More and more our lives are defined by “stuff”… getting stuff, keeping stuff, always wanting more and better stuff. Whether it’s a bigger flat screen or a smarter smart phone, there is always more stuff out there that upon attainment will finally make us happy. Meanwhile attics, basements, landfills and junkyards overflow with last year’s gotta-have-it stuff.
Whether it’s wired into our DNA or it’s an acquired trait, we all love stuff. But do we love the right stuff? That’s the lesson of this week’s gospel. Bigger barns to store his bumper crops, that’s all the farmer thinks he needs and his life will be a dream. But, Surprise! That night his dreams are over. His plans are an illusion. His time is up. His harvest and his barns, all the accumulated stuff of a lifetime, are gone in a heartbeat.
And if that isn’t bad enough, Jesus doesn’t let the farmer off that easy. He doesn’t say the farmer just made a mistake or got his priorities mixed up. Flat out, gentle Jesus calls him a fool, saying he wasted his life worrying about all the wrong stuff, telling us: This is how it will be for those who store up things for themselves and are not rich toward God.
It’s a sign of things to come for all of us. Before the throne of God, we will be stripped of our stuff… no cars, no collections, no gadgets, no gizmos, no houses, no memberships, no box seats, no season tickets, no wine cellars, no gourmet kitchens… just you and God… and what you did with the life he gave you. In that instant all the fantasy ingredients of the supposed good life will be seen for the distractions they are. The prestigious stuff, the fun stuff, the beautiful stuff, the comfortable stuff, the thrilling stuff… in the context of eternity… all that stuff we value becomes just so much junk… cumbersome, trivial baggage we spent a lifetime accumulating. And our love for it will be seen for what it is…foolishness.
So what to do? Do we imitate Savonarola and burn life’s vanities? Do we take a torch to the Apple Store and the BMW Dealer? Not likely. God wants us to build, not tear down. There is nothing inherently wrong with fine cars, vintage wines, designer clothes and all the rest. It is when love of stuff crowds out love of God and love of neighbor that we go wrong… that we betray our baptism. It is when we tell Our Father that we want our will done… not his.
So again, what to do? Start with first principles. God is our loving Father. He wants us to have stuff… the right stuff… the stuff that is truly good for us… the stuff that does not rot or rust… the stuff we can take with us from this life to the next.
As Jesus tells us: Seek first the kingdom of God. Start with Faith, Hope and Charity. Make them the driving forces in your life. As Paul tells us: The greatest of these is charity. So to get the right stuff, to make room in our lives, we must give other stuff away. Our time, our talent and our treasure… these are the well-known currencies we charitably expend to acquire the right stuff. But God is not in the business of bartering redemption for cash or services. Christ comes to us in the form of the vulnerable, the broken, the despised. And before we can help them, we must love them.
Charity does not mean just giving stuff away. It means living in the love of Christ. And we can’t do that if we’re delivering donations at arms-length, while we hold our noses. Witnessing Christ’s love, as Christ would love…that’s the right stuff. Living in the love of Christ means ending each day rich in grace; prepared to give our lives back to God when he calls; humbly, gratefully hoping that the barns of our souls are overflowing with the right stuff… when we are harvested home.
God love you!