(Written July, 2019 – based on Luke 12:16-21)
- Voice 1: Rich Landowner
- Voice 2: Poor Farm Worker
I love my family farm – it’s been handed to me by my father, and his father before him, down the generations – being the oldest son has its responsibilities, but it has its benefits. It provides for me and my family, and it means I want for nothing. I eat the finest foods – using the best of what my farm gives me of course, and drink the finest wines – it’s the good life! I don’t even have to do any of the work. No I pay others to do that for me – I’m supporting the economy. Lots of workers would have no way of supporting themselves if it wasn’t for me!
I work on this farm because I have to. Not that it does me that much good – I don’t get a fair wage, so can barely afford the basics. I live where I can – in a one room shed with a leaky roof. I only have the clothes that are on my back, and I sleep under a thin blanket that does nothing to keep me warm. If I’m lucky, there’ll be enough crops left behind in the field I can glean to feed me and my family – but it’s not as common as it used to be, before the current landowner inherited the farm. He is far more ruthless than his father – crops left behind are lost profit and woe betide us if we miss or drop any crop as we gather the harvest in. But it’s that work or nothing – there’s nothing that would suit me better around here.
This year, my farm has produced the best crop it’s ever produced. I’ve never seen a crop so big. I’ve been down to the fields myself to inspect them – I can’t fault the workers. They have been doing such a good job at gathering it in, leaving nothing behind that I don’t have enough space in my barn to store it all. But it’s my grain. I need to keep it somehow.
In the old days, we’d get a bonus – some of the extra food that the landowner wouldn’t need to feed his family or to sell. He’d make sure we were well fed – after all that makes for loyal and strong workers. We never had much to spare, but it meant we didn’t go wanting. But now, despite this bumper crop, not only must we go without the good food we need, we have to do more work. On top of all the normal work we must do, we have to build a barn.
Nothing shows off my wealth to others like a big barn does – and a full big barn at that. Those who pass by will see my big barn, and they’ll know I’m wealthy. I’ve got plenty to keep me well fed, host parties for years to come from this harvest alone. It’s stability for me, and a promise that I’ll be able to maintain the lavish lifestyle I’ve grown to love for many years to come.
I’ve silenced the voices that tell me I should share the extra grain with the workers, as my father apparently did. That would harm my status and my reputation as one of the richest men around – and that’s not a cost I’m willing to pay. My status in the community, that’s what is important.
Everything is about making the landowner richer, and increasing his status amongst his peers. And as we do, we get poorer and weaker as we work harder on smaller amounts of food. But it seems to me, we have some things the landowner doesn’t have which keeps us strong. We have a community spirit. We have found a way to value ourselves and each other no matter how much or how little each of us has. We don’t have to prove our worth to those around us to be loved and cherished. And somehow, that gets us through every hardship we face, stronger than before.
But now, everything has changed. I have this illness, and my wealth has got me nowhere – the best medics around have said there’s nothing they can do for me. My life is at an end, and the end will come quickly and suddenly – the years I thought I had to enjoy life are simply not there. I have all this wealth and all this land which has given me bumper harvests, but I don’t even have an heir to hand it all onto – my brothers want nothing to do with me because of my attitude. I have no idea what will happen to all of my wealth and my land – the things I thought were important.
But now, as I reach my last hours, my wealth isn’t bringing me the care and comfort and support I need. And those I have called upon haven’t come. It seems if I’m not showing off my wealth, they are just not interested in spending time with me. I’m alone, for the first time in my life, as I take my last breaths, and I don’t understand how to change that. I’ve left it too late to change that.
I know I should feel sorry for the landowner dying as he did, alone. It’s not nice for anyone to suffer the death he did, and it must be so much harder to do it alone.
But I’m worried. Will I still have a way to earn at least the tiny bit of money I need to buy the bare essentials I need to live? But more than that, I’m worried about that there seems to be no clear owner of the land, and of all that grain that sits in the barn. Will it make people in the community place the importance of seeking a bit of that wealth for themselves over the importance of being the sharing and caring community that until now, we’ve had to be to survive?
I was the landowner, who put earthly wealth and status before my relationships with God and others and who lost everything.
I am the farm worker, who trusted that somehow, I’d have what I needed, even if things were a bit tight. Despite everything, God, again and again, always sees me right!