How many times in life have you either asked or wanted to ask the question, “Who put me in charge of that? I suspect everyone when they train for a job or even when they look over the requirements for a new job become settled in their mind what their duties are going to be and think to themselves that they can learn and do those without a real problem. But one day out of the blue someone over you asked or tells you to do something that is completely outside the realm of what you thought was your responsibility. How do you react? You could say, “That’s not my job.” Of course, the response might be, “Well you no longer have a job so do whatever you want.” You could go ahead and do the job and then resent having to do it every time you are asked to do it again. You could complain to anyone that will listen that you are being pushed to do a job that isn’t yours. But the truth is, in every job that comes along there will be things that come up that you are needed to do that didn’t fit into any resume and no one ever thought to explain that it might come up in your work.
On one occasion in Jesus ministry we see him face just such a dilemma. He had been teaching in Luke 12 about a variety of things involved in living for him all the way from avoiding the hypocrisy of the Pharisees to not fearing those who kill the body and can’t do anything more, but to fear God who has authority to both kill the body and throw one into hell. He talked about God’s amazing care of us to the degree that when five sparrows are sold for two pennies they are not forgotten by God. He said, the very hairs of our head are numbered so don’t be afraid, you are of much more value than sparrows. He promised them that if one acknowledged him before men they would be acknowledged by him before the angels in heaven. But he also warned that while they could blaspheme him and be forgiven that if they blasphemed the Holy Spirit they would not be forgiven. He told them when they were brought before rulers and authorities not to worry about how to defend themselves or what to say, “for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
Right in the middle of all this great teaching about life and service to God someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” I can imaging Jesus doing a double take that this question would come up in the middle of such an important discussion. Probably, every preacher that has preached for any length of time has had something like this to take place. You would be preaching along with all your power on some huge topic that was trying to convict people of sin in their lives and turn them toward God when out of the blue someone would ask if we can’t turn the air conditioning down that it is getting too hot in the building or to turn it up because they are getting cold. To say that it takes the wind out of your discussion is the understatement of the year. It is difficult to get back on track and there have been a few times when I just closed the service with some lame comment about not being able to get back to where we were.
Look at Jesus response to the man’s interruption. “Jesus replied, ‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he added, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist of an abundance of possessions.” I don’t know what the man was expecting Jesus to say or do. Probably his brother was in the crowd and he thought that Jesus as a great teacher would tell him to be fair and share the inheritance with him. Maybe he believed the Master would give his brother a good lesson on sharing or not being selfish. Let’s face it we can get all kinds of things up in our minds that will happen if we just asked the right person to help.
I suspect he and the brother, if he was there, were shocked with Jesus response. Probably the whole crowd was taken by surprise both by the interruption and by Jesus response. Jesus is God in the flesh. He will later declare that “All authority in heaven and on earth are given to him.” But here he makes it clear that somethings just aren’t part of his mission on this earth. He came into the world to seek and save the lost. He came to heal the sick, raise the dead, cause the blind to see, release the prisoners and to make sure the poor had the gospel preached to them. But to settle financial disagreements among brothers, wasn’t part of his mission. There is a powerful lesson it seems to me in Jesus answer to the man. He was on an important mission, teaching vital truths to people who needed to hear them. He refused to be drawn from that mission to deal with a minor offense between brothers. It seems to me that Satan is constantly working to pull us from the mission God gives us to spend our time doing things that we aren’t really equipped to do to begin with, so while we get involved in trying to solve that problem the big things where we are needed fall by the wayside.
But notice that Jesus didn’t stop with asking the question, “Who appointed me a judge or arbiter between you?” He went on from the interruption to teach both the man, his brother and the whole crowd a huge lesson about life. “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” He turned the silly question into a vital teaching for everyone including us.
The beginning of the answer, “Watch out!” shouts the message that what is about to be said is of extreme importance and everyone needs to listen up. Every person that lives need to be on guard against all kinds of greed. Few things are more dangerous for us as Christians than greed. When we begin to base the success or even the joy and blessings of our life on the abundance of possessions we are walking away from the heart Jesus wants us to have. One can be right with God and have many possessions and one can be right with God and have few to no possessions. One can be wrong with God and destined to hell with lots of possessions and one can be wrong with God and destined to hell with few to no possessions. Things in life aren’t what matters. What matters is our relationship with God.
We live in a time when it is hard to keep greed from getting a foothold in our lives. We see what others have that are in our age group or have similar situations to us and we begin to feel we have somehow failed because we don’t have as much. One of the prime reasons God teaches us to be givers and generous with what we have is to overcome greed. “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” is still true.