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God’s Word for You

Luke 12:13-15 Be on guard against greed

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, August 10, 2018

The Rich Fool

13 Someone from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But Jesus said to him, “Man, who appointed me to be a judge or an arbitrator over you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on guard against all kinds of greed, because a man’s life is not measured by the number of possessions he has.”

There isn’t any connection between this passage and the one that precedes it except that they happened at the same time. Although some commentators try to find a logical or natural progression, it has been my own experience that members will often come to me after church or after a class and ask a completely unrelated question simply because it is on their minds.

We need to be careful to apply this passage. Jesus refused to act because the request was outside the scope of his position, yes, even his position as the Messiah. He came “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10), not to act as a judge over purely temporal, physical matters. But we should point out some items that will help to clarify this passage.

1, The man did not ask Jesus a theological question, nor even for an opinion, such as, “Master, our father has died without dividing the inheritance between me and my brother. What should we do?” If he had asked Jesus a question like this, he would surely have gotten some kind of answer. As it was, he tried to force Jesus into his family problem with no regard for a spiritual answer at all (many pastors face the same thing even today).

2, The text does not tell us which brother was guilty of being greedy, but we shouldn’t automatically assign blame to the one who asked the question. The man was not greedy for simply wanting the inheritance to be divided. This was done according to the law of Moses in this fashion: When there were two brothers, the older would get two-thirds and the younger would get one-third (Deuteronomy 21:17). If there were more than two brothers, each would get an equal share with the oldest brother getting a double portion.

3, This man was not from among Jesus’ disciples, but was simply “someone from the crowd.” He was not from the Lord’s flock. The church or its representatives might become involved in a seemingly civil matter when it involves members of the church. This is better than hauling our dirty laundry before the godless. Paul says: “If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints?” (1 Corinthians 6:1). And if no one seems to have the right credentials, Paul also said, “If you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church” (1 Corinthians 6:4). An argument over a debt or a fence line or damage done by a dog can be decided by almost anyone with a little common sense and who doesn’t have an interest in the outcome, and the courts will thank us for not bringing every little dispute before the bar.

Jesus’ warning about greed requires a little more explanation, but happily we have that from the Lord himself next, in the Parable of the Rich Fool.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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