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.
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 (quickview) )
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 (quickview) . Jesus used this opportunity to address the sin of covetousness.