Bigger Barns?

At what point does thrift become greed? In the interest of “good stewardship” we save – books, clothes, fabric, used jeans (they might be made into a rug someday!), books, unused dishes, old bikes, more books, and on and on. As long as we have been married we have pinched pennies, and thrift has been necessary to provide for our large family. We keep labeled boxes of clothes in the basement, and when a child outgrows one size, we can most often find at least something that will work for him in the next size. (Of course, we also find old, out-date apparel that ought to have been trashed years ago.) I can’t tell you how often I go to my basement storehouse of old curriculum to find just the right math program to supplement when a child is having trouble with some concept.

Not only are Tim and I savers, we have some children who are packrats as well. I have had at least two girls who would cry out, “No! Don’t throw it out! I can make something from that!” Thankfully, one of those girls is past that stage, but another is still there. Today I helped her throw out pinecones, old toilet paper tubes, and various old creations that were finally ready to hit the recycle bin.

This desire to not be wasteful has a flip side, however: hoarding and greed. The more things I save, the more work it creates to care for them, clean around them, and store them. More significantly, everything I have saved is just stuff, and this stuff, even my favorite books, will burn one day. When I start loving the stuff, I am making an idol of it. In Colossians greed is equated with idolatry, and we are to put it to death. (Col. 3:5)

This week in family devotions we were reading I and II Peter. The second book ends with this passage:

II Peter 3: 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

Kara then read to the little boys a Read Aloud Bible story about the parable of the farmer who built bigger and bigger barns to hold his increasing harvest. What a necessary reminder for us about the true place material things ought to have. In our family we all need to work to smash the idol of greed. Some ways to do that are to hold lightly on to things. We need to be generous in loaning and giving freely. And we need to rid ourselves regularly of stuff, even stuff that “could be useful someday.”

We are entering the summer season, a time of shifting gears from schooling as our main occupation to other tasks. One of my jobs each summer is to purge the house from the excess that has accumulated. Some years I do a better job than others. This year as I work, I’ll be thinking about the foolish farmer who stored up treasures for himself, but was not rich toward God.

Luke 12: 13 ¶ Someone in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me."
14 But He said to him, "Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?"
15 Then He said to them, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions."
16 And He told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man was very productive.
17 "And he began reasoning to himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?'
18 "Then he said, 'This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.
19 'And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."'
20 "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?'
21 "So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."


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