Summary: Hoarding wealth versus Rich toward God.
BEWARE OF COVETOUSNESS
Sometimes people used to approach a Rabbi to settle disputes, so the petitioner in this account may not have realized he was doing anything wrong when he approached Jesus with a request concerning the inheritance left by his father (Luke 12:13). We are not aware of all the circumstances, but after their father had died the responsibility for the distribution of the land rested with the elder brother. For some reason the younger brother felt that he was being cheated: what had the holy man to say about that?
A Hebrew once said to Moses, ‘Who made you a prince and a judge over us?’ (Exodus 2:14). Jesus uses similar terms, but in an exact opposite situation: “Man, who made Me a judge or a divider over you?” (Luke 12:14). Jesus is not one to be manipulated.
In true Rabbinic style, this curt answer is followed by a wisdom saying. This consists of a warning, and an explanation (Luke 12:15). Jesus warns us against covetousness.
The man to whom Jesus was speaking evidently needed to hear, as we all do, that life consists in more than the things we possess. Paul places covetousness on a par with idolatry (Colossians 3:5). It is not money that is the root of all evil, but the inordinate love of it: i.e. covetousness (1 Timothy 6:10).
Jesus illustrates with a parable. We are introduced to a rich man who had a bumper crop one year (Luke 12:16). What should he do?
We learn something about this rich man right away: he was the only person in his world. This rich man loved singular first person pronouns (I, my), and only used the second person (you, your) when speaking to himself. The rich man was only interested in hoarding his wealth.
Now, of course, he might have cited the precedent of Joseph in Egypt, who built bigger barns in the seven years of plenty to feed the people in the seven years of want which would follow (Genesis 41:34-36). However, the man in the parable had no interest in feeding the hungry, either now, or later. To him they are “my fruits” (Luke 12:17); “my barns, my fruits, my goods” (Luke 12:18); “my soul’s much goods”; and he says to his soul, “take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19).
Not only did this rich man have no present compassion for the poor, but also he was living as if there was no God. It is the fool who says in his heart that there is no God (Psalm 14:1), and God does not hesitate to name this rich man a fool (Luke 12:20; cf. Jeremiah 17:11). What use are his riches to him, and all this surplus, when his covetous soul is required of him that very night?
Jesus goes on to define this folly (Luke 12:21. The person who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God, is a fool! Wealth is permitted, but it is what we do with it, and whether we idolise it that is at stake (read 1 Timothy 6:17-19).