How many of us share this dilemma: “Where shall I put all my stuff?” We are all about having the latest thing. Or even if we don’t “keep up with the Joneses” we have a favorite place where we spend money. Yet Jesus says, ” Yet not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” (v.15)
It is important to note the the teaching here is not against wealth, but rather against greed and the accumulation of wealth beyond that which is necessary. This man had farm land that was very productive and barns that were, apparently, satisfactory for his needs. However, this particular year, the harvest was more plentiful and he had more than the silo could hold. Rather than share this abundance - feeding the poor, giving to neighbors whose land may not have produced so well - he decides to build bigger barns.
So then, is his sin in building bigger barns? Not entirely. Yes, he did not give to the poor. (v.33) But his main ‘problem’ here is that he “is not rich toward God.” (v.21) We are not called to be poor. We are called to be not concerned with how our needs are met. This man apparently had large enough barns to hold that which he needed for himself (and his household). He could have filled his barns, thus ensuring his needs met for the year, and given away the excess, rather than build larger barns to hold it all.
Now I realize that not many reading this will be farmers and have to store their crops in a barn. But lets change the wording a bit: What about a man (or woman) who was living comfortably in a home, driving a nice car and working a good job. His company gives him a one-time bonus. Does he go out and trade in his car for this years model? Or does she go out and buy the latest fashions?
What do we do with our excess? How do we define our “excess”? How do we decide we have what we need? If we really think about this we will probably find that the answer to this is a lot less than we have now.
It seems to me that for many years raising a family we never had much excess. Every year if my pay went up, so did our expenses. We did not deliberately try to live an extravagant lifestyle (we don’t). Yet I know that we could have done with less.
So now we are “empty nesters”. Now what we have seems too much. There is much we need to downsize. Our house this week is full - our daughters and sons-in-law are here for the Christmas break. But next week those two rooms will again be empty. Perhaps we will have to fill them again with kids who need a home. I don’t know. What I do know is that I will not build bigger barns - or buy a new car.