13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” 16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Reading this passage, I feel both close to Jesus and puzzled at the same time. I feel close, as I imagine Jesus in a typical interchange with the people that followed him. Crowds listening in. Jesus teaching and chatting at the very middle of a huddle. I have a front row seat, I see the interrupting man interjecting with “Help me sort out my problem: arbitrate between me and my brother”. In the dust and in the outdoors. The afternoon sun casting orange light on people’s faces.
And then I read Jesus’s response. Is Jesus even listening? He hijacks the question and directs everyone’s attention off sideways into a parable against hoarding and a commentary on being generous towards God. Whatever the dispute (it may have been a genuinely unfair situation for the interrupting man) Jesus gets triggered to attack the subject of greed lurking in the background and stomps on it! ‘Watch out!’, ‘Be on your guard…!’, ‘Life is not about possessions!’, ‘Life is not about hoarding it all up’ – instead, ‘be rich (generous) towards God’.
I think it might be better to interpret the application of this in an irregular way. As opposed to simply responding ‘I need to give more to God’ or adopting a “be more generous” mantra (I’m confident you are already generous to God, why else would you be reading these digests?). Instead, commit your heart against the attitude that wants to store up, contain and tuck away the abundance of God’s blessing when it comes. When the bumper harvest arrives, and for many of us it will at times, Jesus wants to see the surplus overflowing not being locked away.
Lord, I want your share your generous overflow without reserve! Amen
Written by Sam Stewart