(a meditation on Luke 12:13-15)
After Jesus warned His disciples about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (verses 1b-3), He started to teach them many things that pertain to Christian discipleship in the face of hard realities in life. Jesus’ ‘teaching session’ with the disciples was shortly interrupted by someone in the crowd.
The man asked Jesus to act as a judge or an arbiter in an inheritance dispute between him and his brother. The man calls Jesus a “Teacher.” This is significant because the title reflects the people’s common view of Jesus, that is, a respected rabbi.
The man’s request was not totally illegitimate because as a recognized rabbi, Jesus may do such task, as expected from any teacher of the Law. But Jesus declined this man’s request. His response to this man carries the idea of rebuke. The word He used to address the man (“Man”) is harsh in their context. Jesus also recognized that the man’s request is not in line with His mission.
We can also glean from Christ’s next statement the motive behind the request. At the heart of man’s request to divide the property between him and his brother lies greed. Jesus warns those who follow Him to be on guard of this. Excessive focus on possessions or the desire to have more is destructive. It can destroy relationships. It can cause disagreement among brothers.
This is the man’s situation with his brother. Many people do not mind bringing their relatives to court in order to get what they want from them. They usually become insensitive toward others. They do not mind destroying the good relationship with their friends, neighbors or relatives, as long as they can get what they want from them. This insensitivity is usually motivated by greed.
So Jesus warned the people of this danger. Life is more than accumulating wealth. It is far more than having a dream car, brand new house in a lush village, hi tech gadgets, branded clothes, jewelries, and other material things. In Jesus’ words, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possession.”
Our life is not measured by the number of things we own. If you think that life is better if you own everything you want, you are deceived. This is plain covetousness and this is not compatible with Christian discipleship.
So after Jesus refused the man’s request, He immediately turned to the people around Him and sternly warned them against ‘all kinds of greed.’ Obviously, Jesus reinforced this warning when he told the people the parable of the rich fool.