Thursday, October 5, 2023

Jesus' Parable of the Greedy Farmer (Luke 12:16-21)

Currently we are storing our hay in 8 different barns. Seven of them we built ourselves after we purchased the farm 25 years ago. This is one reason I've always been puzzled as to why the farmer in Jesus' parable in Luke 12:16-21 tore down his barns in order to build bigger ones. Why not just do what we did -- keep the older barns and add to them? 

Incidentally, Jesus' subject in this chapter is "greed" (see v. 15). I love Haddon Robinson's definition of the word:

"Being wealthy," adds Robinson, "is not sinful. But it is dangerous." The farmer could have said, "Because God has blessed me with such a great harvest this year, I'll donate the extra income to the synagogue or to some ministry or to the poor." Instead, he reasoned as follows: "Let's see here. By replacing my existing barns I can avoid using my pastures for storage purposes. Thus I can maximize my income potential while allowing me to increase my prices before selling my hay." He knew that if he flooded the market there would be high supply and low demand and his profits would decrease. But, Jesus says, he was a fool because he was neither rich toward God nor toward others. Remember what Haddon Robinson said? Greed is the excessive desire for wealth or material possessions. It is often characterized by a lack of concern or empathy for others and even a willingness to exploit them for one's own gain. Hence, even though the farmer undoubtedly had some virtuous qualities:
  • he planned
  • he saved
  • he prepared for the future
  • he worked hard
Jesus calls him a fool because he thought only of himself. Note the self-centered nature of the passage:

Jesus' parable depicts the utter folly of believing that wealth can secure either prosperity or happiness. It can't. 

This isn't a particularly cosmic blog post, I know. But this morning, while reading this passage in Luke,  I experienced a small and needed reminder from the Holy Spirit that generosity matters to God. At the end of your life, you can say you've lived well if you've been generous with those "little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness" (Wordsworth). 

P. S. I think you will love watching Haddon Robinson's outstanding message on this parable.