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Posts Tagged ‘Luke 12:13-21’

Years ago, I was given a poem written by South American Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero that begins with the following lines:

It helps now and then to step back

               And take the long view

Romero goes on to reflect on the fact that what we do for God is just one part of a larger endeavour—we cannot do everything ourselves. Nevertheless, we plant the seed and water the seed others before us have planted too and thus play our part in building God’s kingdom. All he said is indeed true, yet these two lines have stuck in my mind for another reason as well. They have always served to remind me that this life is not all there is, that I need to step back and look at my own life in the light of eternity. And as I do, this changes everything.

When putting my blogs together each week, I always include some sort of photo which may start out very large but, with one click, ends up being shrunk to a much smaller ‘thumbnail’ size. This is the feeling I have had at times as I do indeed step back and take that longer view of my life—the feeling that I am suddenly and rapidly being shrunk down to size. Yet this is not unpleasant at all, because I know God is graciously reminding me that my life here on earth is actually an infinitesimal part of a much, much bigger picture. Or, to use a different metaphor, my life here is like the first one or two tiny millimetres only of a long, long journey to some extreme, far-flung part of the world.

We need to be reminded of this truth often, not only when experiencing hard times in life, but also when things are going well. In hard times, it is so comforting to know this life is not all there is and that, one day, all our struggles and troubles will be over.

He (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:4 NLT

Yet it is equally important to be reminded of the brevity of life when things are going well too. I know I can become so focused on my own plans and so engrossed in some endeavour or other that I can easily forget how fleeting these are in the big scheme of things. Or I can worry far too much about my own and others’ issues rather than loving and trusting God. I think of the story Jesus told called ‘The Parable of the Rich Fool’ about a man who tore down his barns to build bigger ones where he could store all his grain and goods, then decided to take it easy, eat, drink and be merry—yet, that night, he died (Luke 12:13-21). The parable ends with the following words:

Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Luke 12:21 NLT

Let’s remember our lives here are only a few short millimetres of a much, much longer journey. In the light of that, let’s walk hand and hand with God through each day—and right on into eternity.

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I can’t quite believe it. This week, we celebrated a special birthday in our family, albeit in different times and places, for COVID reasons. Our oldest child turned fifty. Yes—fifty! She looks nothing like that age, which makes it even more unbelievable for me. Anyway, how could I have a fifty-year-old daughter? Such a thing simply cannot be possible, at least not quite yet—could it?

Fifty years seems such a long time, in one way. Yet, in another, it feels as if those years have flown. In that time, our daughter has lived in many different places and done many different things. She has faced difficult challenges too, particularly health-wise, yet here she still is, determined to keep moving on in life, still ready to try new things and take risks, as she steps into a further phase of her journey. Yes, our daughter is a very capable, compassionate and courageous woman who tries her best at everything she does. It is a joy to honour her as we celebrate, yet this milestone has certainly caused me to reflect on my own life too.

Only weeks after our daughter was born, we moved interstate. Around two years later, a son was added to our family and we moved interstate again, this time to South Australia, where another daughter eventually joined our family. We lived near the beach at beautiful Victor Harbor, a wonderful place for our young children to grow up. A brief stint in Adelaide followed, then we were on the move again, back to Sydney to another ministry role at a local church. In this time, I decided to return to study to gain my teaching diploma and, when another move across Sydney followed, I was able to teach and thus help buy our own home. Season by season, God unfolded the next thing for me, often in such unexpected ways, and I am so grateful. Later, I took on an editing role, then a secretarial role and finally a ministry role, after gaining a theology degree. And when that concluded, my wonderful adventure of writing and speaking began.

Over the years, we can pack so much into our lives. And in the midst of it all, sometimes it’s easy to forget the bigger picture, isn’t it? In reality, our time here on earth is a mere speck when compared to eternity. Surely then, that means I need to hold onto things more lightly than I tend to do? And surely it also means I need to use my time here well and share the love of God with others however I can? I often think of Jesus’ parable about the rich man who built bigger barns to store his grain and other goods in so he could take life easy and ‘eat, drink and be merry’ (Luke 12:13-21). Of course, this doesn’t mean we don’t provide for the future or celebrate happy times together. But, as Jesus tells us, it does mean we need to be wise in the way we live.

Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God. Luke 12:21 NLT  

Let’s continue to live life to the full. But let’s treasure that rich relationship with God that lasts for eternity above everything else.

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Many years ago, in a far, far away land called my childhood, one of my favourite books was The House That Jack Built. Our copy had windows in each page that gave the reader enticing views of what was to come—plus the whole book was shaped like a house. But, above all, we loved the rhythm and the repetition contained in this story:

This is the house that Jack built

This is the malt that lay in the house that Jack built

This is the rat that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built …

And on it went.

P1030988I thought of that book again last week when we arrived home from an interstate trip to discover how large the house under construction opposite ours had become in our absence. It seems to be growing taller and grander by the minute. Admittedly, it is on the ‘up’ side of our narrow street while we are on the lower ‘down’ side. But it is still an imposing edifice—or will be. Another neighbour on our side has christened it ‘the Palace of H … (insert owner’s name here!)’.

Now our neighbour across the road has worked very hard as the owner-builder. When not at his other responsible job, he can be found onsite here, supervising the construction of his ‘Palace’. Several times, he has taken my husband on ‘the grand tour’, explaining what rooms are what and how hard he has worked on it and how well he has planned it all. Hopefully, the time will come when he can relax and enjoy his wonderful, new home. Hopefully, his wife and children are surviving without him around most of the time. Hopefully, it is not the be-all and end-all to him.

Whenever I catch sight of our neighbourhood ‘palace’, however, I am reminded of the story Jesus told about the rich man who decided to tear down his old barns and build bigger ones to store all his  crops (Luke 12:13-21). But that very night, he died and was not around to enjoy all the fruits of his labours. As Jesus warns us:

… a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. Luke 12:15b

Now don’t get me wrong—I love beautiful homes. And I have seen those who own very large ones use them in a wonderful way to bless many. In the end, however, these homes are only bricks and mortar. In the end, they will end up as a pile of rubble, just as the original, neat house opposite us was demolished in order to build the new ‘palace’. In the end, any material things we put before God with be worth nothing—including those books and computers we set such store by in our own humble home! What we all need to ensure, as Jesus also point out, is that we become ‘rich toward God’ (Luke 12:21), rather than setting our hearts on any riches this world can provide.

I hope our neighbour across the road and his little family enjoy their new ‘palace’ for many years to come. But I hope and pray that one day they will be rich in the things of God too. Because that’s what really matters, don’t you think?

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