Hold Lightly What You Value Greatly
- Wednesday, July 18, 2007
The land of a rich man produced plentifully and he thought to himself, "What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?" And he said, "I will do this: I will tear 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, "Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?" So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God (Luke 12:16-21).
At first glance, it's hard to know what this man did wrong. He seems like the sort of man any of us would want as a church member.
There is no hint in the story that he was a cheat, a crook or a scoundrel. Jesus never suggests that he obtained his money by unethical means. He doesn't seem to be the sort of man who tried to take advantage of his friends when they were in trouble. He wasn't a loan shark or a shady lawyer or a dishonest merchant. If he ever tried to hurt anyone, Jesus doesn’t mention it.
He was a farmer. That's a noble profession. We wouldn't eat if there weren't farmers to grow the crops and tend the herds. Since moving to Mississippi 20 months ago, I've come to a new appreciation of what farmers do. In this part of the world, they grow cotton, soybeans, peanuts, corn, rice, onions, sugar cane and sweet potatoes. And they raise cattle and hogs and chickens. It's hard work, not just the physical part, which is hard enough, but today's farmer has to be an economist, financier, business executive and computer expert on top of all the things he has to know about growing crops and raising animals. It's a 24/7 job and only the strong need apply. Lazy farmers won't last very long, and even the hardworking ones have a tough time making it. Right now we're suffering through a severe drought in the South, one of the worst in years, that has affected the growing season. The farmers are hoping and praying for rain to come, just in time but not too much because the water that produces the crops can destroy the harvest if it comes at the wrong time. Then there are bugs and diseases of various kinds. And even though today's farmer has a wide variety of pesticides to choose from, the bugs seem to get smarter every year. It's a hard life being a farmer, and even though you can find plenty of third- and fourth- and even fifth-generation farms, it true that many young people see how hard their parents have to work to keep the farm going, and they soon decide things look better in Memphis or Atlanta or Dallas or Chicago.
You have to love the land to be a farmer, and you have to have perseverance to stay at it year after year. Among other things, a certain stoic resolve is required. A sudden disease can wipe out a herd or a late rain can ruin a crop and destroy your savings. A man can be farming today and bankrupt tomorrow. Sometimes it happens to those with the best of intentions. Anyone looking for an easy life should look elsewhere.
So when you find a man who has made his fortune in farming, you know that he must have had a strong work ethic, he found some good land, he has good business sense, he knows how to manage his resources well, and he has good fortune on his side. You may think I'm overdoing it, but we can't grasp the point of Jesus' parable unless we give this man his due.
You really can't fault him for anything he did. We can go further and say that he did what he was supposed to do. He farmed his way to the top. He was so successful that he had a bumper crop. I have seen those mountains of grain when the harvest has come in. Sometimes they pile it up by the side of the road so it will dry before they store it. But sooner or later the farmer has to find a place to store it. He needs a barn or a silo or someplace else to keep it.
His Success Overwhelmed His Capacity
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