For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing.
Doesn’t it seem like these words, spoken to the people of Israel roughly 2,500 years ago, could be spoken to us here, today? We live in one of the wealthiest countries of this world. The economy of the State of California alone is the 5th largest in the world. This state produces almost half of all the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the country, as well as a whopping share of the livestock and dairy. There is so much abundance around us. We can walk into a supermarket at any time and get what we want, even strawberries in the midst of winter. Many people say they don’t believe in miracles, but if that isn’t one, I don’t know what is.
Now the abundance most of us enjoy reaches beyond food: most if not all of us have a roof over our heads, many own cars, we have clothing galore, plus many other nice things. In fact we own so many things that we often don’t know where to store it. There are 2.3 billion square feet of self-storage space in America, or more than 7 square feet for every, man, woman and child in the country. California is among the states that lead the country with the most storage space. There are about 51,000 storage facilities in the country — more than four times the number of McDonald’s restaurants.
In addition, in this country, an estimated 75% of all garages are not used to park a car, but to store our stuff. To speak with an image from today’s gospel, we build more and more barns, for we have more and more stuff, we buy and buy, we consume and consume – and, after all, isn’t this the gospel preached in the industrialized world, and especially in the U.S., that a happy life is all about buying, because that’s what makes the economy strong? And don’t we all need a strong economy?
The mantra is ‘more’. And the meaning and the value of one word is but forgotten: enough.
And because we as individuals and as a society always strive for more, and the gospel of more is preached everywhere, it is so easy to stir up fear in people: the fear that somehow, if they don’t get more, they don’t have enough, that somehow, they are deprived, that, somehow, they don’t get what they deserve.
Slogans like ‘America first’ and the success of parties like the AfD, the ‘Alternative for Germany’, reflect this fear that somehow, there isn’t enough, or that there are others, outsiders, immigrants, refugees, who take things away that rightfully should be ours – for we feel entitled to ‘more’.
It is quite an interesting fact that, the more people have, individually and as a society, the greater the fear to not have enough, the harder it seems to share the abundance. There is often more solidarity among poor people and poor countries than we see among the wealthy.
This is not a modern phenomenon. Going back to God speaking to the people of Israel in the book of Deuteronomy, we sense that God had a reason to admonish the chosen people to not forget who is the giver of this wonderful land with the abundance they are about to enter. We don’t hear it in today’s Old Testament lesson, but soon after God commands the people over and over again to not forget the poor and marginalized – the widow, the orphan, the stranger – and to take care of them. Share, God says, because a society at large is only healthy and strong if everyone in it is healthy and strong. It seems that the people 2,500 years ago already had forgotten the sense and the value of the word ‘enough’ it seems that the people 2,500 years ago already had an issue with hoarding stuff and amassing wealth and forgetting that they are merely stewards of all God has given them and entrusted to them.
Jesus in his entire ministry juxtaposes the false gospel of ‘more’ with the gospel of ‘enough’ in light of the abundance of God’s grace. This leads to all of Jesus’ commandments we know all too well: love your neighbor as yourself, which implies sharing what you have. Don’t amass wealth here on earth which rust and moth destroy, but rather seek for the true treasure, the kingdom of heaven, a realm of peace and reconciliation. More can’t buy you life to the fullest, and least of all eternal life.
And the Apostle Paul, always very practical as he deals with those he corresponds with, writes to Timothy: we brought nothing into this world, and we leave it with nothing. So be content with what you have. Be content with ‘enough’. For those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. And, oh what prophetic words these were, for we see today that, because of humanity’s want for more, this planet has plunged into ruin and destruction to the point that we don’t know if God’s creation, can be restored to health.
But Paul also has beautiful words of wisdom for those who have more than enough: ‘As for those who in the present day are rich, command them not to be haughty, or set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.’
The life that really is life. A life where we give as we receive. A life we live gratefully, a life where we give thanks – and give thankfully.
We live in a land of plenty, where there is more than enough. But we should never forget that, in Christ, we live lives where there is more than enough: grace and love and forgiveness. How can we be afraid, if we remember that?
So today we give thanks to God for the bounty of the harvest and that we have enough, and often more than enough. But may we also give thankfully: as we offer foodstuff and monetary donations to our local food pantry. As we remember those who recently have been devastated by natural disasters like Harvey and Irma and Maria, in our thoughts and prayers, but hopefully also with our checkbooks. May we share our full lives so that others may have life to the fullest as well. May we share our lives as Christ shared his life with us all.
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