Grasping – Luke 12:13-21
Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”
We can only wonder what this offended, would-be heir thought when Jesus said,
Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?
What do you suppose he thought when Jesus then attempted to rescue his heart (and ours) by saying,
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.
He probably thought, “Greedy! I just want my fair share! If there is ONE thing that I AM NOT, it’s greedy! This guy is definitely a false prophet.”
Even those listening in probably thought, “What’s greedy about wanting a little justice?” When reading Jesus’ words we must keep in mind that his mission was to set men free. The deliverer-dimension of being Savior required that he expose in fallen man those things that their hearts needed deliverance from. Jesus knows the god of this world does a masterful job assisting men in rationalizing everything they think and do. Jesus came to demolish these rationalizations, to get us to acknowledge our rebellion. He is simply bringing us to that place where we understand that we are, in actuality, in desperate need of Him.
We like to think of greed as that I-want-it-all attitude and we would be right, partly. This man’s heart was not in bondage to that type of greed. The form of greed this man was enslaved to was a much-easier-to-justify form that applies to a farthing as well as a fortune. This was the entitlement-form of greed which comes from victimhood and from our self-defined notion of justice.
The offended heir is grasping because he, along with all those sympathetic to his cause, are using this world and its temporal value system as its point of reference. If we think Jesus is being harsh it is because we are off course. We have forgotten that this is the same Lord who said a man is guilty of adultery if he wants his neighbor’s wife and is guilty of murder if he is angry. We may think he has set the bar far too high for a mere man to clear. However, we have to remember that as new creations we are no longer mere men. We are God’s offspring in Christ.
There is still more about greed which we are blind to. It is this; Our grasping for a bit more is evidence in itself that we are not trusting God. We are not at rest with God as our ultimate provider. We are working instead with the stress-producing, material-and-time-bound notion that God is absent from the equation of our provision. We must also recall that without faith it is impossible to please him. To help us to better understand our bondage, Jesus offers a parable……
The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself (aka; rationalizing), saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ 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. 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.”‘ 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?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
The deluded soul in this parable was hoarding and hedging. He was making storage provisions for his anticipated windfalls which would insure his long-term comforts. For a man like myself (a boomer) who is nearing the age our culture deems retirement age, these are relevant words. It would seem with this parable Jesus has his guns trained on my demographic. But again, Truth does not discriminate. It’s universally true, that unless we relate to Jesus as Lord and his words as authoritative we will inevitably rationalize (reason falsely), requiring Jesus to expose us. Jesus does just this when he says;
Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.
This barn-builder might take pride among men for what appears to be good estate planning but not before God to whom wealth-preservation does not mean the same thing. The Lord said…..
You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?
Our unwillingness to see all forms of sin as deadly is why the perceived need for Jesus as Savior (and especially Lord) is modest to non-existent. Who needs rescued when, in our minds (steeped in rationalization), we are only moderately guilty or even innocent all together. Where this mentality is present, we may like to bring in Jesus on an as-needed basis. Where the Christian soul thinks good estate planning is its hedge against the unknown, it is enslaved along with everyone else in the world. I believe Jesus would implore his children…..
“Do not store up treasure for yourselves on earth. Instead focus on other’s needs. Be a wise and generous steward of all that has been entrusted to you. Do not be deceived, wealth can make itself wings. Trust in me as your true source. Guard your hearts against all the subtle forms of sin that your culture and its gods have sold you as harmless. Abide in me and let my words abide in you. My words are sharp for a reason. They are capable of demolishing the rationalizations. They are capable of exposing all forms of sin and enabling you to reformat your hearts accordingly. I will not deny that my knife hurts. While being stripped of lies is painful, please remember that it is my kindness (even in your discomfort) that will be leading you to repentance and the abundantly liberated life I have purchased and promised you. Think of your estate planning from this eternal perspective and you will have addressed your actual and truest long-term need. In this way you can be rich toward me.”
Father, teach us to watch over our hearts with all diligence. Holy Spirit help us to see every way in which we have rationalized our heart’s entanglements with this world. Deliver us from every lie that has us bound to the temporal. Teach us to number our days as those without number so that we may ultimately present to you wise hearts which have already been swept clean of hidden agendas and secret sins. And Father, please teach us that it is Jesus Himself who is our windfall. In Him our cups truly are running over. To you alone Lord be glory and honor and dominion in our hearts and all realms forevermore. Amen.