Luke 12:13-34 Give Away Your Greed To Relocate Your Heart


This entry is part 2 of 10 in the series The Gospel of Luke
Also Read: Exodus 16:1-26 2 Cor 8; 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19.

Fill in this blank: If I only had <blank /> I would be happy.

Most people, when they hear that prompt are inclined to think of something financial. The extravagant may want millions, while the more practical may desire only enough to get by. Whatever financial condition we may find ourselves in, the Lord has something to say about it. The key to all of it is the question of “where does God fit into the mix?”

What we do with money is ultimately not about money, it’s about God.

Both lack of money and fullness of wealth form the backbone of Jesus’ instructions on money in the twelfth chapter of Luke.  Please stand with me as you are able and turn to the Gospel of Luke 12:13-35.

Misusing Money

We tend to think that money and worldly goods are for our benefit. But money is actually a tool which can either be used for our own glory or for God’s glory. What we do with money is ultimately not about money, it’s about God.

The story begins with someone in the crowd asking Jesus to become an arbiter between he and his brother regarding inheritance. Now, there were clearly spelled out rules in Deuteronomy and Numbers regarding inheritance. And for our purposes, it doesn’t really matter whether they were being followed or not. What Jesus does is point out that he is not a recognized source of arbitration. But then he turns to his disciples and he pinpoints the real issue: greed.  Again it doesn’t matter from our point in the story whether this man or his brother (or both) was the greedy one. What Jesus does is take the trigger and use it to teach his disciples to beware and be on your guard against EVERY FORM of greed.

Just as we are told to guard against Hypocrisy (12:1) we must also be on our guard against every form of greed. For greed, like Hypocrisy can be both painfully clear or perniciously subtle.

The poor and the wealthy alike can be greedy for more.

The poor and the wealthy alike can be discontent with their current holdings.

The poor and the wealthy alike can be ungrateful for what they do have

The poor and the wealthy alike can be consumed in their quest for more

The poor and the wealthy alike can go straight to hell in their current condition no matter what they own. And this is the heart of Jesus’ response. What we do with money is ultimately not about money, it’s about God.

Jesus’ response to the man, and his follow up parable teach us this: this man did not need a legal ruling by a rabbi, he needed “a basic understanding of how possessions relate to the purpose of life.”[1] Jesus isn’t anti-possession, he is anti-greed.

Greed is an expression of either an utter lack of faith in God’s capacity to provide what is needed or it is an expression of idolatry in which the desire for [more] possessions outweigh God.

Look what our Lord says, “Not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”

Then Jesus turns to the parable of the farmer with a bumper crop.  (Read v16-21). Lest you get lost in the weeds and start thinking, along with certain folks these days that the problem in the passage is that the man made money, then you’re missing something. God isn’t complaining that he has money. God isn’t complaining because he built bigger barns, or bought a bigger car, or moved to a nicer neighborhood. God says one thing about him: Time’s up.

“You Fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?” The emphasis is not on the question of inheritance. Jesus hones the message by GIVING us the moral of the story: “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and IS NOT RICH TOWARD GOD.” The problem isn’t his bumper crop and bigger barns. His problem is his poverty towards God. That’s why God calls him a fool.

In scripture, a fool is not merely a person who does stupid things. A fool is more precise than that. The fool in scripture denies God even exists and has no fear of him. “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good.” (Psalm 14:1 & 53:1, NASB95)  And again: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7, NASB95)

In brief a fool is someone who leaves God out of his calculations. This is why God’s declaration to this man of sudden wealth is that he is first and foremost a fool. It is not the man’s wealth which forms the core of his problem. It is his poverty towards God. He is a fool because he never once considered the purpose of wealth, nor how he might honor God with his wealth.

Indeed, Proverbs gives the general principle that when God is put first, he may in fact respond with wealth. “Honor the Lord from your wealth And from the first of all your produce; So your barns will be filled with plenty And your vats will overflow with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9–10, NASB95)

But dishonoring God by ignoring him comes at a cost as well. As Jeremiah the Prophet writes: “As a partridge that hatches eggs which it has not laid, So is he who makes a fortune, but unjustly; In the midst of his days it will forsake him, And in the end he will be a fool.” (Jeremiah 17:11, NASB95)

The misuse of money in the passage isn’t having it, it’s hoarding it. The problem isn’t wealth, it’s a lack of generosity. The issue isn’t being rich it is not being rich toward God. The problem is a lack of using money to love God and love people.

Well what does that mean? It means that what God gives, he gives us for His glory. What we do with money is ultimately not about money, it’s about God. Our use of wealth is a barometer of our faith and of our heart. Well that’s all well and good, but what if what I have isn’t a large bank account? What if my problem isn’t that I am a glutton of money, but that I haven’t any? What then? The same lack of faith that causes the rich landowner to be a fool causes the poor man to suffer as well.

Mis-Wanting Money (Trust God to take care of you)

Luke 12:22-32 brings a series of familiar sayings: “Don’t worry about your life.” Jesus says, but isn’t that precisely what we are prone to do? I mean, we’ve got to eat right? We need clothing right? Don’t we need bigger barns sometimes? Need is a funny word isn’t it? But we do actually need food and clothing right? But what if you don’t know where the next meal is coming from? Everyone here today is probably not facing that particular problem. But the essence of the problem still applies, for it speaks of a serious need and our own lack in fulfilling it. So what do we do when something is out of our control and we desperately need, or at least believe that we desperately need something? We worry.

Ravens (v24) are unclean birds (Lev 11:15) but God ensures that they eat. Scientists tell us now that worrying will actually shorten not lengthen your life. If we can’t even do that why do you worry so much? Worrying doesn’t do anything for us. In fact it reveals a serious lack of faith in God.

The opposite of worry is faith/trust. Worry puts myself upon the throne and finds that I am too small to assure the results that I require. So I calculate and consider variables ad-infinitum and knot my stomach up with concerns either real or irrational and I still cannot change the outcome.

But faith finds me no less capable, but merely recognizes it and gratefully trusts and acknowledges that God is not only capable but caring enough to intervene on my behalf with what he knows I need; even when I do not truly understand my own needs. God made the temporary lilies beautiful; won’t he care for you?

Who is upon the throne? Stop. Consider. Does he not know and see your desperation?

Do you not realize that your desperate situation and your current fears are engraved invitations to trust in God?  Does he not know?

Is he powerless to assist you? But then the secret fear rises. It whispers in our hearts, “yes I know that he is able. But will he?” To this Jesus responds as if to say, “you better think about the promises you’ve been given.”

Do not be afraid.”  He calls you, his saints, his little flock.  As the shepherds task was and is to do all things for his sheep, so the Father’s task indeed is to tend to his flock.  The Father knows what you need. And the father has majestically already chosen in the past tense to give you the kingdom. Will he literally give you the kingdom and yet not care for you?

Therefore we must face the question: Is God able? Yes. Is God willing? It seems so. What will God do? He will give you the kingdom. The full and total rule of God will be yours and has already been given though it remains expected.

But what does this mean? Does it mean no happiness on this earth? Do not some of our brothers and sisters around the globe suffer while we enjoy great wealth in this nation? What it does mean is that God intends to give us the full presence of his rule in our lives and that is not merely in some future eternity for eternity is taking place now. This is not merely a rule of domination, but a rule of care and tenderness in which your king knows your physical needs.

Invest in Eternity

So how do these two come together, the rich and the poor? Look last of all at Luke 12:33-34 where Jesus brings home the solution to both abject poverty and which realizes the purpose of wealth. If all of the commandments are summed up in the dual command to love God and love people () than Jesus’ comments here reveal what it means to be rich towards God lest we be like the greedy brother, the wealthy landowner, or the poor man worrying about clothing and dinner.

Note here, how God balances the unbalanced globe, not with a mandated tax or even a summary percentage that we ought to give as if somehow 10% were a magical number by which all the world’s woes could be set right. When Paul writes the Corinthians about their planned offering to assist the brethren he says of the offering, “For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality— at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; as it is written, “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack.”” (2 Corinthians 8:13–15, NASB95)

On the one hand we have plenty, and in the other we have want. What is God’s desire?

God desires that a righteous greed for the good things of heaven should motivate our giving upon this earth.

Take of the temporary and purchase the eternal. That which God entrusted me with, is not for my gain. That which he has entrusted you with is not for your pleasure. It is all for God’s glory; it is for the easing of suffering and the redirection of our hearts.

This world so easily holds our attention; and it frequently threatens to steal our hearts. God has given you, at the bulge in your wallet a tool for his glory.

Many Christians concerned about giving ask the question: How much does God demand? And many wonder if tithing, or giving 10% is too much, others ponder if it’s too little. Both are the wrong conclusion. It is not a question of how much should I give anywhere; but rather a question of Where is my heart?

Whatever it takes to redirect your heart from this earth to heaven’s glory is the measure of our giving.

Do not misuse money by squandering it upon your own temporary comfort without concern for God. Neither cling to it, or covet it for the meeting only of the temporal. Trust rather that God is able, as I have seen, to provide your needs. Invest for His glory, Invest for your future, invest in eternity. Invest in eternity until your heart is fully there.

What we do with money is ultimately not about money, it’s about God.

 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34, NASB95)

 

 


[1] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 350.

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