Luke 12:13-15

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

May 30, 2001


Greed – wanting more of something.  It’s a pretty dangerous thing.


A man is walking down the beach and comes across an old bottle. He picks it up, pulls out the cork and out pops a genie. The genie says, “Thank you for freeing me from the bottle. In return I will grant you three wishes.” The man says “Great! I always dreamed of this and I know exactly what I want. First, I want one billion dollars in a Swiss bank account.” Poof! There is a flash of light and a piece of paper with account numbers appears in his hand. He continues, “Next, I want a brand new red Ferrari right here.” Poof! There is a flash of light and a bright red brand-new Ferrari appears right next to him. He continues, “Finally, I want to be irresistible to women.” Poof! There is a flash of light and he turns into a box of chocolates.

Jesus has been confronting the Pharisees about their hypocrisy.  As He’s said some tough things, He begins to draw a crowd around Him.

:13 And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.

companyochlos – a crowd; a casual collection of people; a multitude of men who have flocked together in some place; a throng; a multitude

Masterdidaskalos – a teacher; in the NT one who teaches concerning the things of God, and the duties of man

speak – an imperative, this man is ordering Jesus to do this.

that he dividemerizo – to divide; to separate into parts, cut into pieces; to distribute

the inheritancekleronomia – an inheritance, property received (or to be received) by inheritance

Apparently this isn’t one of Jesus’ disciples. Luke says this man is “one of the crowd”, the crowd that has gathered to watch as Jesus has been confronting the Pharisees.

It seems the situation is that a father has passed away, and it one brother is not sharing the inheritance with the other brother. This man wants Jesus to step in and solve the problem.

:14 And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?

made mekathistemi (“down” + “to set”) – to set, place, put; to set one over a thing (in charge of it); to appoint one to administer an office

a judgedikastes – a judge, arbitrator, umpire

a dividermeristes – a divider; of an inheritance



At first, this seems to contradict Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians.  The Corinthians had a problem in the church in that they were taking each other to the secular courts to settle their differences.  They were “sue” happy.  Paul rebukes them:
(1 Cor 6:1-7 KJV)  Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? {2} Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? {3} Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? {4} If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. {5} I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? {6} But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.

Paul is saying that it is a shame that they are taking these disputes between Christians to be solved in front of a non-believing judge.  Instead, it would be great if they could find a wise brother in the church who could act as an arbitrator.

Does this mean that a Christian shouldn’t use the courts?  If you can’t agree on a suitable arbitrator, I think it’s okay.  But it’s a shame.

In case you think that Paul is in disagreement with Jesus, read on …

{7} Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?

Paul would rather that the Corinthians stop being “greedy” and learn to turn the other cheek.  This is the whole point of what Jesus is teaching.

Does this mean that a Christian shouldn’t ever participate in a lawsuit?  Not necessarily.  We have our laws and the ability to conduct lawsuits for a reason in our country, and sometimes it is necessary.  But I think that sometimes our real motive isn’t for doing what is right, our motive is for “greed”, the desire to have “more”.

:15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

Take heedhorao – to see with the eyes; to see with the mind, to perceive, know; to see, to look to; to take heed, beware; to care for, pay heed to

bewarephulasso – to guard; to watch, keep watch; to guard one’s self from a thing

covetousnesspleonexia – greedy desire to have more, covetousness, avarice.  The word comes from pleonektes, (“more” + “to have”) one eager to have more, esp. what belongs to others; greedy of gain, covetous

the abundanceperisseuo – to exceed a fixed number of measure, to be left over and above a certain number or measure; to exist or be at hand in abundance; to be great (abundant); a thing which comes in abundance, or overflows unto one, something falls to the lot of one in large measure

Covetousness comes when you want to have “more” than you have, when you want to “abound” in more than you have.

lifezoe – life; existence

possessethhuparchonta – possessions, goods, wealth, property

Wuest translates this verse:

Take heed and be guarding yourself from every kind of greedy desire for more, because not in the sphere of that which is in superabundance enjoyed by anyone is his life to be found, from the source of his possessions.

(Luke 12:15 NIV) Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

(Luke 12:15 NLT) Then he said, "Beware! Don't be greedy for what you don't have. Real life is not measured by how much we own."

(Luke 12:15 NASB) And He said to them, "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."


Be on the lookout

Jesus said, “Take heed, and beware
That means we’re supposed to be on the lookout for something.
Being on the “lookout” speaks of keeping an eye out for something dangerous, like tornadoes.  The scientists have developed a type of radar called the “Doppler Radar” where they are able to follow wind flow and have improved tornado warnings.  Now they can warn people of a twister fifteen minutes before they hit.  It hasn’t always been that way.
Taking A Bath
Out in Kansas, tornadoes often hit with sudden devastation, and without warning. In one case, a house was completely whisked away leaving only the foundation and first floor. A silver-haired farm lady was seen sitting dazed, in a bathtub, the only remaining part of the house left above the floor. The rescue squad rushed to her aid and found her unhurt. She was just sitting there in the tub, talking to herself. “It was the most amazing thing... it was the most amazing thing.” she kept repeating dazedly. “What was the most amazing thing, Ma’am?” asked one of the rescuers. “I was visiting my daughter here, taking a bath and all I did was pull the plug and dog-gone-it if the whole house didn’t suddenly drain away.”
Jesus is saying that we need to be on the lookout for “greed”.  We need to be on the lookout for that desire to have “more”.
I really don’t think that “greed” is something that is too dangerous.  If you watch TV or read the newspaper, your eyes are filled with lots of things that you really, really need.
I think we need to develop some kind of “Doppler Radar” for greed.  We need to get some kind of awareness that “greed” means “danger”.


The danger of greed

covetousnesspleonexia – greedy desire to have more, covetousness, avarice.  The word comes from pleonektes, (“more” + “to have”) one eager to have more, esp. what belongs to others; greedy of gain, covetous
We think that it’s not that wanting “stuff” isn’t that big of a deal, but it is a big deal to God.  It’s quite serious to God.
It defiles us –
(Mark 7:15-23 KJV)  There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. {16} If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. {17} And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. {18} And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; {19} Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? {20} And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. {21} For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, {22} Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: {23} All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

We don’t have any problem thinking that things like “adultery”, “fornication”, “murder”, or “blasphemy” as things that defile us, but greed?  Jesus says, “Yes”.

It is something that should not even be “named” among Christians –
(Eph 5:3 KJV)  But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
It is part of the “reprobate” mind, things that are worthy of judgment (Rom. 1:28-32).
(Rom 1:32 KJV)   … that they which commit such things are worthy of death …
It is something that will keep people from heaven.
(1 Cor 6:10 KJV)  Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
Once upon a time there was a White Knight looking for adventure. He came to a village where legend told of a terrible ogre in a pit. Bravely the White Knight took up the challenge. He would do battle with the terrible ogre in the pit. The people remembered several courageous men had climbed down into the pit, but no one could remember even one of those champions returning.
The White Knight stood looking at the deep, dark hole. The opening was so narrow he stripped himself of armor and unnecessary clothing. He took only a long dagger, which he tied around his neck with a leather strap. After securing a rope at the opening and testing its strength, he gripped it firmly and began lowering himself, hand under hand, letting the rope slip between his feet. Soon he felt the cool, smooth floor of the chamber. It took several minutes for his eyes to adjust to the darkness, but soon he focused on a large mound. Then he realized it was the bones of his predecessors, along with their assorted weapons. A little way off he spotted another mound, but he wasn’t sure what it was.
Suddenly he was surprised by the inhabitant of the pit—surprised because he didn’t anticipate that the ogre would be only as tall as a rabbit. The ogre waved his arms and screeched with its squeaky voice, trying to appear as fierce as possible. The White Knight picked up a sword from the floor and prepared to do battle, but quick as a rat, the ogre ran into a hole near the second mound.
The White Knight followed, and as the second mound became clearer, again he was surprised. Before his eyes there glittered balls of gold as big as grapefruits and diamonds as big as plums. With only a small part of that treasure, any commoner would be a prince for life. The little ogre lost its importance in view of this great treasure.
But the White Knight had a problem. How would he carry it out of the hole? He had no pockets. Who would believe him if he didn’t bring back at least one piece?
He suddenly had an idea. He would take one of the diamonds in his mouth and carry it that way until he had climbed out of the hole. He could always come back later for the rest. Hurriedly he chose one of the larger diamonds. It fit comfortably into his mouth, and he began the arduous climb out of the pit, hand over hand, gripping the rope with his feet. His tongue held the diamond tightly against the roof of his mouth. Higher and higher he climbed until the heavy exertion began to render him breathless. He would have to breathe through his mouth in order to get enough air. As he took in a large gulp of air the diamond slipped and stuck in his throat. The White Knight choked on his treasure, lost consciousness, and fell to his death on the mound of bones below.
You see, the terrible ogre in the pit was not the little troll. The ogre in the pit was greed—greed in the hearts of men who saw easy treasure and the hope of unearned gain. The glitter of this world had choked him to death.

--James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 372.



(Phil 4:10-13 NASB)  But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. {11} Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. {12} I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. {13} I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Paul says the “secret” we need to be concerned with is “contentment”.

We need to learn to be content when we have a lot and when we have a little.

Many years ago a little girl was totally blind. She was blinded as an infant as the result of an accident. She lived to be over 90 years old. She became a saint of the American church. She wrote many popular Christian songs and choruses. Her name was Fanny Crosby. When she was only eight years old, she wrote:

Oh, what a happy child I am, although I cannot see.

I am resolved that in this world, contented I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy that other people don't.

To weep and sigh because I'm blind--I cannot and I won't.

 - John Yates II, “The Man Born Blind,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 46.

Jim Elliot was a young pilot killed on the missionary field in 1956.  He wrote,

“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

In one of his journal entries he wrote,

I walked out to the hill just now. It is exalting, delicious. To stand embraced by the shadows of a friendly tree with the wind tugging at your coattail and the heavens hailing your heart, to gaze and glory and to give oneself again to God, what more could a man ask?

Oh, the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on earth. I care not if I never raise my voice again for Him, if only I may love Him, please Him. Mayhap, in mercy, He shall give me a host of children that I may lead through the vast star fields to explore His delicacies whose fingers’ ends set them to burning. But if not, if only I may see Him, smell His garments, and smile into my Lover’s eyes, ah, then, not stars, nor children, shall matter—only Himself.

-- Jim Elliot in The Journals of Jim Elliot; entry of January 16, 1951.  Christianity Today, Vol. 39,  no. 7.

That is a picture of contentment, learning to be blessed not with things, but with the Lord.