Like every other verse, there is a piece of scripture that has so much meaning.
It entangles us.
The Parable of the Rich Fool
Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
But Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed Me judge or executor between you?”
And He said to them, “Watch out! Guard yourselves against every form of greed, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”…
( Luke 12:13-15 ) [ Link ]
Matthew Henry Commentary
Bible / Our Library / Commentaries / Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible / Luke / Luke 12 / Verses 13-21
We have in these verses, The application that was made to Christ, very unseasonably, by one of his hearers, desiring him to interpose between him and his brother in a matter that concerned the estate of the family (v. 13):
“Master, speak to my brother; speak as a prophet, speak as a king, speak with authority; he is one that will have regard to what thou sayest; speak to him, that he divide the inheritance with me.’’ Now,
- Some think that his brother did him wrong, and that he appealed to Christ to right him, because he knew the law was costly. His brother was such a one as the Jews called Ben-hamesen —a son of violence, that took not only his own part of the estate, but his brother’s too, and forcibly detained it from him. Such brethren there are in the world, who have no sense at all either of natural equity or natural affection, who make a prey of those whom they ought to patronize and protect. They who are so wronged have God to go to, who will execute judgment and justice for those that are oppressed.
- Others think that he had a mind to do his brother wrong, and would have Christ to assist him; that, whereas the law gave the elder brother a double portion of the estate, and the father himself could not dispose of what he had but by that rule (Deut, 21:16, 17), he would have Christ to alter that law, and oblige his brother, who perhaps was a follower of Christ at large, to divide the inheritance equally with him, in gavel-kind, share and share alike, and to allot him as much as his elder brother.
I suspect that this was the case, because Christ takes occasion from it to warn against covetousness, pleonexia —a desire of having more, more than God in his providence has allotted us. It was not a lawful desire of getting his own, but a sinful desire of getting more than his own.
II. Christ’s refusal to interpose in this matter (v. 14): Man, who made me a judge or divider over you? In matters of this nature, Christ will not assume either a legislative power to alter the settled rule of inheritances, or a judicial power to determine controversies concerning them.
He could have done the judge’s part, and the lawyer’s, as well as he did the physician’s, and have ended suits at law as happily as he did diseases; but he would not, for it was not in his commission: Who made me a judge? Probably he refers to the indignity done to Moses by his brethren in Egypt, with which Stephen upbraided the Jews, Acts. 7:27, Acts. 7:35.
“If I should offer to do this, you would taunt me as you did Moses, Who made thee a judge or a divider?’’ He corrects the man’s mistake, will not admit his appeal (it was coram non judice-not before the proper judge ), and so dismisses his bill.
If he had come to him to desire him to assist his pursuit of the heavenly inheritance, Christ would have given him his best help; but as to this matter he has nothing to do: Who made me a judge? Note, Jesus Christ was no usurper; he took no honour, no power, to himself, but what was given him, Hebrew 5:5 .
Whatever he did, he could tell by what authority he did it, and who gave him that authority. Now this shows us what is the nature and constitution of Christ’s kingdom. It is a spiritual kingdom, and not of this world.
It does not interfere with civil powers, nor take the authority of princes out of their hands. Christianity leaves the matter as it found it, as to civil power.
- It does not intermeddle with civil rights; it obliges all to do justly, according to the settled rules of equity, but dominion is not founded in grace.
- It does not encourage our expectations of worldly advantages by our religion. If this man will be a disciple of Christ, and expects that in consideration of this Christ should give him his brother’s estate, he is mistaken; the rewards of Christ’s disciples are of another nature.
- It does not encourage our contests with our brethren, and our being rigorous and high in our demands, but rather, for peace’ sake, to recede from our right.
- It does not allow ministers to entangle themselves in the affairs of this life (2 Tim. 2:4 ), to leave the word of God to serve tables. There are those whose business it is, let it be left to them, Tractent fabrilia fabri —Each workman to his proper craft.
- III. The necessary caution which Christ took occasion from this to give to his hearers. Though he came not to be a divider of men’s estates, he came to be a director of their consciences about them, and would have all take heed of harbouring that corrupt principle which they saw to be in others the root of so much evil.
- Here is,
- 1. The caution itself (v. 15): Take heed and beware of covetousness; horate —“Observe yourselves, keep a jealous eye upon your own hearts, lest covetous principles steal into them; and phylassesthe —preserve yourselves, keep a strict band upon your own hearts, lest covetous principles rule and give law in them.’’ Covetousness is a sin which we have need constantly to watch against, and therefore frequently to be warned against.
- 2. The reason of it, or an argument to enforce this caution: For a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth; that is, “our happiness and comfort do not depend upon our having a great deal of the wealth of this world.’’
- (1.) The life of the soul, undoubtedly, does not depend upon it, and the soul is the man. The things of the world will not suit the nature of a soul, nor supply its needs, nor satisfy its desires, nor last so long as it will last. Nay,
- (2.) Even the life of the body and the happiness of that do not consist in an abundance of these things; for many live very contentedly and easily, and get through the world very comfortably, who have but a little of the wealth of it ( a dinner of herbs with holy love is better than a feast of fat things ); and, on the other hand, many live very miserably who have a great deal of the things of this world; they possess abundance, and yet have no comfort of it; they bereave their souls of good, Eccl. 4:8 .
Bible / Our Library / Commentaries / John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible / Luke / Luke 12 / Luke 12:14
And he said unto him, man
Or “friend”, as the Ethiopic version renders it; that is, Jesus said to him, as the Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions express it:
who made me a judge, or a divider over you?
referring to the words of one of the Hebrews to Moses, when he interposed in a difference, ( Exodus 2:14 ) suggesting, that the same might be retorted on him, should he engage in such an affair: the reason why Christ avoided meddling with it, was not because it is unlawful for Christians to concern themselves in arbitrations about civil affairs, and in making up family differences, which is very commendable; but lest by such a step, he should give occasion to them, to conclude he was a temporal king:
whereas his kingdom was not of this world, and his business lay not in civil affairs, and the management of them; but in spiritual concerns, in preaching the Gospel, and doing good to the souls of men; wherefore this was out of his province: and besides, it was a matter of covetousness, either in this person, or his brother, or both; which Christ takes an occasion from hence to expose, agreeably to his office; to which may be added, that this man seems to have disturbed Christ in his public work, and was of such a worldly spirit, as to prefer the care of his secular affairs, to the hearing of the word, and the welfare of his immortal soul.
Adam Clarke Commentary
A judge – Without some judgment given in the case, no division could be made; therefore Jesus added the word judge. Pearce.
A minister of Christ ought not to concern himself with secular affairs, any farther than charity and the order of discipline require it. Our Lord could have decided this difference in a moment; but the example of a perfect disengagement from worldly things was more necessary for the ministers of his Church than that of a charity applying itself to temporal concerns.
He who preaches salvation to all should never make himself a party man; otherwise he loses the confidence, and consequently the opportunity of doing good to the party against whom he decides.
Better to leave all these things to the civil magistrate, unless where a lawsuit may be prevented, and the matter decided to the satisfaction or acquiescence of both parties.
Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible
Who made me a judge? – It is not my business to settle controversies of this kind. They are to be settled by the magistrate. Jesus came for another purpose – to preach the gospel, and so to bring people to “a willingness to do” right.
Civil affairs are to be left to the magistrate. There is no doubt that Jesus “could” have told him what was right in this case, but then it would have been interfering with the proper office of the magistrates; it might have led him into controversy with the Jews; and it was, besides, evidently apart from the proper business of his life.
We may remark, also, that the appropriate business of ministers of the gospel is to attend to spiritual concerns. They should have little to do with the temporal matters of the people.
If they can “persuade men” who are at variance to be reconciled, it is right; but they have no power to take the place of a magistrate, and to settle contentions in a legal way.
Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible
Christ clearly implied by such a reply to the man who demanded redress against his brother that the problem was not social injustice, but covetousness, laying down the dictum that “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he owns,” a premise that flatly contradicts all of the political axioms of every nation on earth.
A man’s “standard of living,” calculated by prevailing yardsticks, is in reality no such thing. “The world in every age has bypassed or refused to acknowledge the truth of this principle, and yet every age has abounded with proofs of its truth.
People’s New Testament
One of the company said. This question concerning the inheritance, and the parable of the Rich Fool that follows, are only found in Luke.
Speak to my brother. The man wished to enlist Christ’s moral power for his pecuniary advantage. Whether his brother had wronged him or not is not stated, but the Lord’s business was not to gain acres of land and money for men, and hence he replies: Who made me a judge or a divider over you? It was not his mission to look after temporal gains, but to save the souls of men.
Keep yourselves from covetousness. A greedy desire for the goods of this world. A sin of all ages and a besetting sin of our times. A man’s life consisteth not, etc. Comfort, happiness, and, above all, eternal interests, do not depend on the abundance of our goods. Why then should a man give his life to a greedy chase after wealth?
Enduring Word, David Guzik
LUKE 12 – ATTITUDES FOR FOLLOWERS OF JESUS
To divide property between covetous men is to prepare for future strife.
To make men free from covetousness, is to make peace.
( Morgan )
Beloved, think over these things.
Consider it, struggle over it.
And, may the peace of God that passes understanding gather and rest on you.