‘When you have more than you need build a longer table not a higher fence’
A few years ago, this meme was very popular on social media, with accompanying images showing people sat at trestle tables in street party style. It tapped into the good desire to share with others from our abundance. Yet as the coronavirus began to attack in the UK in March this year, we saw supermarket shelves empty as people hoarded food in their ‘barns’. White goods retailers ran out of freezers as people bought bigger ‘barns’ to store it in.
It is not just fear of running out that causes us to tighten our grip on what is given us but also our sense of entitlement and injustice. Newbigin says ‘…each of us overestimates what is due him compared with what is due his neighbour.’ When a younger brother appeals to Jesus to make his brother act justly, Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool. The fool’s mistake is to believe that he is just a body and not a soul as well. His pursuit of wealth has isolated him from God and others, and he doesn’t see his good harvest as a gift from God to share. His solution to abundance is to store it in barns not realising that, as Augustine says, ‘the bellies of the poor were safer store rooms’. Even his life belongs to God and when it is required of him, his apparently wise stewardship is proven foolish.
Just as community was the antidote to hoarding in March, when we thirst and hunger not just for food and possessions but also justice and mercy for others, our souls will be truly satisfied. When we share not just from our plenty, but from however little we have, we find that ‘life doesn’t consist in the abundance of possessions’ but in trusting our father who knows what we need and gives us his kingdom.
Prayer of St Richard of Chichester:
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits thou hast given me,
for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
may I know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly, day by day.