Jesus was teaching his disciples when he was somewhat rudely interrupted by someone who wanted him to resolve a family dispute over inheritance. This man was not really asking for advice – he just wanted to try to get Jesus on his side: “tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me”.
We might hear a faint echo of another two brothers disputing over half an inheritance – the two brothers in the parable of the prodigal son. . .
Anyway – this man wanted Jesus to get the money for him. But Jesus was quick to see the real problem in this man’s heart: was greed! – the intense and selfish desire for something: especially wealth, power, or social status.
Jesus uses the opportunity to warn his disciples and the rest of the crowd listening – about the danger of greed and placing one’s confidence in earthly possessions – which is still relevant for us today because so many people’s main priority in life is to become wealthy which they think will bring them a good and happy life.
So let’s look at the parable or story.
I’m sure many of us can identify with the land owner: he is a happy man – a rich man, and he had a good harvest – what farmer would not rejoice in that?
This is the essence of life for many people today – to be successful and to be rich – which this man enjoyed – and there is nothing wrong with any of us enjoying it also.
The man is in a good place – and he is looking forward to more of the same – “and I will say to myself, you have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy. Eat, drink, and be merry.”
And the man’s next move? He wants to build bigger barns — not because he doesn’t have any barns – but he wants bigger ones to store the wealth of his crops. So he will tear down the old and build newer, bigger, barns.
Everything was fine and good. In fact - it describes the typical lifestyle of many Americans. We want to improve our lives, increase our wealth, and find more ways to enjoy ourselves. We want to store up our wealth and possessions so that we can enjoy them in the days to come. We are always planning for the future – making good investments in stocks, life insurance, trusts, commodities, and properties.
Again, everything was fine and good – UNTIL GOD ENTERS THE PICTURE. When God enters –everything changes. Because God said to him, “you fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.”
All the man cared about was BIGGER BARNS. –But God brought a new perspective. The man isn’t going to live to see his bigger barns – he doesn’t even have a chance to get the project started. He was planning ONLY for this life on earth – not what comes after. God was not in his life. He did not even consider God — or others – in his decision to build bigger barns –
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” This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for themselves – but is not rich toward God. . .”
Jesus wants us to see things in the right perspective. He told the man who interrupted him: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
Did the man really need bigger barns – or did he just want them??? He could have given the excess to those in need — but much like Lazarus who sat at the door of another rich man and was ignored day after day –
This man probably wasn’t aware of the fact that people around him had needs that weren’t being met – the ones who had no food on their tables – perhaps didn’t even have tables — the ones who were lacking their daily bread.
JESUS DOESN’T WANT US TO BUILD BIGGER BARNS OR TO RENT A BIGGER STORAGE UNIT TO STORE ALL OF OUR STUFF – JESUS WANTS US TO BUILD BIGGER HEARTS – one’s that are big enough to realize that we pray “Our Father” because God is father of us all – which makes all of us brothers and sisters – who should care for one another.
God wants us to expand our hearts – so that when we pray “give us this day our daily bread” we know we are praying for more than just enough to eat – but praying for roofs over our heads, decent wages, affordable health care, clean water, and safe places to live for ourselves – AND for our brothers and sisters.
Jesus wants us to build bigger hearts – convert or change ourselves so that we think more like God thinks - so that love and forgiveness will take over the earth – and the world will be a better place.
God wants us to build bigger hearts – not so that we store up treasure for ourselves – but so that we can grow rich in what matters to God.
IT IS perfectly fine to have possessions – to have money in the bank – to adequately prepare for our futures –and to be content and happy.
But we have to keep things in perspective.
If we view our possessions or successes in life as the result of our talent and effort – we will think of ourselves as owners of these things.
But in reality, we are all stewards of what God has provided. Whether we are into farming or into manufacturing, or business — it is God who provides
God gives us the ability to do whatever we are doing.
God gives us the ability to think, to calculate numbers, to build, and to make plans — the ability to speak and to breathe.
All of us earn our wealth with borrowed abilities.
And we are called to be grateful – which expands our hearts – which allows us to be generous with the gifts God has given us.
Open our eyes, God our Father, to the needs of our brothers and sisters. Inspire in us words and actions to comfort those who labor and are burdened – who have less than we do.
Make us serve them truly after the example of Christ and at his command.
And may your Church, your body made up of all of us here – always stand as a living witness to truth and freedom. To peace and justice. That ALL people may be raised up to a new hope.
Lord, give us bigger hearts – hearts filled with gratitude and generosity —- so that that world can be a better place. AMEN!
It’s a familiar story. One we have heard a hundred times.
It is such a popular story that it has become a cultural norm when we want to point out someone who is doing good.
We’ve even included it in our secular laws, the Good Samaritan Law - protecting anyone trying to help their neighbor - even if things go wrong.
It attempts to convey what it means to be kind in a hurting world.
But this is NOT a story about being nice. This is a story about transforming the world through the power of the Gospel.
In the story, Jesus is sharing that there are three types of people along the road between Jerusalem and Jericho.
The first type are the robbers – whose motivation in life is “what is yours is mine at whatever cost.”
And the robbers will take whatever they need through violence, coercion, and whatever means necessary.
These are the people who leave us physically, mentally, or emotionally beaten and bruised along life’s road with nothing left but our shallow breath.
The second type of person to walk along the dangerous road between Jerusalem and Jericho is represented by the priest and the Levite – whose motivation is “what’s mine is mine— and I must protect it even if it means you get hurt in the process.”
They aren’t bad people. Both the priest and the Levite are deeply respected in their communities. They very likely follow all the social rules and norms. They sit on local governing boards. They pay their taxes on time and help in their neighborhoods.
They also show a great deal of love to those within their immediate communities – but because of what crossing the road to help – might cost them . . . they put their heads down and go about their business.
So without even recognizing it – they do more harm than good. Their focus is inward – toward their needs and the needs of those who are most like them.
It’s the motivation that leads the good and decent priest and Levite toward a life of valuing their reputations — instead of their relationships.
And it often results in them choosing their own individual rights over the health and well-being and the rights of others.
Unfortunately, this is the group where I fall most often in my life, and if we are all being honest with ourselves – it’s the group that most of us fall into more than we care to admit: play it safe. Stay in your comfort zone. Don’t rock the boat. And let others take care of themselves.
But then – there is the Samaritan - one of the despised groups for the Jews in Jesus’ day – whose motivation, much to the surprise of Jesus’ audience – is love.
And along one of the most dangerous roads in all of history – is motivated by the understanding of “what is mine is yours – if you need it.”
My safety is yours - if you need it.
My security is yours - if you need it.
My resources are yours - if you need them.
My health is tied to your health.
My well-being is tied to your well-being.
Dr. Martin Luther King preached on this text often and once said that the real difference between the priest and the Levite from the Samaritan – is the question they must have asked themselves.
The priest and the Levite likely asked: “If I stop to help this man - what will happen TO ME?”
While the Samaritan likely asked a very different question: “If I don’t stop to help this man - what will happen TO HIM?”
Fear has a way of making us behave badly. It was true for the priest and the Levite, and it is still true for us today.
When fear is the motivation of our lives - we tend to cling to our own safety and our own individual rights.
When fear is the motivation of our lives - we end up placing our hope in thinking: “It is against my rights.” OR “don’t tell me what to do” as opposed to Jesus’ greatest commandments: “Love God and love your neighbor.”
It doesn’t take looking very long to know that right now – we are all on the road somewhere between Jerusalem and Jericho.
It’s a dangerous world out there. The heart-breaking exhaustion of just getting by is real.
It’s not just a virus we have been dealing with now for two years – but it’s everything else, too.
It’s the layer upon layer of being beaten down and bruised along a dry, hard, and often times, lonely road.
So – we have choices to make. We can choose to make our decisions out of fear. And for a time, choices based on fear have a way of making us feel safe – but that is fleeting at best.
The other choice is to cross the road to help our neighbor. When we cross to the other side, we will get a glimpse of something Jesus talked an awful lot about.
We will see what transformation looks like.
We will finally understand who we are called to be.
And best of all, we will finally encounter the Kingdom of God we’ve been longing for – and are consistently invited by Jesus to help build.
Moments in time...