Monday, July 26, 2010
On Building Barns
Barn envy. Now there are a lot of different types of envy in the world, but there is none stronger in me than barn envy. I hadn't heard the term before it was brought to my attention by Chris Simoneau, a member of our vestry, here at St. Paul's. When he said it I finally had a name for that covetousness I feel when I drive by a barn with a motorcycle or woodshop behind those giant doors. I have barn envy. I want a giant space to fill with projects, hobbies, and an old antique car that I can work on on weekends. I want a barn. I have barn envy.
When I read our passage for this coming Sunday, it makes me wonder if my barn envy is anything like THAT guy's barn envy. If I'm honest with myself, then the answer is probably 'yes' and 'no'. Jesus' terrifying parable in Luke 12:13-21 (and it is pretty darn scary) is about a man who has a conversation with himself about his financial security. He figures he's got nothing to do with himself other than build a bigger barn to house all of his abundant produce. Just as he's filled to the brim with smug self-satisfaction (and corn apparently) God shows up and demands the guy's life! (See article on Mean Jesus! ;) )
“Luke 12:16 - 21 "The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?18Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be? 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."
First, let me say that this is not God's punishment for building barns, sheds or outdoor storage in general. Second, it's a PARABLE. The point of the story after this first pass isn't the sin of barn envy as much as it's an issue of barn myopia. The story is a warning about the danger of the splendid isolation that's possible when we are convinced that our needs are the only needs in the world that matter. This man had a great harvest and probably adequate barn space to handle a harvest big enough to suit his personal needs. But instead of contemplating the greater community or even his abutters, he tears down the old barn, builds a bigger one, and sets up to never worry about HIS material necessities ever again. And there's the problem.
Is it wrong to build barns? No. Is it wrong to build barns without considering the needs of those around you? Yes. If a barn (read company, family, house, church, organization or whatever) isolates you from God and your neighbor, then the "barn" you are building is dangerous for your soul. Remember the conversation that lead to the parable in the first place! A man asks Jesus to arbitrate between he and his brother about their father's inheritance. They have a broken relationship! Money (the barn) has isolated them from one another to the point they need a non-family member to come in and arbitrate! God doesn't want us to build barns if the barn means broken relationship. Barn envy isn't a fatal disorder, but if we're not careful barn envy can and will distract us from God and the ones we love.