Friday, March 22 — Th Fork in the Road Missed by the Stuffed Barn Guy
Today and tomorrow I will go beyond the Lectionary readings to consider two more passages from Luke’s Gospel that connect with the themes brought up in the past two days from Luke 13:1-9. The first occurs earlier in the same section of teaching.
Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “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. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’
Jesus tells a parable in response to two brothers fighting over their inheritance. The dispute has a familiar ring, doesn’t it? We are supposed to love people and use things, but here possessing things seems more important than staying in a loving relationship with a person – indeed, a sibling. The brothers have lost contact with what really matters and are in bondage to their possessions. (Next week we will hear of another two brothers in conflict in the parable of the prodigal son. Sibling rivalry runs deep in human nature.)
In his parable Jesus describes a man who has come to a critical fork in the road of his life. He has been blessed in that his land has produced crops abundantly. He has reason to feel confident that he won’t be going hungry into time soon. His barn is packed full of grain. He asks himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” At this fork in the road some deep reflection is called for regarding the meaning of his life. Hopefully, in the course of such reflection feelings of gratitude to God would arise regarding his good fortune. Perhaps he will take notice the suffering of his neighbors, some of whom are starving. He might recognize a higher purpose for his life – to bring aid and comfort to others in his community – to be a vessel of love.
But he doesn’t pause to reflect and fails to recognize the fork in the road. He plunges forward on the same path he has always followed: “I will do this,” the man says. “I will pull down my barns and build larger ones.”
There is a kind of bondage in this man in his unquestioned acceptance of the goal the world has taught to pursue: reaching a point where he can “relax, eat, drink, be merry.”
Interestingly, at this point in the story Jesus suddenly interjects a similar reminder of our mortality that was found in our last two readings. God steps in to say, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you.”
It would be foolish indeed to reach the day of our death having never found a higher purpose to live for beyond that of self-centeredness.
Have there been times you have loved things more than people?
Have you missed forks in your road in which a choice was required of you that you failed to recognize?
Could there be a fork in the road at the present moment that you can’t recognize because of a kind of bondage that won’t let you slow down enough to recognize it?