I’ve been really meditating on Luke 12:13-21. I think it has a lot to say to our current culture regarding what many call “social justice”. May we consider it together:
First, we have a man who is upset because his brother won’t share his inheritance with him. That’s all we know. But I think we may be able to fill in some details based on other Scriptures and thinking further on this. Namely:
- his brother was probably the oldest, and therefore got a double portion of inheritance that is meant for the eldest son
- this man thought it was unfair, so maybe found himself in some hard times–or maybe his brother was having lavish times he wasn’t having. In any case, he knows his brother got more than him, and he is protesting the injustice of this.
Jesus responds first by saying “Who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (12:14). There is some irony here in the fact that Jesus will be the ultimate Judge for this man and his brother (which speaks to the rest of the passage). But, in essence, I think He’s saying here, “Your not having more money than someone else isn’t a concern of mine.”
PAUSE there. Have we or others made income disparity a concern where Jesus hasn’t?
Instead, Jesus looks into the man’s heart and sees a bigger concern than perceived injustice: coveting. He says to the man, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (12:15). In other words, “Be way more concerned about the state of your heart than the state of your bank account compared to someone else’s.”
Next, in 12:16-21, he furthers his point by showing that getting more wealth just for yourself will lead you to God’s judgment that you don’t want to receive. Thus the irony of his first statement of not being a judge. In essence, if your concern is with having more money just for yourself, and you want to take from your wealthier brother to do that, you’ve missed the whole point. God wants your soul to be fully given over to Him.
Thus this is really an indictment to more than just this man. It is also an indictment to his brother if his brother is gaining wealth only for self-serving purposes. The whole point is that making wealth (and even wealth inequalities) a big issue could be setting yourself up for a scary judgment to come. Get your soul right with God. If He gives you more wealth, use it for His glory. If someone else gets wealth, their soul will also be judged just as ours is judged. Keep eyes on God and the Final judgment to come, not money and temporary things of this life.