Sunday, November 1, 2015
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray my Cuisinart to keep
I pray my stocks are on the rise
And that my analyst is wise
That all the wine I sip is white
And that my hot tub's watertight
That racquetball won't get too tough
That all my sushi's fresh enough
I pray my cordless phone still works
That my career won't lose its perks
My microwave won't radiate
My condo won't depreciate
I pray my health club doesn't close
And that my money market grows
If I go broke before I wake
I pray my Volvo they won't take.
Steve Farrar, Family Survival in the American Jungle, 1991, Multnomah Press, p. 63.
When we think of wealthy, most of us think of people like Bill Gates, the Koch brothers, or Warren Buffett. We certainly don't think of ourselves! By the time the tax man, Social Security, the mortgage, the power bills, the car payments, and the doctor are paid, we may even wonder if we can get to next payday without a visit to the food bank. We're a long ways from wealthy. But then consider the Syrian Refugees in Europe, or the person who greets you at Wal Mart, or the family who picked the coffee you had this morning and things look a little different. If you slept under a permanent roof in a real bed; If you had breakfast this morning; if you drove or rode to church; if you watched TV or listened to the radio; if you spoke with family or friends on the telephone, then you are far wealthier than most of the people on this planet. A typical supermarket in the United States in 1976 stocked 9,000 articles; today it carries over 30,000. How many of them are absolutely essential? How many are just “stuff”? I'm reminded of GK Chesterton's assertion that “There are two ways to get enough: One is to accumulate more and more, the other is to desire less.”
The rich farmer in today's lesson had worked hard all his life. The crops his land produced didn't just pop up and grow on their own; he had plowed and prepared the land, sowed the seed, pulled out the weeds, and driven away the creatures that would have destroyed them. And now, all his work had paid off, giving him a new problem. What to do with his crops. After some thought, he came to the same conclusion many of us would: Can you put your car in your garage? Do you rent a storage unit?
Luk 12:18 (The farmer) said, 'I know what I'll do. I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones so that I can store all my grain and goods in them. Luk 12:19 Then I'll say to myself, "You've stored up a lot of good things for years to come. Take life easy, eat, drink, and enjoy yourself."'
The problem wasn't that the farmer had a good crop. The problem wasn't even that he planned to build bigger barns to store it in. The problem was that, like so many people today, he took all the credit for himself, and totally forgot that God was behind his success.
Many years earlier, Deu 1:1 in the desert east of the Jordan River, on the plains, near Suph, between Paran and Tophel, and near Laban, Hazeroth, and Di Zahab. Moses warned the Israelites: “Deu 8:11-14 Be careful that you don't forget the LORD your God. Don't fail to obey his commands, rules, and laws that I'm giving you today. (12) You will eat all you want. You will build nice houses and live in them. (13) Your herds and flocks, silver and gold, and everything else you have will increase. (14) When this happens, be careful that you don't become arrogant and forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of slavery in Egypt.
Forgetting God has been a habit through the ages. Many years ago, as the story is told, a devout king was disturbed by the ingratitude of his royal court. He prepared a large banquet for them. When the king and his royal guests were seated, by prearrangement, a beggar shuffled into the hall, sat down at the king's table, and gorged himself with food. Without saying a word, he then left the room. The guests were furious and asked permission to seize the tramp and tear him limb from limb for his ingratitude.
The king replied, "That beggar has done only once to an earthly king what each of you does three times each day to God. You sit there at the table and eat until you are satisfied. Then you walk away without recognizing God, or expressing one word of thanks to Him."
It's easy for us to call on God when things go wrong; when we are confronted with a crisis, a deadly illness, death of a loved one, loss of a job; but once things turn around, we seem quick to forget God and brag about how good WE are doing. The rich farmer, and the lords and nobles in the story of the king's banquet all suffer from Spiritual immaturity. Infants do not always appreciate what parents do for them. They have short memories. Their concern is not what you did for me yesterday, but what are you doing for me today. The past is meaningless and so is the future. They live for the present. Those who are mature are deeply appreciative of those who labored in the past. They recognize those who labor during the present and provide for those who will be laboring in the future. Contact, Homemade, December 1984.
The story of the rich farmer reflects a truth Moses set forth when he warned the Israelites: Deu 8:17-19 You may say to yourselves, "I became wealthy because of my own ability and strength." (18) But remember the LORD your God is the one who makes you wealthy. He's confirming the promise which he swore to your ancestors. It's still in effect today. “
Isn''t it time we grew up? Isn't it time we give credit where credit is due? The farmer learned the hard way what happens to those who claim for themselves what belongs to God. The land is God's. And it follows that all that the land produces is God's. In caring for the earth we not only insure the harvests, we honor God. Failing to be thankful to God, failing to care for the earth, invites disaster. We are seeing that as we watch the ice caps melting. Melting glaciers and land-based ice sheets also contribute to rising sea levels, threatening low-lying areas around the globe with beach erosion, coastal flooding, and contamination of freshwater supplies. Rising seas will severely impact the United States as well. Scientists project as much as a 3-foot sea-level rise by 2100. According to a 2001 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study, this increase would inundate some 22,400 square miles of land along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, primarily in Louisiana, Texas, Florida and North Carolina.
The rich farmer learned the hard way what happens when we don't honor God. We have a choice; we can , like small children claim everything we can get for ourselves and watch the destruction of the world, or we can grow up, give God the glory and start being the stewards we are called to be. God has given us a wonderful world. The question is: what will we do with it? AMEN.