Scholars tell us that in the time of Jesus 90% of people relied on the agricultural economy for their survival. The well being of your family depended on the well being and right use of the land. Many were tenant farmers who lived with the pressure of the landowner’s expectation of the biggest yield possible.
And yet, in our parable today this big yield is not to be celebrated. We are confronted instead with the rich man’s greed. His desire to store this yield is seen as short-sighted. In his master plan of tearing down barns and building bigger he has missed the point of human existence. In the language of the Psalms ‘he has no regard for God.’ His greed has paved the way for the last plan he will ever make.
The hearers of Luke’s Gospel lived with the expectation that the second coming of Jesus was imminent. Every choice had an implication for that day of judgement. The message is clear: don’t be like the rich man. Parables are intended to shock us and to jolt us. If you are left slightly uncomfortable by this text, then it has done it’s work. Parables are not nice stories.
It’s a fairly easy leap from this parable to words about the dangers of amassing wealth, the scandal of inequality and the perils of a consumerist society. These are all important areas. But what if we look inward and ask ourselves ‘What am I willing to tear down in order to build bigger barns?’, ‘What is it that blinds me to my need for God?’
We can expect to be unsettled as we answer these questions. Our ancestors in the faith grappled with these questions too and from this place they sang: ‘O Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next.’
How can you make God your refuge this week?