Living Simply and Generously

Living Simply and Generously

Readings: 2 Corinthians 9. 6-15; Luke 12. 16-30 (view all)

I wonder how good you are at sharing?

For me, there are some things I’m better at sharing than others. I like to think I’m pretty good at sharing control of the TV remote or the last chocolate in the box. However, my wife Amy is certain that I always try to pour myself a larger glass of wine than the one I give her.

I’m sure every parent will remember at some point trying to teach their child the importance of sharing. Whether it’s a favourite toy, the last Rolo, or the much higher stakes resources available to us in adult life. We all wrestle at some stage in life with our ownership and control over what we feel is rightfully ours.

Today’s readings explore our relationship to our possessions and the world’s resources.

In our gospel, Jesus presents those listening with two contrasting pictures. Both are to do with wealth and ownership, but are very different.

The first is an industrial metaphor. A rich farmer who manages to bring in a bumper harvest, and so decides to stockpile his wealth in order to enjoy it.

It’s easy to vilify the farmer. However what is really striking is how the farmer is really just an ordinary guy. What we might call today, a self-made man.

He comes into his harvest by honest means. He hasn’t stolen it or committed any other kind of criminal act. So surely he  is justified in wanting to both enjoy, and protect, the harvest for which he has worked so hard?

Jesus doesn’t say that the farmer’s dream is unjust or unfair, but we are told that it is foolish. In stockpiling the harvest for himself, the farmer has failed to see the only very small part that his life plays in the whole life of God’s world. When he dies, no matter how hard he might try, he simply will not be able to take it with him.

We can contrast this first parable about industry and labour, with the images from the natural world that Jesus evokes in the second half of the reading.

‘Consider the ravens,’ Jesus says, ‘they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them.’ Or, ‘Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet… even Solomon… was not clothed like one of these.’

As humans, we work so hard, and carry so much anxiety about the way in which we manage our possessions. And yet, we can often lose sight of the carefree way in which creation is intended to live in harmony with the creator, relying freely on God to provide what we need.

Jesus is inviting us to see the bigger picture, and because of this to play our part, not in subduing or dominating the earth, but in restoring the harmony of God’s creation.

To live simply and generously. To understand, as Paul encourages the Corinthian Christians, that everything we have, including life itself, is a gift from God. A gift to share with others.

Seeing our lives, and our possessions, in this way helps to bring perspective to so many of the choices we have to make in life.

What is the impact on the environment of our preferred modes of transport? Could we travel less, or use more eco-friendly alternatives? One of the lessons from lockdown earlier this year is perhaps that it is possible to use our cars less.

Next, what about the consumer choices we make? Whether it’s which energy provider to go with, or where we choose to source our food? Can we invest in renewable sources of energy, or make simple choices to reduce our waste or the distance our food has travelled to reach us?

Finally, can we enhance our perspective, by learning more about how to protect and conserve the natural world around us?

Often, we can feel paralysed by the complex set of choices surrounding us, and downhearted when the obstacles to protecting our world seem too large to overcome. 

But God our creator knows us and loves us, and rejoices in even the smallest steps that we take to draw ourselves and creation into greater harmony.

I’ll finish with a prayer, adapted from words written by Pat Bennett:

Lord —
when we feel paralysed
by the magnitude of the problem…
Help us to make a beginning.

When we feel overwhelmed
by facts, figures and issues…
Help us to see the way forward.

When we feel despair
at the lack of progress…
Help us to find fresh hope.

When we feel discouraged
and ready to simply give up…
Help me to persevere with joy.

When we feel that our small efforts
will not make the slightest difference…
Help us to be still and trust that you are God.