August 5, 2007
Text: Luke 12:13-21 (NRSV) (12:22-34 supplemental)
Key Thoughts: 1) There is more to greed than wealth, 2) Christ is talking about more than money
This parable from the series of stories collected together in Luke has been one of the most told when churches are about to begin a capital campaign or when giving does not keep up with the budget. The story also sometimes crops up at funerals of generous individuals with the emphasis being on the stored up treasures with God.
As He so often does, Christ starts his lesson with the lesson: “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” On first glance, the tendency to see the parable as simply one of greed and laziness is natural. Christ tells of a wealthy landowner whose crops exceed the capacity of his barns – so he vows to build new barns and then spend time in his abundance relaxing.
Christ’s stories, though, never stop with a first glance. He gives several clues to what he really means beginning in the lesson when he says, “all kinds of greed” and when the wealthy landowner says to himself, “Soul, you have ample goods…”
According to Webster’s:
“Greed: excessive or reprehensible acquisitiveness : AVARICE”
And there it is – one of the seven deadly sins – avarice. Maybe Christ did indeed mean worldly possessions. That is so easy to see and understand. We all have our own covetousness – I like clothes. It is easy to cloak something like clothes in the wake of necessity (work, play, public decency), but that does not mean my desire for clothes is not greed.
Greed is easy for us to point the finger at – anyone with less than his neighbor finds it easy to point the finger and label his neighbor as greedy.
Christ’s lesson means so much more considering this passage is only half of the story. Verses twenty-two through thirty-four give us the rest. Christ considers the care and state of his followers in the years to come. He certainly encourages them to give up the worldly possessions for God promises to care for his own as they strive to build God’s kingdom. He encourages the believers to put their treasure in Heaven and keep their hearts on that treasure.
I have yet to come across a Jesus Savings and Loan, so that treasure probably is not measurable in dollars and cents, which is why I think His lesson is about much more than material wealth.
Verse fifteen again is where the heart of the lesson lies. Christ talks about all kinds of greed which include our time, our thoughts, and our feelings as our life is about “more than an abundance of possessions.”
How many times have we not given our time freely? It is so easy to find an excuse not to go help clean the church, feed the hungry, or care for the poor.
How often do we let the cares of the world creep into our worship times and have our mind wandering when we try to concentrate on Him? Maybe He wants us to let that go and just be with Him without sharing that time with our worries.
How often do we keep our feelings boiling inside and not turn them over to Christ? You may wonder how we can be greedy with feelings. I tell you it is easy! What do you think jealousy is?
In the light of Jesus’ exhortation to “guard against all kinds of greed,” I encourage us to look deeply within to see where we are being greedy. Don’t build bigger barns to store your time, thoughts, and feelings, for time cannot be kept for later, our thoughts flee with time, and our feelings are as fluid as the tide.
Each day I try to ask myself: what can I do to put myself in the care of God and store those things that do matter in my heavenly barn? In Heaven, do you have a treasure chest or a barn?