Jesus’ Life and Ministry
The Question of Inheritance
THE people evidently know that Jesus has been dining at the Pharisee’s house. So they gather outside by the thousands and are waiting when Jesus comes out. Unlike the Pharisees who oppose Jesus and try to catch him in saying something wrong, the people eagerly listen to him with appreciation.
Turning first to his disciples, Jesus says: “Watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” As demonstrated during the meal, the whole religious system of the Pharisees is filled with hypocrisy. But even though the wickedness of the Pharisees may be concealed by a show of piety, eventually it will be exposed. “There is nothing carefully concealed,” Jesus says, “that will not be revealed, and secret that will not become known.”
Jesus goes on to repeat the encouragement that he had given to the 12 when he sent them forth on a preaching tour of Galilee. He says: “Do not fear those who kill the body and after this are not able to do anything more.” Since God does not forget even a single sparrow, Jesus assures his followers that God will not forget them. He states: “When they bring you in before public assemblies and government officials and authorities, . . . the holy spirit will teach you in that very hour the things you ought to say.”
A man from the crowd speaks up. “Teacher,” he petitions, “tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” The Law of Moses stipulates that the firstborn son is to receive two parts of the inheritance, so there should be no reason for a dispute. But the man apparently wants more than his legal share of the inheritance.
Jesus properly refuses to get involved. “Man, who appointed me judge or apportioner over you persons?” he asks. He then gives this vital admonition to the crowd: “Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of covetousness, because even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” Yes, no matter how much a man may come to have, normally he will die and leave it all behind. To emphasize this fact, as well as to show the folly of failing to build up a good reputation with God, Jesus uses an illustration. He explains:
“The land of a certain rich man produced well. Consequently he began reasoning within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, now that I have nowhere to gather my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my storehouses and build bigger ones, and there I will gather all my grain and all my good things; and I will say to my soul: “Soul, you have many good things laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, enjoy yourself.”’ But God said to him, ‘Unreasonable one, this night they are demanding your soul from you. Who, then, is to have the things you stored up?’”
In conclusion, Jesus observes: “So it goes with the man that lays up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.” While the disciples may not be ensnared by the folly of piling up wealth, they could easily be distracted from serving Jehovah whole-souled by the daily cares of life. So Jesus uses the occasion to repeat the fine counsel he had given about a year and a half earlier in the Sermon on the Mount. Turning to his disciples, he says:
“On this account I say to you, Quit being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or about your bodies as to what you will wear. . . . Mark well that the ravens neither sow seed nor reap, and they have neither barn nor storehouse, and yet God feeds them. . . . Mark well how the lilies grow; they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, Not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. . . .
“So quit seeking what you might eat and what you might drink, and quit being in anxious suspense; for all these are the things the nations of the world are eagerly pursuing, but your Father knows you need these things. Nevertheless, seek continually his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”
Especially during times of economic hardship do Jesus’ words bear close consideration. The person who becomes overanxious about his material needs and begins to slack off in spiritual pursuits is, in fact, demonstrating a lack of faith in God’s ability to provide for His servants. Luke 12:1-31; Deuteronomy 21:17.
◆ Why, perhaps, does the man ask about inheritance, and what admonition does Jesus give?
◆ What illustration does Jesus use, and what is its point?
◆ What counsel does Jesus repeat, and why is it appropriate for this occasion?