Jesus Meets a Greedy Brother
*This post is an excerpt from my new book A Journey to the Cross.
Read Luke 12:13-34
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed;
life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (v15)
Most days as Becky and I work through our morning routine of emptying the dishwasher, making coffee, fixing breakfast, and making lunches for the day, our girls often gather around the dining room table and play with some of their toys as they wait for breakfast to be served. Lately, a new part of the morning routine has been refereeing disputes about which toys belong to which kid. It’s not uncommon to hear the phrase, “It’s mine!” reverberating off the walls in our dining room.
The irony of their arguments is that none of the toys really belong to them. They didn’t buy the toys, Becky and I did. We are allowing them to have them and we have the authority to take them away if we think that’s needed. Yet, greed works its way into their little hearts as they try to assume ownership.
In Luke 12, Jesus is approached to settle a sibling dispute about inheritance and possessions. Essentially the man is saying, “It’s mine,” and his brother is refusing to share. On one level, it might seem strange for this man to bring this dispute to Jesus since He's a traveling rabbi, not a judge. However, in first century Judaism, there was no separate judicial system to settle matters like this. Rabbis were often asked to help work through these issues. But, interestingly enough, Jesus never addresses the issue at hand. Instead, He tells a story about a farmer who has an abundant harvest.
Jesus discerns that there is something else at work in this guy’s life that’s motivating his request for help. And instead of just giving this guy what he wants, Jesus tells a story to expose the man’s greed. Jesus tells the story in such a way to accentuate the entitlement attitude of the farmer. Three times in the story the farmer uses the word “my” in reference to the crops. He says,
I have no place to store my crops. (v17, emphasis added)
I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus of grain. (v18, emphasis added)
The farmer has the perspective that everything he owns belongs to him. However, the irony is that even though he’s worked hard to grow his grain, a farmer is at the mercy of God for the conditions to be just right for the crop to grow.
The point Jesus is making in the parable is that no matter if we’re kids playing with toys given by our parents, a man looking for his rightful share of his father’s inheritance, or a farmer figuring out what to do with his grain, greed can easily infiltrate our hearts. When we operate with the mindset of, “This is mine!” we lose sight of the fact that all of life is a gift from God.
In the rest of Luke 12, Jesus reminds us that God will provide everything we need. He promises to care for us. We don’t need to worry or grow anxious about our money or possessions. We don’t need to stockpile and hoard. We can live generously, trusting that all we have is from God and He will never leave us without.
So how do we combat greed? The best way is through generosity. When giving away some or all of what we have, the powerful grip our money and possessions have on us is loosened. Generosity positions us to be used by God in ways He can’t if we hoard our stuff. The story Jesus tells in this passage reminds us that we aren’t the real owners, we are stewards looking to use what God has given us to minister to others.
So, look for opportunities to be generous today, whether it’s your time, money, or your other resources. Seek first the Kingdom and the rest will be given to you.
1. In what areas of your life do you find the impulse to hoard (time, money, possessions, etc.)?
2. What’s the reason behind that impulse?
3. Choose one thing you cling to in your life (a certain possession, money in your bank account, etc.). How might you use that thing differently if you believed that it really belonged to God?