This last week we read the parable of the rich farmer (Luke 12:13-21) who has a wonderfully abundant crop and doesn’t know what to do with it (clearly giving it away doesn’t even cross his mind). He eventually decides to and tear down his grain bins to build bigger ones so that he can sit back and relax for a few years. But God says to the farmer: ‘You fool! This very night your life will be required of you. To whom will all your accumulated wealth go?’ Jesus goes on to say, “This is the way it works with people who accumulate riches for themselves, but are not rich in God.”
It was almost as if the farmer thought there was a price tag he had just met for being happy, secure and comfortable. He’d just won the lottery. Life was good! And then… psych! All gone!
(For the full audio version, click here.)
Now, we remember that this is a parable, a story Jesus told to make a point. So, what’s the point? Clearly it isn’t that as soon as you’re too greedy with your wealth that God will take you out of the game, or we wouldn’t have so many million and billionaires around! Jesus is clear in verse 15 that we should “Avoid greed in all its forms. Yes, ALL its forms. People are not just greedy with money, but with time, love, themselves and stuff.
Why should we avoid greed? Jesus doesn’t spell it out, but here are a few things I’d suggest: an attitude of greed keeps us from ever being satisfied or happy (there is really no price tag for happiness), it keeps us from living and enjoying the moment, and it is contractive, not expansive for our souls. An attitude of greed buys into a belief in scarcity rather than abundance.
In the book, An Other Kingdom, the authors talk about believing in abundance in the face of uncertainty. But they readily admit that this thinking is a “stretch of the imagination.” We see and hear all around us of people who don’t have enough, the poor, the homeless, the folks of Louisiana who’ve lost their homes in flooding, the folks in California who’ve lost their homes in the wildfires.
Our culture and our commerce has capitalized on the fear of not having enough, the fear of scarcity. In our advertising and our TV shows, in the push to compete with the Joneses, to be the best and have the most. There are time-saving devices, ways to buy love and keep love and find love, ways to live forever, look younger, and nip and tuck until we are beautiful. We’ve been brainwashed to believe that if we don’t have more we fail, we lose. We’re told we should be afraid of running out.
But what if… WHAT IF the fear of running out is not a reality, but a perspective? I know this may be hard to grasp because it feels like a reality. But WHAT IF whether we see our lives as rich and full is a perspective? What if this “reality” of scarcity isn’t really reality, but is simply one point of view, one mindset, one perspective? And we get to choose.
There was a 92-year-old petite, well-poised and proud woman, who was fully dressed each morning by 8 a.m. with her hair fashionable coiffed and makeup perfectly applied (even though she was legally blind). Her husband of 70 years had recently passed away making it necessary for her to move to a nursing home. (Most older people I know rail against this with a huge fear of the future and a huge loss of their independence and home and life as they knew it.)
Well, the day had come and after many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, the aide provided her with a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window.
“I love it!” she stated with the enthusiasm of having just been presented with a new puppy.
“Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room… just wait.”
“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged… it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it… it’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away just for this time in my life.”
Many people only see lack and loss in these situations. They see and therefore experience scarcity and the fear that comes with that. But then there are those special people who live with a different perspective and bring light, hope and joy to others.
Being rich in God means living with an attitude of abundance, not scarcity, in whatever situation you may be in. When we have that close relationship with God, a trust in the basic benevolence of the universe, and knowledge that there is so much more than meets the eye, we look at wealth, stuff, love, time and even beauty in a different way. Being “rich” means something completely different when one comes from a deep connection with the Divine.
Love & Light!