Summary: We can avoid the problems in The Parable of the Rich Fool by building a "discipleship granary" to store the riches of God's grace that are ours in Jesus Christ.
Sermon Luke 12:13-21 for Pentecost +8C, August 4, 2019
I don't know where the time has gone, but here we are in August, and the summer is more than half over! The days are still hot enough, but you've noticed the nights getting longer already, haven't you? The short growing season we have in this part of the world is drawing to a close, and we're thinking about harvest coming in. Lots of fruits and vegetables are already in glass jars and freezer bags – and while the field harvests aren't ready for a while yet, farmers are sizing up what kind of crop we can expect when the time is ripe, and people are thinking about how to bring it in, how to transport it, and how to store it all. It's time to start thinking about those things. Because the growing season is short.
The rich man in our gospel lesson is thinking about those things too. He's lying in bed at night thinking of bigger barns to store his abundant harvest. He's thinking that this year, he's finally got it made, and his future is secure for many years to come. Maybe this is the year he can finally retire and spend the rest of his life eating and drinking and having fun. But then -- the Lord speaks to him and tells him that he is a fool.
Firstly, he's a fool, because he's planning for a future that he's not going to have, because this is the night he will die. And, as we all know, “you can't take it with you”.
Secondly, he's a fool, because he's been immoral and he has no time to mend his ways. He's been immoral, because according to the Bible, when you have an ample harvest for the year, all you can use and then some, you don't build bigger barns to store the surplus. You give it away! You leave it in the field for the poor to glean, or you gather it in yourself and bring it to those who aren't doing as well as you. The economic policy of the Bible is: nobody gets seconds until everybody gets firsts. And as the prophets were fond of saying, if you think God wants you to have your future secure for 20 years while your neighbour isn't secure for next week, think again!
And thirdly, the rich man is a fool because he's been concerning himself with the wrong kind of barn for storing up the wrong kind of wealth. He should have been thinking less about agricultural growth or economic growth, and a lot more about spiritual growth; but now it's too late, because it turns out THAT growing season was short – a lot shorter than he thought.
Do I need to tell you this? I hope this is all really obvious to you. We've been telling and retelling this parable for a 1000 and a 1000 years, and it HAS made some inroads into the values of our culture. We all know on some level that money isn't everything; and we all know on some level that we owe something to our neighbours; and we've found different ways to act on that knowledge as the centuries have gone by.
But in these days, when the gap between the rich and the poor keeps getting wider and wider, it's worth telling this parable again. In these days when both the LACK of money and the EXCESS of money eat away at people's souls, it's worth telling again. In these days when so many voices that claim to speak for God are telling the unsuspecting that wealth is a sign of God's favour, it's worth telling this story again, and noting that God says this man hasn't been righteous, or financially savvy: he's been a fool. It's worth mentioning that Jesus, the Son of God, never had two shekels to rub together, and he wasn't afraid of the future. And it's worth mentioning that the Bible tells us that earthly wealth is temporary at best, immoral at worst; and it has a dangerous tendency to distract us from the things of the spirit.
So, as I say, I hope this is all really obvious to you. But what's less obvious for a lot of people, is what we're supposed to do with this information.
The first impulse of many who hear this parable is to try to think up some scheme by which they can make themselves “rich toward God” before it's too late. And so, in a panic, they start volunteering to do good works for various caring agencies. They get out their chequebooks and start making sizable donations to worthy causes. They sponsor a child in the Third World, and they put a Bible verse bumper sticker on their vehicle. They take on the earth-friendly challenges of Meatless Mondays and Buy-Nothing Tuesdays. All with the nagging question in the back of their minds – when will I have done enough?