Warnings About Greed – Luke 12:13-21

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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
April 30, 2017

Warnings About Greed
Luke 12:13-21


Today marks the completion of my 26th year of ministry here and the start of my 27th. I am very grateful for your generosity last year in raising the funds to send to me to Israel. I am going with a study group from The Master’s Seminary as part of the IBEX program. It is the same study trip I tried to go on more than 30 years ago, but other unexpected expenses left me without the funds to go. Similar things have happened every other time I have planned on going to Israel in the past, but this time the air fare and trip costs have already been paid and I have the tickets. So Lord willing, I will be in the Holy Land in just a couple of weeks. The good thing about the long delay is that though I still have to take the exams for the class, I do not have to pay the extra tuition costs or be concerned at all about what grade I get on the tests. The bad thing is that I am that much older than the seminary students going, so I have set a goal of being able to keep them in sight when we are on our various hikes to locations.

I also must mention how wonderful my wife is about all of this. Though we have the funds for her to go with me, her bad back would not endure this trip. The plane trip itself would be very difficult and the required walking would be impossible. She has encouraged me to go anyway. In addition, I leave the day before our 30th anniversary and return after her birthday, yet she still has encouraged me greatly to go. We will celebrate when I return.

Turn in your Bibles to Luke 12. It has been a while since we were last in our study of the Life of Christ. I was away for a couple of weeks in California for the Shepherd’s Conference followed by a missionary speaker. (On a side note, let me quickly add that I am very grateful for the men here who love the Lord and His word that can preach as such times. I think we have a good line up of men to preach while I am in Israel from May 15 to June 4).

We have spent the last six weeks examining elements of the glory and majesty of God as a means of motivating reverent worship of Him. The greater your understanding of God, His character, attributes and works, the more humbled you become before Him and therefore respond with reverent worship of Him. Last week I tried to be very practical in explaining the attitude and actions of reverent worship. I trust that was helpful to you in both encouraging you in what you are doing right and correcting what needs to change so that you do not continue in any irreverence toward God. If you were not here, please get a copy of either the audio or written notes. They are posted on our website or ask me and I will get you a CD or printed copy. (See: Worship Series)

Context – Luke 12:1-12

As you are turning to Luke 12, let me set the context for you. The antagonism between Jesus and the religious leaders has reached crises levels. This was the reason Jesus had left Jerusalem and was traveling back to the region of Galilee. It would allow things in Jerusalem to cool down a little before Jesus would return in the Spring for Passover when their hatred would culminate in Jesus’ crucifixion. The latest clash began over Jesus casting out a demon and some in the crowd accusing Him of doing it by the power of Beelzebul and Jesus powerfully rebuking them for their illogical, inconsistent, insurrectionary and inane accusation (Luke 11:14-26). This miracle and the controversy that followed resulted in the crowd growing larger as people came to see what was happening. Jesus gave a stern warning to the crowd as well (Luke 11:29-36). (See: The Finger of God and Signs for a Wicked Generation)

Then a Pharisee, and we assume he was not one of those involved in accusing Jesus of being demonically empowered, invited Jesus to lunch. Other Pharisees and lawyers (Scribes) had also gathered there. During the course of the meal a conflict rose over the fact that Jesus did not follow their traditions. Before it was over, Jesus had exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and lawyers and rebuked them for it. They in turn became very hostile and were looking for ways to entrap Him and destroy Him if possible (Luke 11:37-54). (See: Religious Hypocrisy Exposed and Rebuked)

It is very reasonable to assume that news of Jesus’ miracle of casting out the demon and healing the mute man and the conflicts that arose between Jesus and the religious leaders soon spread. The people are interested in Jesus and what He might do or say next, so it is not surprising that a very large crowd had gathered. Follow along as I read Luke 12:1-12 to set the context for our study of the passage that follows it.

1 Under these circumstances, after so many thousands of people had gathered together that they were stepping on one another, He began saying to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. 3 “Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops. 4 “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. 5 “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! 6 “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. 8 “And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; 9 but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10 “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him. 11 “When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

This rebuke of the Pharisees reminds us that there is never an excuse for a Christian to be hypocritical. Nothing can be ultimately hidden and your true nature will be fully exposed. Having a proper fear of God will eliminate the motivation to hide the truth that arises from the fear of man or the devil. Having a proper understanding of God’s care for you eliminates the false idea of trying to gain it by sham religious practices. Having a proper confession of Jesus brings confidence of the Holy Spirit’s involvement in your life, while denial of Jesus reveals your true unrighteous nature. You need to be humble and honest as you learn to trust the Lord and walk with Him in the power of the Holy Spirit. He will make your life count for eternity instead of being squandered for the brief moment of time that is your physical existence on this earth. (See: Preventions for Hypocrisy) What Jesus teaches in the next section of this passage emphasizes that point. You must approach life with a view to eternity and not just the present and immediate future.

Luke 12:13–21

13 Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” 16 And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. 17 “And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 “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. 19 ‘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.” ’ 20 “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?’ 21 “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

An unidentified man rudely interrupts Jesus and brings up a circumstance by which Jesus addresses a subject closely related to what He had just been teaching. What hypocrisy is to spiritual life, greed or covetousness is to material life. I want to now examine what Jesus teaches here under four points: The Perpetrator, The Principle, The Parable, and The Practice.

The Perpetrator – Luke 12:13-14

Luke is a diligent researcher and historian (Luke 1:1-4) and usually gives some means identifying the people he mentions. He may use their name or describe them by their ethnicity, gender, position, political or religious affiliation. Knowing whether it is a Jew or a Gentile, a man or a woman, a Pharisee or a Sadducee, a king or a peasant can often give greater understanding of what is being said and why. However, there are times when Luke leaves a speaker unidentified to fit his purpose of broadening the point. He did this in Luke 11:15 when “some” in the crowd accused Jesus of casting out demons by Beelzebul. It broadens the possibility far beyond just the Pharisees who had specifically done this in an earlier incident. He also does it in Luke 9:57 when “someone” claims they would follow Jesus wherever He went. This increases the possibility to nearly anyone – Jew or Gentile, man or woman, rich or poor. In this passage the speaker that rudely interrupts Jesus is simply “someone in the crowd” because the greed expressed transcends all classes, all genders, all ethnicities, and all affiliations. We only know the person is a man because Jesus addresses him that way.

To be sure, this is a statement of greed and it was very rude. It was ill-mannered despite using a term of respect for Jesus, “teacher,” because it was an interruption of Jesus’ teaching with a personal request unrelated to what Jesus had just been teaching, though it did reveal the man’s own hypocrisy. It was also rude for this was the wrong time and place to bring up such a matter even if this individual did somehow understand that Jesus was the Messiah and was thinking in terms of His future kingdom. While it was not uncommon for Rabbis to get involved in such disputes, matters of inheritance were clearly delineated in the Mosaic law and disputes could be brought before the local magistrates and civic leaders. It was also rude because it did not have any consideration for the large crowd that had gathered to hear Jesus. It takes a lot of audacity, chutzpah, to expect Jesus to turn His attention away from His disciples and the multitude to handle a personal matter such as an inheritance.

It was also a statement of greed because the person tells Jesus what to do rather than request Him to hear both sides of the dispute and then arbitrate between them. This shows the interest was only in getting a hunk of the inheritance and not doing what was right before God. He should have known that even if Jesus would have gotten involved that He would follow the instructions of Proverbs 18:13, “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him,” and 18:17, “The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him.”

Jesus gives a stern rebuke. Using the term “man” to address him in this context is not rude, but it is without friendliness. Jesus uses a rhetorical question to give a strong negative answer. He would not get involved for He did not come to be a judge or arbitrator of such trivial matters. Jesus came to fulfill the Father’s will in seeking and saving the lost and bring spiritual healing to sinners.

There is a good principle to consider from Jesus response here. I mentioned last week about the importance of knowing and keeping your priorities. Jesus’ example applies directly to that principle. Avoid getting pulled into matters which do not concern you, and especially so when you are being asked to choose sides without hearing the full story from all involved. Keep your focus on accomplishing what God wants you to do.

The Principle – Luke 12:15

Jesus masterfully transforms the rudeness of the perpetrator into an opportunity to teach the great crowd that had gathered a very important principle about the underlying motivation of the man’s request. 15 Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” This is stronger than it may appear in English.

Beware is from oJravw / ora which in this context means “to take special notice of something, with the implication of concerning oneself” (Louw-Nida). It is translated as “take heed” in the NKJV and “take care” in the ESV. This word is coupled with “be on your guard” from fulavssw / phulasso which in this context means to watch and warn or protect as in guarding sheep at night. Both words are in the imperative, the voice of command, and combined together are a very strong admonition to be alert and pay special attention to give warning of and fight against the dangers of greed.

The word greed here, pleonexiva / pleonexia, is also translated as “covetousness” (NKJV, ESV) and refers to “a strong desire to acquire more and more material possessions or to possess more things than other people have, all irrespective of need – greed, avarice, covetousness” (Louw-Nida). Please note that this transcends all economic classes. It is the desire for, not the material possessions themselves, that cause the problem. It is the quest to get more even after your need is adequately satisfied. You have a good car, but you want a new one to impress the people at work. Your house is nice, but you are remodeling it to keep up with the neighbors who just redid theirs. You purchase more jewelry so you can show it off at the next social function. You have not even figured out your current phone, but you must have the new model that just came out. Your nest egg of savings has increased from large to extra large, but now you are working to make it jumbo. Whatever you have will never be enough. There will always be something else to add.

There are plenty of warnings in the Scriptures about the sin of covetousness including the detail given in last of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:17, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” It is included in the list in Romans 1:29 as one of the signs of a depraved mind. It is one of the things listed in Colossians 3:5 to which Christians are to consider themselves dead. Ephesians 5:3 states it should not even be named among Christians, and Ephesians 5:5 adds that the covetous man does not have an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 2 Peter 2:3 & 14 warn that greed is a sign of a false teacher because their hearts are trained in it and they will exploit their followers in order to fulfill it.

Proverbs 11:6 warns, “The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, But the treacherous will be caught by their own greed.” That was certainly true for Achan whose coveting of gold from Jericho brought about the execution of himself and his family which were his accomplices (Joshua 6 & 7). His stealing what was under the ban was simply the covetousness of his heart taking action when there was opportunity. The actions of greed get people in trouble, but those sins begin in the heart with coveting. That is why there has to be such diligence to be on guard against it forming in the first place.

Jesus exposes the heart issue by including the reason for His command against greed – “for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” This is more foundational than the warnings that focus on the negative consequences that might be experienced due to being covetous. Greed cannot fulfill the actual purpose of life. That may be a hard concept to grasp in a society as materialistic as ours, but it is still the truth, and if people would pause long enough to think about it, they would recognize it is true.

It is relatively easy to put restrictions on specific actions by setting negative consequences for them. We put people in jail who steal by various methods – robbery, theft, extortion, embezzlement, etc. Those who break business laws are subject to fines or even the loss of their business by revoking their contracts or license. Such laws are good for society and the individual by suppressing actions before they occur and cause damage.

It is much harder to put such curbs on the heart, but the damage to the soul is just as great when greed is pursued within the rules of man’s laws. The gambler loses even when he wins. The tycoon who remains a poor man even after amassing his business empire. The fortune hunter who had a better life before he struck it rich or won the lottery. It is the covetousness of the heart that is the problem and not the wealth itself. You can be dirt poor and live in a tent and still be as greedy as anyone else.

Again, Jesus’ words go to the heart of the issue, “for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” What is life about? The world is filled with people who have covetous hearts who think it is about getting more possessions. This foolishness is well expressed in the bumper sticker on the back of a fancy 4 X 4 truck that said, “He who dies with the most toys wins!” What kind of game did the fellow think he was playing? When you are dead you lose all your toys. Ecclesiastes 2:18-19 points this out saying, “Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool.”

The gambler loses even when he wins because it only reinforces his ideas about getting rich quick. Not only is that contrary to the wisdom in Scripture which admonishes us to earn our wealth by labor and legitimate investment than by ill gotten means and usury (Proverbs 10:2; 13:11; 28:8), but it makes him think life will be better once he is rich. But how much is enough to be rich? After winning, the gambler strives to increase it even more and eventually the laws of probability come into play and he loses all that he won and usually more. That is why casinos impoverish the areas around them while lining the pockets of the owners.

The business tycoon who amasses his empire but loses his wife and children is indeed a very poor man. No one says at the end of their life that they wished they had spent more time at the office. Yet we live near the center of one of the biggest such rat races in the world. It is a frenzied rush through the maze to accumulate more wealth which leaves little to no time to even enjoy what has been gained – unless it is staring at large numbers on a portfolio report. Even social events devolve into making contacts for the next business deal. But before you think you are immune to this danger, it is the direction of life, not the value of the business that is the problem. The greed can be just as bad and damaging to the person operating his hot dog stand as the one running a multi-billion dollar business. The same is true in the quest to work your way up the ladder in a company.

Fortune hunters have often found that getting rich destroyed their lives. Those stories are tragic enough, but worse are those who played a state lottery on a whim and then found their lives destroyed after winning by all the greedy people who quickly surrounded them.

Covetousness perverts the purpose of life and destroys contentment. I have found it fascinating over the years that surveys generally find that people in poor nations are happier than those in rich ones, and people with greater wealth are usually less generous by percentage of income than those who are poor. Wealth tends to increase the desire for more stuff which results in less contentment with what is already possessed along with greater selfishness resulting in less willingness to help others. Greed turns life inward and results in foolishness. The parable Jesus told gives a clear picture of this.

The Parable – Luke 12:16-20

The parable begins by pointing out that a man who was already rich had land that was very productive. His bumper crop gave him a dilemma about what to do since he did not have adequate storage facilities for it all. He could have sold it, but profit in farming is closely related to timing of selling the crop. If the market has an abundance of the commodity, the price will be lower. If you can wait until there is a shortage, you can get a better price and make a better profit. This man is already rich, so he can wait, therefore he decides to rebuild his barns to make them bigger. By doing this he will lose a minimum amount of his productive land to storage facilities. In addition, a granary was a common way of storing wealth in that time. His plan for the future looks good with adequate wealth for many years to come. He looks forward to taking his ease, eating, drinking and being merry. To put it in modern terms, he was looking forward to enjoying a great retirement that was already funded. From the human standpoint, this all seemed very reasonable and wise.

To be sure, we are to be wise stewards of the material blessings God has entrusted to us and that does include saving up for the future for Proverbs 13:22 even states that “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” However, Jesus’ point for the parable was to illustrate the foolishness of greed. This man’s perspective of life was that it was all about gaining enough wealth so that he could then relax and enjoy life. His planning was done without consideration of God. I am sure he worked hard, but anyone who farms quickly realizes that a bumper crop is a gift of God because so many factors over which man has no control must all come together to produce one. What did God want done with such a crop?

There are plenty of Scriptures that address the importance of planning, but all of it must be done with God in mind. As Proverbs 16:9 states it, “The mind of a man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” Or even more direct to the point here is James 4:13–17, 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

This man was arrogant and boasted, but God told him he was a fool for that very night his soul would be required of him. His life was a vapor and it was about to vanish. He had missed the point of life and all that he labored for and boasted about would soon be in the hands of someone else. Be careful of falling into that same trap yourself, and if you recognize that is what you have been doing, it is time to repent.

The Practice – Luke 12:21

Jesus concludes with a simple admonition about putting into practice the point of His teaching. “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” If you are storing treasure for yourself on this earth like this rich farmer, then you are being as foolish as he was because you cannot take it with you in the end. In addition, you can also never have peace because no matter what form you put your wealth in, there is always some way in which it can either be stolen or destroyed. Insecurity is often a reason people hoard.

The last part of Jesus’ statement is the key. If you are rich toward God, then you will not be greedy. If you have greater concern for treasure in heaven than treasure on earth, then you will not have a covetous heart. The reasons are simple. God’s glory becomes more important to you than your own so you don’t need to impress anyone. What God thinks is more important than what others think, so you do not need to seek their approval. And finally, in seeking first His kingdom and righteous you can rest in His promise to provide what you need for life (Matthew 6:33) . Since these things are contrary to man’s basic nature, it is not easy to live this way, and in Philippians 4:11-13 Paul states that he learned to be content. It does not come automatically, but by the working of the Holy Spirit you can learn it too, and there is no better way to live. The few years of your life on this earth will be about living for God’s glory, and in doing so, you will learn contentment in the present, and can look forward with confidence to a retirement plan that is out of this world.

Sermon Notes – 4/30/2017
Warnings About Greed – Luke 12:13-21


The greater your understanding of God, His character, attributes and works, the more humbled you become before Him and therefore respond with ________________worship of Him

Context – Luke 12:1-12

Jesus is returning to ________after antagonism with the religious leaders in Jerusalem had become too great

Jesus has had to ____________those falsely accusing Him of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul

Jesus has _____________the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and lawyers over their customs

The crowd has grown extremely ____________as a result of the miracle and controversies

Luke 12:1-12 – Jesus __________them about following the hypocrisy of the Pharisees – all will be exposed

Have a proper _________of God, trust His care for you. Confess Jesus and do not deny Him

Luke 12:13–21

The Perpetrator – Luke 12:13-14

Luke sometimes leaves a person _______________in order to broaden the point of the passage

“Someone in the crowd” __________the lesson on greed to transcend all classes, ethnicities and affiliations

It was _______to interrupt Jesus’ teaching with an unrelated personal matter and inconsiderate of the crowd

It was _______to tell Jesus to demand his inheritance for him instead of requesting a just arbitration

Jesus uses a rhetorical question to give a strong _______________answer to giving in to the man’s demand

Follow Jesus’ example and ____________getting pulled into matters which do not concern you

The Principle – Luke 12:15

Jesus turns the rudeness of the perpetrator into an ___________________to teach the crowd about greed

    oJravw / ora in this context, “to take special _____________of something”

    fulavssw / phulasso in this context, to watch and warn or ____________as in guarding sheep at night

    pleonexiva / pleonexia, a strong desire to _____________/ possess more than others, irrespective of need

Warnings against _________________: Exodus 20:17; Romans 1:29; Col. 3:5; Eph. 5:3; 2 Peter 2:3,14

Proverbs 11:6 / Joshua 6-7 – Achan’s ___________resulted in his treachery and consequential execution

for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”

Negative consequences for specific behavior can _____________them

The _____________is harder to curb, and greed damages the soul even when pursued legally

Example: The Gambler ___________________________________________________________________

Example: The Business Tycoon _____________________________________________________________

Example: The Fortune Hunter ______________________________________________________________

Covetousness _____________the purpose of life and destroys contentment

The Parable – Luke 12:16-20

The rich farmer’s actions seem reasonable and wise from a ___________standpoint

_____________is important (Proverbs 13:22), but is to be done with consideration of God

_____________is important (Proverbs 16:9), but is to be done with consideration of God (James 4:13-17)

The man proved to be ______________and had missed the point of life

The Practice – Luke 12:21

Storing treasure for yourself is _____________for it can be stolen or destroyed leading to insecurity

Being rich toward God _________greed by giving life its proper purpose in the glory of God & brings peace

Contentment is ________as you walk with the Spirit and learn to trust God and His promises – Phil. 4:11-13


Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times a reference is made to greed or covetousness. 2) Discuss with your parents how to have a heart that is not greedy


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Summarize what you have learned in the series on the Glory and Majesty of God. What effect has this had on your reverence in worship of Him? Why has Jesus left Jerusalem for Galilee? What conflicts has He had along the way that are recorded in Luke 11? Why does Jesus rebuke the Pharisees and lawyers? Why does Jesus warn the disciples about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees? What does Jesus teach about God and His promises that will help you avoid hypocrisy? What is the advantage for Luke to identify the man as simply “someone in the crowd”? Why was this man’s request rude? Why did this man’s request demonstrate he was greedy? What is Jesus’ answer to him? Why? What does it mean to “Beware, and be on your guard” in Luke 12:15? What is greed / covetousness? What are some verses that warn about greed? What are those warnings? What was the result of Achan’s greed in Joshua 6 & 7? Why is behavior easier to control than desire? How does greed damage the soul even if that covetousness is pursued by legal means – gambling, business ventures, fortune hunting, etc.? Why is materialism inherently foolish? What does life consist of if it is not possessions? Was the rich farmer in the parable reasonable in his plans? Why or why not? Why does Jesus use this story to illustrate the foolishness of greed? How did the rich farmer demonstrate his greed? Why is it good to save for the future? Why is it good to plan for the future? When are saving and planning not good? When do they become arrogant and boastful (James 4:13-17)? What are the dangers of storing up treasure for yourself on earth? How can you be rich toward God? What are the blessings of being rich toward God?

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