Vol.XVI No.VIII Pg.3
October 1979

Big - Barn Thinking

Dan S. Shipley

After pointing out that "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth", Jesus relates the parable of the rich and foolish farmer (Lk. 12:16-21). He tells how the farmer "reasoned within himself" about such things as bigger barns, much goods, and many years of taking it easy. But, as Jesus shows, the farmer's meditations are interrupted by the voice of God with the last words he would ever hear: "Thou foolish one, this night is thy soul required of thee; and the things which thou hast prepared, whose shall they be?"

Such big-barn thinking is not confined to the affluent, much less to wealthy farmers. To this day it continues as a prevalent hindrance to man's right standing with God — and is no less foolish now than when Jesus spoke this parable. It is foolish because it leaves God out of one's life. Maybe the foolish farmer of the parable had good intentions about serving God later — as do many of his modern counterparts. But "maybes", "good intentions", and "later" are poor substitutes for present personal involvement for the Lord. Many, like Felix, seek a more convenient season in which to serve God (Acts 24:25). But for now, God and His work are made subservient to "goods" and "barns" and merry-making. How foolish! — especially for those claiming to be seeking God and His kingdom first, as per Matt. 6:33. And right here is the crux of the matter — priorities. Barns, goods, and harmless pleasures are not wrong in themselves, but only as they come to dominate our thinking, time, and interests to the neglect of God.

Another reason why big-barn thinking is foolish is because it places the material above the spiritual; the transient and temporary above the eternal. As Jesus teaches, a man's life is more than material possessions. There is another and more important dimension to man's life and it is the spiritual. Thus, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). To live by God's word is just that — a way of life that is governed and directed by His truth. It is walking by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7); it is living the here-and-now in consideration of the hereafter; it is living God's way! But, as the foolish farmer, many live as if this life is all there is. His chief concern was "my fruits", "my barns", "my grain" and "my goods". We bow before the same idol of materialism when preoccupied with such things as my comfort, my pleasure, my possessions, and my money — and all at the expense of my soul!

This big-barn thinking is also foolish because it assumes future time. In making provision for the flesh (Rom. 13:14), the farmer thought in terms of "many years". Had he been more spiritual minded he would have realized that "this night" of death is never far from any mortal. James reminds those making elaborate plans for the future that, "ye know not what shall be on the morrow" (4:14). The farmer wasted the present in preparing for an uncertain future on the earth; he planned to live but not to die. We must not repeat his mistakes. To do so makes us even more foolish than he.