Thursday, October 30, 2008

Laptops and Souls

But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20)

At the start of the school year my 5th grade son was issued a laptop computer, a Mac notebook, sleek and envied by his dad. Things have changed quite a bit since I was in fifth grade. These days when we all leave the house in the morning three of us sling laptop bags over our shoulders. Next year, when my daughter gets hers, it’ll be the entire family.

When this school year ends John will have to give his laptop back to the school. It’s not his to keep. For nine months he enjoys the benefits of having the computer, he learns how to use it and how to do power point and reports and whatever else he’s assigned to do. But in May, the laptop must be returned in good working order.

His laptop will be required of him.

The one we know as the rich fool was by no means stupid. He’s the picture of successful landowner. Good luck and shrewd management are joined in his story, the land yielding a good harvest and the landowner expanding his capacity to hold it all. He builds bigger barns, executes a smart business plan, and earns the leisure that comes with doing very well.

It is here that God speaks the sobering word: “You fool.” This man isn’t a fool because his land was productive. He is not a fool because he managed his resources well. He is a fool because after all that work with fields and barns it is his soul that will be required of him. While his business grew, his soul diminished.

Someday our soul will be required of us. That’s a provocative line in the parable Jesus told. Our bank balances and real estate holdings will not be required of us. Our club memberships and diplomas will not be required of us. Our wardrobes and vehicles will not be required of us.

God seems remarkably indifferent to all of those things in which we invest so much energy and time. Ultimately, what we offer back to God is our deepest self, our soul.

In his book The Jesus Way Eugene Peterson recalls moving from a small Montana town to Seattle when he was twelve years old. He was enthralled with the size of the bustling city. On Saturdays he would pay a quarter and ride an elevator to the top of the Smith building to overlook the city.

Peterson recalls that in Montana he had climbed mountains that were every bit as high as the Smith building. But the mountains made him feel small. The Smith building, towering above Seattle, made him feel big.

Our souls expand in accordance with the expanse of God in our lives. John the Baptizer spoke to this truth when he said of Jesus, “He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30). A fool spends the best energies of life becoming big and getting bigger: bigger barns of stuff and a bigger name to go with it. The problem isn’t the bigger barn, but the small God.

To store up treasure in heaven does not mean giving to a charitable cause. We grow rich toward God as God becomes the defining reality of life. We tend to our soul as God becomes larger and larger. Someday our soul will be required of us. We would do well to ponder a question often posed by the Puritans: “How goes it with your soul?”

Lord Jesus, our world trains us to increase and applauds us whenever we do. Achievements, acquisitions, advancements – these are so often our treasure. Teach us to become rich toward you and to make you our treasure. Help us understand how to decrease while you increase. Make us ready for the day when our soul will be required of us, we pray. Amen.

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