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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Today’s Reading | Luke 12:13–21

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 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.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 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. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 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?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” (NRSV)


Pastors hear a lot of stories about what happens when the last parent has died and the sons and daughters try to split up the family inheritance. Even the healthiest of families struggles with the task.

“I really wanted Mother’s dressing table, but . . .”
“I wanted Dad’s fishing tackle, but . . .”

There’s something about the family inheritance, the family heirlooms, the family stuff that carries a great deal of emotional weight.

In Luke’s story, someone yelled to Jesus, “Tell my brother (probably the oldest brother) to divide the family inheritance with me.” In that day, the oldest was usually the one to get everything. So the request to divide the inheritance, which seems reasonable to us today, was pretty edgy then.

Jesus dodges the request that he become the arbitrator over this squabble. Instead he jumps beyond the situation at hand and speaks to a condition of the heart: “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed!”

I don’t think this story is meant to make us think we shouldn’t have desires about the family inheritance or that we readily should give up our entire portion. I believe Jesus is asking us to do a heart check. How attached are we to things? How much struggle comes before we let go of something or give something up? On a scale of 1 to 10, where do we fall on the greed scale? Personally, I’m not so greedy about money, but I don’t like sharing best friends, and I can get pretty greedy about my time. The question Jesus’ story asks is, what riches keep you or me distracted from being rich toward God?


Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for the rich inheritance you have offered me—faith, a church community, brothers and sisters in Christ. Show me the nature of my greed, and help me to loosen my grip. For your sake! Amen!

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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