Greed: The Affliction of the Affluent (Luke 12:13-21)
When I read the parable of the rich fool, I cannot help but think of Howard Hughes. I do not know that he was a fool, but I do know that he was rich. I also know, from some of the reports that went out at the time of his death that while he had accumulated a great deal of wealth, he did not enjoy any of it in his last days, perhaps his last years. In this sense, Howard Hughes is a present day example of that against which Jesus was warning us in our text.
The danger of thinking of a man like Howard Hughes as I read this text is that this implies that the text applies primarily, perhaps exclusively to the rich. To put the matter more pointedly, thinking of the rich fool in this text as Howard Hughes enables me not to think of myself as a “rich fool.”
We may come to the parable of the rich fool with a sense of smug security. Perhaps Jesus will be speaking to us when he gets to the next section, verses 22-34. There, Jesus is addressing His disciples. But here, Jesus is telling a parable. There was not such person. And besides this, this man was very wealthy. Jesus can hardly be addressing us.
I’m not so sure about that. In the first place, I think that most of us would be hard pressed not to admit that we are, as individuals, affluent—rich, if you would. Furthermore, our nation is, in comparison with others, exceedingly blessed.
Furthermore, verses 13-21 are a part of a larger piece, and thus we cannot separate the warnings and instructions from the words of Jesus to the disciples which follow them. Note that in verse 22 Jesus’ words to His disciples begins with a “therefore,” indicating that what He is saying is based upon what has already been said. Note, too, that in our text Jesus warned against “all kinds of greed” (v. 15), which suggests that greed has a variety of forms, some of which may tempt the rich, and others of which may tempt the less affluent.
The Context of the Text
It is very important for us to approach our lesson and our text with a clear grasp of the fact that we are looking at but a piece of a much larger whole. In verse 1 of chapter 12 we were told that Jesus was surrounded by a very large, and somewhat unruly crowd:
Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples (Luke 12:1).
As we continue to read through chapter 12, it can be seen that Jesus was still conducting His teaching in the midst of a large crowd. Thus, in verse 41, Peter asked the Lord whether He was speaking to the disciples or to the crowd as a whole.
This large and unruly crowd seems to have set the scene, not only for the first section (vv. 1-12), where Jesus warned His disciples about the danger of hypocrisy, the hypocrisy for them of behaving differently than that which was required of disciples. Boldness in living out one’s discipleship is also related to the next segment (vv. 13-34), which deals with material possessions, for we know that boldness as disciples in a hostile environment may cost one his property (cf. Hebrews 10:32-34). In the final section (vv. 35-59), Jesus deals with the matter of readiness for His return, which, as we will see, has much to do with our boldness and our willingness to be unfettered by material possessions in the present age. My great fear is that we will not view this chapter as a whole, since our study will, of necessity, be only of a segment at a time. I urge the reader, therefore, to make every effort to read and to study this chapter as a whole, indeed to study the entire book of Luke as a whole.
The Structure of the Text
I understand verses 13-34 to be dealing with the matter of material possessions. Although our study will be only of verses 13-21,205 I outline the structure of the entire section, in this way:
(1) The Setting (the request: “Tell my brother… ”)—v. 13
(2) Jesus’ Response: a message to the affluent (vv. 14-21)
- The Problem and a Principle—vv. 14-15
- A Parable and the Punch Line—vv. 16-21
(3) Jesus’ Response to the disciples and the poor they represent—vv. 22-34
As I understand the setting, the great crowd which presses about the Lord Jesus and His disciples is still an unruly mass. I suspect that this one request which Luke records for us is but one of many. I think of the occasion as something like a presidential press conference. If you have seen one, you know that the members of the press, while not that numerous, all clamor for the President’s attention, seeking to get themselves recognized and their question answered. From what we see elsewhere, cries from those in the crowd were not unusual (cf. Luke 11:27). The man somehow got our Lord’s attention, and his question was recognized:
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me” (Luke 12:13).
The man seems to have recognized Jesus only as a teacher, not as the Teacher, not as the Messiah. He requests Him to respond, not so much as a teacher, but apparently as the other teachers of His day might have done. What the man wants is a judge, not a teacher. It would seem that the man’s brother was present, so that all Jesus would have had to do was to pronounce in this man’s favor. The request is not only for Jesus to do that which was outside of His calling, but also that which was selfish, in that it would not in any way contribute to the teaching needs of those in the crowd. A question asked of a teacher in that setting should have been one for which the answer would have a broad interest or application. I believe the man asserted himself, for his own interest, and with disregard both for Jesus and for the crowd.
Jesus’ Response to the Man and His Request
Jesus responded as a teacher, teaching, from the man’s own words, the error of his actions, and drawing from this “interruption” lessons of broad and general applicability. But first Jesus had a very few words to say to this man in direct response to his petition:
Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” (Luke 12:14).
Jesus’ words indicate that the man’s request was in error. Jesus was a teacher, though infinitely more a Teacher than this man recognized. Other teachers might be tempted to pronounce on such cases, but Jesus knew that this was not within the realm of His calling or task, and thus He abruptly refused the request. I understand that when Jesus said, “Man,206 who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?,” He gives us an indication that the brother was also present. Jesus would come, the second time, to act as Judge (cf. James 5:9), but this was later. The man was not looking at Jesus as Messiah, but only as a teacher, and Jesus would not grant his brazen request. He may have gotten the floor, but he did not get his request. What he got was far more than he asked for, but certainly what he deserved.
The Problem and its Remedy
Our Lord was not looking for an opportunity to publicly humiliate this man. Had He wished to do so, I believe that He would not have used a parable, but the circumstances of this man’s life, the ugly reality behind his petition. But neither was Jesus, as a teacher, willing to let this teaching opportunity pass without using it as a “teachable moment.” Thus, His response exposes the sinful motive behind the man’s request:
Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed” (Luke 12:15a).
The question must be asked, “Who is Jesus speaking to, who are referred to by “them” in this verse?” I do not think it is the disciples, to whom Jesus clearly spoke in verse 22. It could be the crowd, but I am not inclined to think so. I believe that Jesus was speaking to the man, and his brother, who seems to have been with him. The words of our Lord were, of course heard by the disciples and likely by some in the crowd. I think, however, that Jesus’ eyes were riveted on this man and his brother. I think, also, that both men were probably guilty of greed—the one for not giving his brother what was his due (the older brother, who would be the executor of the will, as it were?), and the other for demanding that he get what was his.
Jesus’ words spell out the evil motive behind the man’s request: greed. They also suggest that greed, like so many other sins, has a variety of forms, each appealing to a certain segment of men. In order to avoid these various forms of greed, men must both “watch out” for them and “be on their guard” against them. It would seem that the first command (“watch out,” NIV; “beware,”207 NASB) indicates the need to believe the danger exists, while the second (“Be on your guard against,” NIV) underscores the vigilance needed to resist the evil for what it is.208
The Principle Underlying the Problem
If the sin underlying the man’s request was greed, Jesus, the Teacher, goes on to spell out the principle which shows the man’s values not only to be wrong, but foolish. This principle is this:
“A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke12:15b).
I must say that I prefer the wording of the NASB, which reads,
“For Not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”
Jesus not just teaching that life does not consist in possessions. He is saying that even if one could amass a large accumulation of possessions, it would not produce life. Stated in this way, we can see that our Lord is addressing these words to those who are affluent, to those who are rich, but who think that “life” will be attained in accumulating even more. Life does not consist in things. It does not even consist in many things. And so it is that His parable, which is given to spell out the principle just stated, will tell of a rich man, who is not rich enough.
The Parable of the Rich Fool
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16-21).
Jesus refused to serve as a judge, but He did a masterful job as a teacher. Graciously, I believe, Jesus did not seek to spell out the principle He had just taught, based upon the sin of the man whose request had provided the occasion for this warning against covetousness or greed. Instead, Jesus told a parable of a fictitious man. This man was very wealthy, and he owned land that was very fertile and productive. His barns were already full with the produce and goods he had previously attained. Now, once again, the land had produced bountifully. His bumper crop posed him with a problem, however. His barns were already full.
Jesus now takes us into the mind of the man. We can overhear his conversation with himself. “I have no more storage space,” he said. “What am I to do?” Then, the inspiration came. “I will tear down my barns and build even bigger ones.” Of course. He could increase His storage space. He could enlarge his capacity to hoard his possessions.
This solution now having been conceived, the rich fool now chats with himself in such a way as to reveal his intent, his goal. If his previous words have revealed his problem and the plan which will solve them, the next inner conversation reveals the man’s motives and goals. He talks to himself. Literally, he talks to his soul. Once he has built his bigger barns and put all of his crops and goods into them, he will be able to say to his soul, “Soul, you’ve got it made. You have many good things, enough to last for many years. It’s time to retire, to take life easy, to enjoy the good things for years to come. Its time to eat, to drink, and to be merry.”
God’s words pierce through the shallow thinking of the man, exposing his sin and his destiny, which is vastly different than he supposed. God called the man a fool, a man whose solution and whose wealth seemed to suggest that he was wise. If the man looked forward to a long life, a life of ease, God said that his life would end, this very night, before any of the good things of his prosperity would be enjoyed. What he saved for himself, another would possess.
And then, the words of God seem to end, and the final verse is the application of this parable to all men who would store up things for himself, rather than to be rich toward God: “The one who would do so, who would do as the rich fool, will share his fate.”
Where Had the Rich Fool Gone Wrong?
God’s words, along with those of our Lord, were probably shocking to those who heard them, and so they should be for us as well. The rich fool is a man who would likely be praised by our culture, and perhaps in some of our churches. He was a wealthy man. That seems to speak well of him, especially in a time (then and now) when men equate spirituality and success. Today, we call it the “prosperity gospel.” Here was a man who had been able to curb his appetite, or so it seemed. Here was a man who is not described as spending his money on himself, but who had the discipline to save it, “for a rainy day,” we might say. Here was a man who thought of the future and who prepared himself for it.
How could such a man be called a fool? How could this man receive God’s rebuke, and that of our Lord? How could he serve as a pattern for those who are condemned, and who are judged? What is there about this man’s thinking and motivation and actions which is foolish? What was the man who had made the request of Jesus (and those who were listening, as well) to learn from this story?
I believe that the story itself reveal several “foolish” elements in this man’s thinking and actions. Consider them with me for a moment:
(1) The rich fool was foolish in failing to recognize where his wealth had come from. There is no evidence in the story that this man was particularly smart, especially good at his work, or that he was a hard worker. The man apparently should not have taken the credit for his wealth. Jesus was careful to tell us that the man’s ground produced a great harvest. Let’s face it. Good ground produces good crops. Bad ground produces bad crops. And beyond this, God gives the bountiful crops. This is precisely what God promised in the Mosaic Covenant (cf. Deuteronomy 28:1-14). The rich fool did not seem to recognize the source of his prosperity. Indeed, from what we are told, the rich fool had no regard for God at all.
(2) The rich fool erred in his understanding of the purpose of wealth. If the rich fool failed to grasp where his wealth came from, he also failed to understand what he was to do with it. He thought that wealth was to store up and to save, rather than to use. He further believed that wealth, when it was to be used, was to be used for his own comfort and ease. He did not, as the Old Testament Law had taught, see his wealth as the occasion for praising God, and as the means by which he could offer sacrifices and offerings, both compulsory and voluntary. Neither did he see his wealth as a God-given provision for him to minister to others, both by giving and by loaning to those in need. It never occurred to the rich fool that when his barns could not hold any more, he could have given some of his wealth away.
(3) The rich fool was foolish in that he saw his possessions as his security, and as the basis for his ceasing to be productive. It would seem from this man’s words that he not only planned to retire, but that he planned an early retirement. His wealth, we might say, was his “social security.” I understand him to be saying that he would be at ease once his bigger barns were built and his crops were safely stored inside, along with his goods. He is planning to “hang up his work jeans” and to retire to the rocking chair. He is looking forward to eating and drinking the finest and in enjoying all the fine things for the rest of his life.
(4) The rich fool was foolish in his presumption. The rich man presumed two things about the future, both of with were false. First, he presumed that he would possess his wealth in the future. Second, he presumed that he would be alive in the future, to enjoy his possessions. Both of these presumptions were shown to be false when his life was demanded of him that very night. Someone else got his possessions, and he did not live to enjoy what he had stored up.
(5) The rich fool was foolish in holding a view of the future which was short-sighted and which excluded the kingdom of God. The rich fool lived his life in the light of the future, but that future did not include the kingdom of God, death, or the judgment to come. The rich man’s future was only as long as his earthly life, and only as broad as his own interests.
(6) The rich man was a fool both in the way he defined life and in the way he thought life was to be obtained. The word “life” is frequently used in chapter 12. To the rich fool “living” or “life” was defined in terms of ease and pleasure, in terms not just of eating and drinking, but of doing so in a way that was enjoyable. And life was obtained by putting oneself and one’s wealth first. One found life by seeking life for oneself and by ignoring others, including God. Jesus told His disciples that the way for a person to obtain “life,” to save his life was to give it up. The rich man lived his life exactly the opposite to the way Jesus taught His disciples to live. Those who die in the pursuit of “life,” “living,” or “living it up” are aided by Satan, the murderer, who leads men to death by promises them and causing them to pursue “life” wrongly defined.
The Methods of the Master
Before we concentrate on the message of our Lord in this text, let us spend a moment considering His methods. Jesus was the Messiah, something which the man in our text seems to have failed to recognize, but He was also a teacher, indeed we can say that He was the Teacher. While I do not think that we should imitate every practice of our Lord, I do think that teachers can and should learn from the Teacher.209
Jesus, as a teacher, would not be turned from His calling and function to that which was not His task. Jesus refused to act as a judge or an arbiter between these two brothers, not because He was incapable of doing so, but because it was not His calling. Many of us who teach are asked to make pronouncements (that is, to make judgments) which are beyond both our ability and our calling. While Jesus refused to do what this man asked, He did use this man’s interruption as a “teachable moment,” and thus He taught a lesson for all to learn, a lesson with very broad applications, to those gathered that day. Jesus, the teacher, did not judge, but He did teach.
When Jesus taught, He, unlike the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, avoided the “gnats” and exposed the “camels.” Biblical teaching today often includes a truck load of trivia, of detailed analyses and of word studies and the like. Good teaching is based upon careful study, but it does not, in my opinion, make this the substance of the lesson. Instead, the lesson focuses on the major points, it exposes the essence of the issue, leaving the details largely unsaid. Good teaching does not tell others all that we know, but it conveys to them a few things they desperately need to know.
Jesus’ teaching—and I am convinced all good teaching—focuses on principles, rather than on particulars. The man had one goal in mind, having Jesus side with him so that he got his inheritance. Jesus focused on the underlying problem, the “heart” of the matter, which was greed, and He taught a principle, which covered greed in a general way: A MAN’S LIFE DOES NOT CONSIST IN THE ABUNDANCE OF HIS POSSESSIONS
One clearly stated principle not only crystallizes the truth, but it also expresses it in such a way as to be generally understood and applied. It also, in my opinion, does not make the Christian life easy for others, giving them a quick and ready solution for all of life’s problems (the legalism of the scribes and Pharisees did this), but it gives them the basis for understanding their problems and for determining what they should do about them. Teaching by principles places responsibility on the hearer to understand and to apply the truth.
Note, too, that when Jesus taught, He avoided the particulars and the specific problems of the man whose question prompted His lesson. Jesus could have provided some very intimate and spicy particulars about this man who wanted his brother publicly reprimanded. Jesus could have rightly called this man a fool, but instead He told a parable, and in this parable he exposed the rich fool’s greed, and in it also exposed the man as a fool. Jesus taught the truth in a way that would most encourage and enhance a godly response to the truth.
The Message of the Master
Jesus was not primarily teaching teachers how to teach, but rather teaching us all how to live. Let us therefore focus on those principles which underlie our text and which should govern the way we live.
PRINCIPLE ONE: ONE’S VIEW OF THE FUTURE DETERMINES ONES PRESENT CONDUCT
The rich fool was correct to live his life in the light of the future. He was foolish in his concept of what the future held. He assumed that he would be alive in the future, to enjoy the things he had stored up. His grasp of the future did not include God nor the kingdom of God. His future was entirely “this life” oriented, earthly, sensual.
One’s view of the future is not a trivial matter. Theologians call the doctrine of the future eschatology. Eschatology is vital to godly living. The prophets of old told the people of God about what the future held because they knew that people govern their lives in the present by what they know will happen in the future. Faith focuses on the future. It focuses on the promises of God for the future, even enduring present pain, persecution, and death in order to experience God’s promised blessings.
The expression “eat, drink, and be merry,” which we find in our text, is one that is based upon the rich fool’s perception of what the future held. In effect, the rich fool planned to “eat, drink, and be merry” because he believed that he would live. Ironically, others will “eat, drink, and be merry” because they believe that there is no future (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:32). For the Christian, their view of the future is what enables them to die now, knowing that they will eat and drink in the kingdom of God. I believe this is why the last and largest section of Luke chapter 12 (verses 35-59) deals with one’s preparation for the future. We will therefore deal with this matter in much greater detail.
PRINCIPLE TWO: ONE’S DEFINITION OF WHAT CONSTITUTES LIFE IS CENTRAL AND CRUCIAL TO THE WAY WE LIVE OUR LIVES
The term “life” is used a number of times in our text, and in the verses that follow. Almost always, the term from our word “soul” is derived is used (vv. 19 [2x], 20, 22, 23). Life, as God views it in these verses, seems to be one’s physical life—living. Life, to the rich fool, seems to be more a qualitative matter—living life in luxury, high on the hog, in tall cotton. The rich fool presumed that he would have life, and thus he prepared to live “the good life.” He died, a fool, leaving his treasure and pleasures behind.
Our definition of “life” theoretically and practically determines how we will live our life. For some, life consists in the abundance of things. This text is designed to blast this view as a myth. Some view life as being successful, or as being esteemed or treated as we think we should be, or as having power or position. Whatever it is that constitutes “life” for us becomes our god. That is why covetousness (or greed), seeking things as our ultimate good and goal, is called idolatry (cf. Colossians 3:5). And whatever is or becomes our god becomes that for which we will sacrifice all else. Thus, it is vitally important for us to have the right definition for life.
Satan shine here, his diabolical hand can be seen throughout history, but and at its very beginning. He is, we are told, both a murderer and a liar (cf. John 8:44). He seeks to turn men from life to death, and this he accomplishes by lying, by enticing men to see the way of life as death and the way of death as life. Thus he turned Adam and Eve from obedience to God, resulting in death, all along assuring them by lying to them that they would not die. Satan continues throughout history to seek to turn men from life to death. Thus we must be very careful to determine what life is and how it is attained.
The Bible is crystal clear on this point, not leaving it to chance. Jesus came to bring life. Indeed, Jesus came, teaching men that He is “the way, the truth, and the life,” (John 14:6; cf. John 10:10). Paul therefore said that for him to live was Christ. Christ is life, and if we have received Him by faith, He is our life. Thus, Jesus can command His disciples to give up their possessions, their self-interest, and even their lives, to follow Him, for the things they give up are not life, but He is.
PRINCIPLE THREE: LIFE DOES NOT CONSIST IN THE ABUNDANCE OF THINGS, EVEN FOR THOSE WHO CAN ACCUMULATE MUCH
How easy it would be here to think that this principle, the principle which Jesus taught to the two brothers (first) and to the rest, applies only to those who are rich by our definition. The rich man here is the one who is greatly blessed, so much so that he does not have enough room to store it all. The rest of the world certainly views us as filthy rich, and are we not just this? A visible witness to this is the advent of mini-warehouses. My brother-in-law just went into this business, and it is a very profitable one. Why? Because we have so many possessions we have no place to keep them. The rich fool in our text tore down his barns and built bigger ones. We simply rent a mini-warehouse.
I am not condemning storage, but simply attempting to show that our need for storage testifies to our surplus, and thus shows many, perhaps most of us to fall into the category of those who are rich, and thus we must seek to learn how the principle laid down by our Lord here applies to us.
One very discomforting question came to my mind as I began to think of the application of the principle our Lord taught to my life. Doesn’t the goal and the means of the rich fool sound a lot like our concept of retirement. Don’t we hope to be able to store up enough goods as we go through life to be able cease our labor, and to enjoy the rest of our life as a kind of extended vacation? I don’t think that I will seek to answer this problem here, for one simple reason: our Lord has not yet given us the answer. It is vital to recognize the problem, before we seek to learn the solution. The solution is stated only in very general terms: we are to be rich toward God. But what does it mean to be “rich toward God”?
I believe that the following verses will give us much insight. I further believe that the reason why our Lord (as recorded by Luke) has so much to say about money and its use is because this is such a serious problem. In addition to the teaching of our Lord in Luke, we find the book of Acts providing us with a great deal of data as to how the early church understood this teaching and sought to apply it.210
1 Timothy 6-10; 17-19 But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
James 4:11-17 Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? 13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
James 5:1-11 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you. 7 Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! 10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
205 “Luke 12:13-21, which addresses the problem of covetousness, is peculiar to this gospel. This subsection consists of a pronouncement story climaxed with a rebuke of covetousness (vss. 13-15), followed by a parable about the rich fool (vss. 16-21) which expounds the folly of such a covetous attitude. Covetousness was prohibited in the Decalogue (Exod 20:17; Deut 6:21) and was spoken against by the prophets (e.g., Mic 2;2). It was a problem in the church before Luke (e.g. Rom 1:29; Mark 7:22) and at the time of Luke-Acts (e.g., Col 3:5; Eph 5:5; 1 tim 6:10). In vs. 15a Jesus warns, ‘Beware of all covetousness.’ The reason why is set forth in the form of a principle in vs. 15b: ‘for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ Jesus says that what a person is cannot be confused with what a person has.” Charles H. Talbert, Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1984), p. 141.
206 “Man, is far from cordial (cf. Bengel, ‘He addresses him as a stranger’).” Leon Morris, The Gospel According To St. Luke, The Tyndale Bible Commentary Series, R. V. G. Tasker, General Editor (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), p. 212.
208 I do not like the rendering of the NIV nearly as well as that of the NASB: “Beware, and be on your guard … ” The latter rendering seems to better convey the literal sense of our Lord’s words, and to emphasize the two elements involved in Jesus’ warning.
209 For example, Jesus was God, and thus His every word was inspired. He could therefore teach a great truth by telling a story, a parable. Too many preachers are “story tellers,” perhaps thinking that they are imitating Christ, but their stories are not inerrant; often they take up time or, at best, entertain, rather than to convey truth.
My point here is that while Jesus did come, in many things (such as His humility and obedience (cf. Philippians 2:5ff.), but not in all things. Jesus had disciples, but He was God. Men should not make disciples of and for themselves. They should make disciples for Christ. Jesus accepted worship as God, but we must and cannot do so. Thus, in the matter of Jesus as our Example, we must distinguish those things about Him which we should imitate from those which we should not.
210 A number of commentators suggest that the practice of the church in Acts was really foolish. They tell us that when the early Christians sold their property they only created needs which others then had to meet. I would suggest that the early church did exactly what our Lord taught, and that which we would like to avoid. Their needs in later times provided an opportunity for other Christians to practice the gospel and to demonstrate their unity in Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 8-9).
Furthermore, as I understand it, the action of these zealous saints was very beneficial to them. In the first place, selling their homes and possessions freed these saints to leave Jerusalem, and to go abroad, preaching the gospel as they went (Acts 8:1ff.). It also was to their benefit in that their poverty protected them from great persecution when Jerusalem was sacked by the Romans. The Romans could easily identify the rich (by what they had, wore, how plump they were, etc.), and would then torment them until they told where their possessions were stored or hidden. The people who had made themselves poor by their generosity were not treated thus, for they had nothing to lose, or to take away.
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