Posts Tagged ‘Greed’

Barn Guy 7-31-16

In this sermon, based on Luke 12:13-21 I explore the parable of the barn guy, as Jesus warns us against greed and coveting.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
It is my hope and intention…that I never do anything foolish enough to land myself in prison….However…if, heaven forbid, I do ever end up there…I have often said that my plan would be to get myself put in solitary confinement…because I can just sit there and play various movies in my head…and not only that, but I can have meaningful conversation with myself…and therefore I could keep myself entertained…but of course…that’s just a joke…and the reality of this hypothetical situation is quite a bit different.

About midway through my seminary education, I took the first of two ethics courses…and one of the writing assignments that we had in that particular class was to identify a social issue and write on it from a theological standpoint. I ended up choosing the topic of solitary confinement and whether or not it is an ethical punishment from a theological standpoint.

I won’t bore you with the full extent of my theological or ethical conclusions…other than way back in the beginning, God himself said “it is not good for the man to be alone.” So let’s just say in the long run, IF I ever ended up in solitary confinement, I think its safe to say that this is not good. (pause)

Humanity is not intended to be alone…we crave relationship, we desire it within our very nature…and I believe that this is all because we bear the divine image of God…the divine image of the one who exists in three persons…father, son, and holy spirit…and yes this goes beyond our ability to comprehend…and yet we confess it to be true.

And our Lord…the triune God…the one who exists in relationship, desires this same sort of relationship, both with us…as well as for us…but since this crafty thing known as sin came into the picture and skewed our reality…hindering our ability to exist with one another in harmony…well then the 10 commandments came along…several of which are aimed at how we live in relationship with God, honoring and loving him…and the rest aimed at how we live in relationship with one another, honoring and loving our neighbors.

Now one of the 10 commandments…one of the things that God warns us about…is on display here in today’s gospel lesson…Teacher…tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me…a request that Jesus immediately sidesteps…Dude, who made me judge over you and your brother? (pause) What’s interesting is that this is one of only two times in Luke’s gospel when someone demands that Jesus intervene to make a judgement call…the other one, we heard it a few weeks ago when Martha told Jesus to step in and get Mary to pull her weight in the house work, and perhaps you recall how that one turned out for Martha…but now this random guy wants Jesus to use his apparent authority…in order to put some green in his pocket. (pause)

But as Jesus sidesteps this random request…he jumps into a teaching moment…be on your guard from all kinds of greed…Now granted, we don’t know what’s going on in this situation…we don’t know the details…maybe the random guy was actually justified in his request…but if Jesus’ statement shows us anything…its that this guy just wanted to improve his situation…and he didn’t care who got hurt in the process.

Because isn’t that what greed does? It sets us up as number one…I want more…more…more…I want this, I want that.  And this need for more consumes us…and we don’t care who gets hurt in the process because our focus has turned inwards.

And I find myself thinking…isn’t that what it means to covet? We’ve got 2 commandments about this…don’t covet your neighbors house…and don’t covet his wife or servants or animals…pretty well covers the bases…don’t covet that which is your neighbors…because if you do, then you are falling in the greed trap…seeing yourself as more deserving of it than your neighbor…in short…greed…or coveting…like pretty much every single one of the commandments…places us on the pedestal…and embodies that old saying “Look out for number 1.” And in doing do…aren’t we creating an idol? Something that we are putting all of our stock in…something that commands our attention…

Idols take a lot of forms…and in this case…when greed rears its ugly head…well then the idol takes the form of the face looking back in the mirror. (pause)
And you know what…sometimes that face looking back at us from the mirror…sometimes he really seems to know what he’s talking about…You ever have that conversation with yourself…talking yourself into something…or maybe out of something…listening to that voice…listening only to that voice?
That’s what happens in the parable…and I gotta say, as parables go, this is a pretty good one…pretty well known…one that I’ve heard call the parable of the barn guy.  Here’s this rich farmer…who has a particularly good year…so much so that his, normally adequate barns and storehouses aren’t gonna cut it…What to do? What to do? What to do?

That’s the question…and rather than seeking advice…barn guy looks in the mirror…first with the question “What will I do?” And then with quite the plan.  This is what I will do. I…will pull down my barns…and I…will build bigger ones…and there I…will store my grain and my goods…and once I…have done this I…will tell myself….SELF…you are good to go…you have done all this work and now you will reap the rewards…Rest…eat…drink…and be merry.”

Sounds like barn guy is having quite the lively conversation with himself…going back and forth…talking to the guy in the mirror…but here’s the tripping point…all the while, he is only thinking of himself…that’s the tension about this parable…all too often its seen as a critique of wealth…as taking a shot at the rich…and it makes us question the way we go about things in our society today…should I save for the future? Or is this asking me to just give it all away.

But that’s not really the case here…the problem is that greed…the desire for more…and the faith that barn guy finds in having accounted for the future…it all stops right there…and because of this…he is completely self centered…there is no thought of anyone else…no one else’s voice in the conversation…the entire world of barn guy is population 1…just him. (pause)
Now I’ve had this thought before…this isn’t the first time I’ve come across this passage after all…and I’ll be honest…when I read it…it hits close to home…Barn guy seems to be asking the question of How can I take advantage of this windfall? How do I look out for the future? But maybe we can boil it down to the question of “how much is enough?” And I don’t know about you, but I fall in that trap with a fair bit of regularity.

But as I was reading through it this time around, something caught my attention…and its God’s response to the man…You know how it goes. Just when he thinks he’s got it all figured out…God calls him on the carpet. You FOOL…tonight you die…and who will have all that you have prepared for yourself?”

Now every other time I’ve read this passage, I took that as God saying that “someone else will have the fruits of all your work and scheming.” And while that might be true…this time around I was struck by the isolated nature of the man…his greed has isolated him to the point where there is no one around him…he can’t even pass on all of his accumulated goods to anyone else…because there’s no one there.

And so it seems that his barns are going to rot and fall to pieces…and all his grain will spoil…and no one…absolutely no one…will benefit from all this. (pause)

It is not good to be alone. God said this at the beginning of humanities existence…but because of the isolating nature of sin in our lives…we end up alone…but thanks be to God that through Jesus Christ, God has overcome that which isolates us…sin is overcome…relationship with God and with one another IS possible…despite our failings and the ongoing presence of sin in this flawed reality.

Now there are many signs of community and relationship within our lives…families, friends, neighbors, communities, schools, workplaces…and on and on and on…but one of the most important communities that God has given us is a community of faith.

When we gather here for worship, we join together, not only with one another, but with fellow believers all over the world…and across time…together we make up the one body…but we are also reminded that individuals parts of the body can, and will, become isolated…it still happens. We see it as individual people…and we see it within congregations.

And perhaps it is there that we find a touch of critique from this parable…I’m guessing I’m not the only one who hears this passage and feels that slight twinge of discomfort because we recognize that it hits close to home.

And I fear that we as a congregation need to listen to this word of critique…for we have been blessed beyond measure…and we reap the ongoing benefits of this blessing…yet this does not give us an excuse to simply eat, drink, and be merry…resting on our laurels because of the financial surplus that we are experiencing.

Rather it seems that the lesson today is reminding us of the need to look outwards…our needs are meet for today…so who can we help…who else can benefit from the excess that we have blessed with…this is an ongoing question…one that we’ve discussed before…and a discussion that continues to be ongoing. May our collective eyes and ears be open to the voices of those outside our walls. (pause)

There’s a saying in my house…something have reminded ourselves of when faced with questions like this…4 walls and roof.  Today we have 4 walls around us and roof over our heads…today we have food in our stomach and clothes on our back…and today, that’s enough…and we will worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes.

May we as a community of faith trust that our Lord will continue to provide for us in the future…and so in the present may we do our best to look outwards…to not allow ourselves to become isolated by the blessings that allow us to be comfortable today.

And above all…may we remember why we are a church in the first place…we exist to be the body of Christ in the world…to declare the good news of Jesus Christ in the world…and to care for those that we encounter…may we cling to that mission, so that one day…if heaven forbid…the life of this congregation is demanded of it…there will be someone else out there to benefit from the true treasure that we possess…the freedom which has been granted to us in Jesus Christ. Amen.