A Warning Against Covetousness
Luke 12:13-21
And one of the company said to him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.…

Amid the important teaching of our Lord there comes an interlude by reason of a brother, who had been wronged out of his share of the inheritance, appealing for redress to Christ. He wanted our Lord to play the part of a small attorney and get conveyed to him some share. This our Lord deliberately declines to do, indicating that he has come into the world for higher work than worldly arbitration. This aspect of the subject has been well handled by Robertson of Brighton, and, following him, by Bersier of Paris. But our Lord does far better for the poor brother than if he had become arbitrator for him. He warns him against covetousness, and indicates that "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." To back up the lesson, he relates a parable about a certain rich man whose whole concern was to multiply his possessions, but who is surprised by death while doing so. He leaves his wealth behind him, and enters the other world utterly poor. If by this timely warning our Lord succeeds in leading the claimant to the possession of better riches, then all will be well. And here we notice -

I. A MAN CAN FEVER BE SATISFIED WITH THINGS. (Ver. 15.) This is the great mistake men are making. They imagine that things can satisfy their hearts; whereas we are so constituted, with our affections and emotions, that fellowship with persons is indispensable to any measure of satisfaction, and to full satisfaction with no less a Being than God himself. All the effort, consequently, to be satisfied with things, with gifts, when the Giver is left out, proves vain. No abundance can satisfy the craving of the heart. And the feverish desire for more and more wealth on the part of worldly men demonstrates simply that they are on the wrong track altogether, and that satisfaction can never be found in things. Covetousness, consequently, as the idolatry of things, is a total mistake. It misinterprets human nature, and is doomed to terrible disappointment.

II. SUCCESS MAY DOOM MEN TO LIFELONG WRONG. (Vers. 16-18.) The rich fool, as the man in the parable has been generally called, is overwhelmed by success. It outgrows his calculations. His barns are too small; they must be pulled down to allow of bigger barns being built, so that years of anxious labor are provided out of his inordinate success. He gets steeped to the lips in care. His life becomes a ceaseless worry. His grasping only secures his misery. It is truly lamentable to witness the self-inflicted wrong which worldly minds experience as they try to garner more and more of this world's goods to the neglect of better things. How well our great dramatist understood this! In his poems Shakespeare says -

"The profit of excess
Is but to surfeit, and such griefs sustain,
That they prove bankrupt in this poor-rich gain.
The aim of all is but to nurse the life
With honor, wealth, and ease, in waning age;
And in this aim there is such thwarting strife,
That one for all, or all for one, we gage,
As life for honor in fell battle's rage,
Honour for wealth; and oft that wealth doth cost
The death of all, and altogether lost."

III. IN THE CAREER OF SUCCESS THERE IS ONLY A VAIN DESIRE FOR REST. (Ver. 19.) The soliloquy betrays the utter weariness of the man. After his bigger barns are built, away down the fretful years he will reach, he hopes, a time when he will be in a position to say to his soul, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." He longs for rest, but it will be years yet before he can think of it. All the worry and the fret of the interval must be passed before rest can come. His idea is to win rest by wealth; to buy it up by a certain measure of success. And the experience of all men is that rest is never got on this line at all. It is something that cannot be purchased, but must be God-given. How often do we see men who have retired with a competency at a loss how to kill time, and as weary and restless as ever!

IV. DEATH CUTS THE SOUL OFF AT ONCE FROM HIS WORLDLY POSSESSIONS. (Vers. 20, 21.) We never hear of millionaires carrying their money-bags with them. A moment after death Croesus is no richer than the beggar. The things which were so anxiously amassed remain to be divided among the heirs, while the owner goes out into another world absolutely penniless. The state to which death reduces him is pitiful indeed. Having forgotten God the Giver through occupation with his gifts, he faces his Judge without a single feeling or aspiration which, in God's sight, is valuable at all. A miserable and wretched soul receives dismissal from the gracious God whose bounty was ignored and whose Being was despised.

V. HOW ALL-IMPORTANT IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES TO ACCEPT OF CONTENTMENT AND REST AS THE SAVIOUR'S OFFERED GIFT. If the young man had accepted of contentment in place of cherishing covetousness, he would have been at ease at once. Rest of spirit and growth of spirit would thus have been secured, and he would have been on not only equal terms with, but most probably superior terms to, his more grasping brother. It is thus that Jesus deals with us. He can give us a present rest from sin, from worry, from care of all kinds, and make us rich in the sight of God. With the riches of the soul in graces and gifts, we may hope to pass into the Divine presence and enjoy the Divine society and escape being castaways. - R.M.E.

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

WEB: One of the multitude said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me."

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