Luke 12.13-21 Against Excess

Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, “What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘ But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:13-21 NKJV)

In our Western Society, the refrain that the more the better, and of course, he with the most toys when he dies wins, is commonly held, if not openly taught, yet our Lord, and indeed all of scripture teaches something else. Excess is expressly preached against by the Lord in a parable plain enough for even those hard of hearing to understand.

During the journey in the wilderness, God fed the children of Israel with manna, which He had commended them to take only what they need.

This is the thing which the LORD has commanded: “Let every man gather it according to each one’s need, one omer for each person, according to the number of persons; let every man take for those who are in his tent.”‘ (Exodus 16:16 NKJV)

If they took more than was allotted, they would it filled with worms and rotting. They were warned against excess and greed, with the idea that the people must rely upon God, fully. The rich man above found himself with more than he could use, and in doing so, forgot the essential item in life – God.

Chrysostom offers sound words,

There is nothing more wretched than such an attitude. In truth he took down his barns; for the safe barns are not walls but the stomach of the poor – Chrysostom, Sermon 2, Wealth and Poverty

Wealth will be good for its possessor if he does not spend it only on luxury, or on strong drink and harmful pleasures; if he enjoys luxury in moderation and distributes the rest to the stomachs of the poor, then wealth is a good thing. But if he is going to give himself up to luxury and other profligacy, not only does it not help him at all, but it even leads him down to the deep pit – Sermon 7, Wealth and Poverty

We must guard against the human inclination to excess without making poverty our lord. There may be a tendancy to be to minimalist, and that too could be an error. Intead, we must be willing to make sure that our extra ‘barns’ are open to the poor, and indeed, not to have too many extra ‘barns’.

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