The home my wife and I bought is a modest one-half of a duplex with two bedrooms and one bath and it’s just big enough for the two of us and our shih-tzu dog and still comfy if our daughter wants to come and spend the night. Many of our neighbors, on the other hand, are living in virtual palaces which range from 1,724 square feet of living space to a whopping 2,731 square feet. My question is: Why do you need all that room? You don’t have kids at home anymore, folks! If you’re downsizing in your old age, just what the heck did you live in before—Windsor Castle..??!
I’ve also noticed that my neighbors have garages stuffed with so many boxes that they can’t fit their cars in them. “We’ve been here almost a year,” one of them told me,” and we just haven’t managed to unpack everything yet.” Now my philosophy is: if you haven’t used it in over a year, you don’t need it. Give it to someone who does.
Bigger barns. More stuff. Just like the guy in the gospel lesson assigned for Pentecost Eleven in the Revised Common Lectionary (Luke 12: 13-21). He’s got so much more than he will ever live to need. You have to wonder why he doesn’t solve his storage problem by giving some of it away. I guess it’s because he feels a need to be in control, and the idea of praying only for “daily bread” and not for a month’s supply makes him feel weak and vulnerable. In a 1955 letter to an American friend C.S. Lewis wrote:
“For it is a dreadful truth that the state of…’having to depend solely on God’ is what we all dread most. And of course that just shows how very much, how almost exclusively, we have been depending on things. But trouble goes so far back in our lives and is now so deeply ingrained, we will not turn to Him as long as He leaves us anything else to turn to.” (Original emphasis)
The problem is of course, things, barns, bank accounts, and the like can’t protect us from cancer, heartbreak, or our own mortality. I don’t have to tell you this. You already know it. I don’t suppose any of you want your epitaph to read “He/She was the wealthiest person in town.” You’d much rather have it say “He/She was a good person who loved God and was loved by all.”
So what does it mean to be rich toward God? (v. 21) I’d have to say that one is rich towards God if one has an active life of prayer, a heart full of compassion, a love of the scripture, a passion for worship, a vast capacity for forgiveness, and a joyful faith in God’s goodness. And, even though I believe these are gifts of the Holy Spirit, like any other talents they need to be nurtured and exercised. We need to be constantly re-investing in our relationship with God. This is a hard habit to get into—even for me.
Down the street from where I live is the local mega-church. They’re just finishing building their new worship space. It’s half as big as Rhode Island and I can’t begin to guess how many Christians will fit inside it. My own little urban Lutheran church is pretty pitiful in comparison. I’m sure the folks who worship in this big barn are good people who love God and their neighbor, but I can’t help but wonder what their fellowship might be like if they didn’t build this new barn. Could they have chosen to hold more worship service in their previous, smaller space and given all the money they’ve spent on new construction and the upkeep of this humongous facility to the poor? Would they be richer in the things of God if they did? I’m just asking.
Thanks for visiting, my friends!