BEWARE OF COVETOUSNESS
Luke 12:11-15 And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say. And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And He said unto him, Man, who made Me a judge or a divider over you? And He said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things, which he possesseth. (Also see Matt. 10:17-20)
A few comments are warranted on the two verses that lead into the main topic of discussion. A comparable text, although a bit more descriptive, is found in Matthew 10:17-20. Matthew has this warning before expanding on the same topic found in the lesson text. He tells His followers to beware of men, that is, those men that will cause you to be brought before the Jewish court (synagogues or the Sanhedrin), and before civil court authorities (rulers, magistrates, or judges). In Matthew's record, Jesus also warns those that follow Him and believe His doctrine that they may be scourged - that is, punished by being beaten with whips. And when forced to testify in their defense, Jesus tells them that they are to take no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say. For an individual, using his or her own talents and abilities, to argue the truths found in God's word in a contentious manner before those with closed minds, would be futile. For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say. These verses assure us that, in the early days when Christianity was in its infancy, God was in complete control. Therefore, when defending Jesus Christ and His followers, God's Holy Spirit was there to guide them in the things they spoke before Jewish or civil authorities. Not only was the teaching of the apostles and other chosen preachers of the gospel inspired by the Holy Spirit, but also the words for their defense, came from the mind of God. Failure was not part of God's plan of salvation. The kingdom of God was at hand, and no nationality or governmental body could prevent it from taking place.
After this teaching, Jesus was approached by one of the company that had gathered around Him to hear His teaching and witness His healing power. Recognizing Him to be a powerful, inspired preacher of God's righteousness, he asked Jesus to intervene in a matter that the man considered to be an injustice in the division of an inheritance between himself and his brother. Whether there was indeed a wrongful division of a family estate is not given in this scripture. Also it is not known whether the man had a just claim or was simply driven by covetousness to obtain more of the inheritance. Certainly the selfish spirit of covetousness often overlooks and voids that which human family obligations rightfully dictate. However, Jewish law should have been used to settle this disagreement. We know that the older brother was to receive twice as much as any other child, with the remainder being equally divided among all other children. One passage (Lev. 21:15-17), of many others, holds this to be true, regardless of whether the firstborn was preferred or hated by the father.
Jesus immediately answered the man's request with this rhetorical question: who made Me a judge or a divider over you? Jesus refused to become involved in an inheritance issue that could easily be solved if Jewish law were applied. Where its interpretation is required, Jewish judges (probably scribes having specific knowledge in such laws) were assigned. The doctrine of Christ recognized that such matters should be litigated by just civil laws, and not by the religious tenets of Christianity.
Jesus realized that the true problem between the man and his brother was an unlawful desire for the property of another. This is the exact definition of covetousness. Which brother was guilty of this sin is not given. Without applying the Jewish law or offering an opinion on how the inheritance was divided, Jesus used the occasion to teach this man, the multitudes that had gathered around, and you and I today, a lesson regarding the sin of covetousness. He admonished all of His followers to take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things, which he possesseth. Covetousness among families is easily found. It serves as proof that neither happiness on earth, nor eternal life in heaven, depend on the abundance of wealth one accumulates during his or her lifetime.