|Greed (Credit: Muffet)|
A man’s boat capsized at sea, and he floated aimlessly in a life raft. His terrible thirst urges him to wet his tongue with the salt water. Then he drinks it, but it only makes him thirstier. So he drinks more, and more, which makes him thirstier still. He consumes more and more of the water until he becomes dehydrated and dies.
In today’s message, Jesus points us to something that appears to fill a need, but like salt water to a thirsty man, it is destructive. That something is greed. The wrong kind of focus is on accumulating more and more possessions.
We hear a lot of false teaching these days on Christian television called the prosperity gospel. Well, Jesus does have a prosperity gospel, but not what those guys and gals on television preach. This passage teaches us about Jesus’ way to build wealth and prosperity. It is a way that abhors greed and worry.
Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 12:13-21 to teach believers that one’s focus should be not greed but God.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about genuine wealth.
Key Verse: Luke 12:15
Pray and Read: Luke 12:13-21
1. Not greed, but God: Focus on genuine wealth (Luke 12:13-21)
Since the beginning of his Gospel, Luke has focused on the importance of walking in faith and not in unbelief. Luke’s Gospel makes a major shift at Luke 9:51 where Jesus leaves his Galilean ministry and turns resolutely toward Jerusalem and His coming Suffering, Death, and Resurrection. Luke’s message of trusting Christ sharpens, and his warning against unbelief hones in on the very religious yet unbelieving Jewish leadership.
Luke shows us that new resolute focus in chapters 10 and 11, calling us to realign our own priorities to those of our resolute Lord: First, the priority of His Gospel to the nations (Luke 10:1-24); second the priority of our love for our neighbors (Luke 10:25-37); third, the priority of His Presence (Luke 10:38-42) walked out a higher priority of prayer in our lives (Luke 11:1-13); fifth, the priority of Jesus’ authority in our lives (Luke 11:14-28) which calls us to a high priority on repentance (Luke 11:29-36).
First, Jesus condemns the wrong kind of religion – dead religion that is devoid of relationship with Him (Luke 11:37-54). Then he warns his disciples of hypocrisy and points away from the fear of man to the right kind of fear, the fear of God (Luke 12:1-12). Jesus next warns against materialism but instead to focus on being rich toward God (Luke 12:13-21), then warns against worry and encourages his disciples to trust the Lord for provision (Luke 12:22-34). The right kind of focus follows (Luke 12:35-59), then Luke’s outline calls us to the right kind of religion, one of repentance and grace (Luke 13:1-19).
Luke 10:1-24 The Priority of His Gospel (for the nations)
Luke 10:25-37 The Priority of Your Love (for your neighbor)
Luke 10:38-42 The Priority of His Presence
Luke 11:1-13 The Priority of Your Prayer
Luke 11:14-28 The Priority of His Authority
Luke 11:29-36 The Priority of Your Repentance
Luke 11:37-54 The Wrong Kind of Religion (without relationship)
Luke 12:1-12 The Right Kind of Fear (not of men, but of God)
Luke 12:13-21 The Wrong Kind of Focus (not greed, but God)
Luke 12:22-34 The Wrong Kind of Fear (not worry, but trust)
Luke 12:35-59 The Right Kind of Focus
Luke 13:1-9 The Right Kind of Religion
Exposition: Note well,
1. NOT GREED BUT GOD: FOCUS ON GENUINE WEALTH (Luke 12:13-21)
a. Luke 12:13-14 – Rabbi, tell my brother: Jesus is sort of brusquely (or rudely) interrupted by someone in the crowd asking for Him to intervene in a family dispute over an estate. This One Greater than Solomon is asked to render judgment on the division, not of a baby but of an inheritance. Teachers were expected to render judgments based on rabinnical law in disputes. The inheritance law was so clear that there was no way around it (Num 27:1-11; Deut 21:15-17). The eldest son received a double portion of the estate (Deut 21:17) because he was responsible for taking care of their aging parents. This man, probably a younger son, assumes he is in the right and wants a special favor from Jesus to overrule what is clear. Notice that he does not ask Jesus to mediate, but rather tells him what to do!).
b. Luke 12:15 – Be on guard against greed: Jesus refuses to become involved in an estate judgment but instead this One who is wiser and greater than Solomon passes judgment on something higher than an estate. Jesus presents principles that point to what is underlying the man’s request. A legal judgment will not resolve the greed and anger in the brothers’ relationship. In a culture where land rights and inheritance are of such great importance, Jesus’ response of the insignificance of possessions is a shocking statement. The word here for greed (pleonaxia), is a desire to have more, an insatiable craving for more and more that drives to self-destruction.
c. Luke 12:16-20 – Parable of the Rich Fool. Jesus brings the point to them by telling a story about a rich fool. His harvest was so great that he had no place to store his crops. He did not need the crop, for his barns were already full. Therefore, he decided to solve his problem by building new and bigger barns. Now let’s make sure we see where the greed lurks. The greed is not found when his fields produce a bumper crop. Success does not indicate greed. Jesus is not a socialist. There is no greed in building bigger barns. He is simply planning ahead and taking care of the blessing. Jesus is not accusing wise stewardship as greed.
d. The greed is found in the reason why he wanted to build the barns. He intends to hoard all his wealth for himself. He is banking his whole future on his possessions. The problem is his delusion. The Pharisees taught a prosperity teaching, that material prosperity is a sign of divine blessing. The rich fool followed that false philosophy that God had enriched him because of his pleasure in him. The man thinks that a full barn guarantees a full and satisfying life – or so he thinks. Thus the man had no need to trust in God because he had an abundant supply for all that he would ever need. He assumes he has many years to live and that material goods can satisfy the soul (Luke 12:19). So instead of investing his goods wisely, he decided to retire, to take life easy, eat, drink and be merry (Luke 12:19; Isaiah 22:13-14; Eccles 2:24; 3:12; 5:18-19). His false philosophy led him to the conclusion that one of the highest goals in life is to satisfy himself, and he thought he could do it with all he had accumulated. When the divine reaper puts His sickle to his life, he dies that very night (Luke 12:20). And what is left to his family? A legacy of greed.
e. Luke 12:20 – The rich fool: Like Luke 11:40, again the word for fool is aphron, indicating willful ignorance and spiritual and moral deficiency (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). The wealthy man willfully ignores God’s principles for living life. God requires life (psyche – life, soul, self) of him (Luke 12:19). The man ironically speaks to his self, and it is his self that he loses (Luke 9:24 uses psyche, too). The brother without and the wealthy man ‘with’ are both motivated by greed. The prophet Jeremiah said of the rich that “when his life is half gone, they will desert him, and in the end he will prove to be a fool” (Jer. 17:11). The moral of the story is Luke 16:21 (cf. Job 27:8; Psalm 39:6).
f. APPLICATION: Jesus’ point? Don’t put all your focus on greedily storing up earthly wealth and ignore a relationship with God. Abundance of material possessions will never contribute anything toward life’s real meaning. William Hendriksen points out the rich fool’s two mistakes. He didn’t understand himself. He was an expert in tending the soil, but an imbecile at tending his soul. Second, he didn’t care about others. Have you noticed that the passage is saturated with the first person. “I” and “my” are found a dozen times. Not once was he thankful for what the Lord did for him. It was all about him. All he could see was himself. Let me ask you a question. Are you greedy?
g. APPLICATION: How do you battle the temptation to clutch and hoard and guard your earthly possessions? Chuck Swindoll has a couple of good ideas. First, when you are blessed with much, give generously. Even Ebenezer Scrooge learned that generosity produces a joy that riches can’t buy. Paul tells us to set aside money regularly to give away as the Lord prospers us (1 Cor 16:1-2). Understand that only a few things are eternal and invest in them. They include the Lord, His Word, and people. That means investing in your loved ones, your neighbor, and the nations. Second, when you plan for the future, think terminally. Ask yourself, “What do I want to take with me when I die?” Things we can take to heaven are testimonies of the people whose lives we touched with the gospel. A Godly legacy. If we plan our lives around eternal things, then we know we are making a sound investment for the future. Third, whether you have much or little, hold it loosely. Don’t put your hope in barns filled with grain. It can blow out of your of your hands. Hold o to the Lord. He never lets go of you.
F.F. Bruce, gen. ed. The International Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 1208-1209.
Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1993), 223-4.
Dwight J. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 313-315.
Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Reader’s Companion (Wheaton: Victor, 1991), 663.
David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996), 125.
Strauss, Mark. “Luke.” Vol. 1. Clinton E. Arnold, gen. ed. Zondervan Illustratied Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 1:427-430.
Swindoll, Charles R. and Bryce Klabunde, The Declaration of Something Mysterious: A Study of Luke 10:38-16:18 (Anaheim, CA: Insight for Living, 1995), 59-63.
Wilmington, Harold L. The Outline Bible (Nashville: Tyndale House, 199), 539.
 Luke 11:14-17:11 are called the Perean Discourses, during a time of ministry in Perea just east of the Jordan from about Sept A.D. 28 to April A.D. 29 when he returned to Jerusalem for his final week of ministry. Perhaps because it was winter, Luke records more teaching than activities of Jesus. Luke is the only record of these days and teachings with the exception of Matt 12:22-45 and John 10:22-42; 11:1-54. Like the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (Luke 6:20-49), this period of ministry nearer Jerusalem was marked with much teaching and many parables. In the Perean Discourses, Jesus resumes, repeats, and reinforces with more fullness some of his Galilean teaching.
 This is the birthright that Jacob purchased from Esau for a bowl of porridge in Genesis 25:29-34.