What do you do when you start making more money? That may seem like a stupid question, but I want you to think about it.
What do you do with your increase? Where do you place your investments?
Today we have banks, safety deposit boxes and the stock market. We have many choices when it comes to storing and/or investing what we’ve earned. But in Jesus’ day, they had barns. As his culture was made up primarily of farmers and ranchers, the barn would have been a prominent fixture in the landscape. So when Jesus wanted to talk about the implications of living with more than enough, he talked about barns:
“The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry,”‘ (Luke 12:16-19).
On the surface, this sounds like every entrepreneur’s dream. In this case, the guy is a farmer. His land totally goes wild and yields a bigger harvest than he ever imagined. In order to manage his new harvest, he tears down his barns and builds bigger ones. So far, this sounds like a pretty good business plan. Right? He’s got it made. He’s got enough wealth to last him for years.
There’s only one problem. He had less than eight hours to live: “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ (Luke 12:20).
Okay, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I’m pretty sure that when God begins a sentence with “You fool,” it can’t be good news. This poor guy had missed it big time. Not only had he wasted his money building barns to hold crops that he would never be able to take to market, but he also had presumed upon God by assuming he had years to live. Both, from God’s standpoint, represent serious lapses in judgment.
But perhaps the farmer’s biggest mistake came at the moment that I call Decision Time. It came when the he realized that his current barns could no longer hold his crops. Jesus shared the farmer’s rather short and one-sided thought process with us. Basically, he gave no thought to any other option other than expanding what he had. That’s the critical moment; that’s decision time.
What do you do when your crops yield significant fruit? What do you do when you have a major financial gain? That’s your critical moment; that’s your decision time.
Almost without exception, people build bigger barns. It’s just our natural, default instinct. If we live in a certain size house–a house that is completely adequate for our family’s needs–and then we come into more money, we either consider an add-on or moving to a larger house. The push is always for more, for larger, for nicer, for bigger barns.
By the way, the same is true for churches. Churches will rent a facility or buy a piece of land and build a small building. Then they’ll start having services. God blesses their efforts and they grow. So they add a second service and they continue to grow. Pretty soon, they have so much harvest their barn is no longer adequate to hold it all. So what do they do? They build bigger barns. They tear down what they have and start over; or, they sell their barns and land and they buy more land and build a bigger barn.
And both cases—the individual’s and the church’s–the emphasis becomes having more, being larger, expanding assets and increasing wealth. There’s only one little problem with this strategy: no where in the Bible is a Christian or a church commanded to pursue more material gain. Not once. Never. At all. Did I say no where?
We’ve chosen a personal way of life and a church growth strategy that, simply stated, goes against everything the Bible teaches about stewardship, personal gain and how we disciple people. And this errant strategy is yielding a cheapened form of discipleship, and such failed discipleship is what kills families, churches, and nations.
So I have a simple suggestion: don’t build a bigger barn. When your land yields so much produce that you’re having trouble managing it, just give it away. Instead of investing in a larger house or vacation home or a backyard pool, invest it elsewhere. Declare your current barn to be large enough and then determine that whatever you receive that won’t fit in that barn to be something you don’t intend to keep.
*Want to know more? Read my book Enough. I dare you.