cannot be sustained by temporal things and that arrogant disregard or unbelief in God is unforgiveable! Ingratitude, greediness, anxious miserliness which prevents sacrificing and sharing blessings with those in need imply absense of believe in God. We rob Him of our trust and and fail our neighbors. Such attitudes speak to the state of one’s soul.
Unfortunately, our rich man made another mistake which many of us make; he hoarded for a future he did not have. “.. God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?‘ Life has no guarantees except an ending and an eternity to look forward to! God called him a “fool” because he was not spiritually prepared for either living or dying. He had not included God in his plans.
Christ ended his parable with these words, “ Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:33-34)
Our lives are meant for ultimate meaning in the context of what God wants for us. Seeking God and living with grateful and generous hearts give added value to this life and fulfill the promises of eternal treasures.