You can’t take it with you, they say. And they’re right. We come into this world naked, defenceless and dependent. And that’s the way we leave it. Our barns can be bursting but we can’t carry a single loaf across death’s threshold to save our hungry souls.
I like the way God says ‘Fool!’ today. ‘Idiots’ he calls us, ‘dunderheads’, because we never quite kick the habit of barn-building. We never quite give up the hope that there is something we can take with us—loot might be out … but there must be a way, a way to pay for our lives, a way for them not just to be wasted, whether its good works or piety or perfect faith. Aren’t our days for something? We are born, we die but surely the time in between is worth something?
There’s a sentimental saying that we live on in the hearts of those who love us. But of course we don’t; only a few memories remain. Even if we leave this world a better place we leave it empty handed.
Now, there are those who celebrate the fact of our fleeting flame and are satisfied to burn brief and brightly before the darkness – but to me it’s a puzzle.
I found the echo of the same puzzle hiding in the first reading too—that last line, the description of Jesus as the one ‘who was put to death for our sins and raised to life to justify us’. There’s a lifetime of theology books and holy wars in that phrase that I want to ignore. What I do wonder is this: why is it Jesus’s death that makes the difference? Why his leaving this life rather than his living it? Could he have had a long, rich life, with grandchildren at the knee and barns full to bursting with a good life’s bounty? Would that have worked? Would we have had a resurrection? Would that death have brought us life?
I’m not sure where to go with that … except this: even God has to die if ever he’s been born. And even God can’t take it with him. So what’s the difference between God and we barn-building fools?
If I could crack that one I suspect it would make all the difference in the world … and in the next.