But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself
but is not rich in what matters to God. – Luke 12.20 – 21
Jesus’ quick witted response in the Gospel reading from today’s lectionary selection, educates by way of an imagined narrative event. Jesus’ teaching is full of such “stories”, put to use in parable form in classic wisdom teacher fashion. Reading the brief story, one sees the potency of the wisdom therein, and is left to ponder its point, when applied to one’s life, in this new gilded age of omnipresent shopping.
The big-barn syndrome can represent anything we might possess that begins to possess us. For example, when it comes to books I want or need, I admit I am often an Amazon One-Click shopper. And as a result, I tend to keep needing more bookshelves! I also admit that I’d rather have a pantry and fridge full of food, rather than wonder where my next meal might come from. I suspect everyone can identify with such human tendencies to preserve, protect and defend our sense of self, stuff and well-being – our own and one’s family and pets.
Part of the wisdom we are reminded of when confronted by Jesus’ teaching ,is that there is something more important to pursue and protect than just one’s profits, pantry and purchasing power. The trick for most of us is that in the midst of shopping, getting, preserving and acquiring, we tend to FORGET that the thing that is getting is itself an un-gettable gift. Our very life and breath is sheer gift, and can’t be gotten or kept beyond the second it is required of us to surrender in the experience we call death.
Next weekend is All-Saints and All-Souls weekend – the time of year we remember our beloved ones who have passed from this world into the Love of God. It’s a useful time to help us REMEMBER our own death – which isn’t so much a loss of this life and all we have, as it is more a gain of a new kind of life, one that has no need for money, food or any of the stuff we so often spend our life-energy so anxiously acquiring and preserving here on earth.
The message today from Jesus’ wisdom isn’t a life-denying one, rather, it’s a Life-affirming one. The call is to help us remember the END of our life, so to have a more wise and spiritualy fruitful beginning and middle. If we begin our life, even our day, with the End in Mind, we might not be so quickly tempted to fall down the rabbit hole of unconscious desires, anxieties, fears or greed. We might even begin to question the “survival” games we play on this planet, and begin to seek wiser alternatives, rather than ruin the world in our foolish attempt to fill our barns at the depletion of other’s.
One practical antidote to the “big-barn” syndrome, is to practice GRATITUDE for each moment of life given, and to practice GENEROSITY. Give. Give. Give. You can’t ever out-give Source. Be the conduit of generous love. Open your barns (even the little sheds) and share with others, with scarce concern how, when or if your barns might be filled again.
A second practical uptake is for those who don’t have any “barns”, much less anything to fill the barns with. In fact, for so many in the Western compounding-interest-rate-based economy, there is only debt and more debt filling up the “barns”. If that is the case, seek to consciously see and recognize the patterns and choices that have triggered the debts. Then, offer them to God as an expression of your surrender. Debts are very useful to our spiritual journey – they teach us much, and often reveal what we ultimately trust and believe in. Do we really trust and believe that a loving Source, Jesus’ Abba, can and will provide for all our needs, and indeed invites to literally pray that our “debts be forgiven as we forgive our debtors”?
Lastly, owners, renters, creditors and debtors alike can shift the focus away from their lack or abundance, and from all that is owned or owed, to cultivating their richness in and toward God. Such richness is not measured by dollars, digits or debts, but by attention, intention and expressed as devotion toward God and compassion toward others. Perhaps these are the “commodities” that endure in the economy of Divine life and love.
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