“. . . a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” – Luke 12:15
All of us I suppose dream of one day attaining financial security, a time when not only are we worry-free about the necessities of life, but able to accumulate a few luxuries we’ve always longed for. And our consumer-crazed society reinforces such thinking, convincing us that if we buy more, we will be happier, more fulfilled, and more comfortable. Great, as long as it inspires us toward excellence in our chosen endeavors. But we must beware of the hazards that can occur in becoming too cozy with success.
Jesus addressed this matter in his parable about a rich man who after producing a good crop decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones to store his grain and goods, after which he could take life easy – eat, drink and be merry. But Jesus warned the rich man, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.” (Luke 12:20)
As a young man the great American playwright Tennessee Williams struggled to make ends meet – as many of us have – taking on such menial jobs as a laborer in a shoe factory, and caretaker of a chicken ranch. But being a man of great talent and ambition, he dreamed that his literary endeavors would one day bring about success.
So it was that in the winter of 1943-44 Tennessee Williams’ luck changed upon receiving rave reviews for his play “The Glass Menagerie” which premiered in Chicago, and soon made its way to Broadway. That’s when, in his words, “I was snatched out of virtual oblivion and thrust into sudden prominence, and from the precarious tenancy of furnished rooms about the country I was removed to a suite in a first-class Manhattan hotel,” a quote from an essay written by Williams three years later and published in the New York Times. The title of the essay? “The Catastrophe of Success”, a tragic commentary about the potential hazards of fame and fortune, which he himself had encountered. “Security is a kind of death . . .” Williams had come to realize.
Tennessee Williams’ essay and Jesus’ parable are not inconsistent in their message it seems, that is that the hazard of becoming too cozy with security is a kind of death. The solution, though, according to Williams is that “purity of heart is the one success worth having.” Otherwise, “. . . a man’s life does not consist in his abundance.”