Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." But he said to him, "Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?" And he said to them, "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions." Then he told them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' Then he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."
The idea of minimalism is one that is gaining popularity in American culture right now. In a pushback against decades of mindless consumerism as the cornerstone of the American dream and the American lifestyle, this movement stands up and says that more stuff will not make us happy. In fact, it argues, perhaps in order to be happy we need less stuff. The minimalist movement isn't just about decluttering and reorganizing Marie Kondo style, it's also about being mindful of what we bring into our lives going forward - to avoid ending up in the same place in five years with a full house we need to declutter.
I have been intrigued by the minimalist movement off and on over the years, and even more so over the past year as we sold 90% of what we own and travel the world with just the suitcases we can carry. When I read today's scripture passage I was struck by Jesus' words and thought - was Jesus the world's first minimalist?
Sure, he didn't package it up in a fancy title, he didn't write books on how people could declutter their sandal collection and reduce their goat herd and still be happy, but Jesus gave us the heart of the story in this one line: "Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions." There it is - minimalism. Our lives should not be about our stuff. Truth, straight from Jesus himself.
He goes on to tell a story of a man whose crops produce abundantly, and in order to accommodate them he pulls down his barns to build newer, bigger, and better ones. Today Jesus might tell a story of a man whose house was so full of possessions he decided to buy a newer, bigger, and better house to store all of his stuff. But this is not what life is about, for Christians. Jesus says he came to give us life, and to give us life abundantly, and I can guarantee you he wasn't talking about an abundance of stuff.
I don't know where you might be in your relationship to stuff and accumulating things in your life, but I know that for me it is a constant struggle. Sure, right now, while we travel, it is easy for me to say no to stuff - we literally do not have room for anything more. But in a little over a year's time we will settle down in the UK for a while, with a rather large house most likely, and I know I will have to fight against my urge to fill the space with stuff. I plan to remind myself that as a Christian I strive to be like Jesus, and Jesus was the world's first minimalist. I will stay on guard against greed, for life does not consist in the abundance of my possessions.
God of abundant life, help us to see, by Jesus' example, what life is truly all about. Help us to find a balance between the things we need and the things we want, and to discern the things we really should live without. Open our eyes to the clutter in our lives and where we might clear things out to make more space for you. Amen.