In Luke 12:13-31 Jesus is teaching on greed and worry. Last week in part 1 of this study we saw that an occasion arose for Jesus to teach on this subject because he was asked to intervene in a family dispute (12:13-14). Jesus went straight to the heart of the matter and said this:
Then He said to them, “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.” (Luke 12:15)
By saying this Jesus pointed out that greed is an ever present danger that we must watch out for in our own hearts. A reason for watching out for this deceptive sin of greed that Jesus points out is that life is not about possessions in the first place. The rest of Scripture is clear, life is about God the Creator, not things in His creation.
In order for the point to get across in verses 16-21 Jesus tells a parable:
And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. 17 “And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”‘ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ 21 “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)
The first thing that we see in this parable is that a rich man’s land is very productive (16)
In this parable the rich man is cast in a bad light, but that does not mean that God is against the rich. Just consider Abraham, Job, Joseph of Arimathea (the rich man that buried Jesus in his tomb) for starers to show that such a conclusion is unwarranted. In fact, this text assumes that God is the one who actually blessed this man. His abundance was not the problem that Jesus will address. The problem that Jesus will address is his spirit toward that abundance. And that is our problem as well. Whether we have the abundance or someone else does, greed has to do with our spirit toward that abundance.
Next, there is a problem: His lands are so productive that he didn’t have enough room for all the crops (17)
Notice it says, “he began reasoning with himself.” Greed has much to do with how we reason. We are in desperate need daily to be filled with God’s Word so that our reasoning is informed by God’s mind not our mind. In fact, greed blinds godly reasoning. Based on this man’s reasoning he comes up with a solution.
Solution: Build more barns (18)
This was a solution that made more room for his greed. His self focus in all of this is evident: “My barns,” “my grain,” and “my goods.” Greed is focused on what is mine or rightfully mine, but a heart fighting against greed is armed with this fact, everything is actually God’s:
“Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine. (Job 41:11)
God had blessed this man with an abundance. He had a problem though, there was not room for all his abundance. And right then he had a choice, would he heap more to himself or would he wield what he had for the good of others who are in need or focus it on the advancement of God’s purposes? No, instead he used the abundance God gave him to feed his own greed. In fact, on the basis of all this he had come to a firmly held conclusion.
His conclusion: He was secure because of his abundance (19)
Jesus warned that life is not about things, but this man thought his life consisted of his possessions. He lived the present as if it was eternity, rather than living the present in light of eternity. There was however a significant miscalculation.
His miscalculation: He thought he was in control of his future, but that night he died (20)
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ (Luke 12:20).
Who requires someone soul? Well, Ezekiel 18:4 is clear that “all souls are Mine” referring to the LORD. Therefore, if the LORD requires someone’s soul they will no longer be on this earth. Living a life for possessions is folly no matter how much the world would try to convince us it is wisdom. Here is the crux of his miscalculation: He miscalculated who was in control of his life and death.
There is a reason throughout Scripture we are constantly reminded of these things:
As he had come naked from his mother’s womb, so will he return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand. (Ecclesiastes 5:15)
“Surely every man walks about as a phantom; Surely they make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them. (Psalm 39:6)
In fact, an awareness of our transience is a very effective way to battle against greed in the heart. A greedy person does well to pray this prayer:
“LORD, make me to know my end And what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am. (Psalm 39:4)
What is Christ’s point in giving this parable?
Christ’s point: Greed is always at the root of our stinginess toward God (21)
“So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21)
J. C. Ryle helpfully puts it this way:
This is the character of him who gives nothing to God’s glory,–neither money, affection, thought, time, nor interest. There are thousands of this character. They are rich toward everything but God. They have plenty to give to the world, but nothing to give to God. Ask them to help a worldly scheme, and they can find money, time, and attention. Ask them to do something for God, and they have no money, or no time! Those are the truly rich who have property which will be recognized at the day of judgment. Many owners of millions of pounds are paupers before god. They are not rich either in grace, or faith, or good works.
So how do we fight against greed? We must remind ourselves that greed is a work of the flesh which we are now dead to in Christ if in fact we are a true follower of Him. We must remind ourselves that all we have is from God. In addition, we must remind ourselves that all we have is given from God to do good with in this world for His glory.
Are you aware of the danger of greed? Are you aware that life is not about things? When you have abundance, do you ever remind yourself who gave you that abundance? If you will remind yourself of that you will use your abundance for others around you and for the advancement of God’s purposes in this earth through Christ.
Beware of greed, life does not consist of things. We can either store up for ourselves or we can be rich toward God. We can either add to our abundance or we can show that God is truly God and not money or things. When you consider that “though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9) it makes all the sense in the world to be rich toward Him in our service to others and for the gospel.