The Good Life

money_tree5Ah, the American Dream.  The good life.  It’s something that so many aspire to.  Who doesn’t want to amass so much wealth that they can just relax and do whatever they want?  Seven years of nothing but golf and recreation anybody?  I sure can’t say that there’s anything inherently wrong with that.  Nobody can fault another for wanting to be financially fit and fiscally responsible.  We all want to make sure that we have plenty stashed away so that we don’t, as my dear buddy Scott says, have to live on cat food.

In Luke 12, Jesus is approached by a man who wants Jesus to tell his brother to let him have his share of the family inheritance.  Jesus basically says, “Are you kidding me?  Is this what you think I’m here for?  Am I a judge or arbitrator that I should go around settling such matters?”  Jesus takes this opportunity for a teaching moment and tells the inquirer a parable about a man who decides to tear down his old barns and build new, bigger ones to store up his plentiful harvest.  He then decides that he doesn’t have to work for a long time and can just cruise through life.  Then God says to the man that his number is up and it’s time to die.  What a kick in the shorts!  The guy just gets to thinking that he can finally take a break and God says, “Ok, hot shot, time to go.”  Amazingly, this is the only time where God talks directly to someone in Jesus’s parables.

I didn’t write this parable (in case you didn’t know), but I’m guessing that the man’s crime wasn’t that he did well or that he amassed such wealth, but that he didn’t even consider sharing with those in need.  The man stored up more produce than any one person could ever possibly consume with no regard for the fact that they would eventually rot and go to waste.  What would have been wrong with the man doing a little math and figuring out how much he would need to live on and then sharing the rest so it didn’t go to waste? He apparently had no interest in the actual value of the produce because if he did, he would want to extend the absolute value – the amount of use that could be had.  Instead, he was only interested in utilizing that part that he could consume himself.

As if it weren’t enough that he isn’t sharing, the man seems to take the credit for his bounty.  Those who work hard and invest wisely certainly deserve a pat on the back, but who of us can say that luck/blessing doesn’t play a factor?  Think of all of the circumstances that had to be in place for someone to do so well?  Instead of thanking God and sharing his blessings, he hoards them and is at ease with the fact that food will rot while people starve.  A friend of mine who runs a football camp each year has t-shirts made up for each camp.  The one from last year said Luck, Where Training Meets Opportunity.  This seems to sum it up pretty well.  Yes, we work hard for what we have, but the opportunity also has to be there.  We can’t forget that part of the equation and take all the credit for what we have.

Ok, so what?  The man was selfish, but he wasn’t actually hurting anyone, was he?  Imagine this man representing the church.  Imagine the church as a whole having been blessed with numerous tools.  I am not just talking about money.  I mean the sheer volume of people who can serve as volunteers, the wealth of knowledge that exists in the individuals, the financial wealth of both the individuals and the congregations, and the endless ideas that exist within the church.  What if all of these were employed for the good of human beings in the communities where these churches exist?  How many people are being left to suffer when churches store up their riches – in whatever form it may be – and do nothing with it?

At the end of the parable after the man is told that he will die, Jesus says, “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”  I find it intriguing that being rich toward God equals providing for those in need around us.  As the church, we call ourselves the body of Christ.  We know a body has many parts and I can’t help but recall what Joseph Bracken said in a recent Homebrewed Chrisianity interview.  He said “Society is the result of intersubjectivity which becomes a form of objectivity.”  In other words, society is comprised of intersecting parts and circumstances that affect one another which are manifest as a whole object.  Take, for example, the human body.  We have a circulatory system, an endocrine system, a reproductive system, etc.  Each system is comprised of separate organs that have specific functions that have some relation to the whole.  All of these systems form the body.  Although each organ is only a small part of the body in terms of mass, each is vital to the life of the body.  If someone has a bad heart, do we say that the body is healthy?  Of course not!  I believe it is the same way with society and churches are just one part of that society.

With so many churches closing their doors, but the churches who do community service and social justice thriving – it makes me wonder if there is a message here for all of us who call ourselves “the body of Christ” . . . .


One Response to “The Good Life”

  1. John Lovestrand Says:

    When I was a young lawyer, the attorney whom I worked for (and who would later become my partner) asked me one evening what I wished for, or desired, to get out of the law, career-wise.

    I answered “nothing”.

    He volleyed back with prodding playfully that there must be something.

    I answered “no, I have everything already — a beautiful wife who loves me and a beautiful, healthy baby boy.”

    I meant it. I didn’t then, and do not now, aspire to great wealth, or family fortune.

    I remember telling them that my only goals are to be a good husband and a good father, and trusting that if I could abide by those twin aspirations that everything else would hopefully take care of itself.

    I got lucky in that I was afforded an opportunity to take advantage of economic upswings.

    The credit I give myself is that I did work hard and did indded take advantage of those opportunities.

    But I have always been humbled by how lucky I was in the first place to have been presented with those opportunities.

    And on occasion crest-fallen for those with whom I grew up (brothers, close friends) who not so lucky.

    “There but for the grace of Good go I …” indeed.

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