Dividing the Inheritance
11th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 13) LSB #850
Text – Luke 12:13
Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus], “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
DIVIDING THE INHERITANCE
Two weeks ago we heard Martha say to Jesus, “Tell my sister to help me.” (Luke 10:40c ESV) Today, it’s someone in the crowd saying, “Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” We learned from Jesus that Martha had her priorities wrong, & He makes clear that so does the ‘someone in crowd’ who’s seeking help this time:
“He said to him, ‘Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?’” (Luke 12:14 ESV) This demand placed upon Jesus presents Him with a perfect opportunity to give instruction on the importance of money & wealth. To be more explicit, I should say Jesus is actually pointing out the lack of importance of money & wealth.
Financial security is far & away the lesser thing when compared to matters of the soul. So today’s teaching actually has a lot in common with Mary & Martha. It has a lot in common with you & me. What things take priority in our lives? How have your priorities changed over time? Has the Son of God had an effect on the way you focus your time & your energy?
Are you all about building up your life in Christ? That was last Sunday’s message. Have you done anything with it since then? In studying for this sermon, I came across a quotation that seems to hit the nail right on the head:
“It’s good to have money & the things it can buy. It’s good also, to check up once in a while & make sure you haven’t lost the things that money cannot buy.” That’s from a man named George Lorimer. He was editor of the Saturday Evening Post during its heyday, & he put the 1st Norman Rockwell painting on its cover. At one point during his tenure the Post went from $2000 in sales per week to over $1 million. That was in 1908 dollars. As popular, pervasive & profitable as it once was, the Post has not been published in over 47 years. “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself & is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21 ESV)
George Lorimer knew a thing or two about wealth, yet he realized there are things that money cannot buy. Money & possessions can be wonderful gifts from God, yet we can easily turn those possessions into false gods & then they take possession of our soul. Though he didn’t have a clue, that is exactly what happened to the rich man in Jesus’ parable.
The man thought it was his wealth that was providing him with all that he needed. You’ll find these verses instructive, “He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns & build larger ones, & there I will store all my grain & my goods. And I will say to my soul…’”
In less than three verses, one particular word shows up 6 different times. Did you notice which word it was? It’s a common problem among sinners. In fact, Martin Luther taught that, as a result of the fall into sin, all human beings are curved in upon themselves. It’s the perennial problem of ‘me, myself & I.’ In other words, life is built up in me, rather than built up in Christ.
Martin Luther wrote in his Lectures on Romans: “Our nature [is] so deeply curved in upon itself that it not only bends the best gifts of God towards itself… but it also fails to realize that it so wickedly, curvedly & viciously seeks all things, even God, for its own sake.” The rich man was all about me, myself & I. Unfortunately, so are we. That is God’s diagnosis.
The cure, very fortunately, is not all about me, myself & I. It’s about Jesus. Me, myself & I is nothing but sin. Jesus is nothing but perfect harmony. That’s what draws people to Him. The event of today’s Gospel reading occurs on Jesus’ way to Jerusalem where, at Golgotha, He will atone for every one of our failures. There are no more reasons to be afraid of confessing our failures or sins. Emotionally, yeah, that’s still difficult at best, but rationally, spiritually, confession of our sin allows the Holy Spirit to reconnect us to living forever in paradise. The rich man was trying to create his own paradise here in a twisted & evil world:
“And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’” (Luke 12:19 ESV) That’s not the kind of life I’ve known, but if I look at the rich man as one of the “one percenters,” it’s easy to write off this parable as not about me. It’s painless to rail against & slam the wealthy as evil & corrupt.
Sadly, many preachers have built up this rich man into a monstrous form of selfishness & greed. Jesus says nothing of the sort. In that day, being wealthy was a sign that God loved you. Unlike today, having wealth was not something that people criticized a person for. Being in the top one percent of wealth in America is increasingly being looked at as evil.
So what does Jesus say about the rich man? “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself & is not rich toward God.” Jesus does not angrily shout the man down for being greedy or selfish or even a ‘one percenter.’ He just points out that this man is not rich toward God. The rich man has more faith in his wealth than he does in his heavenly Father.
So how do we fight against the temptation to put faith in our possessions rather than in our Father, who created everything that exists in the 1st place? One step we can take is to regularly give away some of our money. If you find that difficult it presents an opportunity to ask yourself if you are trusting in money more than in God.
How healthy is your faith in our Lord’s promises to provide? Next Sunday’s Gospel reading continues as Jesus draws the conclusion for us to the parable of the rich man, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself & is not rich toward God. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, & the body more than clothing.” Food & clothing are things that money can buy. Have you done inventory & checked up lately on the things in your life that money cannot buy? In other words, how healthy is your faith in our Lord’s promises to provide everything that you need? Giving back to Him, a portion of what He’s given you, is exercising your faith.
Exercise is good for the body & for the soul. The rich man in the parable didn’t make that effort. His life revolved purely around the stuff that he had. Jesus calls that man a fool because the rich man thought only of his worldly possessions. Jesus rebuked Martha because she was overly focused upon her earthly good deeds. Is our focus any different?
When ‘the someone in the crowd’ says to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus warns him against the temptation to think that life consists in the abundance of possessions. If you remember, when Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness, one of the temptations is to turn stones into bread.
Jesus responded that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” People who reject the Creation narrative of Genesis are denying the power of God’s Word to give, or to sustain, life. People who refuse to give offerings that are a real sacrifice often struggle to trust the power of God’s Word to give, or to sustain, life.
Like the rich man in the parable we try to create our own paradise in order to protect us from the evil we see in so many aspects of our world. I’m not saying that trying to protect our lives is wrong. Neither is cooking a meal wrong, nor building larger barns nor seeking to divide an inheritance fairly. All of those can be godly stewardship.
The problems arise when we do any of those things to the exclusion of our Father in heaven. Problems arise when we do any of those things in such a way that our Lord & Savior’s work is minimized. Jesus didn’t come to earth to arbitrate financial disputes. He didn’t come to earth to spend His days eating. He didn’t come to earth to build larger barns. Human beings can do those things. Not a one of us can dispel the darkness & death of sin for the purpose of bringing the light & life of God’s perfect kingdom.
There are things in this life that are of a far greater priority than money, wealth & possessions. Two paragraphs before today’s parable, Jesus teaches us to be afraid, not of “those who kill the body, & after that have nothing more that they can do.” Jesus says, “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear Him who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell.”
The far & away greatest purpose for which Jesus came is to rescue each of us from hell, yet, He does not save indiscriminately. He comes to save His sheep, those who know His voice & follow Him. Jesus took on human flesh in the womb of Mary so that He could take our place, earn our inheritance, & then divide it with us on the Last Day of time.
Two weeks ago Martha chose to do a good thing, but she still had her priorities wrong because she chose the lesser of things. She spent her time in elaborate preparation for entertaining Jesus when it would have been far better for her to spend that time listening to Jesus as her sister Mary had done.
Jesus teaches us these things in order that we will set our mind on things above, not on earthly things. He knows that our inheritance in heaven will last forever. He is totally aware of how moth & rust destroy the stuff of this life. Of what does your life consist? Around what does it revolve? What is the focal point of your living? Repentance should be!
Our lives should be built up in Christ. If we want to love Jesus more, we should give away more of the things we have. Stuff is intrinsically dangerous because it takes our eyes off of the Author & Perfector of our faith. The focus of our time & energy is frequently narrow & limited. Certainly there are details that need to be accomplished, but they should always be done in God’s scheme of things. Already when Jesus was still on earth, He was teaching that the Last Days are here. Don’t waste your time on trivial things that are here today & gone tomorrow.
If your house is burning down & the fire department shows up, you don’t complain that the carpet cleaner is late for his appointment! Jesus would say, “Repent, for the reign of God is at hand.” Keep the main the main thing. In the remainder of Luke’s 12th chapter, the Son of God stresses preparation for His 2nd coming, because that is the main thing.
Be watchful & be ready! Don’t allow the distractions of these temporary earthly things to take your eyes off of Jesus. St. Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae perfectly complements Jesus’ teaching in Luke 12:
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, & your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4 ESV)
Being a ‘one percenter’ is not evil or even greedy. What is foolish & caused by evil is to spend your time & energy ignoring God because your focus is so locked upon the things that money can buy. Then you certainly will lose the things that money cannot buy. Our calling in this life is to confess our sins, & to receive the merciful forgiveness that God offers.
Jesus’ sheep know His voice & they follow Him, thus receiving His inheritance. Amen.
Cure Your children’s warring madness; bend our pride to Your control; shame our wanton, selfish gladness, rich in things & poor in soul. Save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore; let the gift of Your salvation be our glory evermore. Lo, the hosts of evil round us scorn the Christ, assail His ways! From the fears that long have bound us free our hearts to faith & praise. Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the living of these days. Amen. LSB 850:3, 4, 2.
 Luke 12:17-19a ESV
 Luke 12:21 ESV
 Luke 12:21-23 ESV
 Matthew 4:4 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet