One of the most provocative parables Jesus told was a story about a man who had a bumper crop, and because of his abundance decided to build bigger barns. Yet, in the parable, because of his choice his life is taken from him.
It raises the question of what could have or what should this man have done differently?
In ancient Israel, at the gate of just about any town you would find a group of men, usually in their forties or older, who by that age had usually trained their sons in the family business, and would’ve handed the running of the business over to them. These men, whilst occasionally helping out with the family business, now took on a specific role within their community. They were the elders. Everyday if you are an elder, you would go down to the town gate and sit with the other elders of the community. Your role is now this: whenever the town had a moral or ethical dilemma, whenever there was conflict in a family, or whenever an individual needed wisdom in making a difficult choice they would come to you.
Now, when someone had a dilemma they would come to you and seek your advice. Not you individually, but they would seek the advice of the group. The idea was that collectively you arrive at a greater wisdom than any one of you could come up with. In the ancient world you lived your entire life in community. You had family and friends. The idea that you would make a life decision by yourself, just you, was an anathema.
The audience hearing the parable of Jesus knew that any man whose land yielded a bumper crop should go down to the city gate, and say “I have more money then I know what to do with? What do you think I should do with this?”
But this man in the parable doesn’t do this. He assumes that this is all for him, that God has given to him for his own purposes, and so he follows the counsel of one, himself.
That is the folly of this man.
Whilst there is so much we could explore in this passage, let me ask you one of the questions it raises. Who do you get counsel from? Do you just pursue your own course of action based on your own wisdom, or do you have others around you whose counsel you can seek? Are there those who can provide a perspective, or bring experience and wisdom to help guide you as you face significant decisions in life? Who protects you from folly?
If you have people around you that you can trust, then celebrate this. Lean into them. Draw from their experience and wisdom. Seek their counsel. They may protect you from folly. This is one of the great benefits of choosing to do life in community with others.