By Carolyn Shields
You know when you come across a scripture passage and it’s a total sucker punch to the gut? Super uncomfortable and a “Gosh, that’s what I needed to hear” moment? Well, welcome to this Sunday’s Gospel. Luke 12:13-21 is on the parable of the rich fool, and in it we hear Jesus talking about a man whose land produces an abundant harvest. So abundant, in fact, that the man has to build several new barns to store it all and decides that to celebrate, he’s going to “relax, eat, drink, and be merry” (LK 12:19).
I was nodding my head while reading that, thinking, “Yes! That’s what I would do too!”
Because he probably totally earned it! I bet he worked his behind off to get such a great harvest, even if the weather was perfect that season and other forces that were out of his control. I’m sure he still put in a ton of work to bear such great fruit.
But then God quips, “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.”
Cue the sucker punch.
For the past few years, I’ve been thinking “Maybe if I was more financially stable, xyz,” or “Maybe I would have way more peace of mind if I knew I would be able to pay my bills,” etc. Money has been a huge stresser since I moved out. It is for a lot of us. I’ve been working so HARD to be able to get financially sound, so I read this and think, “Gosh, it must be so incredible to be financially set for not just this month but for years to come. Imagine knowing you will be able to pay your bills not just this month but for a long while!”
But the thing is…God doesn’t work like that. Remember last Sunday’s Gospel on that whole “Daily Bread” thing? Yeah…we don’t pray “Give us this day, our decade feast.” We are called to turn again and again and again to God, and if we are financially set for the next decade, or have enough friends to fill multiple barns and won’t think about loneliness for a few years, or whatever it is, wouldn’t we struggle with turning to God in our daily needs?
The best way to illustrate this aside from the daily bread symbolism is through the Good Shepherd. Psalm 23 reads, “He makes me lie down in green pastures…” The truth is, there were no green pastures in Israel at that time--not in the way we think of rolling, grassy, lush fields. There were only small patches of grass in the Judean wilderness, barely visible except late in the day when the setting sun caused them to reflect light. The shepherd's job was to lead his sheep to these life-giving spots so that they would be given exactly what they needed for that day. No more. This kept them in a constant state of trusting. In a constant state of reliance.
The Good Shepherd makes sure to provide what we need, how much we need, and when we need it.
That’s not to say overtime we won’t accumulate a barn’s worth of harvest or whatever. I’m sure that if I keep working hard, trusting that God will take care of me and continue to daily provide for me, that day by day I will build up that financial cushion that is so important when I have a family. But the key thing here is to not fixate so much on it. To stop giving tomorrow more due than what I’m given today. And to keep practicing this sense of total reliance and trust in my God.