Do You Live On an Island of One?

June 20, 2022

A single man was living at home with his Father and running the family business. His father had made a fortune which he would soon inherit because his father’s health was failing. He decided he wanted to learn how to invest his inheritance and find a beautiful wife.

One evening at an investment meeting, he spotted the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. “I may look like just an ordinary man,” he said to her, “but in just a few years, my Father will die, and I’ll inherit $20 million dollars.” Impressed, the woman requested his business card. Two weeks later, she became his Stepmother.

Inheritances are funny things. We don’t expect to receive them, but when do, we want to get our “Fair” share. How often do inheritance disputes become the cause for family strife? Since most inheritances are disputed, either legally, verbally, between family members, or quietly, in family members’ minds, this is a far too common situation.

Jesus tells “The Parable of the Rich Fool” (Luke 12:13-21) in response to a man’s request that Jesus solve an inheritance dispute. Jesus treats this man’s inheritance as a kind of test of one’s priorities in life. Jesus warns, “One’s success in life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” The parable moves logically as a successful farmer tears down old barns to build new barns to store his tremendous stock of grains. But then he says something that betrays the sin of his heart. He says to his soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for the rest of your life. Eat, drink and be merry.” Jesus’ Jewish audience will recognize his sin immediately.

In the Middle East farmers did not live on their farms, spread out from one another as our farmers do. They lived in a village together, with their farms surrounding the village, and talked about everything. If a farmer wanted new barns, everyone would help him think through it. It was unheard of for a farmer to tear down old barns, build up new ones, and retire young without consulting his friends for guidance. He is not close to God. After years of hard work, he has achieved financial security for life, and does not need anyone else. Just when he thinks he’s made it, he dies. He is found as poor in the harvest of faith in God as he is rich in the harvest of the field.

Jesus is speaking of a sin that is basic to human existence. We need each other to make wise decisions. Christian poet John Donne used the phrase, “No man is an island,” in his devotions to express the same idea. This phrase expresses the idea that human beings do badly when isolated from others and need to be part of a community in order to thrive.

Social media has sadly replaced the town square as the place where most of us give and receive counsel from others, especially in the age of covid. This is a bad thing because most people, regardless of your political and religious beliefs, go to the Facebook page to pontificate, not enter into a dialogue to learn and gain wisdom. If a “friend” dares to offer a different point-of-view than what we post the problem is easily solved: un-friend them. Farmers gathered in a village in Bible times would look at our whole social media craze as sheer foolishness, just like Jesus’ Jewish audience considered the rich man who tore down his barns without seeking counsel was a fool as well.

Who do you trust to give you advice on important decisions, or are you like the farmer in the parable, trusting primarily in your own wisdom and wits? Who are those people? Make a list of the person/people you seek for money management, marriage enrichment, and spiritual development, just to name a few.

Jesus taught consistently that we need each other to live the Christian life. We need our nuclear families, we need our friends, we need those who help us out for many different reasons, we need our spiritual families, and we need the power of God. God has provided all of these for us. I pray you will trust in the Lord’s provision for your life and remember who those wise people are in your life and find out what they have to share that can guide you toward a better life.