In Luke 12:13 someone in a large crowd yelled at Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me!” Clearly, the man yelling is the younger brother, not the older brother, because the law was clear that half of the inheritance would have automatically went to the older brother… apparently little bro wasn’t okay with how things were turning out.
There’s a lesson in this for us: There’s nothing new under the sun! Since the beginning of time money has been a fundamental issue for human interaction because it is the physical arrangement, or out working, of a mental or verbal agreement. In essence cash is the external evidence of internal convictions, making it a very serious matter. Even 2,000 years ago people were interrupting the sermon of Christ to ask about money. But what does Jesus say about money? Does He want all of His children wealthy as modern preachers tell us? Is health and wealth really foremost in His mind? How does He respond to this man?
In Luke 12:14 Jesus said to the fella, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” We immediately sense Christ’s frustration because he uses the common appellation “man” kind of like our terms mister or “bro.” Jesus goes on, “Beware and be on your guard against every form of greed!” The greedy interruption prompts Jesus to turn and address the entire crowd with a forceful statement using the imperative of the Greek horao, “Be watching for stuff like this!” And, “Be on guard (like a jail guard) keeping this kind of evil out of your life and out of your soul!” Can you imagine being called out by Jesus in front of thousands?
It’s interesting that Jesus says, “Every form of greed” meaning there are various ways greed assaults our soul. The Bible gives examples, linking greed with:
Romans 1:26-29 says, “God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, and greed…” Ezekiel 16:49 goes even further, linking greed with Sodom’s fall, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.” Isn’t that interesting? Sex sins weren’t the ultimate reason God destroyed Sodom, actually those sins were simply the out working of their prideful greed!
Another form of greed is idolatry. Colossians 3:5-6 says, “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience…” According to this text, greed not only drives sexual sin but also idolatry, causing people to put little Buddha’s on their mantel, make icons out of Hollywood celebs, covet luxury cars, buy dozens of expensive shoes, or amass vacation homes as a hobby. We see this truth rocket throughout the Bible; Achan’s greed destroyed his family (Joshua 7), Balaam’s greed prompted Him to curse God’s people (Num 22), Delilah’s greed caused her to sell out Samson (Judges 16), and greed caused Judas to betray the very King of glory (Matt 26). Greed kills!
2 Peter 2:1-3 says greed is what motivates false teachers, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in greed they will exploit you with false words…” Greed motivates false teachers to twist the Scriptures! One former Mormon told me that 45% of Mormons leave LDS after going through the temple endowments and seeing what their own church actually teaches. Like sheep to the slaughter, greed destroys. Greed is a damning religion all to itself that urges people to worship the created over the Creator!
So far Jesus doesn’t seem to be very big on getting rich! Jesus continues preaching to the crowd in verse 15, “for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” Why shouldn’t people worry about wealth? Because there are many things money just can’t buy: money can buy a bed not sleep, books not brains, food not an appetite, a house not a home, medicine not health, pleasures not peace, amusements not joy, a crucifix not a Savior, a church not heaven!
In verse 16 Jesus culminates this little diatribe with a parable about one very wealthy man who has four big issues he’s facing… Issue #1 is that he was very wealthy. There’s nothing wrong with having wealth, as long as you use it well. It’s a common misconception that poor people suffer from greed while wealthy people have enough to be content but the reality is the opposite: wealth is not water to quench greed but fuel that often makes it burn hotter! John D. Rockefeller was once asked about his wealth, “How much does it take to satisfy a man completely?” He joked back, “a little bit more than he has.” How many real-world examples can we name that showcase wealth doesn’t promise happiness? Heath Ledger learned this, Robin Williams learned it, Brangelina are in the process of learning, and losing their children in spite…
In verse 17-18 Jesus says the man began reasoning to himself “What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.” Issue #2 for the man is that he reasons only with himself. He speaks of himself 13x in three verses! “I will do, I will store, I will build…” This man hadn’t learned that perspective comes with wise counsel…
Proverbs 11:14 Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.
Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
Proverbs 15:22 Without consultation, plans are frustrated, But with many counselors they succeed.
Greedy people see life through their own eyes and miss the broader tapestry of what God is doing! It’s like an ants perspective or looking down a tiny straw… no joy!
The man continues in verse 18, “I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.” Issue #3 is that after reasoning with himself, about himself, he plans only for himself. In essence, he says, “I’ll put in an extra wing on the house, a safe, motion detectors, a pool, store my grain, and call it a day!” All humans are prone to planning only for themselves. In fact, we learn it from a young age. At eight we want to be ten, at ten we want to be a teen, as a teen we want to drive, driving we want college, college we want to marry, marry we want kids, kids we want a home, home we want to travel, travel we want to retire. Suddenly, we’re 70-something and never enjoyed a single day!
Verse 19 continues with issue #4, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ Issue #4 is most dire as the man only plans for earthly things! The culmination of his entire existence, the result of his intense plans, the outcome of his massive construction, was just more meat and Merlot! He could have built barns for orphans, ministries for his synagogue, sent missionaries to Samaria, but no…
In verse the sad picture culminates when God says, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?” Whenever God calls someone a “fool” it’s important to read closely to ensure we’re not in the same boat!
This man had what we can call the Star Trek dilemma: He assumed “Live long and prosper” but God said, “No, die today and stand for account.” This is how greed works. It strives overtime to keep people focused on this life instead of the next one. It’s like the crazy friend in a drunken stupor who urges you to cash the rent check and go all-in at the craps table, behind the bravado of “You only live once” all the while ignoring your family and our future!
Jesus concludes, “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” The two clauses here are parallel, two opposite ends of a spectrum (God on one side and Greed on the other). Your little soul stands in the middle balancing on a teeter totter, and must make a choice…
God and Greed Don’t Mix! Prosperity Preachers are dead wrong, God’s goal isn’t your wealth, it’s your heart, and your heart is proven by what you give not what you get. Promising wealth as the aspirtation of faith is promising clouds without rain, a field without crops, a house without a family… just worldly emptiness. Look at your bank statement… what do you love?