Walter Brueggemann enjoys pairing an Old Testament text with a New Testament text during a sermon. And I enjoy when he does it. That is what he did this week at the Festival of Homiletics. Brueggemann paired I Kings 4.20-28; 9.15-19 and Luke 12.13-31 and talked about “Meat, Anxiety and Injustice.”
After reading the I Kings 4 text he emphasizes the large amount of goods Solomon has access to. It is a fact that Solomon has plenty. When we read the text we see that is an understatement. Solomon has an overabundance. Brueggemann calls Solomon the great carnivore.
“Solomon’s daily provisions were thirty cors of the finest flour and sixty cors of meal, ten head of stall-fed cattle, twenty of pasture-fed cattle and a hundred sheep and goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks and choice fowl… Solomon had four thousand stalls for chariot horses, and twelve thousand horses… The district governors, each in his month, supplied provisions for King Solomon and all who came to the king’s table. They saw to it that nothing was lacking. They also brought to the proper place their quotas of barley and straw for the chariot horses and the other horses.”
Yet, he did not have enough to satisfy. When we arrive at I Kings 9 King Solomon continues to accumulate more. After reading the gospel text, he highlights Jesus’s words about greed. Jesus gives an imperative (Luke 12.15), this is followed by a story (Luke 12.16ff.). Brueggemann adds this is a story that might be reminiscent of Solomon. It is foolish to think more is better. It is foolish to think more will keep one safe. It is foolish to tear down barns and build bigger barns in order to accumulate more.
Brueggemann goes on to say that more is an illusion. The “more system” intends to keep us busy wanting more. Not even the great King Solomon could accumulate enough. Desiring more only enslaves us to a regime of anxiety.
In a statement of contrast, the gospel tells us the creatures know better. They know hibernation and migration. They do not sow or reap, “they have no storeroom or barn, and yet God feeds them.” People are the only ones who do not seem to know. People are the only ones who think more is better. All this creates is anxiety and all this anxiety does not add even a nanosecond to our lives.
Brueggemann, who loves to discuss justice, then adds “when anxious and greedy, we are unable to do justice.”