13. Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Now one from the crowd speaks up. He asks the Lord to act as a Mediator between himself and his brother, and to tell his brother to divide the inheritance with him. When a father died before dividing the inheritance between his sons, it would fall to his oldest son to take over the family. It was then his job to divide the inheritance with his brothers as he saw fit. Apparently this had happened in this man’s family, and his brother had refused to divide the inheritance with him, at least, not to this man’s satisfaction.
This man may have seen that Christ had come from God, yet his only thought was to use that fact for his own financial gain. His mind was consumed with this inheritance that his brother was not giving to him, and in the Lord he can only see the means of achieving the monetary gain that he so desired. How sad, when the Lord could have given him so much more!
This man ultimately regarded the Lord as nothing more than an opportunity to make money. He hoped that the Lord’s rebuke to his brother might change his attitude and get him the division that he wanted. Really, any famous or respected man would have done as well as the Lord Jesus, for he was just hoping that the weight of the name of Jesus of Nazareth would convince his brother that he could not get away with what he was trying to do. Yet what honor for the Lord was there in attempting to use Him like this? None whatsoever.
We might marvel at this man, yet aren’t we often the same way? I often see the name of Christ used as a cheap marketing ploy in our consumer-oriented society. Is this really what we should think of when we think of Him, that here is a way to make money? Alas, that the name of the Lord Jesus should so be used!
14. But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?”
Although the Lord Jesus Christ is the judge of all the earth, He had not received that authority yet, as we know that all power in heaven and on earth was not given to Him until He had risen from the dead (Matthew 28:18). So this man’s request was out of order. This is again what we might call a dispensationally inconsistent request. Thus the Lord Jesus did not do anything for this man, either to confirm or deny his claim. It could be that he was right in his argument with his brother, or it could be that he was wrong. Yet the Lord had not come to be a Judge, and He would not judge any situation, even if asked.
15. And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
The Lord knew that this man’s heart was not right before Him. Thus, he speaks this word in his hearing. He clearly implies that this man was covetous. This means that he wanted something that rightfully belonged to his brother. This is covetousness. Many today think that covetousness is wanting something that you do not have. This is not true at all. I very much want to find a good wife, but this is not covetousness. Even if I see someone who has found a good wife and wish I could find one too that isn’t covetousness. Covetousness is wanting something that by right can only belong to someone else. In other words, if I wanted someone else’s wife and no one but her would do, that would be covetousness. His wife is something that I have no right to have or want. Another example would be wanting someone else’s money or home or family or anything else that by right is his. Thus mere desire for possessions is not covetous, but rather desire for possessions we have no right to have. This man wanted what belonged to his brother, and thus he was covetous. The Lord warned His disciples not to be this way, but His warning was not against wanting to own things, but rather against wanting to own things that aren’t and shouldn’t be ours. If we are so wrapped up in jealousy or desire for someone else’s things that it seems we can never be happy without them, we are certainly not focusing on God or the things that really matter. This is where covetousness can lead us.
The Lord warns them to take heed and beware of covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses. As Otis Q. Sellers points out in his audio study on Luke, the very moment that our possessions exceed our needs, they become a burden. This is a burden we are willing to carry in view of future need, yet that they are a burden is evident.
We need to understand that one’s life does not consist in what he has. In our materialistic society, we tend to think that a man’s importance increases the more he has. Yet this is not God’s perspective on things. It is not what a man has that makes him something in God’s sight, but rather what he is. Our character, not our wealth, is what impresses God. We need to rid our minds of this foolish idea that wealth is what truly matters.
16. Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.
The Lord now sets forth a parable to illustrate His point regarding the futility of relying upon possessions. He tells the story of a rich man whose ground yielded plentifully, giving him more than he needed.
17. “And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’
The rich man finds that he does not have enough room in his storehouses and so forth where they would store the grain to hold all the crops he has brought in during this most plentiful year.
18. “So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.
He decides that the only thing to do is to pull down his old storehouses and to build bigger ones that can hold more crops and goods.
19. “’And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’
Once he has done this, he supposes that he will be ready to relax and take it easy for many years. Now, he figures that he can enjoy life based on his many possessions.
Here we have two occurrences of the word soul, in Greek the word psuche. Notice how the soul is connected with bodily comforts such as eating, drinking, and being merry. The Biblical idea of soul is thus connected with the things that bring comfort to the physical needs and desires of men. What his soul craved was the comforts of this life. It is only the spirit which looks to the Lord and the things of the life to come.
20. “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’
The rich man had acted in a way most prudent in the eyes of this world. Yet God has a different view of things than we do. He tells him that this very night will be the night of his death, and what good will his earthly goods do him then? He seemed so prudent, yet his death changed the whole equation. Now, it is no longer his goods that really matter, but what he has stored up in the sight of God.
21. “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Again we notice that this warning is not against storing up possessions, but rather against doing it to the exclusion of pleasing God. Earthly riches are not evil, but they are worthless in preparing for the life to come. Thus those who are rich in this life but poor in God’s sight have not collected for themselves what is most important of all!
22. Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on.
Notice that this is specifically spoken to the Lord’s disciples. We would be foolish if we appropriated this advice for ourselves and tried to follow it. If I never went shopping for clothes, if I ignored shopping or going out for food, if I didn’t worry about working or making money, I would be in grave trouble indeed! Moreover if I had a family I would not only be stupid regarding my own life, but I also would be negligent and neglectful of my duty to them.
This command was made to the Lord Jesus’ disciples. They were about to serve Him in very demanding and time-consuming ways, and Christ is here promising them that they need never take thought for these physical necessities, for He will provide them for them as they need them. This was His promise to them as their “employer” as long as they were serving Him. For us to presume to take this promise to ourselves, however, would be dishonoring to God and would get us absolutely nowhere. God fulfilled this promise to the men He spoke it to, but we have no right to claim any part of it for ourselves. If we want to be taken care of, we had best work towards that goal ourselves, and rely solely on God only for the things that are beyond our power to get for ourselves.
The word for “life” here is actually the Greek word for “soul” once again, as we had in verse 20. It should properly be translated “soul” here, for that makes clear what the Lord is talking about. We see here that food satisfies the needs of the soul, whereas clothing satisfies the needs of the body. The soul here is the physical appetites, and the body the material substance of which we are made.
23. “Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.
There is more to one’s soul than food, and there is more to one’s body than clothing. For some who lack these things, they can become all-consuming. Yet though these things are necessary, there is more to what makes up a human being than these bare necessities. God is concerned with things that go far beyond these.
24. “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?
The Lord uses ravens as an example for them to consider. If God saw fit to provide to birds a way of surviving, how much more would He provide it for His disciples who were doing His work that He had commanded them to do? In a bad year, even a bird might be found starving for lack of food. Yet these disciples had the Lord’s promise, and so they should trust Him to provide for them, for He was able to do so.
25. “And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
Adding a cubit (18 inches) would be a huge growth indeed! But even for children who do grow this much worrying has nothing to do with it. When our genes say we stop growing we stop, and nothing we do can change that, especially not worry.
26. “If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?
For God, of course, adding a cubit would be easy, but we cannot even do this much! Why should His disciples then worry about doing for themselves anything that really was in the hands of God, and that He had promised to do for them? If God was going to do it, He Who could add a cubit with a word could certainly do it better than any of the disciples who were worrying about it could.
27. “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Our Lord Jesus seems to know that they will have trouble not worrying about such things, so He gives them a further example. He uses the simple lily, a common flower of the fields. Yet though it be common, how beautiful indeed is just this little flower! Even the most beautiful of spectacular adornment, such as the wealthy Solomon wore, cannot compare to this simple decoration of a plant that is little more than decorated grass.
28. “If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?
The Lord now makes His analogy. If God could cloth the grass like this, couldn’t He cloth the disciples? Of course He could! Thus they should not worry. Yet they were, and He chides them as having little faith. They should have taken His words and believed them absolutely and never worried about these things again as long as His promise lasted. Yet again I repeat that for us today not to take some thought for such things would be most foolish. We must not take these words out of the context of the people to whom they were written!
29. “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind.
Moreover He admonishes them not to be concerned with what they should eat or drink. In a society like ours this would not seem like a difficult commandment, for we seldom have much worry about these things. Yet in their society where the economy was so bad that hunger was common, these men had probably grown up constantly worrying and being concerned about these things. It would be easy to have an anxious mind about food and drink if you thought you might not have any of these the next day. Yet He urges them not to have an anxious mind about these things. As their Master, He was promising them that these things would be supplied for them. They should trust Him and cease to worry.
30. “For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.
No matter who you are or where you live, someone must take thought as to where your food and drink are going to come from. All nations of the world seek after these things, for they are necessary for everyone. Thus it could hardly be that these things would escape God’s notice. After all, He made us to need these things! Thus He assures them that the Father knows they have this need, and in the kingdom of God, all such needs will be provided.
31. “But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.
They were about to do the work of spreading the Kingdom, and this is what God wanted them to be seeking after, not food and drink. This is why He gave them this promise so that their minds could be freed up from worrying about such mundane things as food and drink and be constantly focused on the great task that was before them.
This again is a promise for the disciples (verse 22,) and was not meant for us today. The disciples’ message, as we saw in Luke 9:2 and 10:9, was the kingdom of God, and they were to spend their time seeking the things that pertained to that. They were free to do this, as the Lord was there with them and promised to Himself provide for all the other things they needed. This was His promise to them as their Master and employer in this great task they were undertaking. For us to take this promise, however, is to attempt to get into a contract that was never made with us in mind. There is a song based on this verse that goes,
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God
And His righteousness
And all these things shall be added unto you
This song is set to a beautiful melody, but its words if applied to us today are absolutely false. Anyone who seeks first the kingdom of God and takes no thought for things like food and clothing will soon find that these things are not added unto him unless he works at it himself. This promise was not made to us today, and we have no right to try to force God to fulfill it for us.
Yet it is still a good and right thing for us to do to seek the kingdom of God. How, then, does one seek it? Today, the kingdom of God is nowhere upon earth. In the time Christ spoke, it was there in the Person of the King. In the Acts period, it was on earth in its early, night stage. Yet today, there is nothing on earth that might be called the kingdom of God. Is it still possible for us then to seek it?
I believe it is possible, but there is only one place to find the kingdom of God, and that is in God’s Word. If we wish to seek the kingdom, we must do it by studying out the Scriptures that speak on the topic and learning everything that God has said regarding the kingdom. If we do this, then we will be seeking the kingdom, and we will learn the glorious truth of God’s government. Many today look for answers from the Republicans or the Democrats, from the conservatives or the liberals, from the capitalists or the communists. The answer God sets forth to all this world’s ills is not such forms of government, however, but rather is His Kingdom, His very government upon earth. When we learn all we can of this, we are seeking it. All things may not be added unto us, but we will be doing something that is good and right in the sight of God.
32. “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
The “little flock” here are His disciples, for these are the ones He is speaking to, as we see from verse 22. Soon these men would be a part of God’s government in such a powerful way that Peter could speak and Ananias and Sapphira would fall down dead! Moreover, Christ promised that in the future the twelve would sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:30.) Thus the kingdom of God was very much something that would be given to them. God would give them charge over His government, and when He did this, they would never again be in want.
33. “Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.
In view of the fact that they would someday receive as their own the very government of God, they were to sell what they had and give alms to the poor. This command would not necessarily have applied to their God-given inheritance of land in Israel. Usually that was looked at as yours by right, whereas possessions were lands and properties owned over and above one’s inheritance. Yet it could be that even that very inheritance could be sold as well.
Many of the disciples were poor, but not all, and the Lord Jesus’ command to them was to sell whatever they had that would be considered a valuable commodity by this world’s standards. By doing this and showing faith in His words they would lay up for themselves money bags which do not grow old, and a treasure in the heavens that does not fail. Treasures in this life can be lost, stolen, used up, or even destroyed by things like moths, but when you lay up treasures for yourself with God, these treasures can never be taken away from you.
This was again a command to those following Him at that time, and was given in light of the fact that they were about to receive the kingdom of God, which they did in the Acts period. This is not something we can take and apply to ourselves today. Some try to twist this into saying that there is virtue in poverty, yet this is not what the Lord was teaching. There is no great benefit in selling all you own or making yourself poor.
34. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
This was the lesson they were to learn in selling all their possessions. Their minds and hearts were to be set on the treasures that God had for them, not those they could receive and earn from this world. By selling all they had, they showed most clearly that the things they valued had to do not with this world, but with the world to come. Though we are not commanded to sell all we own, yet still we should have our real treasure in this same place.