Still plugging away on our Luke commentary. This parable jumped out at me in light of a recent post by the brilliant Molly Mosack dealing with the issue of covetousness. You should go read it if you haven’t already — it’s a great post and immensely convicting.
In Luke 12:13-21, Jesus addresses this same issue. He’s got some pretty strong words about it, too.
Apparently Jesus was gaining a reputation for speaking with authority and having all the answers to the problems of life. A man in the crowd tried to take advantage of this by asking Jesus to inform his elder brother to divide the inheritance with him. Fair was fair, right? Shouldn’t he have his rightful piece of the pie?
Jesus’ choice of words is a little ironic. “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you” (12:14)? He is the Judge of all the earth, and could have declared a decision with perfect authority right then and there. However, He did not come into the world to settle sibling rivalry over money issues. Rather than justify either side of the argument, He gave instructions regarding covetousness. Probably both the man speaking, as well as his brother, could take a good lesson from the parable.
Jesus stated the point from the beginning: “Take heed and beware of covetousness” (12:15). This guy had a bigger problem than whether or not he got half of the inheritance. A destructive seed of covetousness was threatening to wreak havoc in his heart, and ultimately, affect his eternal destiny.
Jesus told a parable to illustrate His point. In His story, a rich man harvested an enormous crop, excessively more than he knew what to do with. Rather than give the surplus away to those who needed it, he simply hoarded it in bigger storehouses. Sure, he had more than he needed, but it was his and he was going to keep every grain of it. He put all of his confidence in his newfound prosperity; he was financially secure and could kick back and enjoy life, having everything he needed.
God called the materialistic man on the carpet for his selfishness. This is not the kind of visitation that you want from God. “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you…” (12:20). YIKES. This man was going to die that very night, and what then would become of all his massive wealth? What good had any of it done him?
The closing verse is meant to make us imagine the opposite ending of the parable. What could have happened if the man behaved more wisely? If he had given his surplus away, he would have been far less wealthy in his temporal life, but would have been far richer towards God. If he would have put his trust in God, rather than his possessions, how much better would he have fared before the judgment seat?
I know God is not against savings accounts and financial stability. But this is such a sobering, startling look at what our wealth is really for and how loosely we are supposed to hold it. Our stuff only does us any good in this lifetime; but we can sow it towards eternity and make it count for something truly great (see Luke 12:33).