“Then one from the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’ But He said to him, ‘Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?’ 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’ " (Luke 12:13-15).
Every day we are bombarded with advertisements on TV, radio, in the newspaper, and on billboards that are encouraging us to buy something. It seems like every month technological advances give us the opportunity to purchase the latest innovation in cell phones, computer notebooks, etc. How do you deal with this advertising assault? Do you find yourself longing to have all these material goods?
Jesus understood the human desire to have “things”. He spent much of His ministry speaking about money and the human desire for it (cf. Matthew 6:19-21; 19:23-24). Luke records for us that while Jesus was in the process of teaching some spiritual lessons to a large crowd who had come out to hear him (Luke 12:1-12), one from the crowd allowed his concern about material things to distract him, as he says to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me” (Luke 12:13).
How did Jesus respond to this man’s concern? Certainly, Jesus was wise and powerful enough to help this man had He so chosen. After telling the man, that it was not His role to act as a judge or an arbitrator over this man and his brother, Jesus gets to heart of spiritual matter that the man needed to address within himself: “"Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15).
Why are we tempted to think that our lives consist in the abundance of things we possess? We can place so much emphasis upon material things and that we begin to trust in them. In Luke’s account, Jesus goes on to tell the story of the rich man who felt like he needed to build bigger barns to store all his material goods (Luke 12:16-21). He thought the abundance of material goods would enable him to be able to be at ease, eat, drink, and be merry (Luke 12:19). It was not good enough for him to be content with the abundance he already had. He needed more and more so he built bigger barns (Luke 12:17-18)! Furthermore, if we allow our attitude towards material things to become skewed, we can become anxious over not having enough of them. Jesus reminds us, “Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing” (Luke 12:23).
What does Jesus suggest we do with regard to the temptation of covetousness? First, acknowledge that it is a temptation of which we need to beware (Luke 12:15). Second, keep a proper perspective of life and remember that life is much more than the accumulation of material goods (Luke 12:23). Third, free ourselves from the bondage of worry by reminding ourselves that God takes care of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field and He will take care to ensure our material needs are met as well (Luke 12:24, 27). Finally, keep our spiritual eyes focused on God and things above: “But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you” (Luke 12:31).
I have been blessed by God to live in a free and prosperous nation. In the United States most enjoy a standard of living that far surpasses the rest of the world. However, there is a huge temptation of trusting in the accumulation of material goods. Today, I will practice contentment and take heed and beware of covetousness!
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11).