The Seventh Sunday after Trinity is on July 31, 2022.

The readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 12:13-21

12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”

12:14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?”

12:15 And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

12:16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly.

12:17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’

12:18 Then he said, I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.

12:19 And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’

12:20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’

12:21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

For those who have not been following the Year C Gospel readings from Luke, we are now in the final six months of our Lord’s temporal life.

Luke 9 through Luke 19 give us the bulk of His lessons to the disciples and to the people who heard Him.

By now, Jesus has sadly accumulated many detractors, some of whom want to end His life.

John MacArthur tells us more about the composition of the crowds who saw and heard Him, particularly with relation to Luke 12:

Jesus, of course, attracted people in huge crowds with His message and His miracles. But as the three years of His ministry progressed, it became apparent that the people were rejecting Him and His message. In fact, they were increasingly moving from being interested, to being curious, to being hostile.

The crowds are still huge. Verse 1 says there were many thousands. It really means tens of thousands who were following Him – huge crowds. The majority of those crowds had drunk deeply of the Pharisees’ and scribes’ propaganda. In spite of the miracle power, in spite of the clarity of His teaching, in spite of the winsomeness of His person, they had bought into the spin that the Pharisees and scribes had put on Jesus, that He was of Satan, not God.

More and more people are now buying into that. He must be of Satan, they think, because He contradicts their Jewish religion; and their Jewish religion must be of God, for they’re the people of God. And so the idea is to surface everywhere that Jesus disagrees with them and therefore point out that He must be satanic. They are, however, still curious. Jesus is still the best show in town – stunning, riveting, compelling – and they follow Him if only to trap Him in some opposition to their law.

But inside this increasingly hostile crowd, inside these tens of thousands, inside this mass of curious rejecters, there are still some who haven’t made up their mind, and they are described in verse 1 as disciples. That’s not a technical term for the twelve, that’s a nontechnical word in the Greek, mathētēs, that simply means “learners.” There are some still studying Jesus, still learning, still trying to come to a conclusion; and it is to them that He directs this sermon, this discourse that starts there in verse 1 and runs all the way to verse 9 of chapter 13. It’s a long sermon and discourse directed, heard by all, but directed at those still trying to decide concerning Jesus. That’s why verse 1 says, “He began saying to His disciples, first of all.”

Jesus had two themes here:

Beware of hypocrisy and beware of greed

These are not randomly selected sample sins among many. Rather, these are the two essential realms which exist.

There are only two realms which exist: one is the material realm, and the other is the immaterial; one is the spiritual, the other is the physical; one is the natural, the other is the supernatural. There are only those two realms. Hypocrisy relates to the spiritual realm, and greed relates to the material world. Both the material and the immaterial world threaten to damn eternal souls

And by the way, though they can be separately described and separately defined, they don’t exist separately. That is to say, they are blended together in the lives of the unregenerate. And that is true even of those who are most involved in the religious world. Religious hypocrites, the architects of and the perpetrators of false religion are invariably motivated by money …

In fact, if you look at the world of false religion today, you will see the purveyors and the architects of those false religions inevitably become fat cats, inordinately wealthy, as all false teachers do what they do for money. That’s what’s behind this discussion because it’s a warning. You can be seduced right into hell from the immaterial or the material, from the spiritual or the physical, from the world above or the world below. And that’s why Jesus gives this double warning of bewares. Let’s turn to the text, verse 13; and the story flows fairly quickly.

Luke 12 begins with Jesus giving the crowd powerful lessons about this world and the next:

Warnings and Encouragements

12 Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: Be[a] on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

“I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

11 When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

With all those powerful teachings, it seems incongruous that a man in the crowd would interrupt and demand that Jesus tell his brother to share his inheritance with him (verse 13).

While not defending the man, MacArthur explains that this was not such an odd demand, because rabbis were seen to be arbiters of the law:

the word “teacher” informs us – didaskale in the Greek – he identifies Jesus as a rabbi. And rabbis did this as a routine in their villages and their regions. Rabbis were approached by people to bring the law to bear upon civil issues. This is pretty routine stuff. They often did this. And so his request is within the framework of cultural expectation: “Tell my brother to divide the family inheritance to me.” He probably pointed to his brother who had to be there, or Jesus couldn’t have told him. He feels like he’s not getting what he deserves.

Now it’s useless to speculate the facts, you know, whether who’s the older brother, who’s the younger brother, you know, did he have a right to this. He didn’t want any discussion about the facts, he just said, “Tell him.” We don’t know whether he had a legitimate claim on it or not, but I would find it hard to believe that he had any legitimate claim. This was just a manifestation of his greed.

Matthew Henry’s commentary goes through the possible family situations prompting the man’s demand and concludes:

whereas the law gave the elder brother a double portion of the estate, and the father himself could not dispose of what he had but by that rule (Deut 21 16, 17), he would have Christ to alter that law, and oblige his brother, who perhaps was a follower of Christ at large, to divide the inheritance equally with him, in gavel-kind, share and share alike, and to allot him as much as his elder brother. I suspect that this was the case, because Christ takes occasion from it to warn against covetousness, pleonexiaa desire of having more, more than God in his providence has allotted us. It was not a lawful desire of getting his own, but a sinful desire of getting more than his own.

MacArthur says that some of the Old Testament laws had been in abeyance in our Lord’s era. In addition, the rabbis found or created loopholes to exploit in terms of everyday religious law:

There were ancient laws in Israel about the inheritance, Deuteronomy 21, the book of Numbers. The estate was left to the oldest son. The estate therefore was kept intact and the oldest son would manage the estate, and use all of its wealth and all of its products and all of its possessions for the benefit of the whole family. He sort of became the new father of the family. He didn’t waste it all on himself, he simply managed it. That’s what the law of primogenitor was intended to do, not to divest certain members of the family of the care they needed, but rather to pass on the responsibility of headship and leadership to the father, the next generation.

But changes have come so much in the intervening centuries since those laws. There were laws in the early years of the theocracy that said if a teenager is disobedient, kill him. That was a real quick way to stamp out juvenile delinquency. But that had long since gone by the way, as the theocratic kingdom was no longer really ruled by God at all. And many of these things that were established early on had changed; and the culture less agrarian at this point, long moved away from the Old Testament laws, although they certainly kept the ones they wanted to keep.

The man is a materialist. He’s greedy, he’s covetous, and he wants Jesus to tell his brother with some kind of authority, because it was obvious Jesus had great power and authority to give him his money.

So Jesus replied, addressing the man as ‘friend’ — some translations use ‘man’, indicating an insult — asking who appointed Him to be judge and arbiter (verse 14).

Henry says that Jesus responded in that way because He was solely concerned with health and the spiritual world:

He could have done the judge’s part, and the lawyer’s, as well as he did the physician’s, and have ended suits at law as happily as he did diseases; but he would not, for it was not in his commission: Who made me a judge? Probably he refers to the indignity done to Moses by his brethren in Egypt, with which Stephen upbraided the Jews, Acts 7 27, 35. “If I should offer to do this, you would taunt me as you did Moses, Who made thee a judge or a divider?He corrects the man’s mistake, will not admit his appeal (it was coram non judice—not before the proper judge), and so dismisses his bill. If he had come to him to desire him to assist his pursuit of the heavenly inheritance, Christ would have given him his best help; but as to this matter he has nothing to do: Who made me a judge? Note, Jesus Christ was no usurper; he took no honour, no power, to himself, but what was given him, Heb 5 5. Whatever he did, he could tell by what authority he did it, and who gave him that authority. Now this shows us what is the nature and constitution of Christ’s kingdom. It is a spiritual kingdom, and not of this world.

Jesus then gave the man and the crowd a sharp warning, beginning with ‘beware’, a word that demands attention and awareness. He said that they — and we — should be on our guard against all kinds of greed, because the purpose of life is not about piling up possessions (verse 15).

Our commentators explain the words from the Greek manuscript.

Henry says:

Take heed and beware of covetousness; horate—”Observe yourselves, keep a jealous eye upon your own hearts, lest covetous principles steal into them; and phylassesthepreserve yourselves, keep a strict band upon your own hearts, lest covetous principles rule and give law in them.” Covetousness is a sin which we have need constantly to watch against, and therefore frequently to be warned against.

MacArthur tells us:

Beware, horate, look – present imperative – behold, mark, observe, and then guard. Phulassō is a military term: “Provide protective vigilance against every form of greed, all covetousness, pleonexias,” – strong word – “all covetousness.” And the word basically means “an inordinate desire for riches,” “grasping,” “extorting.” “Scheming” is included in this kind of thing. This is as damning as false religion. This is the thirst. Pleonexias is the thirst for more. It’s like drinking salt water: the more you drink, the thirstier you get.

In Ecclesiastes it is wisdom. What Solomon says in chapter 5, verse 10, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income.” People who worship money and who love money and who love abundance and love possessions are never satisfied when they get it; it’s just like drinking salt water.

It is not wrong to be blessed with material things. The sin comes in wanting more of them:

The sin is not in having more, the sin is being discontent. The sin is not in having wealth, the sin is in what you do with it. It’s not the amount, it’s the attitude. Abraham was wealthy. Job was wealthy. Solomon was wealthy. Even in the New Testament, no doubt Joseph of Arimathea was wealthy. And there were wealthy people in the New Testament who had the church in their home because they had a large enough home to have a church. It’s not about what you have, it’s about how you feel about what you have. And that’s what the Scripture warns about. It warns about greed and covetousness and the lust for more, so as to consume it on your own desires.

Then Jesus related a parable about a man whose land produced crops in abundance (verse 16).

He thought about what he should do because he had no place to store his abundant crops (verse 17).

So, he decided on a plan: tearing down his existing barns and building larger ones for his grain — and his goods (verse 18).

Note that the pronoun ‘I’ appears five times in total in verses 17 and 18. It was all about him.

MacArthur analyses the parable thus far:

To define life as an acquisition of material possessions is to commit the deadly sin of serving the creature rather than the Creator, Romans 1:25. “Beware of this,” – Jesus says, back to verse 15, and here’s why – “for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” Not even when you have – and the word “abundance” means “more than enough,” “more than sufficient.” It could be “excess.” It could be “surplus.” That’s the way it’s used three other times in Luke: Luke 9:17, Luke 15:17, Luke 21:4.

Even if you have more than enough, it still doesn’t provide real life. By the way, the word “life” in Greek can be one of two words: bios, which is simply life as opposed to being dead, biological life. You might translate it existence. Then the word for life which is used here, zōē, encompasses all that makes life worth living, all that is real life: satisfaction, fulfillment, enjoyment, meaning, purpose. And he says, “Even when you have surplus and you have excess, that doesn’t make really living, that doesn’t take care of giving you real life.” In fact, the life He’s referring to here is eternal life, because that’s the only kind of life that is fulfilling, satisfying, meaningful, purposeful, producing peace and joy and hope and blessing. You’re never going to get that real life from the material world even if you have more than enough …

Jesus said in John 10:10, “I’ve come that they might have life, the real life, and have it more abundantly.” He wants to give you the life that truly is abundant, and it’s that eternal life. That’s the admonition.

Look at the anecdote; story’s simple. He told them a parable, parabolē. The second part of that word, bole from ballō, “to place,” para, “alongside.” “To place alongside.” That’s what a parable is, it’s a story placed alongside a principle to illustrate the principle.

So He said the land of a certain rich man was very productive. Now that’s good. No dishonesty here, no extortion, no crime, nothing; he just had a great crop. By the way, I love that verb where it says “very productive.” That is the verb euphoreō, and it means “to yield a good crop.” And we get an English word out of it, “euphoria.” Now for us, euphoria has nothing to do with a crop. Euphoria is “elation,” “being filled with joy,” kind of “over the top satisfaction,” “fulfillment,” “feelings of happiness,” “feelings of well-being.” But how interesting that that came in an agrarian culture from having a good crop, being successful.

And he had this crop, it was just absolutely huge. No dishonesty, no ill-gotten gain, no extortion, no evil, no immorality, no illegality; he came to honest wealth. That’s fine. And you know what? If you’re a farmer, of all things that human beings do, that one is most dependent upon circumstances and factors that are outside your control, right? If ever you should thank God, you should thank God for a good crop, since providentially He controls all the elements in the factors. And so, verse 17, “This man began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’” …

You know what strikes me about that, two verses: eight “I’s” and four “my’s”: “I, I, I, I. My, my, my, my.” And here you get the insight into the materialist. This is an imaginary story. But I mean, wouldn’t there be in the minds of the people standing there listening to this – an imaginary group of people who went out and pulled in the harvest. And maybe you might say to those hard-working people, “I’ll share some with them”? And wouldn’t there be an imaginary village with some widows and some orphans? And wouldn’t there be an imaginary village with some poor people? And isn’t there a temple, and isn’t there a synagogue, and isn’t there the work of God? And wouldn’t He be up for consideration for some of this stuff? “I, I, I, I, I. My, my, my, my, my.”

What’s wrong with this picture? No, he’s a smart guy. He is crafty. You say, “Well, he could just sell it all and make some money.” Nah, nah, nah, you don’t want to do that. You flood the market with too much stuff and the price goes down. So what do you do? You restrict what? Supply. So you build bigger barns on the same pad, higher ones so you don’t take up any more of your fields, and you store it all, and then you let it out at whatever pace you want. And then you become the fat cat, you become the Middle Eastern local guru. You’re going to control the prices.

By the way, he didn’t just store his grain there, he stored his goods there, “and my goods.” What’s that? This is the only biblical storage unit I know of. This guy’s got other stuff he’s storing up.

The greedy gentleman farmer was consumed by the abundance of his crop which impressed him. He did not consider that the new, larger barns might catch fire or that someone might steal his grain or that the grain might spoil.

He thought of none of that. Instead, he told himself that he would have ‘ample goods’ laid up for years to come, so he could ‘relax, eat, drink, be merry’ (verse 19).

Henry has this observation:

It is the great absurdity which the children of this world are guilty of that they portion their souls in the wealth of the world and the pleasures of sense.

But God intervened, addressing him as ‘you fool’, telling him that his life was now demanded of him, meaning he was going to die. God asked him who would then possess what he now has (verse 20).

MacArthur explains the phrasing in that verse:

“This night your soul is required of you,” and the actual Greek says, “This night they demand your soul.” That’s an old rabbinic expression, a common plural construction used by the rabbis to refer to an act of God, because God is plural: Elohim. “They” – God, the Trinity, the very Trinity He had been referring to a few minutes before this – “are going to require your soul.”

How foolish to make all your grandiose plans – forget God, forget others, forget your own mortality.

Jesus concluded by saying that this is the fate of those who store up treasure on Earth for themselves but are stingy towards God (verse 21), from whom all blessings come.

MacArthur says:

You never saw a hearse pulling a U-Haul. You can’t take it with you, it doesn’t go. And if you haven’t sent it on ahead somehow, you’re a fool. If you haven’t used what God does give you for His glory and for the benefit of others, and if you haven’t dealt with your own mortality and prepared for eternity, you’re a fool.

If you give it to God, it’ll be there to welcome you. If you’ve invested in His kingdom, Jesus said, “Lay not up treasure for yourselves on earth, but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not corrupt, and where thieves don’t break through and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” You can reverse that. “If your heart’s there, that’s where your treasure will go, It’ll go.” It’ll invest in your family, it’ll invest in the kingdom work, it’ll invest in the needs of others, because that’s where your heart is.

How foolish to be a materialist – to be greedy, covetous, self-indulgent, to horde what you have and leave it all behind. So is the man who lays up treasure for himself. It’s not about how much you have, it’s what you do with it.

No doubt there will be many more sermons on this denouncing wealth, but as MacArthur says, it’s what one does with one’s wealth that counts. This is how Christendom developed the ethos of charity and philanthropy over the centuries. Some today would use the expression ‘give back’. It’s the same concept.

As for the materialist’s nightmare of losing all that he has to someone else after his death, Henry points out:

If many a man could have foreseen to whom his house would have come after his death, he would rather have burned it than beautified it.

How true, how true.

Henry also lays out tenets of Christianity that we have long forgotten. Remembering that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, please note that our faith is not a socio-political construct:

It is a spiritual kingdom, and not of this world. 1. It does not interfere with civil powers, nor take the authority of princes out of their hands. Christianity leaves the matter as it found it, as to civil power. 2. It does not intermeddle with civil rights; it obliges all to do justly, according to the settled rules of equity, but dominion is not founded in grace. 3. It does not encourage our expectations of worldly advantages by our religion. If this man will be a disciple of Christ, and expects that in consideration of this Christ should give him his brother’s estate, he is mistaken; the rewards of Christ’s disciples are of another nature. 4. It does not encourage our contests with our brethren, and our being rigorous and high in our demands, but rather, for peace’ sake, to recede from our right. 5. It does not allow ministers to entangle themselves in the affairs of this life (2 Tim 2 4), to leave the word of God to serve tables. There are those whose business it is, let it be left to them, Tractent fabrilia fabriEach workman to his proper craft.

May all reading this have a blessed Sunday.

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