Bigger Barn Syndrome – Part Three
The real moral of the story we have been looking at is this: Those whose eagerness to store up material goods outpaces their willingness to give will suffer a complete and total loss when their time runs out. The landowner suffered a total reversal of fortune at death: He lost everything in this life and had nothing to show for it in the next. He didn’t just lose his life, he lost everything he considered “life.” He was rich in this world but poor toward God because everything that came his way was used for his private consumption.
In the words of Jesus, he was a fool. A fool that most of us would have envied had we known him. A fool that many of us have a tendency to emulate, but a fool just the same. The landowner was foolish enough to believe that an abundance of stuff meant an abundance of time. He was a fool to assume that his good fortune was the direct result of his hard work. He was a fool not to give to the less fortunate from his abundance, knowing that the day would come when everything would be taken from him, including any further opportunity to be generous. As Mignon McLaughlin once wrote in The Second Neurotic’s Notebook, “‘Your money or your life.’ We know what to do when a burglar makes this demand of us, but not when God does.”
The parable of the rich fool does two important things for us: First, it defines greed from God’s perspective. Second, it offers a simple remedy. The problem with God’s definition is that it’s a bit broader than most of us are comfortable with. The problem with His solution is that it’s unavoidably practical.
The parable leads me the think of the power of generosity. What does it really mean to live life in “seriously generous” mode?
Here’s a questions we all need to ask ourselves from time to time: Why do I have so much?
Now, I realize you don’t have as much as you want. Few of us do. Again, the desire for stuff is like the rest of our appetites — it can never be fully and finally satisfied. But just for a moment, shift your focus away from your potential possessions and income and consider your actual financial and physical accumulation and flow. Think of all you have. Chances are, it more than your parents had at your age. Perhaps it is considerably more than most people in the world can lay claim to. So why you? Why do you have so much?
We need to slow down occasionally and force ourselves to wrestle with that question. Why? Because a consumer-driven culture keeps us laser-focused on what we don’t have, and focusing on what we don’t have leaves our hearts vulnerable to greed – wanting more for the sake of more. How? Because as long as I’m on a quest for more, then when more does come along, I’ll assume it’s all for me. You know, like the farmer who built bigger barns. As long as I’m living for the next purchase, the next upgrade, the next whatever, I’m consuming mentally what I hope to soon be consuming physically. I’m anticipating future consumption. That kind of attitude leaves us little margin for generosity. And before we know it, we’re building bigger barns or a bigger garage or renting a heated storage space.
So let me ask you again: Why do you have so much? The wealthy landowner believed he deserved it; he didn’t recognize the divine providence behind his bumper crop. Assuming you aren’t as shortsighted as he was, let me ask the question this way: Why has God provided you with more than you need?
If it is an uncomfortable question, consider this: In the past, when you didn’t have enough, were you hesitant to question God about your lack? You probably didn’t hesitate at all. You let Him know immediately that you were in need. And if you’re like me, you let Him know what your expected Him to provide for you. And when He came through, what did you do? You thanked Him. You may have even shared your story with a few folks. So now that you’re on the other side, with more than enough, why don’t you questions God about that?
When we don’t have enough, we wonder why.
Why not wonder when we have more than enough?