Guard Against Greed | Luke 12

Guard yourself against greed.


Greed and love for money is particularly a part of the fallen nature of man. Jesus and his disciples considered money helpful but very dangerous or evil at the same time. However, the scriptures teach us how to neutralize greed and maximize the helpfulness of money.

Luke 12:13-21

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.” 16And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

For instance, Jesus is answering the man in the crowd and moreover gives a lesson through a parable about the danger of greed in this passage.

Guard Against Greed

In Luke 12, Luke presents Jesus as providing us with two warnings. Firstly, one warning is to guard against hypocrisy to the disciples. Secondly, is for a person in the crowd, which is a warning against greed. While the disciples of Jesus sometimes can be hypocritical, everyone including the disciples can become greedy for things.

Definition of Greed:

The English translation of the Greek word for greed is avarice (/ˈav(ə)rɪs/). Avarice means extreme greed for wealth or material gain. Extortion, covetousness, fraudulency.

Paul K. Piff, Ph.D. who is a social psychologist in his research “The Science of Greed” comes up with the following findings.

In this case, he made a lot of people play the game of monopoly. Also, Monopoly is a board game where the players roll the dice and based on the money they have, they do a lot of buying and trading.

However, the games for research were rigged with some players secretly being given more money, more access, more opportunities to move around the board. They studied the attitudes of the 100 such players in a hidden camera.

This is their conclusion:

  • The rich player was showing physical signs of dominance.
  • The rich player was louder with the coins as he moved around the board.
  • There was a bowl of Snacks, the rich players felt entitled to eat more snacks.
  • As the game went on, the rich player became ruder than the other person.
  • The rich players were less considerate of the poor player and more demonstrative of their success and money in the game.

Finally, at the end of the game, the players were asked to talk about their experience, the rich player talked about how they would have used the money to buy more property in this rigged game of monopoly. Clearly, they didn’t have any regard over how the other players were losing their belongings.

Here is another test by this research team :

The poor and rich were brought into a room and given $10 and were told that they could either keep it or them or share a portion of it to a stranger. Here is the finding: The poor who earned an annual income under $15000 a year gave up to 44% of the $10 and people who made annually $150,000 to $200,000 gave less than 44%.

And another research :

In another case, people were brought in for a game with a $50 cash price for the winner. Nonetheless, it was noted that the rich people would even cheat the game to win a $50 cash prize.

Here is the conclusion of the study of his team from 1000’s of people:

As a person’s level of wealth increase, consequently their feelings of compassion and empathy go down, and their feelings of entitlement of deserving this and their ideology of self-interest increases.

The more wealthy the person, the more they say greed is good.

Indeed greed is evil and it will consume you. If we as believers are not careful, the lust for material things can really consume us.

The Bible gives us examples of God’s people and others destroyed because of greed.

The Greed of Lot | The Greed of Achan | The Greed of Saul | The Greed of Ahab | The Greed Of Gehazi | The Greed of Pharaoh | The Greed of Ananias and Sapphira

In Luke 12:13-21 Jesus addresses the issue that all of us grapple around with: The danger of Greed.

Luke 12:13

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

Initially, the crowd was introduced at the beginning of the chapter. Meanwhile, a man from the crowd approaches Jesus with a request that he should serve as a judge for the division of his inheritance. Specifically, the older brother had refused to give him what he felt was his due.

If you are old enough to ever had an inheritance come to you, you know how difficult it can get sometimes and if there is ever a conflict in a home, it is mostly at the time when the family divides the shares. Furthermore, if your parents have left behind something for you, then everybody expects a fair share. Evidently, there have been quarrels, fights, and even murder for inheritance.

Luke gives us a first-century story of such a struggle and people still struggle with it now.

Luke 12:14

Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”

He rejected the role of a judge although Moses and the Jewish rabbis used to handle similar cases and Jesus rejects the man’s request because he will not participate in satisfying the greed that had prompted his question.

Notice how Jesus concludes this man’s request:

Luke 17:15

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed. There are various types of greed, such as, greed for a position, greed for money, greed for wealth and the list goes on.

In the book Godonomics, Chad Hoving says

“…Greed is like a termite. It’s out of sight but boring deep into our hearts. It doesn’t attract attention as it eats away at our ability to be generous.

Jesus warned us to be on our guard, so we can assume we are already infested with greed. However, if you have trouble spotting it, here is what it looks like.”

In this book he shares four common types of greed:

  • Hoarding.
  • Overspending.
  • Comparison (showing you are equal to your friend, co-worker, neighbor, relative).
  • Entitlement (the sense that someone else owes you something. “I don’t have the money, but someone needs to pay for it.”

So Jesus is telling, “Your life is not held together by all the stuff you have.” Most importantly, life is not to be valued or measured in terms of wealth or possessions.

Luke 9:25

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?

Additionally, greed keeps us from the Kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

9Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

True blessings come to those who hear the word of God and do it:

Luke 11:28

He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Therefore, true life is not in possessing the latest gadgets, the best car or having land or property or living in Prestige, Mantri, or Shoba apartments in Bangalore. In fact, life is in knowing God.

This man’s seeking his inheritance provides Jesus with another occasion for a parable:

Luke 12:16-21

16And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

However, when we talk about greed, we need to understand what greed is not. In particular, we do not want to discourage people who are talented and good who can improve and make an impact in the world we live in by what they do.

What Greed is not?

It is not an ambition to do well.

Greed is not an ambition for a promotion or the desire to have good marks in an examination. God wants us to be productive.

God wants us to be growth-oriented and hardworking people.

However, it is not wrong to have money nor is it wrong to have the things that we need in life. In fact, we all need money for our survival. But what Jesus spoke about is greed or in Apostle Paul’s words “love of money.”

Colossians 3:23

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters….

Furthermore, simply working hard at your job or desiring to grow in your career or business does not mean that a person is greedy. It is not a bad thing when your “land produces plentifully” (verse 16). It is not a bad thing when your business prospers or receives a promotion or to have an increase in your pay. That is not the evil in this parable. He is not called a fool for being a productive farmer.

Moreover, God knows this world needs productive farmers, profitable businesses, and good employees.

It is not saving for the future

Abundance also means that one prepares or saves for a famine that will follow.

Do you remember somebody in the OT who stored up grains? Yes, Joseph in Genesis 41. So the increase is not really a problem, saving or storing the increase is not really a problem.

Then what is the problem? Why, then, is he called a fool? That’s the question in this parable. He is not only a fool but a fool who loses his soul. Verse 20: “God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you.”

Firstly, why did Jesus call him a fool?

By the way, he used just the increase of his riches and didn’t give any indication of being rich toward God. For example, he kept building bigger barns and greed says everything centers around me. In this case, see how many times he says “I”, 6 times

Luke 12:17-19

17He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

He says, “My priority in life is to take life easy, eat, drink, be merry and my riches make it possible for me.”

Generally, many believers are living only for themselves. In other words, they are worried about their own comfort, and they are extravagant in their spending, using all their money to live for their own comfort.

However, most of us aren’t aware of the kind of suffering and poverty people are going through in our country and yet we are greedy for more.

What is wrong with such a lifestyle? If there is no resurrection from the dead, there is no everlasting life with Christ, then this is the only place and we need to make the most out of this life. But see what the scripture says:

1 Corinthians 15:32

If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

But there is a God. There is a resurrection. There is life after this life, so we must use our riches in light of eternity.

Riches of the world should be used to be rich towards God.

To emphasize, if your fields have brought forth abundantly, it is a blessing from God that demands prudence in making provisions for the whole community.

Illustration:

When God gives us money, it is like a river flowing. The source is God. He channelizes it through us, so that we may let it out for others to be blessed downstream. That is the difference between the river Jordan and the Red Sea.

Moreover, what is it to be rich towards God?

It is indeed the opposite of laying up earthly treasure for yourself.

With this in mind, being rich toward God means using earthly riches to show how much you value God and this is what the prosperous farmer failed to do. However, the result was that he was a fool and lost his soul.

Jesus said:

Luke 12:21

This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

Illustration:

When you go back home today, just stand in the living room or the kitchen of your house. Just ask yourself, “How many things are hoarded up in your house which you are really not using? Who is going to be using those items in 30-40 years from now? Jesus said to this man, “If tonight your time ends, then think about who is going to pick up all these things after you.” Therefore be rich towards God.

Philosopher Epicurus said, “Nothing is enough for the man for whom enough is too little.”

That is a good definition of greed, “Enough is too little. I must have more.”

Socrates said, “He is richest who is content with the least.”

Jesus said, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions.” So if there is anything you are thinking that will satisfy you other than God, it truly will not.

To illustrate, psychological studies have shown that people who strongly value wealth and possessions report lower psychological well-being than those are less concerned with such things. Also, people who value wealth and possessions have more levels of stress and anxiety.

Likewise, if the love of things is what is driving you, you already have those problems of stress, anxiety, and psychological instability. Without a doubt, things can never bring security in life.

What is avarice?

1. It Is The Misunderstanding Of Creation

Psalm 24:1-2

1The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; 2for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.

Deuteronomy 8:17-18

17You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

We are stewards, we are not owners neither do we possess the ability to create something out of nothing but rather, we reshape what has been created for our use. Indeed, God is the creator and we have temporarily leased God’s creation.

2. Greed Is Misplaced Worship

In other words, the Bible calls greed idolatry.

Colossians 3:5

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

Our drive to get and keep things for ourselves is idolatrous.

3. Greed Is The Result Of A Wicked Mind

Romans 1:18

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people…..

See how the wicked people behave.

Romans 1:29

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity.

Hence, we do not go by the world economic system. Rather, we need to put the world economic system under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

How to overcome greed?

1. Be Honest In How We Acquire Wealth

Proverbs 13:11

Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.

In short, don’t be a cheater. Rather, be fair in your financial dealing.

James 4:1-2

1` What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.

In brief, be honest and don’t destroy somebody in order to get what you want.

James 5:1-5

1Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.

When greed takes over and when one becomes unfair in his/her dealings, that is the end of any prosperous person. But, be fair if you want to overcome greed.

2. Use Your Wealth To Serve God

Proverbs 3:9-10

9Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; 10then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

Let wealth be a tool in ministry rather than objects of worship and security. Also, be generous with your wealth to God and God’s work.

Additionally, Luke also presents to us rich people in this gospel who used their wealth to serve God.

Here we can find some people who used their wealth to serve God :

Firstly, in Luke 23:50-54, we find Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish Council. He requests for the body of Jesus and buries him in his own tomb. Also, Matthew in his gospel calls Joseph a rich man. Evidently, only the rich could build tombs carved in the rock and this rich man gave his tomb to Jesus.

Secondly, the man who opened his house for the Passover, unnamed but rich towards God.

And thirdly, in Luke 19, we have Zacchaeus, the tax collector. When he truly met the real Jesus, he was uncomfortable with his riches.

Luke 19:8-9

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.

For instance, in John 19:39 Nicodemus anointed Jesus’ body with costly perfume.

Moreover, Jesus is anointed by a sinful woman in Luke 7 by pouring out perfume from an alabaster jar.

Nevertheless, use your wealth to serve God.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8

6Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11

10Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us, your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.e8edef 10Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us, your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

Hence, how do you overcome greed? Surely, let the material things become a tool for life and ministry.

3. Recognize The Danger Of Greed

Proverbs 15:27

The greedy bring ruin to their households, but the one who hates bribes will live.

Ecclesiastes 5:10-12

10 Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. (Greed is saltwater, the more you drink the thirstier you get.)  This too is meaningless. 11As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them? 12The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.

4. Protect Against Bigger Barns

To repeat, the problem with the rich fool was that he wanted to build bigger barns for himself and he lost his life and eternity. Have protection in place against bigger barns but turn the prosperity of your field into blessing others.

Particularly, be generous and give to the needy. However, when money increases do not think how you can store it up beyond your need. Rather, have a proper check-in place.

A believer’s joy and hope produces love and generosity

Conclusion:

Richard Walz an attorney and wealth manager wrote the book: Fables of Fortune: What rich people have that you don’t want. As an advisor to the superrich waltz gives us a heart-breaking lesson, “The wealthiest person is not who has the most but who needs the least.

1 Timothy 6:6-12

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.


Questions to reflect:

1. What drives me to get more money and things?

2. What do I sacrifice to get more money and things? Do you give up your family?

3. What one thing I can do to be fairer in acquiring money and things?

4 What one thing can I do be making money and things serve God and others?


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