Saturday, August 3, 2013

How Much Land Does A Man Need?

"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21)
Someone once asked John D. Rockefeller, "How much wealth does it take to satisfy a person?" He replied, "Just a little bit more."
   My morning message on August 4 uses the scripture from the Gospel of Luke from Chapter 12 verses 13-21. Jesus tells the parable about the man who builds larger barns to hold the abundance from his harvest, so he can "Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” (v. 19) But God says to him “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” Jesus tells this parable, when a man asks Jesus to settle a dispute with his brother over an inheritance, but Jesus does not want to get into a family squabble. Jesus refocuses the man's concerns about how he views his life.

Jesus was concerned with the larger implications our preoccupation with the things of this world. Jesus wants us to understand that the sum total of a person’s life is more than their financial portfolio, but our wealth toward our relationship with God.

Leo Tolstoy wrote a story called, “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” about a successful peasant farmer who was not satisfied with his situation and he wanted more of everything. One day he received a novel offer. For 1000 rubles, he could buy all the land he could walk around in a day. The only catch in the deal was that he had to be back at his starting point by sundown.

Early the next morning he started out walking at a fast pace. By midday he was very tired, but he kept going, covering more and more ground. Well into the afternoon he realized that his greed had taken him far from the starting point. He quickened his pace and as the sun began to sink low in the sky, he began to run, knowing that if he did not make it back by sundown the opportunity to become an even bigger landholder would be lost. As the sun began to sink below the horizon he came within sight of the finish line. Gasping for breath, his heart pounding, he called upon every bit of strength left in his body and staggered across the line just before the sun disappeared.

He immediately collapsed, blood streaming from his mouth. In a few minutes he was dead. Afterwards, his servants dug a grave. It was not much over six feet long and three feet wide.

In the end, Tolstoy suggests, all a man really owns is a 6 by 3 piece of earth, so we are better off putting our confidence elsewhere. Jesus, like Tolstoy, is warning us that we had better not put our trust in the promise of materialism; if we do we will be sadly disappointed.

Jesus doesn’t say that it’s wrong to have wealth to plan for our financial future. He doesn’t say that you can’t be his disciple and be financially secure. Jesus doesn’t propose a target income that is acceptable and then beyond that we’re in trouble. Jesus is teaching us by saying, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Jesus wants us to stay alert that our obsession with wealth can lead us down a road which can separate us from our relationship from God and from our ability to truly experience the wonder and abundance of God's creation. In the end, we can't take it with us and we only need a 6 by 3 foot piece of the earth.
The Romans had a proverb: "Money is like sea water; the more you drink, the thirstier you become."

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