Luke 12: 13-21
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about the “Barn Guy,” as one author calls him.
First, someone in the crowd asks Jesus to mediate an inheritance dispute. Rabbis are often called on to do that but Jesus declines to get caught in the family dispute. Then he uses the opportunity to talk about money.
Have you noticed how often Jesus talks about money and wealth, about justice, about loving all people, about worshiping God with our hearts, and how seldom he talks about sex? Does that tell us something about what Jesus thinks is important?
Jesus responds to the request for arbitration with a story. At first glance, it’s about money. Or, it’s about the end times. Or it’s about saving for retirement. But the story has a different focus: It’s about relying on wealth and it’s about relying on oneself.
Barn Guy talks to himself – *I* have this, *I* will do this, *my* crops, *my* barn. He doesn’t consult anyone else, not his wife, not his children. He takes credit for the good harvest. He will build bigger barns to hold the abundance of grain. As he talks, we notice the message is all about him – all about *me, myself, and I*.
There is a trend at times for such self-focus. A few years ago, I heard a man in his 30s say, “Well, you know I am from the ME generation, so this is all about me and what I want.”
So many people today have cell phones and take self-portraits, selfies, that there is now a device called a selfie stick, to make it easier to take photos of oneself. Some selfies are records of a happy event, like a moment with Pope Francis.
Other selfies are a way to broadcast one’s clothes or hairstyle or facial expression at that moment. The message of these selfies is “Look at me! *I* am really something!”
This practice of taking a selfie and sharing it on social media draws attention to oneself, and puts *ME* at the center of attention. In themselves, selfies are not bad things, unless it’s all we do.
Barn Guy worked his land, harvested the crops, and made plans to store them. Again, not a bad thing. He planned to store some of the crops as a retirement plan. Also, not a bad thing.
But he forgot that it took a lot of people to prepare the land, plant the crops, till and maybe water the crops, and to harvest and separate grain from chaff before it could be stored.
He forgot that it will take lots of people to build new barns and tear down the old barns, and it will take lots of people to get the grain into the barns.
He forgot that the crops are intended to feed himself and his family and the workers on his land, and at least some of the hungry people in town.
Above all, he forgot that it is God who makes the crops grow and provides sun and rain to make the crops healthy, and cares about all, including the hungry people.
Jesus has a problem, not with Barn Guy’s wealth, but with his self-focus. Barn Guy thinks that having large barns filled with grain will ensure him a long life with a great retirement. So, his focus is on filling the barns for his own financial security.
Jesus ends the story by saying that Barn Guy’s full barns will not benefit him, because he’s going to die tonight. What good will his overflowing barns do him when he faces God? How much attention has he paid to God? How much has he cared for and about the people in his life? How often has he fed hungry people? When does he remember that life is not all about him and his needs and wants?
Mike and I saw the movie Star Trek Beyond last week. Early in the movie, an admiral in the Federation and Captain Kirk were discussing the assignment they were about to embark on. She starts by talking about the ship, the Enterprise, but while Kirk agrees that the ship is amazing, the best thing about her is the crew.
Over and over in the movie, crew members are forced to rescue one another. They do what they do together, as crew. None of them has all the skills to make the ship move, to transport people, to heal injuries. They rely on each other. There are movie close-ups, of course, but there are no selfies in Star Trek. Even the villains need help from others.
It’s the same in the church. If everyone was a preacher, or if everyone was a singer, who would be the listeners? If everyone was a quilter, who would mow the lawn? If everyone was a pastry chef, who would make the corned beef and cabbage and potatoes?
There is no place in the church, in our community, in our nation, or in the world for people who are mostly interested in selfies. So, this week, notice how many people are involved in whatever you are doing.
For example: How many people built your house? Masons and carpenters and plumbers and wallboard hangers and HVAC installers and roofers and painters, etc. What other “stuff” has to happen for you to use your house? Lawnmowers and bug fighters and people who monitor the safety of your water and pick up your trash. And so on.
When it comes to worshiping God, which Barn Guy doesn’t seem to so much, we can certainly take time to do selfies with God. Daily prayer and study are a good thing. But when we gather together for worship, we realize we can sing, even if our voice is not so good. We can add others’ prayers to our own, and pray for more than our own concerns. We can listen to Susan play a musical offering and consider the good our offerings are able to do when we add them together.
Most of what we do in life is not about selfies. Most of life depends on partnerships with other people. Most of life depends on a partnership with God, and a remembrance that while it may seem like everything we have is the result of our own hard work, in reality, we have what we have because of God’s generosity.
Please pray with me. Generous God, thank you for all that you give to us. Teach us to be grateful for each other, for every person who makes possible whatever we do. Help us to be rich toward God. Amen