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 toward God." -
and more our lives are defined by “stuff”… getting stuff, keeping stuff, always
wanting more and better stuff. Whether it’s a bigger flat screen or a smaller
smart phone, there is always more stuff out there that upon attainment will
finally make us happy. Meanwhile attics, basements, landfills and junkyards
overflow with last year’s gotta-have-it stuff.
Whether it’s wired
into our DNA or it’s an acquired trait, we all love stuff. But do we love the
right stuff? That’s the lesson of this week’s gospel. Bigger barns to store his
bumper crops, that’s all the farmer thinks he needs and his life will be a
dream. But, Surprise! That night his dreams are over. His plans are an illusion.
His time is up. His harvest and his barns, all the accumulated stuff of a
life-time, are gone in a heartbeat. And Jesus doesn’t let the farmer off easy.
He doesn’t say the farmer made a mistake or got his priorities mixed up. Flat
out, gentle Jesus calls him a fool, saying he wasted his life worrying about all
the wrong stuff, telling us: This is how it will be for those who store up
things for themselves and are not rich toward God.
Before the throne
of God, we will be stripped of our stuff… no cars, no collections, no gadgets,
no gizmos, no houses, no memberships, no box seats, no season tickets, no wine
cellars, no gourmet kitchens… just you and God… and what you did with the life
he gave you. In that instant all the fantasy ingredients of the supposed good
life will be seen for the passing fancies they are: prestigious stuff, fun
stuff, aesthetically engaging stuff, comfortable stuff, even, thrilling stuff.
But in the context of eternity, all infinitesimally trivial, insignificant
stuff. And our obsessive love for it will be seen for what it
So what to do? Do
we update Savonarola’s burning of the vanities and take a torch to the Apple
Store and the BMW Dealer? Not likely. God is not negative, he is positive. God
wants us to build, not tear down. He wants us to actively, passionately pursue
the right stuff. Start with Faith, Hope and Charity. Make them the driving
forces in your life. And as Paul tells us: the greatest of these is charity.
So to get the right stuff, we must give stuff away. Our time, our talent and
our treasure are the well-known currency we expend through charity to acquire
the right stuff. But God is not in the business of bartering redemption for cash
or services. Christ comes to us in the form of the vulnerable, the broken, the
despised. And before we can help them, we must love
Charity, living in
the love of Christ, is never a matter of delivering donations at arms-length
while we hold our noses. Witnessing Christ’s love, as Christ would love…that’s
the right stuff. Living in the love of Christ means ending each day rich in
grace; prepared to give our lives back to God when he calls; humbly, gratefully
hoping that the barns of our souls are overflowing with the right stuff.