David Kolander

There’s No Need to Build Bigger Barns!

by David Kolander on July 31st, 2022
Luke 12:13-21

How much garbage do you throw away in a day? Someone has said you can tell how wealthy someone is – or, maybe more so, how wealthy a society is — by how much garbage they throw away. Obviously, we all have different situations – and some of you may not throw away much garbage at all — but apparently a typical American throws away an average of four and one-half pounds of garbage every single day of his or her life. That means that if you are a typical, average American, you throw away over 1,600 pounds of garbage every single year. If you and I have anything like that huge amount of garbage which has to fill a huge amount of garbage bags, you and I must have a huge amount of wealth, don’t you think?

Now, just imagine if we didn’t have any landfills or garbage dumps. What if we were all on our own to take care of it, and what if the law of the land stated that it had to be placed into buildings on property that we owned? What would you do? You would have to do what the guy in our Gospel had to do — not with garbage, but with his huge amount of crops. You would have to buy or build more buildings. You would have to, we could say, build bigger barns. And so would everyone else. Our entire street – our entire state – our entire country — would be one big landscape of building after building and barn after barn, filled with garbage.

Do you sometimes feel that is already the case? Do you sometimes feel like you have so many earthly possessions that it’s hard to figure out what to do with them or where to store them or how you can go about getting rid of them by selling them on E-Bay or at a rummage sale or by giving them away? Now, our possessions aren’t garbage. They are wonderful gifts and blessings from a wonderful God. But what did Jesus say to that man in our Lesson who figured he had to build bigger barns because, sadly, that wonderful blessing of abundant crops led him to put his hope for a happy life in all those bigger barns. “You fool!,” Jesus said. “This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ The only guarantee gained by building bigger barns for all our things is that we’re not going to get to enjoy those things very long, whether the end of our life comes in days or months or many years down the line. They will all be gone when we are gone.

Let’s think about this lesson that Jesus teaches about the value of our lives not depending on the abundance of our possessions and see why for us as children of God in Christ There’s No Need to Build Bigger Barns.

Let’s also make sure to clarify one point right off. The Lord in his generosity toward you may allow you to keep receiving more wealth and more possessions and therefore gives you the need to find more places or add more bank accounts to keep track of them. We know from God’s Word that the problem is not our possessions. The problem can come from our attitude toward our possessions, whether we have many or we have few. So the point from God’s Word is that there’s no need for a child of God to build bigger barns for the same reason – or with the same attitude – as that of the man in the parable or the man who asked Jesus to tell his brother to divide his inheritance with him that lead Jesus to tell the parable. The problem wasn’t getting an inheritance. The problem, Jesus made clear, was a sinful attitude toward the inheritance. In verse 15 Jesus said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life noes not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

We don’t know what was all going on inside this man’s heart, but we do know for ourselves how difficult it can be to find a balance between appreciating the blessings God gives us and blaming God for not giving us more things or thinking we need more things or focusing so much of our attention on getting more things. There is a very fine line between gratitude and greed – between contentment and anxiety.

It is clear that the man in the parable Jesus told had crossed that fine line – a fine line that all of us need to walk along very carefully.  We all need to be warned not to have the attitude of the man who said he would build bigger barns. It was all about him. Notice that he did not say, “Thank you, God, for being so generous to me. Help me to do with these things things that will give glory to you.” Instead, he kept thinking about himself. Notice all the “I statements,” beginning in verse 17: “What Shall I do? I have no place to store my crops… This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself (Literally, the words are “I’ll say to myself, “Self…”) And I’ll say to myself, “Self, you have many good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” And that’s when God told him he was a fool, because all the things he thought were his were going to belong to someone else very quickly – even that very night – because so soon there would be no more him.

Ironically, the rich man’s thought that he should eat, drink and be merry in a certain sense can be very good spiritual advice to follow, but for a totally different reason than was his. In our Old Testament lesson from the book of Ecclesiastes, for example, do you remember Pastor Casmer reading the words, “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work.” The point that King Solomon was making in these words is that he had learned the lesson Jesus was teaching us in this parable. Solomon knew that an obsession for getting more things to enjoy on earth was, as he called it, “a meaningless chasing after wind.” You can go running after the wind all you want, but you won’t ever be able to catch it. It’s just air. Since that’s the way earthly possessions are, we should just go about enjoying our lives with whatever we have, because, if our attitude is filled with greed or a lack of being satisfied with whatever we have, whatever we have will never be enough. But if our attitude is filled with thankfulness that God would give us whatever he has seen fit to give us – whether much or little – whatever we have – whether much or little — will be more than enough, as we eat, drink and are merry in a way that shows we are very happy to let God take care of us in the way he knows is the best way to take care of us.

And here’s the thing. How are we going to be able to have that kind of attitude toward the things God has given us, since we know how easy it can be to fret and to worry, to criticize and complain? The only way to have that kind of attitude toward the possessions God has given us is to keep remembering every day the attitude God has toward the things you and I possess and the things he possesses. I’ll say that again: The only way to have that kind of attitude toward the possessions God has given us is to keep remembering the attitude God has toward the things you and I possess and the things he possesses.

What are things that you and I possess spiritually — that you and I own — when it comes to the God who put us on the earth? Isn’t what we possess our sins – sins that should lead the God who put us on the earth to treat us like the garbage you and I throw away so much of every single day – some of which sins are not thanking God for everything he has given us and so often criticizing God for not giving us more? And, yet, isn’t what God possesses the mercy in his heart that has led him to consider us to be his treasured possession, by sending his own treasured possession – his only Son – to use the wealth of holy, precious blood to pay a price for us that means we belong to the Lord God of all creation? 

Because of that, you and I are not garbage in any way whatsoever, but we are part of the family of God – the Lord God who assures us that we are wealthy in Christ beyond compare, with an inheritance waiting for us that will never perish, spoil or fade away – yes, an inheritance in a place that we will gladly share with so many others and know there will always be more than enough room for us. If God has taken care of that for then, he will certainly take care of us for now – giving us an attitude toward our earthly wealth which sees it as something to be used in a way that is pleasing to him, and making us able to look at any times when we don’t have so much or when we may truly be struggling as times when we can hold on to him and depend on his promises all the more, which means that no matter how it may look or feel at the moment, I have more than I need when I know I have Jesus – and more exactly – when I know Jesus has me. We sang in our opening hymn. “My wealth is not in what I own, not in the strength of flesh and bone, but in the costly wounds of love … at the cross. I rejoice in my Redeemer – greatest treasure – wellspring of my soul. I will trust in him, no other; my soul is satisfied in him alone.” That refrain can be the song in our hearts every day of our lives when we know in our heart that for Jesus’ sake God is satisfied with us. There’s no need to build bigger barns to show how much in control you are. There’s only a need to know that God has built his holy temple in your heart. So do eat, drink and be merry with whatever you own, as you thank God that, because of what Jesus has done, he is in total and loving control of you. Amen.

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