13Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
A man came to Jesus for help. Apparently, he was having problems with his brother regarding some inheritance issues.
Sadly, even during biblical times, family squabbles over properties and inheritance were already very evident. As early as in the time of creation, jealousy and fighting among siblings were common causes of serious family tensions that often lead to major community and national conflicts.
Cain, Adam and Eve’s eldest child, murdered his younger brother Abel because of deep hatred and envy. Jacob, the younger son of Isaac and Rebecca, deceived his aged father to steal the inheritance of his elder twin brother, Esau with the help of their very own mother. The older brothers of Joseph sold him like an animal to merchants on their way to Egypt simply because their brother was their father’s favorite son.
And so here before Jesus was another man coming to him, hoping that the Lord would convince his brother to divide his inheritance with him. But instead of getting the sympathy of Jesus, the man hears a strong word of rebuke from the Lord, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
Jesus is always an excellent judge of character. It does not take a long time before our hearts are exposed before the blazing eyes of God. The Lord knew that this man before him had very serious issues on greed. The fact that this man wanted something that clearly did not belong to him exposed his self-indulgence.
Seizing the opportunity to impart a word of advice, Jesus narrated a parable about a young man who amassed wealth beyond what he truly needed. Not knowing when to stop his quest for wealth, the young man planned to build bigger storage barns to hoard his harvest, and take life easy for the rest of his life. God enters into a conversation with the rich young man giving him the most shocking reality check of all: “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”
You see, friends, every so often, we need to be stopped from our self-serving fantasies, and be jolted back to the reality of our nothingness before God, and the reality that life is not about ourselves.
The truth is that this is not the message that we hear from the world today. There is just so much self-worship, vanity, and greed in around us that many have lost sight of what is decent, true, just, and respectable.
In the year 1912, a few days after the sinking of the Titanic, theologian Karl Barth delivered a fiery sermon in a church in Switzerland citing that the Titanic did not sink because of technological deficiency. He said it sank because of human greed.
Barth argued that the captain of the ship, Edward Smith, was under an enormous pressure by the ship’s owners to break the speed record for the shortest time from England to the United States. He had the financial interests of the owners and stockholders of the company, rather than the safety of his passengers.
There were 2,200 people on board the Titanic, including passengers and crew. The ship had only enough life boats for 700 people, so about 1,500 people died that fateful night. And so in the end, the so called “unsinkable” Titanic did not even last to finish its first and only journey.
The recent events in our nation involving high profile cases of alleged graft and corruption in the government call for deep and reverent reflection among God’s people today as to our own journey as a nation.
If all these allegations are indeed true, we need to humbly come before the Lord and seek why a professing Christian nation would even find itself in this predicament.
Is this country that sick that people will sell their souls to the devil for wealth? Is there no longer any fear of God left in the hearts of people today? These questions may take a longer time to be answered, but certainly, we need to stop and begin to think of ways to shift the moral and spiritual gears of this country.
What could ordinary citizens like you and me possibly do to create some kind of positive and godly impact in our destiny as a nation? In as much as there are approaches that are communal and systemic, there are clearly some approaches that are personal and largely doable. These are endeavors that we can do right inside our very homes and immediate social circles.
Today, God is reminding us there is always more to life than worldly wealth. Jesus Christ is allowing his voice to be heard once again, giving us at least three important things to consider:
1) Warning: Greed corrupts absolutely. We need to take a firm hold of our hearts making sure that our devoted allegiance is in Christ. In the very words of Jesus, we need to guard ourselves from making setting up false gods in our hearts. God wants us to know that true satisfaction does not come from accumulating but in giving — not in hoarding but in laying down our lives — wholly to the Lord and to others.
2) Wisdom: Our earthly life is fleeting and temporary. Surely, we can make projections and plans for our future, but anytime, the Lord can demand from us our lives. We need to develop a perspective of what is eternally significant. We need to be mindful that when we are down to our very last breath, the only question is whether we already made peace with God by accepting His Son Jesus Christ into our lives.
3) Wonderful Assurance. Greed happens when we disengage our hearts from God’s purposes. Greed creeps in the very moment that our fear of God is taken over by our fear of not having enough for ourselves. This is the path that leads to anyone’s downfall. This is the spark that sets an unquenchable fire that can destroy all that we have ever labored for.
The Lord is calling us to listen closely to His voice one more time — to have the humility of heart to heed His warning; to have the tenderness of spirit to believe in the wisdom He offers; and to hold on to His wonderful assurance that our final and ultimate security is in Christ who assures us time and again that if we truly make Him Master and Lord of our lives, and serve Him with utmost integrity in the spirit of genuine truth, justice and righteousness, there is absolutely no reason to be greedy or to scheme cunningly for our survival and security.
The Lord will look after us. He will certainly satisfy us beyond our expectation!