Jesus is talking to the crowd and someone yells out, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me!” What appears to be a cry for justice is turned into a teaching on greed. Let’s learn from the Master.
The man appears to be crying out for fairness and justice. It could be that he has been cheated by his brother and he is appealing to Jesus to make the situation right. After all, it wouldn’t be fair for his brother to take all the inheritance for himself, would it? But Jesus sees straight into the person’s heart and knows that greed is the deeper motive behind this voice in the crowd. It is his greed that is causing him to call out to Jesus. In this encounter Jesus is going to expose this man’s greed and then use that to address the ubiquitous problem of the greed of all men and women.
Now we cannot know the exact situation that is taking place here with this man and his brother and the inheritance, because the Bible gives us only scant details, but we can make some safe speculations. What has probably happened is that the inheritance has rightly gone to this man’s brother per the father’s will or per Jewish custom, and this man is resentful of that. He wanted or had counted on some of the inheritance coming to him and getting denied any of it has made him angry. He thus pretends to be the one who was wronged and in righteous indignation he calls on Jesus to be his advocate and to step in on his behalf to get justice for him. He tries to use Jesus to get him an inheritance that is not rightfully his, and the motivation for all this is evil greed, the love of money. (Luke 12:13)
Jesus sees through his ploy (12:14) and will have none of it. “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbiter over you?” Jesus stops the man in his tracks, letting the man know in no uncertain terms that He sees through the man’s plan and knows that it is greed that is causing the man to try to use Him and to deceive Him in order to get the money. Thus He exposes the man’s greedy heart, but He does much more than that. Knowing that all people are naturally greedy and that most people are unaware of how greedy they are or when they are acting out of greed, Jesus tells a parable about a man whose greed cost him his eternal soul.
“And He said the THEM . . .” 12:15a
Notice that Jesus addresses the stern words that follow about the danger of greed to the whole crowd, not just to the man who had called out to Him. Why? He speaks to the whole crowd because every person in the crowd is naturally greedy and needs to be warned about the dangers of the love of money. While the man who called out was caught in a greedy act, he is representative of the whole crowd, because anyone in the crowd could have made the same comments. The sin of greed is common to all mankind and so Jesus is going to speak to all of us. Also, the sin of greed is insidious and subtle, wrapping its tentacles around us unawares. Our heart is full of greed and we do not even know it.
“Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”
This is the heart of the passage and the disciple must pay careful attention to what Jesus is saying here.
“Beware” This is a word that implies that danger is near. Pay attention, disciple of Jesus, because we are talking about something that represents a spiritual danger. We are approaching something that can threaten your spiritual health. Be alert! Get you radar on!
“and be on your guard against . . .” Get your shield up and put your helmet on and take a defensive stance now, because you are in enemy territory and the attack can come at any time. There is an enemy nearby and the enemy is poised for attack.
“(against) all kinds of greed/every form of greed.” Greed lurks in your heart wearing many disguises and hiding in the shadows of respectability. Our conscience tells us that greed is wrong, but our flesh drives us to coveting nevertheless.
How is greed manifested by this man? The man is greedy for the inheritance. His brother has gotten something that he wants for himself. I want, I want, I want. This is the chant of the greedy. For the greedy person, whatever he wants he views as his own, and he is not happy until he gets it.
Jesus warns His disciples to beware and to be on their guard against every form of greed. This means the disciple must examine his heart and find out how greed and covetousness are manifested in his own heart. The disciple must become a greed detective, seeking and finding clues about his own greed and then cutting it out of his life. A clue to greed is finding those areas where you have discontent. Are you discontented with your job? Why? Is it greed that is causing your discontent? Do you feel that you are not earning enough money? Are you greedy? Our Lord says, “Beware!”
Greed is a danger for the disciple of Jesus. Why?
First, our enemy the devil will detect your areas of greed and discontent and use that as a foothold to create spiritual unrest in your life. He will use your area of covetousness as an entry point into your life, fanning your greed into a flame so that you can be unsettled and even miserable in your walk, believing God has cheated you out of what you deserve. Beware and be on your guard against greed!
Second, greed will damage and even destroy your testimony for the Lord Jesus. The world knows that the disciple of Jesus should not be greedy and when they see greed in the one who claims to follow Jesus, it gives them an opportunity to blaspheme (Romans 2:24; 2 Samuel 12:14). Beware and be on your guard against greed.
Third, greed will corrupt and undermine the other graces of the life of faith. Any sin that is not aggressively rooted out becomes a stumbling block and feeds the flesh and leads to other sins. No sin can be tolerated, and greed is a sin that is like idolatry. As such, it will pollute and corrupt. The flesh is strengthened and the walk with Christ is weakened by the sin of coveting and greed. Seek out greed and when you find it, then confess it to the Lord and repent of it. Beware!
The deception that the world and the devil want the disciple to believe is the lie that says, “Your life’s significance is directly related to your possessions and your net worth. The most important thing you need to think about is money and possessions. These will give you happiness and significance and security in this life. If you don’t have money and showy, expensive things, then you are a nothing.” The flesh delights in this lie and uses these falsehoods to create discontent, which leads to greed. But Jesus said for us to beware and be on our guard against greed.
Jesus had almost nothing and yet He was the most significant person who ever lived on earth. Jesus had virtually no possessions and yet He was the most content man of all time. Jesus was often in situations and circumstances that threatened Him, yet He never panicked or was overly concerned. Instead He trusted His Father to ordain all things for His good.
So beware of coveting and greed. Detect your own forms of greed and your tendencies for greed and build your defenses against those threats. Find clues of coveting and root out the places where you may be vulnerable. Remember that our significance is in the Lord, our trust is in the Lord, our hope is in the Lord, and He will supply all our needs according to His riches and glory. The disciple accepts what His Lord supplies and the disciple accepts what the Lord allows.
SDG rmb 9/24/2015