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Empty Barns

Someone from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But Jesus said to him, “Man, who appointed me to be a judge or an arbitrator over you?”

Then he said to them, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because a man’s life is not measured by how many possessions he has.”  He told them a parable: “The land of a certain rich man produced very well.  He was thinking to himself, ‘What will I do, because I do not have anywhere to store my crops?’  He said, ‘This is what I will do. I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and goods.  And I will tell my soul, “Soul, you have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy. Eat, drink, and be merry.”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your soul will be demanded from you. Now who will get what you have prepared?’  “That is how it will be for anyone who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

– Luke 12:13-21

There is something about seeing an old, abandoned barn in a field.  It reminds us of a time more simple, less complicated and less rushed.  Perhaps the faded paint and nearly dilapidated roof reminds us of childhood when the biggest worry was how far we’d go in our exploring of the woods, or how late our parents would let us stay up with friends.

Perhaps one of these ancient barns reminds us of our Lord’s parable about the rich fool.  He had barns, many barns, full to the top with his grain and goods.  He never thought for a moment that his life would end, that his cough would lead to death, his walk up the stairs would lead to tripping and dying, his drive to the local Walmart would end up in a deadly crash on the highway, or his enjoying a meal would lead to chocking.  

But God demanded this man’s soul at just the time ordained, and what will become of his many barns?  They will, one day, become a distant memory in an otherwise mundane, passed-by field.

Learn a lesson from our Lord’s parable.  While this story is certainly about wealth and the pursuit of money and possession, it is more than that, isn’t it?  Sure, if you spend your days and your life worrying about profit and career, about hording and acquiring, and then the Lord demands your life and you die, then as the Lord says, you’ve received all the treasure you wanted but forfeited your soul to hell.

But this is also about relationships, isn’t it?  If you knew you were going to die today, if you knew the Lord would demand your soul tonight, how would you spend your final hours?  Would you mend fences, or would you keep burning them down?  Would you try to repair the damage you caused upon your neighbor, or would you not care?  Would you try and seek healing by going to a neighbor who hurt you, or would you continue to be grudgeful?

Oftentimes we continue to treat others in horrible, sinful, evil, and selfish ways because we never stop to consider that we don’t know when we will die, and we don’t know when our neighbor will die.  We don’t think about the ramifications of storing up anger and malice, or what it means for our eternal soul.  We let our egos get the best of us rather than humbleness and contrition.

We say, “That person hurt me so bad; that neighbor wronged me so horribly,” but it doesn’t matter!  You’ve wronged people and hurt people, just as we all have wronged and hurt people.  You are no better or less sinful, and your hurt is no more painful than anyone else’s.  Will you go to your grave without any thought of making peace, of trying to understand, of trying to be as Christ to those you now accuse and condemn?

In our sin, we hurt our Lord, we trample on His name, we represent Him as useless garbage before others.  And yet He is gracious and compassionate and patient and seeks to forgive and restore us to Him.  May we learn from the foolish man in the parable that life is fleeting, possessions and wealth is ultimately quite worthless, and relationships built on peace and forgiveness and understanding are far greater than living life full of hate and grudge.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You are so gracious and kind to me, though I deserve only Your wrath and judgment.  Help me to learn that this life is very short and I have no time to be greedy, and no time to be grudgeful.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.