Tuesday, September 23, 2014

According To Luke: SuperSize Me

SuperSize Me
September 21, 2014

Luke 12:13-21   (NRSV)
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.”

I was watching the news when they were describing a man involved in criminal activity.  They said that he was a white male, about 5’ 8”, 165 pounds and older --- (And I thought to myself, well two outta three are me)
And then they added somewhere between 50 and 60 years old

Wait a minute --- I am not “OLDER”

It is funny how our perceptions of things change

There is a great piece that has been credited to George Carlin --- but it is pretty clear it was not from him.

But if you were to search for it on the web it would come up as George Carlin's Views on Aging.

Whatever comedian wrote it, it is pretty funny and true!
Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we're kids? If you're less than 10 years old, you're so excited about aging that you think in fractions.

'How old are you?' 'I'm four and a half!' You're never thirty-six and a half. You're four and a half, going on five! That's the key.

You get into your teens, now they can't hold you back. You jump to the next number, or even a few ahead.

'How old are you?' 'I'm gonna be 16!' You could be 13, but hey, you're gonna be 16! And then the greatest day of your life ... . You become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony . YOU BECOME 21. YESSSS!!!

But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There's no fun now, you're Just a sour-dumpling. What's wrong? What's changed?

You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you're PUSHING 40. Whoa! Put on the brakes, it's all slipping away. Before you know it, you REACH 50 and your dreams are gone.

But wait!!! You MAKE it to 60. You didn't think you would!

So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50 and MAKE it to 60.

You've built up so much speed that you HIT 70! After that it's a day-by-day thing; you HIT Wednesday!

You get into your 80's and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch; you TURN 4:30 ; you REACH bedtime. And it doesn't end there. Into the 90s, you start going backwards; 'I Was JUST 92.'

Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little kid again. 'I'm 100 and a half!'

Studies suggest that Americans spend about 10 hours per day either watching TV, surfing the internet, reading books, newspapers or magazines, or listening to music.  Some studies I came across said that the average American watched almost 5 hours of TV EACH DAY.

Yikes --- and all that media time means that we are SuperSizing ourselves.

The United States is #1 in the world in obesity.

Two-thirds of Americans are considered overweight

33% of the USA population is considered obese -- that is a 13% increase since 2010.  I am not sure that is a statistic we want to lead in . . .

To compare our “one-thirds” to the rest of the planet, the World Health Organization estimates that while one third of the world is well fed, one third is underfed and one-third is starving.

Deborah Lynn Merrill, visited Cambodia on a mission trip to an orphanage.

In her blog she wrote:
“The people in the cities will not drink bottled water. We drink nothing but bottled water because the water here is not filtered. We even brush our teeth with bottled water. The hotel we were in last night had brown water. Some in our group went without a shower. Some poured bottled water over their heads and called it good.

“The reason Cambodians in the city will not drink bottled water is because they see all the Western tourists drinking it. And they think we’re fat! They think it’s the bottled water that makes Westerners fat! They may be on to something. They’re drinking bad water which probably has a parasite or two in it. We aren’t getting the parasites that so many Westerners could probably benefit from — to lose weight!! Now everyone in our group calls bottled water ‘fat water.’ ‘One large fat water for me please — to go!!’”

Americans drink about a gallon of soda a week, along with a half-gallon each of milk, bottled water, coffee and beer.

If you total the calories in a week’s worth of these beverages, we spend a day and a half’s allowance of calories just on our drinks.

And that generously assumes we take our coffee black, as opposed to 25 percent of a day’s calories going to each Venti Mocha one consumes!

More than half of all U.S. households own stocks or mutual funds, which seems reasonable until you realize that over three billion people — more than half the world population as of 2010 — live on less than $2.50 (US Dollars) a day.

More than 80% of the world’s population lives on less than $10 USD per day.

To put that in perspective, the average American spends about $7 USD a day on entertainment alone, and more than twice that on transportation.

According to another report, the average American’s net worth amounted to $144,000 in the year 2000, more than 100 times higher than the average Indian or Indonesian, whose assets totaled $1,100 and $1,400, respectively.

Satisfying the world’s yearly sanitation and food requirements would cost only $13 billion — that’s the amount people of the United States and the European Union spend annually on perfume.

Again, it adds up quickly.

Average Joe or Jane American looks like a fat, rich fool at this point.

But the problem with reports like the Statistical Abstract is that we rarely see ourselves in the data.

Unless the Census Bureau is lying to us, we must realize that we are the most over consuming people on God’s earth.

We’re a culture of stuffed barns.

Stuffed barns.

          Have you ever heard that phrase before?

Oh yeah, that is what our scripture talks about this morning.

Jesus is asked to take up the issue of greed and accumulation when someone asks him to play arbitrator in a family inheritance squabble.

Jesus rhetorically asks who made him to be the judge of the man’s fiscal fighting, and then what does he do? ---- Jesus immediately acts as the judge of his life.

Jesus makes this into a teaching moment and he cautions his followers against the subtlety of greed and accumulation.

The parable that Jesus tells is a classic tale of the rich getting richer.

The rich fool in our story — who is a wealthy farmer — has a bumper crop that exceeds his storage capacity, so he does what many of us would do --- he decides to build bigger barns to store his blessing away.

While Jesus’ parable about the rich fool should make most of us a little uncomfortable, we typically consider him some kind of ultra-rich Donald Trump figure.
But he’s not — he’s just the Census Bureau’s average American when compared to the rest of the world.

If he were living today’s Census Abstract averages, he’d be 30 pounds overweight and watching his 70 inch flat-screen TV.

It seems to me that the biggest challenge here is for us to find ourselves in Jesus’ parable.

Our abundance of possessions is so subtle and so culturally accepted that it goes largely unnoticed.

The problem is that most of us don't think this parable applies to us at all.

Just consider the number of self-storage facilities around us — the “bigger barns” of our day.
          It is a booming business

Or let me ask you ---- When is the last time you could not afford something you needed and not just wanted?
How many times have you been unable to provide a meal to your family for the day?

Have you ever struggled to buy a gift for someone who seems to have everything?

Or have you ever caught yourself being envious of the nicer car, home or clothes that someone else has when the truth is you aren’t lacking any of those things?

In Death by Suburb, David L Goetz writes about how comparison "with the Jones'" fuels accumulation in our lives:
“The suburbs seem to promote a kind of vigilance on the possessions of others. It seems to be more than just good old-fashioned coveting … it’s ubiquitous, heightened vigilance — roving eyes, like a sentinel — eternally on point to compare myself to those I perceive have more than I do. I’m always weighing my immortality symbols against others.”

I think that this is exactly what Jesus is warning against when he says to “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed” (v. 15).

Jesus understands that the appetite for more is subtle,
          so he says be intentional in looking out for it.

The problem with the rich fool in this parable is not that he was wealthy or that he had a great harvest.

The problem is that he did not understand the spiritual reality behind all he had.

The Bible is consistent in the theme that:
·         we are given to — so that we might give to others;

·         we are blessed — so that we might be a blessing;

·         we are loved — so that we might love;

·         we are reconciled — so that we might reconcile;

·         we are forgiven — so that we might forgive.

The problem with greed and accumulation is that rich fools — then and now — forget that blessings are intended to be used to bless others.

I know that you have seen the bumper stickers on people’s cars that says: “God bless America.”

You have to love the patriotism

But there is a major oversight in those bumper stickers!
          God already has blessed America!

Think about it.
It’s like, what are we asking for here?

When we look at our reality against the reality of the world around us, we realize how much we are the farmers building bigger barns.

Instead of asking God to bless America, we need to ask how America can be a blessing to the world . . . through our choices.

So let me conclude with some practical --- maybe simple --- antidotes to accumulation:

  • ·         Go through your closets and drawers once a year. If you didn’t wear a piece of clothing in the last year, give it away.

  • ·         Consider shared ownership of possessions with your neighbors. There are tons of things we own which we don’t need exclusive use of. Do two homes need two lawn mowers? Sharing possession combats accumulation and builds relationships with the lost.

  • ·         Journal a list of all the things you need to live and another list of things you want for your life. Commit to purchasing only from the need list for the rest of the year.

  • ·         Make a list of your monthly budget categories in order of amounts spent on each. Look at how your charitable giving compares with your accumulation line items — clothing, eating out, entertainment, grooming, hobbies, etc. Does the order need to change?

  • ·         For the next month, every time you appreciate something that somebody else has, stop to pray for your own contentment with how you have been blessed.

  • ·         Don’t rent a storage unit. If you have one, consolidate to only what you can fit in your home.

  • ·         Christmas shopping in start soon. Declare a price limit on family presents, go with a no-gift Christmas, or spend as much sponsoring a local shelter as you do on gifts.

If we are not careful, our well-fed, sedentary, affluent lifestyle can lead us away from being “rich toward God”.

But the message of Jesus is that we are blessed to be a blessing.

Leave the bigger barns to the rich fools of the parables and the rich fools of the census and commit to being better at sharing than at storing.

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