Put to death what is earthly in your life:
… the greed which is idolatry.
Colossians 3: 5
Be on your guard and avoid every kind of greed.
Luke 12: 15
In today’s Gospel, Luke 12: 13-21, Jesus responds to a request to decide about inheritances by offering what is one of my favorite parables: the parable of bigger barns.
A man had a good harvest and no place to store it. And so he decides to tear down his barns and build bigger ones.
Clarence Jordan was a Baptist preacher, trained in theology, Greek, and agriculture. He founded an interracial community in Georgia which he named Koinonia Farms.
Jordan translated much of the New Testament in his “Cotton Patch” versions which placed Jesus in Georgia. His translation of what happens next is both delightful and challenging:
And I will say to myself: “Self, you’ve got enough stuff stashed away to do you a long time. Recline, dine, wine, and shine!”
But God said to him. “You nitwit, at this very moment your good are putting the screws on your soul. All these things you’ve grubbed for, to whom shall they really belong?”
Many years ago I heard a tape of Jordan on this parable and later read a commentary he had written on this. What I remember makes this even more pointed.
Jordan says that the “rich fellow” was named Sam, Uncle Sam. When he found out that he didn’t have enough room to store his crops, he decided that he needed “bigger barns” to store his crops, instead of storing them in “empty bellies.”
Jesus challenges us today to remember that all that we have is not ours. All that we have is gift, to be shared, especially with the poor.
The early Fathers of the Church were clear on this. As Saint Basil said:
The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of the one who is naked. The shoes which you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot. The money you keep locked away is the money of the poor. The acts of charity which you do not perform are so many injustices you commit.
Greed is idolatry, because it places us at the center – and God and the poor get nothing but the scraps.