You can’t take it with you
In Luke Chapter 12, when he is asked about possessions, Jesus tells the parable about the rich fool. This is a rich man, a rich farmer who has a wonderful harvest, beyond his best expectations, so big his barns can’t hold it. So, he says to himself: “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Note the personal pronouns: “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.” The word I is used six times and the word my five times. Talk about being self-absorbed. Instead of giving to the poor and hungry, or to share with his workers, he’s going to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. He’s going to be set for life: “I have ample goods laid up for many years. So now I can relax, eat, drink and be merry.” But he forgot about the last part of that saying, didn’t he: “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die.” And God calls him to account, and all this great excess comes to nothing. You can’t take it with you, you fool. Scholar and theologian Ken Bailey notes that the rich man seems so alone – he only talks to himself first when he discusses with himself what he should do, and at the end when he says to himself what he will do in the future. Bailey also notes that the words used by God at the end of the parable – this very night your life will be demanded from you – is language used in the Middle East for demanding repayment of a loan – that God not only loans to us the possessions we have but he loans us our very souls, our whole life is a loan from God. John Wesley spelled out three rules to guide us: gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can. He would say “If I leave behind me 10 pounds (when I die) you and all mankind can bear witness against me that I have lived and died a thief and a robber.”
So let’s get our priorities straight. Jesus tells us at the end of the parable that the problem is not wealth per se, the problem is hoarding, storing up treasures for ourselves and not being rich toward God. There’s nothing wrong with security, for saving, for taking care of our own families, but we need to think about others than just ourselves. We need to be rich toward God, giving that excess to others, feeding the poor, helping the community, sharing the riches that God has given to us.
REV. DALE BROWN is the pastor of Cumberland and Guinea Presbyterian Churches. His email address is email@example.com.