(Luke 12:13-21)



We are going to disclose two ‘temptations’ today that I believe the 21st century “church” needs to reckon with. And to be honest, in the current state of affairs in Western Hemisphere Christianity, we will see little, if any, voluntary repenting and moving toward God in either of these areas that we will address today. I must confess to you, that I am guilty of being tempted by, …. and falling prey to these ‘cultural norms’ that really are offensive and repulsive to our Heavenly Father and Savior (Luke 16:15).

Our scripture text for today is in Luke 12:13-21, … and the first temptation we will discuss appears in v.13 

V.13 – “… Someone in the crowd …” – Although it is not the main thought of this parable, it brings to the forefront the temptation that Jesus had to deal with as He journeyed to Jerusalem; “… the crowd …”. The Holy Spirit, through Dr. Luke’s pen, has chosen the beginning of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and His passion, to give a not-so-stealth tutorial on the differences between ‘the crowd’ and the Disciples of Jesus.

In Luke 11:29, the Word states “… the crowds increased …”. News that the Messiah was on His way to Jerusalem caused the Jewish population to want to be there when their Messiah took over the city of David …and then the world! They thought Him to be the promised King, and they would not miss His long-awaited coronation for any reason. They considered themselves loyal subjects. But as these subjects gathered around Jesus and his disciples, note Jesus’ words to them, “This is a wicked generation …” (?) < When’s the last time you heard a pastor get up in front of a large congregation can call them, “Wicked”?> Jesus seems to be ‘busting’ on the masses.

Jesus does it again in 12:54-56. He called the crowd that was following Him to His (supposed) coronation, “Hypocrites!”. And again in 14:25-27, Jesus words to the ‘crowd’ were not those one would hear during a campaign rally; “… If anyone comes to me (as the crowd was doing) and does not hate his father & mother (Commandment #5 (?)), his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple …”. This is reminiscent of John 6, where Jesus started with approximately 15,000 ‘believers’, … and by the end of the chapter, Jesus’ teachings had whittled down the crowd, … ending with only His 12 disciples remaining with Him.

There is a difference between the crowd that is enthralled with Jesus’ ministry, … and Jesus’ chosen disciples … that have given up all to follow the Master. Note in Luke 12:1-12 how Luke records that in the midst of a crowd of (unruly) thousands, Jesus would speak to His disciples as a unique and separate group. Jesus knew the hearts of all men (John 2:23-25) and only explained the deeper mysteries of His Kingdom to those who were His (Matt.13:10-17). We even have occasion in Luke 12 to observe Peter ask Jesus a question concerning the intended audience of Jesus’ current teaching; ” Lord, are you telling this parable to us (disciples) or to everyone (crowd)?” (V.41).

‘The crowds ‘ …. a temptation that many 21st century churches would love to have. However, Jesus knew that the vast majority of those crowds would cheer His entrance into the Holy City. But only a few days later, the crowd would frantically demand that He be crucified. The crowd is fickle; the disciples are ‘cross-bearers’ … and today, are willing to walk with their Lord down the Via Dolorosa. Sooner or later, the Body of Christ is going to have to stop coveting the large crowds … and move on to deeper and richer times in Jesus with the faithful few.

   Speaking of coveting, this brings us back to our parable in Luke 12:13-21. Someone from the crowd had a deep theological problem that needed the Son of God’s attention at that very moment … “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” According to OT Law, this man’s request was reasonable and legal. But Jesus knew this man’s heart could not have cared less about the Old Testament law concerning inheritances; he just wanted his ‘stuff’. After explaining to the man that He had not come to judge (He had come to save), He shared a warning with the crowd concerning the second temptation that we deal with today:

“… Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed …” (v.15). The Greek word translated ‘greed’, is ‘pleonexia’ = lit. ‘a desire to have more’. The word is more commonly translated, ‘covetousness’. Commandment #9 prohibits us from practicing covetousness (Ex.20:17), and the Apostle Paul goes so far as to call this ‘desire-to-have-more’, “idolatry” (Col.3:5) <…the last I checked, God Almighty does not want His people practicing ‘idolatry’> “… life does not consist in the abundance of possessions …” were Jesus’ words to refute ‘the-desire-to-have-more’. He then gives the crowd a parable to teach this truth:

V.16 – “… The ground …” – Jesus did not credit the “rich man” for the good crop; … He noted the “ground” did it. It is God’s creative care for us that makes our supply of needs possible. No one grows Brussel sprouts on their arms! …. and even less would eat them if they did. Note how many times the words ‘I’ & ‘my’ show up in the text. The rich man sees the ‘goods’ as his. God owns all the ‘goods’; … we are stewards.

V.17 – ” I have no place to store my crops …” – Is the rich man saying he has no storage facilities? No, we see in v.18 that he does. We can also assume that his current barns have been adequate from his previous harvests, to hold him and his household through until the next harvest. It is even quite possible given his inventory analysis (“… of good things laid up for many years …” (v.19)), there was still some food from the previous years’ harvest left over.

In lieu of his abundance, the rich man had to make a decision: 1) Should he take the extra God had blessed him with and give it to those who had very little?  …. or 2) should he erect bigger storage facilities, hoard his abundance, kick back and relax for many years to come? The rich man chose #2. God disagreed ….

V.20 – “You fool!” – The rich guy had his next few years planned out. Unfortunately for him, God’s plans were different (James 4:13-17). This gentleman had a wonderful opportunity to be “… rich toward God …” (v.21; vs.32-34; 18:19-25), but he thought more secure and at ease with it tucked away in his barns. And that night, he not only lost his heavenly reward, but he also lost his surplus and his life!

God gives us stark warnings concerning our ‘desire-to-have-more’. Our culture trains us to desire stuff, … to make our lives easier and more pleasurable. Just look at the money spent on advertising alone! Do we need most of that stuff we see advertised in the media? Indeed, a large portion of product propaganda is for our ‘pleasure and relaxation’; … or to sway us to buy the latest fashion trends. Do we truly need any of that? In fact, when Jesus redirects his teachings back to His disciples in Luke 12:22, He encourages them to not be worried nor troubled about issues of food or clothing (vs.22-34). Jesus assures them that their Heavenly Father values them so much, that those ‘anxieties’ concerning food and clothing are to be removed from the disciples’ daily lives. The Apostle Paul gives a brief … but powerful teaching on contentment in 1 Tim.6:6-11. When we covet / ‘want more’, it is so easy to slip into the ‘malcontent-mode’ when we can’t get the stuff we desire. The people of Israel, just after their miraculous deliverance from Egypt, went through a time of ingratitude and malcontentedness (Nu.11:4-6), … which displeased the Lord God (Nu.11:31-34).

In closing, the Apostle Paul gives encouragement and instructions to a group of Jesus followers that desire to contribute some of their ‘extra funds’ to a group of impoverished Christians hundreds of miles away, …back in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8 & 9). This is how we transfer ‘worldly treasures’ into ‘treasuries in heaven’. There are countries where our brothers and sisters in Christ are being persecuted and starved. There are countries where the bulk of the population is both spiritually and materially impoverished. We can share God’s love for these people, … and become ‘rich toward God’, … by supporting ministries and missionaries that serve the people’s needs in those lands. It is time to start making significant deposits into our Heavenly accounts, … while at the same time getting rid of all of our excess stuff and stop ‘desiring more’.

   Stay close to Jesus, beloved servants of the King!