Summary: The sin of covetousness as set forth in Luke 12:13-21 warns of the danger of greed.
During the final few months of Jesus’ life he journeyed from Galilee to Jerusalem, where he would be crucified. While traveling to Jerusalem Jesus gave his followers some very important teaching regarding discipleship. His instruction covered a number of different topics regarding Christian discipleship. Jesus’ next topic deals with the doctrine of covetousness.
Today, let’s read about the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21:
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:13-21)
In Dr. Philip Ryken’s commentary on Luke he gives an illustration from John Grisham’s novel The Testament. Grisham’s novel opens with the dying words of a man who will soon be parted from all his money. Here are his last thoughts on earth:
Day, even the last hour now. I’m an old man, lonely and unloved, sick and hurting and tired of living. I am ready for the hereafter; it has to be better than this. . . . My assets exceed eleven billion dollars. I own silver in Nevada and copper in Montana and coffee in Kenya and coal in Angola and rubber in Malaysia and natural gas in Texas and crude oil in Indonesia and steel in China. My companies own companies. . . . My money is the root of this misery. I had three families – three ex-wives who bore seven children, six of who are still alive and doing all they can to torment me. . . . I am estranged from all the wives and all the children. They’re gathering here today because I’m dying and it’s time to divide the money.
Then Ryken comments, “Whether rich or poor, this is how life always ends: with the dead leaving it all behind, and the living dividing whatever is left. Yet the living are not always satisfied with the way things get divided.” That was true of the man who approached Jesus to adjudicate an inheritance dispute in Luke 12:13-21. Jesus used this opportunity to address the sin of covetousness.
The analysis of the sin of covetousness as set forth in Luke 12:13-21 warns us of the danger of greed.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Request to Jesus (12:13)
2. The Answer of Jesus (12:14)
3. The Warning of Jesus (12:15)
4. The Parable of Jesus (12:16-21)
I. The Request to Jesus (12:13)
First, let’s look at the request to Jesus.
Luke wrote that someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me” (12:13).
Jesus has been teaching on various topics regarding Christian discipleship. He had been encouraging his disciples to fear God and not to fear any person, especially for being a follower of Jesus. He urged his disciples to acknowledge him before all other people, and said that he will reward them by acknowledging them before God and the angels in heaven.
Then, suddenly, as if the man had not been listening to a word that Jesus said, he told Jesus – he didn’t ask, but told Jesus – to tell his brother to divide the inheritance with him. What astonishing impertinence: To tell the Son of God and Lord of glory what he must do!
Do you ever tell God what he must do? Do you go to God and tell him that he should do something for you, as if he is there to facilitate your agenda, your priorities, or your desires?
II. The Answer of Jesus (12:14)
Second, notice the answer of Jesus.
Jesus did not like the impertinence of the man at all because he addressed him as “Man,” something like our English “Mister.” Jesus said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (12:14).