There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, “What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?” And he said, “This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, ‘Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!’” (Luke 12:16-19 NABRE)
The pursuit of happiness, written into the Declaration of Independence along with life and liberty, include rights “endowed by their Creator” to all humankind.
Happiness, defined somewhat subjectively according to each individual, would generally involve resting, eating, drinking and merriment. Having enough money in the bank (bigger barns) would seem to ensure the attainment of happiness. Is there something beyond the acquisition of wealth in this life?
According to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the answer is a resounding “yes”. The (now classic) “Lilies of the Field” discourse puts wealth and the pursuit thereof in its proper perspective:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you — you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:25-33 NRSVCE)
We are called as Christians to be good stewards of God’s gifts. Seedtime and harvest are all designed to produce the biggest yield possible. After a bountiful harvest, good stewardship (management) comes into play. Are God’s gifts to be hoarded or shared? The answer, of course, is the latter. We learn in kindergarten to share our toys, but by the time of adulthood, a certain selfishness can come to the fore. Today, we are bombarded with advertisements that warn us about running out of money in our retirement years. We are encouraged to build “bigger barns” for our safety and happiness. Jesus gives us financial advice that is somewhat different than conventional wisdom:
But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back. (Luke 6:35-38 NRSVCE)
We can look beyond our concerns about the future by placing our hope in God and His providence. St. Paul, in his letter to Timothy, gives us sound advice about storing up true treasure:
As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19 NRSVCE)