13 And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. 14 And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? 15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. 16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: 17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:13–21)
I read about five sisters who grew up in a small town. Their father was a successful banker despite the Great Depression. Four of the sisters married and stayed close to home. The other went to college, got married, and taught school on the West Coast.
When the father died, she and her husband came home. When she came into the house, she noticed that many of the things in the house had been tagged by the other sisters with their names. She and her husband was appalled by the sight.
Later, when the siblings were having a tense and awkward meal together, her husband stood behind her mother’s chair and said, “Everyone seems to be tagging what they want, so we’ll also tag what we want.” With those words, he placed his hands on their mother’s shoulders. (R. Kent Hughes, Luke: That You May Know the Truth, Preaching the Word [Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998], 44–45.)
It’s stunning how easily we covet things, isn’t it? Covetousness can even override our feelings of grief! If it is able to work itself into our hearts the day after a parent dies, then what chance do we have in keeping it out of our hearts as we walk through our lives as Christians?
Our passage looks at a similar situation, where a parent has died and the children are more concerned about the inheritance. Jesus drives to the root of the problem and offers reasons to fight against allowing covetousness any foothold in our lives.