Luke 12:13-34 Yeshua corrects the role of wealth in the hearts of believers

JeffGod instructs His people to open their hands and share the abundance of God’s blessings with those who need help. Yeshua weaved together teachings on greed, charity and wealth.

“If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks. Beware that there is no base thought in your heart, saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,’ and your eye is hostile toward your poor brother, and you give him nothing; then he may cry to the LORD against you, and it will be a sin in you. You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings. For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’” (Deut. 15:7–11)

Lets start our discussion in Luke with Luke 12:13-21. Yeshua told a parable that reminds me of a famous George Carlin comedy routine in which he mocks people who buy bigger houses so they can stuff them with more “stuff,” aka personal goods.

“He told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, “What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.'” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?” So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.'” (Luke 12:16–21)

A young man brought a complaint to Yeshua about an inheritance dispute. In Yeshua’s time, rabbis often served as local arbitrators in leal disputes, particularly in matters of inheritance. The Torah tells us that he firstborn son is typically supposed to receive a double portion of the father’s house, but often the estate would become a bone of contention between the firstborn and the other siblings. After all, it wasn’t uncommon for the elder brothers to try to conspire to keep all the inheritance for themselves. 

There is a parallel here between Yeshua’s response to this brother: “Man, who appointed me a judge or arbitrator over you?” and Moses’ attempt to insert himself into a dispute between an Egyptian overseer and a Hebrew slave and a later dispute between two Hebrew slaves (Ex. 2:11–15). Moses paid for his meddling with 40 years of exile and humility inflicted on him by God.

Instead, Yeshua addresses the issue indirectly with a parable. His teaching on greed judged the heart of the problem before him and called on the brother to re-evaluate his motives (Luke 12:22–34; Matt. 6:19–34). When Yeshua was called upon to judge the matter of the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11), he turned the situation around and caused the accusers to drop their case against her altogether. 

Yeshua’s parable of the rich man building bigger barns to hold more wealth gave the accusing brother and the crowd the way out of the grip of greed: share the excesses of prosperity. 

He called on them to be “rich towards God” instead. Through Moshe, God told ancient Israel before the entered the land promised to Abraham that they could easily lose the riches of the land by forgetting how those blessings came to be in texts such as Deut. 8:11–14 and Deut. 28:7–14. 

The blessings were given to Israel as a testimony to God’s greatness. What’s the sense of being a peculiar people if you don’t acknowledge who makes the people peculiar in the first place. Deuteronomy 28 gives a grave warning of what would happen if the children of Israel refused to remember the source of their blessings and instead pick up the anti-God practices of the people in and around the land. The blessings would reverse and become curses. 

God teaches in the Torah that the excesses of His blessings were to be shared with those who don’t have enough. 

  1. Enough “daily bread” fell for Israel during the 40 years for each household to gather only as much as they needed for the particular day. Attempts to gather excess resulted in a foul, rotten stench. (Ex. 16:4–36)
  2. Tithe was to be shared with the Levites and the poor who could not celebrate God’s appointments with His people on their own tithes (Deut. 26:12).
  3. The corners of the field at harvest time were to be left for the poor to glean for food and eat (Lev. 19:9; 23:22).
  4. Produce of the sixth year would last through the seventh year, which was the shabbat for the land, just as the manna on the sixth day of the week would last into the Shabbat. When you stretch out one years harvest over two years, there certainly some sharing to go around.

Some believe that Luke 12:33 and the testimony of the post-resurrection believers in the book of Acts that every believer should give up everything they have and give it to the poor and become poor themselves as though poverty was a superior moral state. One problem with that argument is in this model, charity is a one-time-for-all event, because once one gives it all away there would not be any more excess to give in the future. God wants us to practice charity regularly, not just one time. 

Then the next question is whether we should set aside food, clothing, etc., in preparation for a natural disaster. That’s the subject of the rest of Luke 12.

The key to all this is the condition of your heart. When we acknowledge that everything we have is a gift from God — our very lives are a gift from God — our attitude toward our money, homes, etc., should become more open-handed.

Reader: Sean. Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Tammy.

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