Warning About Coveting (Luke 12:13-21)

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2008-06-08 10:37.

Posted in | printer-friendly version »

From the crowd, a man spoke up, requesting that Jesus tell his brother to divide the family inheritance with him. The Son of God refused to take sides with the man in the inheritance controversy, saying, “Who set me as judge or arbitrator over you?” According to the Mosaic law, the firstborn received a double portion of the inheritance. (Deuteronomy 21:17) The account does not specify whether this was a factor in the man’s desire for Jesus to intervene nor does it give any indication why the man felt that his brother should divide the inheritance with him. In his response, Jesus stressed guarding against all kinds of covetousness, for the man did desire a considerable portion of what his brother had. De-emphasizing the value of material property, Jesus added that one’s life is not a matter of abundant possessions. (Luke 12:13-15) Great riches cannot be used to preserve one’s life indefinitely and have no bearing on one’s eternal future.

To reinforce his admonition, Jesus related a parable. A certain rich man enjoyed exceptionally abundant yields from his land, but his storage capacity proved to be too limited for his crops. He decided to tear down his storehouses, replacing them with larger ones for his grain and other goods. He would then address his “soul” or himself with the words, “You have many good things stored up for many years [to come]; rest, eat, drink, and rejoice.” (Luke 12:16-19)

The manner in which Jesus formulated the expressions reflected the rich man’s ignoring the uncertainties of life and leaving no room for God in his plans. On this basis, Jesus then referred to God as calling this rich man “senseless” and telling him that the very night in which he had congratulated himself on his plans his soul or life was demanded from him. This left him with the question as to who would come to have the goods he had accumulated. Applying the lesson of the parable, Jesus said that this is what happens to the person who “stores up treasures for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:20, 21) With the attention focused solely on possessions to secure personal comfort and pleasure, such an individual gives no thought to those in need and so fails to please God as one who uses his abundance to benefit others.

Jesus did not specify how the rich man’s life was threatened. He thus let those who heard his words draw their own conclusions about the various ways in which this could have happened.


It is noteworthy that Jesus refused to be made a party in the inheritance dispute but stressed the need for being rich toward God. His example serves as a reproof to those who consider themselves authorized to pass judgments respecting similar matters by virtue of the position they may occupy within a movement professing to be Christian.

The enlargement of underground storage places would have required removing their confining sides. This may explain why Jesus had the rich man plan to tear down his storehouses and then to build larger ones (instead of erecting additional structures).