Luke 12:13-21 (CEV)
13 A man in a crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to give me my share of what our father left us when he died.”
14 Jesus answered, “Who gave me the right to settle arguments between you and your brother?”
15 Then he said to the crowd, “Don’t be greedy! Owning a lot of things won’t make your life safe.”
16 So Jesus told them this story:
A rich man’s farm produced a big crop, 17 and he said to himself, “What can I do? I don’t have a place large enough to store everything.”
18 Later, he said, “Now I know what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, where I can store all my grain and other goods. 19 Then I’ll say to myself, ‘You have stored up enough good things to last for years to come. Live it up! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.’”
20 But God said to him, “You fool! Tonight you will die. Then who will get what you have stored up?”
21 “This is what happens to people who store up everything for themselves, but are poor in the sight of God.”
It seems like there is a near-constant stream of events these days that leave us feeling unsafe. Vans being driven into crowds. Social housing catching on fire with none of the fire protections necessary to protect the residents. Water crises in our First Nations communities. A friend back in the hospital or a partner out of work, again.
The man in the crowd was facing some similar challenges. He lived under the oppression and pressure of occupying Rome. Over the years, most Jews had lost much or all of their ancestral lands, and so if this man still has family land, it may or may not be very much, but it’s definitely a rare commodity. In a world of complex political manoeuvring, where powerful forces could walk into your village and demand things or people at any time, ‘family land’ must have felt like an oasis of safety in the midst of the storm – until his brother decided not to share it out fairly when their father died.
When our world feels like it’s falling apart, our very human response is to become afraid, and to grasp on to whatever looks most like a life raft.
The problem is, some things keep floating when we grab on, and others sink. And more than that, we mostly aren’t conscious of our attempts to keep afloat. We reach for possessions, relationships, achievements, appearance, control, authority, adrenaline and so many other options, without being conscious of what we’re doing or why, and without it ever crossing our minds to think about whether this will be safe for us to depend upon.
Jesus cuts to the heart of why this man is being greedy – he is looking for safety.
Until we understand why we do the things we do, it will be hard for us to be honest about whether these things are getting us to where we want to be. When I store things up in my cellar, it’s because I am looking for safety. When I try to ‘look the part’, it’s because I am looking for relational security. When I rattle off the things I’ve achieved or try to get attention, it’s because I am looking for a sense of being known and valued. When I try to control my kids’ behaviours it’s because I am looking for affirmation.
And once we realize why we are behaving this way, we can hear Jesus’ unspoken invitation to relationship. An invitation that says that our broken attempts at making ourselves feel safe, known and valued can be best met as we become re-attached and whole-ly the people God made us to be in the context of an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus.Journal Questions:
- How do you respond when you feel threatened or afraid? Do you get sick? Angry? Sulky? Depressed? Do you go shopping? Go for a hard run? Zone out on the couch for hours watching Netflix? Rant at anyone who will listen?
- Consider asking God to show you what your ‘fear response’ looks like this week.
- As you become more aware of how you look and feel when you’re afraid you can go deeper and ask the question, “what am I afraid of?” And then, to dig a bit deeper, “why?”
- Once these things become clear, bring your fears and your stories and make time to be with Jesus. How might you respond to his invitation to relationship?