Jesus is interrupted by a young man who demands his brother divide their inheritance fairly (Lk. 12:13). With a note of definite sternness, Jesus makes it very clear His mission does not include such trivial matters (v. 14). The man appealed to Jesus on the basis of the unfairness of his brother’s material claims, but Jesus appeals to the fact of his greed. Jesus never dirtied his hands with secular monetary concerns. His mission far surpassed the settling of petty family feuds. It is in response to this man’s statement Jesus teaches the parable of The Foolish Rich Man (Lk. 12:16-21). The central truth of the story concerns the transitory nature of material wealth.
He addresses this young person as “Man”, indicating his thinking is all too human. Covetousness is a human quality, not a godly one. Jesus’ next statement is a warning against covetousness, for a man’s life is not defined in monetary terms. God does not measure a person by the size of their bank accounts. Jesus warns us pointedly not only to “beware of covetousness” but to “take heed” to His teaching regarding this. “A man’s life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions” (12:15). Covetousness is not just clinging to what we have, it is the desire to acquire more. Three of the Ten Commandments forbid coveting, whether it be theft, coveting another’s wife or his goods. God views money from a much different perspective than man. Jesus spoke about money numerous times, but always to denounce its importance. In the Sermon on the Mount the people are told they can serve God or gold, but not both (Mt. 6:24).
You have a right to possess things, but you have no right to let them possess you. Paul calls covetousness idolatry (Col. 3:5).
The rich man in Jesus’ parable is perplexed. His dilemma centers on how to handle his wealth. Riches increase anxiety, occupy our thoughts, and divert our attention from God. The more you have, the less you sleep. The man’s wise solution to build bigger barns is called foolishness by God’s Son. The bigger your barns, the bigger your worries. The man imagines he will grow old and enjoy his vast wealth. But it is foolish to believe that is all life is for. What the world calls success God calls folly. “Do not brag about tomorrow because you do not know what will happen tomorrow” (Pv. 27:1).
To think of life in terms of material things is patently foolish. Paul upbraids those who imagine gain can be equated with godliness (I Tim. 6:5). Those who boast of their wealth may die suddenly. Their relatives will probably fight over the funds with a similar greedy spirit.
Lay up treasures in heaven for thievery is unknown in heaven (Mt. 6:19). Spiritual riches are permanent and worldly wealth is temporal. Your heart belongs to that which you treasure (Lk. 12:34).