Jump Start # 2365
Luke 12:13 “And someone in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’”
This passage is remarkable to me. I refer to it often. I use this when teaching young preachers. The background of all of this is amazing. Immediately before this, Jesus was teaching about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, a difficult topic, even today. Then our verse. Someone from the crowd speaks out to him.
Here are some initial things that I find interesting.
First, this man obviously wasn’t paying much attention to Jesus. Nothing in the context leads to what this man asked. Jesus never talked about sharing, family, money or inheritance at this occasion. The words of the Lord rolled right off this man. His mind and his heart were filled with thoughts of money. You can imagine this man already calculating how much he was going to get. He was already shopping in his mind.
As preachers and teachers stand before an audience, this guy is a reminder to us that there may be some who are out of touch with what’s going on. They are not listening to what we are saying. They are not with us. Their minds are far away on something that has nothing to do with the subject at hand. This is not only disappointing, but it shows that some in the audience can leave worship, no better off then when they came in. Minds filled with what has to be done at home. Minds occupied with money. For us today, it may be some who are on Facebook, checking email, or playing games on their phones. There they sit, filling a spot on the pew, but they might as well not be there. What is so terrible about this is that so often the very things that this person needs spiritually, is being taught right before their eyes. They miss it. They miss an opportunity to learn, grow and become. Worse, hundreds of disciples in other parts of the world would love to be sitting where these folks are. They would love to have the opportunities, the material and the valuable lessons to learn. Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit. This man was thinking about himself. Jesus was teaching a spiritual lesson. This man was thinking worldly. So close to Jesus and yet so far from Jesus.
Second, this man brought a private family matter before all. Our verse says, “Someone in the crowd said to Him”. This wasn’t a private conversation. Everyone around could hear what was being said. Now, we do not know the particulars here nor the background to this story. Was this man’s brother in the audience as well? That certainly would be an awkward situation. Was this man in the right or was the brother? Touchy, delicate, family matters are best discussed in private conversations. Today, we’d want to hear from the brother and get his side of the story. There is a time and a place for certain discussions and this obviously was not the time nor the place.
Sometimes folks want to do the same thing as they are leaving the church building. With a line of people behind them, they want to talk about some things right there at the door with the preacher shaking hands. Some of the things that they bring up should not be said before others. There is a time and a place for certain discussions.
It is also interesting that Jesus did not do what this man wanted. You’ll notice from the language of the passage, the man wasn’t asking Jesus, but rather he was telling Jesus. He wanted the Lord to force his brother to give up some of the inheritance. Instead of talking about money, Jesus turned the conversation into a lesson about greed. Jesus probably saw some things in this man’s heart that wasn’t right. This wasn’t about fairness, but greed. Jesus wouldn’t cave in to the man’s demands. The man left with his hopes dashed and his dreams crushed. They were the wrong dreams. Here is a man who not only is in the presence of Jesus, but he is having a conversation with the Lord. Wouldn’t we love to be able to do that? And, what a wasted opportunity. He complains about his brother. He didn’t praise the Lord. He didn’t show appreciation to the Lord. And, of all the things to ask Jesus, he demanded money from his brother. I certainly hope that I would have thought of something more important to speak to Jesus about than how my family treats me or money. This is what was on the man’s heart. We tend to reveal our true colors when we are bothered. And, what bothered this man was that his brother had the inheritance and he didn’t.
He told Jesus what to do and Jesus didn’t do it. Jesus doesn’t answer to our demands. He is the Lord. There will be some prayers that the Lord will not answer favorably for us. Our motives, intentions and attitudes may not be right, like this man in Luke 12. The Lord sees the whole planet and we see things from our tiny spot. What bothers us, may be things that shouldn’t bother us. Maybe what’s bothering us is a heart that isn’t right and we do not see it nor realize it.
Third, some people use Christ for personal gain. They use religion to oppress others. They use the church to get money when they ought to get a job. I’ve seen it all too often. A person has been given money time and again by the church and when it stops, so do they. You never see them again. It’s as if the church was buying their attendance and faith. Once the money dried up, so did their interest. It seems that they came around for only one reason, money. They were not interested in what was being said. They were not engaged, connected nor helping out. There are times when the needs are legitimate and a family needs help. Transparency and honesty makes this a wonderful blessing. But when things are cloudy, suspicious, vague and bordering on dishonest, it becomes clear that some are only interested in money and not the Lord.
Finally, with this man in our passage, as with so many today, they miss the real issues of life. Suppose the Lord had given this man what he wanted. Supposed the Lord told his brother to split up the inheritance evenly. The man in our passage would have walked away with a pocket full of money and a smile on his face. He got what he wanted and now he no longer had a need for Jesus. The money would have been spent and a generation or two later, it would have all been gone. And, to this day, that money would not had made much difference. But what would have made a difference, even down to today, would be if this man became a follower of Jesus. Then, his soul may have been saved, his sins forgiven and eternity would have been with God.
We must make sure that we are not missing the big picture in life. Cars, homes, jobs, pets, vacations, retirement, all have a place, but none of them have a place before our souls and before eternity. You can be poor and go to Heaven. You can have been cheated by your family and go to Heaven. You can struggle through life and go to Heaven. But you can’t go to Heaven without Jesus. Our days can be filled with the things that do not matter. We can allow these things to bother us, occupy us and control us.
I wonder whatever happened to the man in our passage today? Did he go home upset and disappointed in Jesus? Did he think Jesus wasn’t much help? Did he discourage family and friends from listening to Jesus? Whatever happened to him? More importantly, what happens to us? We hear the words of Jesus but are we any different than the man in this passage? Are we so occupied with things that the words of Jesus do not mean much to us? Do we expect Jesus to do things that are really the wrong expectations?
A man from the crowd said to Him…