Luke XLV: Lk. 12:13-34
Sin is not merely immoral. Sin is always a choice to embrace futility. But Jesus has come to interrupt this futility, and restore true, full, beautiful life in His Kingdom.
Beware of Covetousness
A man asks Jesus to decide a dispute over an inheritance, but He asks, “who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” In other words, what does Jesus have to do with us? What does Jesus have to do with history or politics or economics or art? What does Jesus have to do with my life? Which is why Jesus immediately warns the man against covetousness. “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness” (Lk. 12:15). What is covetousness? Covetousness is fundamentally a fear of not succeeding in life, not living life to the fullest. Covetousness is the belief that if we just have X, then our life will be full, complete, safe, happy. Maybe it’s the respect or the acceptance or friendship of other people. Maybe it’s money, cars, houses, possessions, a particular job, a particular salary, a spouse, sexual fulfillment, children. Covetousness says, If I could just have ____ , then I would be safe, complete, happy, fulfilled. But what Jesus says here parallels what he just finished saying about the leaven of the Pharisees: Beware (Lk. 12:15). The reason Jesus gives is that life doesn’t consist in the abundance of things (Lk. 12:15). Covetousness says that life would be complete with some thing, person, status, etc. but Jesus: you don’t understand what life is. You don’t have a correct understanding of what life consists of. And Jesus tells a story to illustrate His point: A rich man finds himself embracing a very successful year (Lk. 12:16). The problem is: where will he store all the harvest? He says to himself: I will build bigger barns (Lk. 12:17-18). And the key moment in the story is the next line: The man imagines speaking to himself at that point with the newly rebuilt barns full: “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Lk. 12:19). That is covetousness in action. It is imagining that your life will be safe and full and complete with the arrival of some thing.
Rich Toward God
God calls the man a “fool” – the same as Jesus called the Pharisees (Lk. 11:40, cf. 11:49). Jesus has just warned His disciples not to fear those who can only kill the body (people); fear rather the One who can also cast into Hell (Lk. 12:5). In this story, the man’s ultimate fate is left open ended, but the point is that fearing only material or physical dangers is foolish. All that stuff in the barn can’t prevent the guy from dying, and then whose will those things be (Lk. 12:20)? The antidote to this kind of folly is not asceticism, it’s not the renunciation of everything, but rather the answer is to be rich toward God instead of storing up treasure for yourself (Lk. 12:21). How do you do that? How can you be rich toward God?
The Fullness of Life
Jesus says in order to live well there are certain things in life you shouldn’t give much thought to, like what you will eat, or what you will wear (Lk. 12:22). Why? Because life is more than food and clothing (Lk. 12:23). Notice, that He doesn’t say it is less than food and clothing. He says it’s more. Think back to the way Jesus denounced the Pharisees for their “bad eyes” – remember, they can’t see clearly so they make bad judgments (Lk. 11:34-36). In the Bible, bad eyes are frequently connected to greed and covetousness (e.g. Mt. 6:22-24). Bad eyes make you think that food and clothing are the most important elements of your life. But Jesus says that food and clothing actually come rather naturally. Take the ravens for example: they don’t have fancy farming methods; they don’t build big barns; and God provides for them (Lk. 12:24). Notice that ravens do go out looking for food. God’s provision doesn’t come magically, but God’s provision does come through fairly simple, natural means. The same thing goes for growing taller (Lk. 12:25). You can’t force it, but it happens as you eat healthy and sleep at night. Jesus reasons that if you can’t make yourself grow taller, why would you think that food and clothing is all up to you (Lk. 12:26)? Jesus gives another analogy: consider the lilies (Lk. 12:27). They’re a lot more glorious than Solomon ever was, not because they take extra care for themselves but because God clothes them. God loves beauty, and Jesus says that He loves to beautify His people, even those of very little faith (Lk. 12:28).
Conclusions & Applications
The whole point of this passage is that human beings have a tendency to aim terribly low. To think that if we just had that one other thing then our life would be complete is a ridiculous folly because it sells life so short. Compared to the glory of God, the Kingdom of God coming in this world in history, everything else is pocket change. Covetousness is lowballing God, the universe, the gospel, and yourself. Covetousness is obsessing over pennies and nickels and maybe some really shiny quarters, when your Father in Heaven is the author and possessor of all the wealth in the universe.
This is why Jesus says not to worry about what you will eat or drink (Lk. 12:29). The nations of the world have to stress about those things because they don’t know your Father. But your Father knows that you need all these things, and He’s already made arrangements for all of them (Lk. 12:30). Rather than bothering with those little, petty details, He wants you to be concerned with the Kingdom of God (Lk. 12:31). Are you focused on the mission of God, the Kingdom of God? Are you seeking His Kingdom first? Or are you preoccupied with these other things?
What does that mean? It means that your goal is to see every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Your goal is to see every human being, every man, woman, and child made in the image of God living up to their full potential in Christ. Covetousness always collapses into a materialistic worldview because it says that life consists of things. But Jesus says this is foolish. And He says that this folly is rooted in fear. Jesus says, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Lk. 12:32). That’s good news. And the good news of that Kingdom is found in Jesus. It’s the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom because Jesus is His Son in whom He is well pleased. Jesus is the treasure of the Kingdom. And he who has the Son has the Life. This translates into radical generosity, “moneybags that do not grow old,” (Lk. 12:33) and the kind resources to build cultures of beauty.