I saw a picture just recently of the city of Mumbai in India, and it struck me because on the right side of the image was what looked like a modern, wealthy city with skyscrapers and hi-rise apartments; and on the other side was a sea of squalid slums filled with shanties. And the only thing separating these two parts of the city was a tree-covered hill.
It reminded me of how, in seminary, the school was in the neighborhood of Eau Claire. Now, Eau Claire used to be a well-to-do kind of area, but in the last few decades has experienced a lot of economic depression, crime, and neglect. But if you got in your car and drove eight minutes, you could get to a part of town called The Vista. The Vista was the trendy part of town, with lots of shiny new shops and restaurants, a park by the river side, and expensive homes. That eight minute drive was all that separated the two.
We use the vocabulary of being “blessed” when things go well in our lives. When we have more than enough food on the table. When we land that new job we’ve been wanting. When the crops come in despite a difficult spring. When something good happens regarding our health. Having an abundance is a good thing. It’s a reminder of the goodness of God, and using the vocabulary of “blessed” to describe these good things really helps us reorient toward God in that goodness.
In fact, abundance shows up again and again as a way to describe God’s goodness throughout the Bible. Isaiah’s vision of the world when God makes all things new is pictured as a feast: fine wines, rich food, abundant bread for everyone. Jesus promises us that God will provide abundantly for all of our needs. Having a lot, having an abundance, is part of God’s good will for our lives.
So why is the rich man, who has enough abundance to need bigger barns, called a fool? Let’s take a look at this parable.