catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 2 :: 2012.01.20 — 2012.02.02


Bigger barns

In order to be more effective in our use of what we have we accumulate more, extend our influence. We become very busy doing good, because when we are busy we don’t have time for building the much more demanding and difficult personal relationships of love.

Eugene Peterson

At the beginning of each new year, our thoughts naturally turn to living a better life and starting fresh.  As I read Peterson’s words tonight, I thought how fitting they were with the topic of simplicity. We always want more, don’t we? It is a constant struggle in this modern day — truthfully, since Cain and Abel. Today, though, we have a cultural milieu that fosters coveting your neighbor’s possessions, gaining wealth at any cost and hoarding for ourselves a safety net, which turns into the desire for a bigger house and a higher paying job. Our priorities are shifted to the self, rather than outward toward others. No wonder we hear constantly about families broken because arguments about money and possessions tear them apart.

Peterson continues, “Just as idolatry results in a pollution of our love for God, so covetousness results in a pollution of our love for one another.” As wealth increases, greed creeps in and becomes the focus, instead of seeking that which is good and giving our love to family and friends.

Similar is the warning Jesus issues in the parable of the barn builder. In the twelfth chapter of Luke he tells the story of a farmer whose harvest is so abundant that it doesn’t all fit into his barn. He decides that the best solution is to build a bigger barn that can store everything so he can relax and be at ease.  Then God comes along and says, “Fool. Tonight you die. And your barn full of goods — who gets it?” The farmer did not cultivate any loving relationships because he was too busy accumulating more.

It really hits home when you put yourself into the story. We all tend to be barn builders at times, and we think we are right in doing so because we have worked hard and earned it, so we should be able to do what we want, right? Wrong. God asks us where we store our treasures — in heaven or on earth.  Jesus says, “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.”

Examining my own conduct, I am increasingly aware that I do not deserve anything. We are made of dust and to dust we shall return. Everything in between is a gift of life we are given on this earth. Who am I to complain? I am sure we can all think of many ways we live abundant lives, both materially and intangibly through relationships. I live in an apartment by myself. What extravagance! I don’t have to wonder where my next meal is coming from. I have people in my life who inspire me, challenge me and tell me stories that teach grace and love. Do I let these things inform my willingness to seek God’s kingdom above all?

I think about my brother who is on his fourth mission trip in Haiti right now. The Haitian people live simple lives, but if they could build bigger barns, would they? It grips me each time I see my brother’s pictures and hear the stories about attending church there. They live in such poverty and yet in those photographs, I witness the joy that comes from knowing God. They sing and dance in church as if there is a heavenly audience in attendance (I am sure there is). While many white North Americans attend a church service that lasts up to an hour and a half, the churches in Haiti keep on praising God for three hours — in a small building crowded with people, with no air conditioning, in the heat and humidity of the tropics. I suspect the lack of modern luxuries does not increase their inclination to follow God, but rather focuses what they are seeking.

For me, it begs many questions: where is the source of my joy? Is it safely tucked away in a barn here on earth where I hope no one can steal it? Or is it deep in my heart where it will not be stolen?

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