Jesus said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” from Luke 12:13-21
Then follows a parable. You know… the one about the farmer whose harvest was so plentiful there wasn’t room in his barn to store it all. So he thought and he thought and he thought — and I’m guessing it came to him in the middle of the night, “I know, I’ll tear down my barn and build a bigger one!”
Brilliant? — No.
It should have occurred to him to give away his surplus and feed the hungry.
Oh wait, that’s the point of the story. That’s what was supposed to occur to us. Jesus was telling a parable, a story in a story that could change the listener’s life. It’s a message to you and to me. Go ahead, take it personally — and I will too. There is no denying my life is one of abundant excess — not wretched excess, mind you, but abundant for sure. And here I am pondering my own generosity.
Sadly, I find, I come up short. Left to my own devices I’m not generous enough. But, I haven’t begun to consider tearing down this old barn to build a bigger one. So that’s a good thing, right? Right. Still, it’s not good enough. This weighs heavily on me.
Tom is approaching retirement (16 months, 3 weeks and a day or two — but who’s counting?) and we are wondering what’s next. This house and barn are too big, but it would be foolish to tear them down and build smaller. We could build a smaller house and repurpose this big one. It could go back to being the family summer home/hunting camp. It could be a retreat center, bed and breakfast (although there’s not a lot of demand for that around here), an event venue…lots of possibilities.
The possibilities include us staying here and enjoying this home that has been renovated over the years with sweat, blood, happiness and tears. The upside of staying put is we could consolidate our living space, downsize without really downsizing, making this place more elder friendly and better suited for sharing with family and friends.
Every decision we make becomes part of the story of our lives…sort of like one of those books where you get to choose your next adventure. I was going to say choose your own ending, but really no one gets to choose that. Even the rich man with the abundant harvest, he had no idea that his life would be required so soon. He built bigger barns, but never partook of the goods he stored up in them.
I hope in all my planning I won’t be like the well-blessed farmer who was greedy. I know that life does not consist of the abundance of possessions. It consists in the abundance of intangible blessings: love, grace, mercy, and compassion. If I’m going to give something away, perhaps this is a good place to start. I can give what’s been given to me so many times over: love, grace, mercy, and compassion. If one thing leads to another, and one act of kindness leads to the next, maybe I’ll find myself being more generous in other ways too. So, yes, this is a good place to start.
Although it wasn’t a decision made from the heart, we shared the abundance of our garden with Mrs. Rabbit and her children this summer. Clearly, allowing her to help herself came from neglect and stupidity rather than compassion and grace. But letting her, along with Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter live? That was truly an act of mercy.
It’s a start.