Look, I’m gonna be honest with you this morning. You’ve come to expect nothing less, right? I wasn’t initially real excited to preach on this text from Luke today. I looked at the other texts for inspiration. I thought about a nice, good old-fashioned hymn sing. But this darn text kept calling me back. But it didn’t excite me. The last thing I want to do is stand up here and talk about the rich farmer; especially with the year so many of you are having. I don’t know all the details. But, I’ve heard the whispers. I’ve seen the worry lines on your faces. I know it isn’t a great year. And then the farmer in the text has such a huge yield of crops that he has nowhere to put them. Oh darn (sarcasm). He has so much corn and beans or wheat or whatever else that he has no choice but to tear down his barns (barns plural) and build newer larger ones. Oh goodness. That poor poor farmer. What a burden a large harvest and yield must be.
Now look, there is no sin in being rich and having wealth. I am not calling us all to take vows of poverty. There is no sin in being successful. And I am not going to be the one to define success for you nor will I tell you how to define rich. It looks different for everyone. But it is how we treat those riches and success that can create problems. Our riches and success can create idols and turn us in ourselves. Listen once again to what Jesus said in the parable. The rich man thought to himself “what should I do, for I have no pace to store my crops…I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.” If you didn’t get the emphasis, the focus is on the rich land owner. “Those who have possessions in abundance risk the sin of greed: ‘enough’ is never enough, ‘more’ is only to be hoarded, and ‘I, me, and mine’ matter more than anybody else” (West, 310 Feasting on the Word). I, I, I, the man has done nothing but turned himself into an idol. That is sin.
Is the rich man wise and responsible? Sure. He’s smart to store up what may be needed in a year of drought. He has a thriving farming business. I know enough farmers to know that farming isn’t a sport for idiots and dummies. He is trying to do what most of us do: set aside a little bit for the future. I am guessing most of us do this in one way or another. IRA’s, stocks, bonds, land, whatever; it’s smart and prudent to prepare for the future. It’s not what he is doing that is wrong. But he is only living for himself. He also seems to believe that he can secure his future with his barns full of abundance. But his life is now. We all know too well that tomorrow isn’t promised. There are very few guarantees in life. You have your body and you have time. Sadly, when one of those things runs out or runs down, your invitation to the kingdom is delivered. This is exactly verse 20 says “you fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”
Being rich isn’t a sin. Being smart with your investments isn’t a sin. Having an amazing year with a bumper crop isn’t a sin. But, oh my goodness, my beloved, none of this has anything to do with us. We are so quick to forget that. When things are going terribly, we love to blame God. Another diagnosis? What did I/we do to anger God? A new mother taken too soon? Why does God seem to hate me/us? But when things are going well and we are successful. Well! Look at what I’ve done! I am amazing! I made the right decisions! I bought the right seed! I used the right version of roundup. I made the best investments. I am so smart and so amazing! I should be giving you advice. Um…who? We should not be so confident, so cocky, so sure of ourselves that we forget that what we have is not ours, including our lives. Our lives, our possessions, everything we have and everything we are is Gods. And this is troubling and yet, also a relief: God can demand any and all of it back at any time. Think about that for just a moment. Everything we have and everything we are is Gods and God can demand any and all of it back at any time.
Being rich is not a sin. I want to repeat that several times so you hear me. Being successful is not a sin. However, it is when we think our successes and riches secure us a position with God or a place in God’s kingdom is when our thinking goes wrong. Again, it’s not that God doesn’t desire for us to do well. Yes, we should save for retirement. And yes, we need to plan for our future needs. But, it is about our priorities. Our priorities tell us very clearly if we worship god with a lowercase “g” or if we worship God with a capital “G.” Because if our priorities are only saving, hoarding even, and self then we worship god, lowercase g. But if our priorities are saving, future planning, and doing that with our neighbors and God’s mission in mind, then we worship God with a capital g. Our “capacity to trust in God can deepen only as other matters lessen their grip in our lives” (Lull, 312, Feasting on the Word).
Our text today is challenging and we shouldn’t shy away from it. I can’t promise that I’ve made any sense of it or made you feel any better about it. But, if we lean in together and start to read this as the challenge it is, perhaps our lives may take a different shape. This parable “calls on all, rich and poor alike, to reflect carefully about what we want and why we want it” (West, 314, ibid). It is possible that if our hearts are hungering for what only God can give, and that is unconditional grace, mercy, and love, then there are no purchases, no amount of wealth, no amount of stuff that will ever fill that desire. The economy will fluctuate (I don’t have to tell you all that). The price of corn, beans, hogs, and cattle will be a roller coaster. Again, I don’t have to tell you that. But what never changes, what is constant and reliable is God. And as hard as all of this has been to hear and comprehend about riches and storehouses and self focused thinking, the constant and reliable love, grace, and mercy of God is the good news that we need to hear. When we can’t count on anything else, not even our own bodies or time, God’s love, grace, and mercy are reliable. Every. Single. Time.
Soon, you will be invited to the table. You will receive the body of Christ given for you and you will receive the blood of Christ shed for you. You did nothing to earn it. You receive it if you have $2 or $2 million in your bank account. You are fed the same meal as dignitaries and outcasts. You are fed the same meal given to revolutionaries and the status quo. We dine on the same meal given to the disciples and to dictators. Now if that’s not enough for you to believe in God’s offensive and abundant love, I don’t know what is. What is ours is not ours alone. It has been given to us by God. God’s love, mercy, and grace are the only for sure thing in life that we can bank on.