As a wee boy I remember hearing the story of the rich farmer who ‘pulled down his barns to build bigger ones.’ I remember being taught that he was no better than a villain and that God had him killed the very night he made that fateful decision. And that’s the view I held in my mind for many years.
Then one day, not too long ago, I was introduced to and developed a friendship with a businessman who did much the same as the rich farmer, and while he didn’t die, he lost his marriage – for the third time as it happens – his home, his family; they disowned him, and he was left almost penniless.
What these men had in common was not that they enlarged their businesses, after all if a farmer doesn’t have enough room to store his crops, why not build bigger barns. And if my friend could not fit all his customers into his restaurant why shouldn’t he extend his floor space?
No, what they had in common was their attitude; ‘Self, you’ve done pretty well for yourself, haven’t you? You’ve got it made and now you can retire. Take it easy, put your feet up!’
In the story, and remember it’s a story Jesus told; a parable, God said, ‘This night your soul will be required of you.’ But did Jesus really mean that the rich farmer would die? Perhaps, but thinking of my friend the businessman who pulled down his restaurant to build a bigger one, I wonder is there another meaning. Could it be that these men inadvertently or otherwise sold their souls in the sense that nothing was more important to them than the trappings of financial success?
In the Gospel of Luke Jesus goes on to say; ‘Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith!’
And here is the clue, ‘...do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; don’t worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.’
In other words, Jesus is saying that if you seek his kingdom, his values, his way of doing things, his concern for others, then there’s no need to worry about such things as food, clothes and shelter. You will be given them. He knows you need them. However, he is also implying that if you do not seek his kingdom, his values, his way of doing things and his concern for people, then you just might not be given such things as food, clothes and shelter, and if you already have them, you are at risk of losing them.
I always find it interesting to note that while Jesus has no favourites it was as a poor man that he chose to live, and it was with the poor people that he chose to live. I can only hope that if my friend the businessman becomes poor he will not spend the rest of his life pining for the good old days that never really were.