In Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol there is a scene toward the end of the book, where the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come takes Scrooge to the London Stock Exchange-- a place of great familiarity and comfort for old Ebenezer. In the 1999 movie version starring Patrick Stewart as Scrooge, when he sees where they are he says with satisfaction, "Here profit is worshiped. Profit is everything."
Ebenezer Scrooge and the man in Jesus' parable in Luke 12 had much in common. The problem was not their wealth per se, but their selfish use of it and their inability to be generous toward others. The rich man takes stock of his very wealthy life. His bumper crop harvested that year is so large, he has no place to store it. He has more than enough. Instead of reflecting on how he could feed others with his more than enough, he decides to build even larger barns (granaries) to store the excess for himself. The problem is he will not live to enjoy his more than enough. That night... a few hours after the contemplation and enjoyment of thinking about having more than enough, his life will end and he will give an account before God of his waste of more than enough.
Business Week says that we Americans live in the United States of Food Waste. The average American throws away twenty pounds of food a month. The National Institute of Health estimates that we waste 40% of the food we produce. Of all the solid waste we produce in landfills, 14% of it is uneaten food. Ira Sager writes,
Wasting food is a cultural habit. When I shop, I expect my grocer to have only the freshest, unblemished vegetables and fruits. Supermarket managers do a daily version of my refrigerator-cleansing routine. If you’re in the food-service industry, waste is simply the cost of doing business. The USDA estimates that supermarkets lose $15 billion annually in unsold fruits and vegetables alone.I may not be rich by American standards, but I am quite wealthy by the standards of many places in the world. I may not have big barns to store my excess, but I do have more than enough. This passage will not allow us middle class folk to shove Jesus' warning here off the on "the rich" as if we do not need to heed his words. We, who have more than enough waste too much-- and in so doing we take food out of the mouths of those who do not have nearly enough. Every minute approximately 18 people die of starvation in our world. And while it would be quite unfair to level all of the blame at those of us in the dominant world (there are, after all too many corrupt governments and criminals taking advantage of the vulnerable), we are not without blame.
The problem is not wealth, the problem is the sin of more than enough that does not get shared with others. When most of the Christian world prays "give us this day our daily bread," they truly are asking for just enough bread for the day. When I say the same words on Sunday morning, I utter such words in the context of having bread in the freezer for a future day.
The sin of more than enough is a failure to be grateful in having more than enough to share. The sin of more than enough is not only committed by the supposed 1%-- it is a sin that infects many in the 99% as well.