Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me. (Luke 12:13)
He Wasn’t Even Listening
In the context, Jesus was warning about false teachers who would oppress the true followers of God. Preoccupied with temporal matters, the man sought help in settling a dispute over an inheritance.
Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you? Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses. (Luke 12:14-15)
A quick side note—if this man and his family were following Moses’ law, it was already laid out how they should distribute an inheritance. Either they did not follow Moses, or this man was not satisfied with what fell to him.
To demonstrate His statement in verse 15, Jesus gave a parable. It reads:
The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:16-21)
His Focus Was On “Me”
To say this man was focused on wealth is an understatement. But not only that, do you see that the Lord wants us to acknowledge that when riches become the primary focus in an individual’s life, the same individual becomes self-absorbed? Notice how many times the man speaks of himself—he is important to him! I, I, I, my, my, my. With his mind held captive by his goods and how important they made him feel, he had no thought for other people or the Lord.
Wealth Is Useless When We Die
No day is greater at showing the insignificance of wealth in one’s life than the day of one’s death. No matter how much we’ve amassed, it will cease to be our’s then. Paul very bluntly said,
…godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (1 Timothy 6:6-8)
To illustrate the futility of a life devoted to riches, Jesus tells us of the day of this rich man’s death. His many goods laid up for many years would be of no service to his soul in the presence of the Creator and Judge of the world. It is evident from the first word attributed to God that the end for this man would not be good. ‘Fool!’ Strong’s defines this word as
…mindless, i.e. stupid, (by implication) ignorant (specially) egotistic, (practically) rash, or (morally) unbelieving: – fool (-ish), unwise.
Riches Are Not The Purpose Of Life
Jesus isn’t saying that having wealth is wrong. Many of God’s servants throughout the Bible had wealth. It is when wealth becomes the focus, when it takes charge of one’s life, it becomes a hindrance and a snare. Hear the words of Solomon:
The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much; but the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep. There is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun: riches kept for their owner to his hurt. But those riches perish through misfortune, when he begets a son, there is nothing in his hand. As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return, to go as he came; and he shall take nothing from his labor which he may carry away in his hand. (Ecclesiastes 5:12-15)
Where Is Our Focus?
What are we focused on in life? Hopefully we are not like the man who interrupted Jesus’ teaching because he was focused on physical rather than spiritual things. Hopefully we are not like the rich man in Jesus’ parable, self-absorbed and clueless about what is important in life. Our concern should be serving the Lord, whom we will stand before in judgment. Jesus went on to teach that we should not be concerned about the things of the body, but place our trust in God. We’ll end with His words:
Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouses nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? …do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. (Luke 12:22-26, 29-31)