In the summer of 1975, the movie Jaws was released. It was the film that made Steven Spielberg a household name, and which instilled a fear of sharks in a whole lot of people. We watched it for free on Tubi last weekend. I doubt we would have paid to rent it partly because we’ve seen it before and mostly because, by the standard of modern cinematic special effects, it leaves much to be desired. But it’s still a pretty terrifying film. Though I’ve seen it often enough to know what to expect, still, I jumped and/or exclaimed several times as we watched – which, of course, made Tricia crack up. But there was one moment in the movie that made us both crack up. Police Chief Brody, Marine Biologist Hooper, and Captain Quint have set off in Quint’s small fishing vessel, Orca, to hunt down a monstrous shark which has been terrorizing the summer vacation community of Amity. At this point in the movie, neither the characters nor the viewer has really seen the terrifying scale of the beast. The Chief is at the stern, shoveling chum out into the water to try to attract the shark . . . and it works. The massive great white surfaces, jaws opening menacingly, but only the Chief sees it. With a look of pure shock on his face, he backs slowly into the cabin, and with his eyes still fixed on the place where he had seen the shark, the chief says to Quint in perfect deadpan: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” It’s so ridiculously understated that it’s funny. And that’s why it became one of the most famous lines from any movie. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Except that in the end, they didn’t need a bigger boat. True, the shark destroyed the boat (and ate its captain); but Chief Brody did destroy the shark. He didn’t need a bigger boat. He just needed a better plan – which he ended up figuring out and carrying out all by himself.
The rich man in Jesus’ parable this morning thought he needed a bigger barn. When the land produced abundantly, he ran out of space for storing his crops in his existing barns. So he said, “Hmm. What should I do? I know! I’ll tear these barns down and build bigger ones. And then I’ll have so much space to store all my food and all my goods that I can just relax and not worry about a thing for years to come.” He thought that a bigger barn would solve all of his problems. But Jesus’ story continued. Before the rich man could even begin to relax into his life of planned ease, his life came to an end. And all the “things” that he had saved up . . . they did him not one bit of good. He didn’t need a bigger barn. He needed a better plan.
A better plan would have been to think about someone other than himself. When you read this story closely, you see how self-centered this man is. When faced with the “problem” of abundance, it doesn’t occur to him that he could share his wealth with his community. He doesn’t mention family that the abundance could provide for – only himself. He doesn’t even seem to have anyone to talk to about his predicament because, did you notice, he has a whole conversation with himself! “What should I do? This is what I’ll do. And then I’ll say to myself –relax, eat, drink, and be merry.” The entire conversation is among me, myself, and I. He is totally isolated. Choosing isolation – a barn to protect my stuff for myself – choosing isolation is never a good plan – not when there’s a community that can support you, not when there’s a community that can benefit from your support. It seems to me that’s part of the reason Jesus told this story in the first place. Someone in the crowd had approached him and asked him to weigh in on a family squabble. Jesus knew that doing so would just drive a bigger wedge between the brothers, rather than helping them to work on their relationship. The problem wasn’t the money – it was the relationship. Jesus knew that going it on your own is never a good plan.
A better plan for the rich man in the parable would also have been to focus on what matters. He was a fool not just because he stored his treasure in barns, but also because his treasure was such that it could be stored in barns. For us, who believe and trust in Jesus, we know that the true treasure, the real treasure, the only treasure worth having is our relationship with him. There are no barns, no matter how big, which can hold that treasure. And unlike earthly treasures, for which the saying holds true – You can’t take it with you when you go – unlike earthly treasures, heavenly treasures we can and do take with us when we go. Because our relationship with Jesus is not just for this life. It is forever.
In the movie, Jaws, a bigger boat was not what was needed to kill the great white shark. In Jesus’ parable, a bigger barn was not what the rich man needed. What they needed – what we need – is a better plan. Bigger boats and bigger barns and bigger houses and bigger investment accounts can all go away. A better, more reliable plan is the one that Jesus has given us: the plan that allows us to lean into the community of faith for support – support received and given. A better, more reliable plan for finding the true treasure of this life and the next – the treasure of a life-giving relationship with God – is to depend upon Jesus.
“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)