Some people have a one-track mind. That seems to be true of the man in the crowd who approached Jesus with this request for help: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me” (Luke 12:13; my sermon text was vs. 13-21). Here Jesus was teaching the people his heavenly doctrine – “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68) – and all this man could think about was getting his share of his father’s inheritance. Utterly blind to the truth that Christ was the Savior of sinners, the one who came to make us heirs of heaven, the man instead saw Jesus as some sort of petty-claims court judge. No wonder Jesus refused to get involved with his dispute!: “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (v.14).
Instead Jesus addressed the man’s far greater spiritual problem, and in so doing addressed what is for all of us a profound spiritual danger, the danger of covetousness. He said, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (v.15).
To drive home the point Jesus then told a parable about a rich man whose fields produced so prodigiously that the man decided he’d first build bigger barns to store his grain and goods, and then settle in to live a life of luxury and ease. Relishing the prospect of the good life that was now surely his, he said to himself, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (v.20). But no sooner had the words left his mouth than a terrifying sound from above came crashing into his ears. It was the voice of Almighty God, and what was his assessment of this man’s retirement plan? “Fool!” Though the world might call this man “smart” for achieving the life so many aspire to, in God’s eyes he was a fool. And the Lord said, “This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So much for all the man’s careful planning – the day of reckoning had come, and all his earthly wealth was worthless to save him from an eternal doom.
Covetousness, or a love of wealth, makes us self-centered and the wealth we gain often brings misery rather than the happiness we hoped for. But the parable drives home the greatest danger of making money our life’s ambition: it brings eternal destruction. To love wealth is to serve an idol (Matthew 6:24; Colossians 3:5), and no idolater will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10). “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” (Matthew 18:26). But covetousness is deeply ingrained in our fallen nature; even the godly struggle against this temptation. And not only that but we are not helped by living in a consumerist society that insists that life is indeed found in the abundance of our possessions, that it is more blessed to receive than to give. So what are we to do? How can we “take care, and be on [our] guard against all covetousness”? (v.15).
The answer Jesus gives is surprising: get rich! That is, get rich in the things of God. At the end of the parable our Lord says, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (v.21). If your faith is in Jesus Christ as your Savior, then you have wealth beyond compare. You are richer than all the billionaires in the world put together. In Jesus you have: the forgiveness of sin, the righteousness of Christ, God as your heavenly Father, eternal life, the enjoyment of God’s love, the promise of resurrection, peace of conscience, and an inexhaustible source of comfort, joy, and hope. What is the wealth of this world compared to these spiritual treasures? It is less than nothing, completely worthless.
Seek and find true riches in Christ. That’s how you guard against all covetousness.
Soli Deo Gloria!