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This morning we're looking at a Jesus story found in Luke 12:13-21. It’s commonly called the PARABLE OF THE RICH FOOL. I want to read it to you from my paraphrase -- The Authorized Boydston Paraphrase.
Someone called out from the crowd which had formed around Jesus, saying to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to give me a share of the family inheritance.”
14 Jesus replied, “Friend, how is it that you want to suck me into your family squabble -- positioning me to be the arbitrator between you and your brother?”
15 Then Jesus said to them, “Watch out lest you give greed even a small foothold. After all, the significance of your life is not defined by what you own -- even if you own a lot!”
16 Jesus then told them a story to make his point: “There was once a rich and successful farmer whose land continually produced bumper crops. 17 The fruitfulness of the land created a problem that he noodled on day after day. ‘I have no place to store my harvest!’ 18 Finally, he came up with an idea, ‘If I tear down my barns I can build bigger ones. Then I’ll be able to store ALL my grain and goods. 19 With such capacity I’ll be solid for years to come -- take early retirement -- kick back -- eat, drink, and live the life.’
20 “But then God showed up with a different plan, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. Now who’s going to end up with all the stuff you’ve been saving for your future?’
21 “This is what happens to those who hoard riches to secure their own futures but who live impoverished lives in relation to God and the things which are important to him. will be for those who hoard things for themselves and aren’t rich toward God.”
A more traditional rendering of that last verse is:
This is the way it will be for those who hoard things for themselves and aren’t rich toward God. (CEB)Now, some of you are wondering what this parable has to do with you. After all -- we don’t think of ourselves as rich. How many of you are rich?
And which of you are trying to build a bigger barn, anyway? Most of us are in downsize mode at this stage in our lives.
When Cheryl and I moved here from Arizona last fall the hardest part was sorting through and getting rid of a lot of our stuff.
We didn’t just get rid of junk but we had to give away a lot of stuff that was still good and useful. I have a big library that I use in my work but we don’t have room for a big library anymore.
So I’ve had to say goodbye to lots of books -- books which were my friends for years -- books with which I have been having friendly conversations.
I bet you all know how that is.
So, how does this parable of the rich foolish farmer who is building a bigger barn apply to us -- to you?
Well, even though we’re not in the barn building mode -- the question remains -- are we rich toward God? Or are we living lives that are impoverished in relation to God and the things which are important to him.
The thing is -- we can live lives that are rich toward God even when we don’t have a lot of stuff around us. That’s even the point of the parable. Sometimes all that stuff gets in the way of living lives that are rich toward God -- lives that are built around him and what is important to him. But when you have less stuff it might even be easier to be rich toward God. Could it be that you are now better positioned for relating to God than you were 20 years ago?
Are you living a life that is rich toward God?
When you make room for others in your life -- you are living a life that is rich toward God.
When you carry on all those quiet conversations with God, you are living richly.
When you are merciful to those who don’t know what they’re doing, you are living the godly rich life. For that is the kind of life that God leads.
He had the big barn -- all of creation was at his disposal -- it all belonged -- belongs to him. Yet he set it aside in order to enter into our world -- to be born into a barn.
God could have built an even bigger barn for himself -- yet, he turned his energy toward reaching out to us -- the broken people of the world.
His Son Jesus was born into a human family. He grew up to show the world through his actions and teaching how God thinks -- and what he is going to do. He invited everyone to partner with him in what he’s doing.
Yet, in spite of all the good news he was rejected and murdered -- in a sense carrying the sin of the world on his shoulders.
But death couldn’t contain him. He broke loose and established the new life and when we join him we become participants in that new life. And as we mature we realize that life isn’t about building bigger barns but about living a life that is in this way richer toward God.
Maybe you’re already living that life. And that’s good. But maybe you’re realizing that you need to step out in faith and start that life.
We step out by telling God that we really do appreciate what he has done for us and that we want to stop pursuing things that are contrary to him -- and that we want to follow Jesus into the richest life that anyone could ever have -- a life:
→ Richer than that of Bill Gates
→ Richer than Warren Buffet
→ Richer than all the riches in the whole world.
Rich because you know God; you trust his Son Christ Jesus; and you are relating to him as a friend.
You see, it’s all about relationship. Friends and families are more important than barns.
A big barn -- as cool as that seems to be -- pales next to the richness of a relationship with God -- living for and with him.
And believe it or not, that is the good news.
Thank you, God for sending Jesus into the world to deal with the sin and brokenness -- for rising from the dead. I want to be with him and to be a part of what he is doing in the world. I want to be a partner with you. Please give me the faith to live a rich and generous life in this place.
I know that there are lots of problems out there and beyond. Please pour out your mercy on those who have been harmed by the gun violence and racism that has been in the news. Please pour out your mercy on my neighbors here who are struggling with their health.
Help me to be gracious toward all those around me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.