BIGGER BARN SYNDROME

There are a lot of false teachings on salvation in the Church world. Let me list a few …

      • Salvation by sacraments
      • Salvation by good works
      • Salvation by church membership
      • Salvation by traditions

There are several main gospels that circulate that are not biblical …

      • The gospel of salvation
      • The Prosperity gospel

This latter one has spread from North America through most of the Church world in nations around the globe. It is simply a gospel based on greed. Jesus had something blunt to say on the topic of greed: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.”

Do you want to guess why Jesus began His discourse on greed in Luke 12:15-21 with a warning? He knew back then what we’re just beginning to discover: Greed can take up residence in the heart and live there for years, undetected. The unguarded heart is highly susceptible to this debilitating disease. It’s difficult to diagnose — especially to self-diagnose.

Jesus goes on to uncover what fuels all greed: “Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” But doesn’t everyone know that? Do people really believe that their lives are equivalent to what they own? The answer is no and yes. No, not everyone knows that. And yes, there are people who believe that your life is pretty much the sum total of what you own. And many of us today are more prone to this belief than we might imagine.

From here, Jesus launches into a parable about a wealthy landowner whose property yielded a much larger crop than he expected or needed. His good fortune has left him with a dilemma: he has no place to store this bountiful harvest. He thinks, What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops. In other words, What am I going to do with all my stuff that I have as a result of all my hard work? The landowner has no place to “store” his crops — that’s farmer talk for “save.” What he needs is a place to “hoard” his reserves.

In an agricultural society it would be immediately obvious that the abundance of this man’s harvest had little to do with his hard work; farmers are always at the mercy of factors over which they have no control. But the greedy man or woman doesn’t see the world that way — what comes their way does so because they earned it. And since the landowner believes he has earned this abundance, he never considers the notion that God might have had anything to do with it. And even if he’d credited this bounty as God’s blessing, it never crosses the landowner’s mind that the extra he has been blessed with is intended for anyone’s consumption but his own.

Clearly, God had provided this fellow with extra. The question he should be asking is, “Lord, what do you want me to do with the extra?”

But that is not how greedy people think. And to be honest, that’s not how I think either. What about you? When I come into a little extra, I think, Lucky me! Like the landowner in the parable, I can always come up with a plan for the extra. And I generally assume it’s meant for me. After all, I earned it; therefore, I deserve it. So I store it. Which is exactly what the landowner decides to do:

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ (Luke 12:18-19)

Bigger barns! What a great idea! That will solve everything; he’ll be set for life.

The landowner in this parable is suffering from BBS — Bigger Barn Syndrome. BBS is a malady common to those whose hearts are damaged by greed. People today have the same issue. Oh, it might be known by a different name but it is the same problem. 

      • Kids all grow up and move away from home and mom and dad build a new and bigger home (for when the grandchildren visit)
      • It is the end of the year and major discounts are announced on this year’s model of car. And, although there is nothing wrong with your car – the smell of a new car is enticing.
      • Your favourite j
      • Jeans are on sale. Never mind your closet is full and you already have 8 pairs most of which you don’t wear – they are on sale!
      • You can add your “but I need it” focus right here _________________________!

After declaring his intentions to build bigger barns, the landowner offers an explanation as to why he has chosen to pursue this course of action, Keep in mind: greed is always looking for something “good” to hide behind. For instance, this man has decided to build bigger barns to secure his future. Now he’ll have all he needs for ‘many years’ to come. Nothing wrong with that. Thanks to disciplined planning and opportunistic saving, his kids won’t have to take care of him in his old age.

If the story ended there … But it doesn’t.

So, the farmer has decided to build bigger barns to secure his future and not be a burden on his children in his old age. Sounds good.

If the story ended there, we might even consider this man a role model. But the story doesn’t end there. Nobody’s story ends there. While it’s true that the landowner planned ahead, he didn’t plan far enough ahead. He was right: He did need to consider his future — but not in the way he thought. He was presuming on years he didn’t have coming to him. Just as he overlooked the God-factor when evaluating his good agricultural fortune, the landowner has overlooked the God-factor when counting how many years he had left.

He assumed that his abundance of stuff assured him an abundance of time. But the two don’t have anything to do with each other. The very day the landowner made the decision to keep everything he’d earned (and thus, in his mind, deserved), he lost it. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say, it lost him.

Just after this man gets off his phone with the barn-renovation experts, he receives some shocking news: He’ll die sometime in the night. He’s about to learn the hard way that his life is not equivalent to the amount of his possessions. He will run out of time before he runs out of stuff.

As it turns out, the landowner is more dependent on God than he realized, for he’s entirely reliant on God for his allotment of time. Too bad he didn’t see that he was equally dependent on God for his allotment of stuff. 

When God delivers the bad news, he asks the landowner a question that’s loaded with implications for each of us:

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ (Luke 12:20)

The answer to this question should be obvious: Someone else. Someone else will end up with everything he has “earned” and consequently “deserved” and therefore stored up (saved). Someone else will end up with the very stuff he has hoarded for himself instead of depending on God’s provision. In the end, all of his possessions will be distributed to others. Not because he’s generous, but because he’s dead! More irony.

The parable of the rich fool directed our attention to an obvious but often overlooked reality: Eventually everything we claim to own will be owned by someone else. In the end it will be given away. So to assume that everything that comes our way is for our own consumption is shortsighted and foolish. It’s not a matter of if somebody else will get it; it’s just a matter of when and how. Either we’ll give it away while we still have time, or it will be taken away when our time runs out.

Jesus closes the parable with a stern warning:

“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

This is Jesus’ definition of a greedy person: A person who stores up things for himself but isn’t rich towards God. Being “rich toward God” is Jesus-talk for being generous toward those in need. A greedy person is a man or woman who saved carefully but gives sparingly.

But what’s the warning Jesus is trying to convey? What is He saying will happen to you and me if we’re generous savers but not generous givers? Death? I don’t think so. That’s pretty much a given for all of us. Unexpected death? I don’t think that’s it either. I know a few generous people who died unexpectedly. Conversely, there are some very old greedy people; to the chagrin of their greedy relatives, they just keep on living. 

The real moral of the story is 

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?

You know where I’m going with this. The parable of the rich fool makes it all too clear why we have more than we need. But before we head down the path of predictability, let’s consider our options.

What are the possibilities? What might God be up to in providing us with more than our daily bread? 

Perhaps you have more than you need in order to ensure that your children have everything they need. Is that why God has provided the way He has? Probably not. In fact, leaving or giving your children a lot of money generally doesn’t set them up for success in life. In all my years of counselling, I’ve never heard anyone say”My problems began when my parents didn’t leave me enough money.” But the world is full of people whose problems began when they received money they didn’t earn. I don’t think God gave you what you have in order to ruin your kids.

Maybe God provided an abundance for you so you won’t worry. Maybe He wants you to lean on your accumulated assets for peace. But I’m guessing that’s not it either. Generally speaking, the more a person accumulates, the more he worries about it. Besides, peace is a fruit of the Spirit, not a by-product of accumulated wealth. The more I have, the more I think about it and the more I worry about it.

There’s a third option. Perhaps God has provided you with extra in order to elevate your standard of living. Maybe it’s all about bumping up your lifestyle a notch or two. Most people today, regardless of the nation they live in, enter adulthood with the assumption that our lifestyle should keep pace with our income. In fact, thanks to the credit card industry, for many of us our lifestyle slightly outpaces our income. Either way, we’re continually urged not to allow one to lag too far behind the other. The result, of course, is artificially induced income pressure.

“Artificial?: you say. “My financial concerns don’t feel very artificial.” They don’t feel artificial because the costs associated with maintaining your lifestyle are very real — you really do have to pay your cable TV bill, your cell phone bill, and your credit card bill. But those bills exist because you’ve chosen to lead a lifestyle that keeps pace with or outpaces your income. You’ve convinced yourself that all those luxuries are necessities – things you can’t live without. Your inflated sense of what’s essential has created financial pressure, but it’s artificial pressure. Maybe all you need to do is throttle back your lifestyle a notch or two and the pressure would subside.

Think about it. Regardless of how much money a person makes, if he leaves himself no margin, there’ll be no peace of mind. Worse, if all your money is spoken for before you deposit your paycheque, greed has an all-access pass to your heart. Why? Because any extra that comes in is already spoken for as well. You’re planning ahead of time to consume it. Where’s there no margin financially, there’s no way to avoid avarice. When the pressure’s on, we have little choice but to think of ourselves first.

That’s the essence of greed. You don’t have to actually have extra to be greedy. As long as you plan to spend whatever comes your way on yourself, you’re a candidate. It you’ve allowed your lifestyle to keep lockstep with or surpass your income, you’ll find it next to impossible to keep greed from taking root in your heart. And, if the surplus is rather large you begin the experience the Bigger Barn Syndrome. 

Bigger Barn Syndrome – Part Five

Blog for August 21, 2020

Remember what your mother told you when you had two cookies and your sister had none? “Quick, eat them both before she can wrench one out of your greedy little hands!” Probably not. She would say, “Share.” What do you tell your own kids, nieces, and nephews when they have more than they need and a friend or sibling has none? We tell them to share. Watching someone eat two cookies in the presence of someone who has none doesn’t seem right, does it? We feel compelled to say or do something. Perhaps that’s why Jesus said, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42).

Imagine seeing the world from God’s point of view. Imagine being able to see everybody in the world who has two cookies and everyone who has none, all at the same time. You would probably say something. You would tell everyone to share. If God has blessed you with more than you need, it’s so that you can share your abundance with those who have need, Embracing that simple truth is the key to ridding your heart of greed and removing that dreaded Bigger Barn Syndrome.

It is so basic and simple – not easy, but simple… Generous giving (and living) will break the grip of greed on your life. So whether or not you think you have extra, give and give generously. You’ve got to give to the point that it forces you to adjust your lifestyle. If you are not willing to give to the point that it impacts your lifestyle, then according to Jesus you’re greedy. If you’re consuming to the point of having little or nothing left to give, you’re greedy. If you’re consuming and saving to the point that their’s little or nothing to give, you’re greedy.

I know that’s strong. Actually, it’s harsh.

But it’s true. 

Maybe this is a bit hard for you to swallow because you’ve never had a greedy thought in your life. Maybe you feel compassion every time you see someone in need. And in your heart you really do want to help. You want to give, but you can’t. Or you won’t. Why? Because you’re afraid you won’t have enough. But your heart genuinely goes out to those in need. So is it fair to say you’re greedy? Yes. Because greed is not a feeling; it’s a refusal to act.

You can feel compassion toward people in need and be as avaricious as Scrooge. Greed is evident not by how you feel but by what you do. Generous feelings and good intentions don’t compensate for a greedy heart; in fact, good intentions and greed can cohabit in your heart indefinitely. This is what makes this covert enemy such a threat to the heart. You may never feel it the way you do anger or guilt or even jealousy. But it’s there. It’s dangerous. And it can lead to total loss. 

Just as you can’t wait until you’re in shape to start exercising, you dare not wait to start giving until your fear of giving is gone. Don’t wait until God changes your heart to begin giving. Giving is the way God chooses to change our hearts. As your heart changes, your attitude and feelings will follow suit. God loves a cheerful giver, but He’’ll put your money to good use whether you’re cheerful or not. My advice: Give until you get cheerful.

Our giving must impact our lifestyle if it’s going to break the power of greed in our lives. The best way to do this is to become a percentage giver. Percentage giving involves giving away a percentage of everything you receive right off the top, as soon as you get it. Specifically, the first cheque or e-Transfer you would write after depositing your paycheque is a cheque to an organization(s) that supports the work of the Kingdom. That’s how you become rich toward God. In New Testament times there were no such organizations; believers gave to their place of worship and to the poor. We now have multiple options. Choose one or two to start. Now.

Writing this cheque or making this e-Transfer ensures that God’s Kingdom is funded ahead of yours. You’ll have to live on the leftovers for a change. If that scares you, start at a low percentage, say 2 percent. You’ll never miss it. Bump it up a percentage point every 6 months or every year until you’re giving at least 10 or 12 percent of your income. Giving at that level is evidence of a lifestyle adjustment. But percentage giving is just the beginning.

You need to be a spontaneous giver as well. When you see someone in need, give. Isn’t that what you expect God to do for you when you’re in need? Then go ahead and make the first move. If you’ve got extra and somebody is in need, share. That’s who your extra is there for. 

These two habits, percentage giving and spontaneous giving, will protect you from Bigger Barn Syndrome. The day will come when you receive an unexpected windfall and your first thought will be, who can I help? What Kingdom endeavour can I fund? In that moment you’ll know that through the habit of generous giving, you’ve broken the power of greed in your life.

It’s a habit that changes everything.