A Wallet Full of the Wrong Money Read: Luke 12:13-21
A Wallet Full of the Wrong Money Read: Luke 12:13-21
When I lived in the Middle East for about a year, I quickly learned that money changers are powerful people still today. Down the street from where I lived there was a small but busy place where lots of money traded hands. American currency was considered best of all. The owners didn’t care for America, but they loved our currency! They might refuse to trade with currencies of nations in fiscal or political crisis, or give very little for it, but not so with America’s green paper.
Heaven, however, doesn’t accept any other currency than its own. The man with the biggest bank account on earth is as poor as the man in jail with the biggest debt, if neither has the right spiritual currency. Instead, Christ tells us we must be “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).
The Man Who Wanted Jesus to Fill His Wallet⤒🔗
Jesus lived in the same world that we live in: a world of land and property rights; a world of seasons with harvests, which people claim for themselves; a world of conflict and disputes. As He taught the people about God and their souls and how to live in this world, He emphasized the need to live in dependence on God (Luke 12:1-12). He reminded them that God takes care of all those who love and fear Him. If God does not forget the sparrows, would He forget His disciples (v. 6)? He wouldn’t forget them in their daily lives, nor would He leave them even in dire situations. If, for example, they might come before magistrates, God would give His Holy Spirit to help them say what they need to say.
This last point triggered a thought in one man in the crowd who had a dispute with his brother. He latched on to the idea that Jesus might be able to help him in his situation. Jesus might take up his cause, and his brother would have to give up that part of the inheritance he was claiming as his own. So as he heard Jesus talk about courts and help in the courts, he blurted out: “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me” (v. 13).
This man had not understood a word of what Jesus was really saying. True, he was content to listen to Jesus, but ultimately he only had use for Jesus when it came to his problems and his earthly grievances. This man is like the vast majority of Christians, who see that Jesus might be able to benefit them as they try to get ahead in this life.
With perfect wisdom, Jesus refused this man’s request. Why did He refuse? For Him to accede to this man’s request would be to depart from His appointment by His Father. He was not sent to solve earthly disputes. Indeed, He taught people what to do when they have something against their brother (Matt. 18:15-20). He would also send His Spirit to enable His people to live in harmony (Rom. 14:10-21). Yet never did the Father appoint Him as an earthly judge in a Jewish probate court.
Moreover, the man’s question showed a disposition that was the exact opposite of dependence of God. He might have seemed to be depending on Jesus by his request, but in truth, Jesus, and thus God, was a means to an end. His inheritance was his god, and, ironically, he felt he needed Jesus to get his god back.
Jesus Shows the Man How Empty His Wallet Really Is←⤒🔗
In what is usually called the parable of the rich fool, Jesus poignantly unveiled the folly of a life lived for earthly goods. To illustrate His warning against covetousness in verse 15, Jesus first described the kind of person this world highly esteems. It’s someone who has assets (land), receives a series of fiscal reports (harvest), and acts with business savvy (greater barns). His investment strategy will enable him to grow wealthier and wealthier. Note that this man does not acquire his goods by oppression or wrong-doing. There is nothing sinister about his gains in wealth except, of course, that he appears ungrateful and does not distribute to the poor.
Though there is no moral crime in this man’s conduct, yet there is an existential crime of the highest sort. Christ pinpointed it forcibly in verse 21: this man’s identity and plan for his life was wrapped up in his possessions. His life was bound up with goods which he had neither brought into the world nor would take from the world (1 Tim. 6:7). And this was exactly the problem with Jesus’ questioner (v. 13) and everyone else as they are born in this world. We live for things. Goods give us identity. We measure ourselves by our portfolios and our ability to acquire things this year that might have been outside our reach last year.
It’s interesting that the fool is not unaware of his soul; he even addresses it (v. 19), something Christians can even learn a lesson from (see Ps. 42:5, 11; Ps. 103:1). But the catastrophic problem is that he comforts his soul with stuff (v. 19a). He placates his soul with pleasantries (v. 19b). How dreadful then is God’s sentence in verse 20: “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?” Whereas this man was feeding his soul with stuff, the God who created every soul in one moment disconnects this man’s soul from his body and from all his goods. This man’s poor soul travels in an instant from his farm, his crops, his land, and his life into an eternity where none of his riches can help him whatsoever. With all his business savvy, he had never learned the first lesson of life: “You have a soul that can never die.”
Jesus Points to God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense←⤒🔗
The man of our passage wanted Jesus to fill his wallet and give him his just due. When you read that, you can’t help but think of the young brother, who said something very similar: “Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me” (Luke 15:12). How blessed it is when Christ uncovers us to the worthlessness of accumulating the things of this world in light of an eternity that doesn’t live by our currency. Jesus pointed the man in the direction he would need to go: he needed to become rich toward God (Luke 12:21). The miracle of the gospel is that God’s riches come to needy sinners who look to Him for them. They come at Christ’s expense. This currency is not corruptible like gold and silver. It is precious — the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:19). At the cross, Christ paid the price for sinners like this covetous man, in order that they may have an inheritance that fades not away, reserved in heaven for those who believe. What this man should have asked was: “Lord, I’ve been spending money for what does not satisfy. Canst Thou not give me water, wine, and milk without money and without price?”
- Define covetousness (v. 15). What are some signs that covetousness is pervasive in a church? How can a church diagnose and turn back covetousness?
- When is it wrong to “build bigger barns” and when is it not?
- The Puritans had a quaint expression: “sitting loose from this world’s goods.” Compare this expression with Luke 12:15 and discuss ways in which you can reinforce that posture towards material goods.
- Before God, the questioner (v. 13) was really no different from his brother. How does the parable prove that point? Is it true that mere poverty itself is no better than mere riches?
- How should this rich man have talked to his soul and what should he have said (see v. 19)? For help, see Revelation 3:17-18.
- Look up Ephesians 1:7, 18; 2:7; 4:8, 16, and Col. 1:27; 2:2, and discuss the relevance of these verses when compared to Luke 12:21.
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