#6 – The Rich Man’s Meditation – Luke 12:16

Luke 12:13-15
13  Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14  But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” 15  And He said to them, Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

Luke 12:16-21
16  Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17  And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18  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. 19  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.” 20  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?’ 21  So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

A question from one man in the crowd prompted this parable of Jesus. At first Jesus says that he doesn’t want to arbitrate over physical matters. That is not what he was sent to do. Turning back to the crowd he warns them of covetousness. The Greek word used for covetousness is this word:

Greek Word: G4124  πλεονεξία  pleonexia Pronunciation: pleh-on-ex-ee’-ah from G4123 Usage in KJV – covetousness 8, greediness 1, covetous practice 1  from <G4123> (pleonektes); avarice, i.e. (by implication) fraudulency, extortion :- covetous (-ness) practices, greediness.

It is the desire to have more and more of anything physical or of this world. When one has a mind like this he is never satisfied, but is always searching for something new and better than a previous interest or conquest.

Verse 13 – “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”  In Jewish inheritance the oldest brother received a double portion of the inheritance while all the rest had equal parts. This could have been a case of an older brother trying to keep an entire inheritance which would have not been uncommon. Or it could have been a case of a younger brother attempting to get a larger part of the older brother’s portion. In either case, it disrespects the wishes of the father and the set Jewish manner of handling inheritance.

Verse 14 – “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?”  Jesus here is showing that decisions in such matters are not the true purpose of his mission on earth. However, as Christians, we must make decisions concerning benevolence involving money. Also, there are occasions when Christians should act as a judge in earthly legal matters. Consider Paul’s advice found in this reference:

1 Cor 6:1-8  Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? … 5  I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?

In the first parable lesson, I also gave this link, JUDGE in the New Testament that covers the various Greek words that are translated to our one English word; judge. The Greek word used in this verse is G1348 (from Strong’s Dictionary).

Verse 15“Take heed and beware of covetousness…” Covetousness can apply to any inordinate desire coming from the three sources as described in this verse:

1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–is not of the Father but is of the world.

If the thing coveted is not spiritual, then it comes from one of the three sources in the verse above. It can also involve wanting something that is not yours to have.  An excellent example of this is found in 1Kings 21:1-16 where Jezebel had Naboth killed so that King Ahab, her husband, might steal his vineyard! Another would be the story of David and Bathsheba in 2Sam 11:2-27. Another example could even be found in Acts 17:21 “… For all the Athenians… spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.”   

Verse 16 – “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.” He had a very large crop for that year.

Verse 17 – “What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?” While his riches were rightly obtained, he worried about what to do with them.

Verse 18 – “… I will pull down my barns and build greater,…”  His solution was not based in the proper realization of this short life, but in glorying in great gain.

Verse 19 – “… take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”  His good fortune made him even more focused on the here and now, pride and luxuryThis would be the likely attitude of any who did not believe in the afterlife, the ancient Atheists, Epicureans and possibly even the Jewish Sadducees. Sometime later Jesus said this:   

Matthew 19:23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Verse 20 – But God said to him, ‘Fool!…” If a man can have immortality which he can obtain, with a life lived for Christ, how could he be so focused on material things? Large numbers of physical things can’t give eternal satisfaction. His idea of being rich for a long period of time was very foolhardy. Mankind is only a manager of earthly things for a short period of time. So God had him immediately leave all of his earthly treasures and be taken where he had no heavenly treasure. 

Matthew 6:21 Luke 12:34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Verse 21 – So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”  This is the defining characteristic of a covetous man, one who is more concerned with himself and not considerate of his position in the eyes of God or the welfare of others around him. 

 Ecclesiastes 11:8-9
8  But if a man lives many years And rejoices in them all,
Yet let him remember the days of darkness, For they will be many. All that is coming is vanity. 9  Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; Walk in the ways of your heart, And in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment. 

The remainder of the chapter has great teaching on what the Christian’s life should be like.

Luke 12:22-31 Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. 23  Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. 24  Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? 25  And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 26  If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? 27  Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28  If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? 29  And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30  For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31  But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.

Brent E. Hughes