Sometimes I Miss the Big Picture


It seems we all have issues we need to be dealing with

This week I have been helping some of the young people I work with deal with issues of guilt, anger, and greed

It is interesting to note:

    • Guilt says, “I owe you”
    • Anger says, “You owe me”
    • Greed says, “I owe me”

The person whose heart is coated with greed believes he has earned the good things that have come his way

He is, therefore, determined to control his possessions and wealth the way he sees fit – the way he wants to

Greedy people have a supersized sense of ownership

But what most greedy people don’t know or understand is that greed is fueled by fear

Once you peel back all the excuses and the endless “But what if…?” scenarios, you discover a heart full of fear

Specifically, this person fears that God either can’t or won’t take care of him

And, obviously, if God won’t, then who will?

So greedy people set out to acquire and maintain everything they need to provide the sense of security (and eventually a sense of identity) that they desire

But, like all human appetites, the appetite for financial security can never be fully and finally satisfied

There’s never enough

There can always be more

So, the acquisition and hoarding and self-indulgence continue

But aren’t there one or two verses in Proverbs that encourage us to prepare for the eventualities of life?

And there’s nothing particularly wrong with acquiring things. Right?

Right! And therein lies the challenge of identifying this particular enemy of the heart – GREED

This problem of greed seems to be able to camouflage itself as a virtue

          • Greedy people are often savers, and saving is a smart thing to do
          • Greedy people don’t want their children to feel the financial burden of caring for them when they are older — and there is certainly nothing wrong with that

So, greed seems to be able to camouflage itself as a virtue

Maybe, somehow, greed is good.

Then again…

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 are 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 difficult to self-diagnose 

Let’s read the Scripture:

“And he said to them, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ And he told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘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.”’ But God said to him, Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:15-21).

The Message Version:

Speaking to the people, he went on, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.” Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’ “Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’ “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.”

So, Jesus is uncovering for us 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 everybody knows that life is more than what we own and accumulate 

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 this early truth, Jesus goes on the tell 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 word, What am I going to do with all my stuff — the 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 should be immediately obvious that the abundance of this man’s harvest had little to do with just 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’ve earned it

And since this 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’s 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. 

Luke 12:18-19 “And he said, ‘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.”

Bigger barns!


What a great idea!

That will solve everything and he will be set for life

The landowner in this parable is suffering from BBS — Bigger Barn Syndrome

BBS is a malady (sickness) common to those whose hearts are damaged by greed

As I drive to the airport in my city there are these lines upon lines of rentable storage sheds (barns)

They are full of stuff that people can’t fit in their homes

Junk, mostly

But junk that could have been liquidated when it was worth something

Junk that could have been turned into cash that, in turn, could have been put to good use on behalf of someone who didn’t have enough

But no, these folks decided to rent a bigger barn

You know why?

Because someday, one day, they might need that stuff

So, just in case they perhaps, some day might possibly need it, they’ve decided to save — hoard — it

After declaring his intention 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 hid 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 them

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, we might even consider this man a role model

But the story doesn’t end there

Nobody’s story ends there

While it is 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 that he thought

He was presuming on years of life he didn’t have coming to him

Just as he over-looked the God-factor when evaluating his good agricultural fortune

The landowner has overlooked the God-factor when counting how many years he had left

How much time he had still to live (which no one rally knows)

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, he lost it

Or maybe it would be more accurate to say, it lost him

Just after this man gets off the phone with the barn-renovation experts, he receives some shocking news

He’ll die sometime in the night

He is 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 is entirely reliant on God for his allotment of time on this earth

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 one of us:

Luke 12:20 “But God said to him, Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’

“Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’ (MSG)

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

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 (Bigger Barn Syndrome) directs 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 all 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 someone 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 his parable with a stern warning:

“So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21)

“That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” (MSG)

This is Jesus’ definition of a greedy person:

A person who stores up things for himself but isn’t rich toward 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 and gives sparingly

But what is 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 is pretty much a given

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 and dismay of their greedy relatives, they just keep right on living

The real moral of the story is this:

What Jesus is attempting to teach us:

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 towards 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

The parable of the rich fool (Big Barn Syndrome) does two important things for us:

1> It defines greed from God’s perspective

2> 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

Simply stated, the solution is a habit

The habit of being grateful

The habit of acknowledging that what we have – all we have – is a gift from God

The habit of remembering that we are simply managing God’s possessions – stewards or managers for Him

The habit of being not just grateful but generous 

A habit that has the power to free our greed-ridden hearts