The ground of a certain rich man produced an abundance. So he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, since I have nowhere to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and will build bigger ones, and there I will store up all my grain and my goods. Then I will say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take it easy. Eat, drink, and be merry!’
But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be required of you. Then who will own what you have accumulated?’
The Parable of the Rich Fool Luke 12:15-20
I know the answer to that open-ended question because I walked past the storehouse the other day. It was a silo built from courses of smooth riverstones, one laid upon the other as an edifice to someone’s forever. It now sits off to the side on a patch of manicured industrial land. The quaint house the owner lived in is a meeting place for the corporation who bought the land. The man is no longer around. Whatever grandiose plans he had contemplating that full silo are long gone.
It begs the question, of what will last, especially in turbulent times. Surely some things must endure. They say that truth will endure, despite the onslaught of fake news and questionable facts which we face daily.
I remember visiting the Great Pyramid in Egypt. For a price you could squirrel your way through the narrow labyrinths which periodically opened up into rooms with elaborate hyroglyphics on the walls. Whatever treasures had been in the rooms was long gone but a guard was stationed nonetheless. You were forbidden from sneaking a photograph lest the repeated flash of cameras degrade the paintings. The warning was posted in multiple languages and the guard gruffly reinforced the ban. “No pictures” he said sternly. I gazed at the wall, admiring. “No pictures!” the guard barked. “Yes, no pictures”, I repeated. There was a pause. “Pictures twenty dollars” the guard said, suddenly. There was a pause while I gazed at the wall before making to leave the room. “Pictures ten dollars” he protested, looking alarmed. I had not been aware that we were bargaining. “No pictures” really meant “Price negotiable”.
This is how things are in the world of men. What stands is a matter of who gets to say. It is not good news for most people and not good news for truth. What does the Bible have to say about this? Isaiah 40:8 advises us, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” I am relieved to hear it. It gives me hope.
But I am also encouraged by the stone silo. It is true that the man is gone as well as whatever was in the silo. Nonetheless, it is an edifice to one man’s aspirations, and it is still here. The company could have bulldozed the silo which is of no use to them, but they chose to leave it standing. What impresses me is that the man’s work was solid enough that it didn’t fall down over time. Maybe the company was sufficiently awed by the uniform courses of stone and how firmly they were set, that they didn’t have the heart to tear it down.
As evidence of the past, it is somehow now more than just a silo. It’s a line of thought that telegraphs from one generation to another. Someone worked hard on his own vision of what was worthy, and the stones are a testiment to those intentions. The man is gone, but an edifice remains. It expands my idea of what may last. Webster’s dictionary defines an edifice as a building, especially a large, imposing one. There is also a secondary meaning. Edifice can mean be a system of beliefs. For a thing to endure, there must be someone who believes it.
The person who was the silo owner has vanished into history. And yet, we encounter faith of sorts in the strewn stones of those who came before us. Traces of what they believed stands in whatever edifice they left behind. For every man, woman and child, some monument to faith endures beyond the grave, devoted to some kind of earthly enterprise. Those stories, dreams and impulses flow from one generation to another. It’s worth thinking about, that some stones will be left standing no matter what.
My wife is one of those they call Living Stones. It is a quaint name for descendents of the Holy Land through whom we trace the pathway of faith from the time of Christ to the present. She is a standing edifice to the Christian tradition. We have children and they are Living Stones of the same lineage.
No matter what, I smile at that silo on industrial land. In a world of mutable truth and other things that may not pass the test of time, it is still there – and that says something. Martin Luther shaped these thoughts into verse, “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.” Kind of like those stones along the pathway of faith still somehow bearing witness.