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Sermon September 29, 2019

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1414

September 29, 2019 Luke12.13-21

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)


“Redefining Riches”


13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?”

15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’

21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”


  • The Revelation of Questions


We are in the midst of a series of sermons examining how Jesus conversed with people in the Bible. Thus far we have picked up some great skillful elements like answering a question with a question or telling a story or offering what we know, nothing more, nothing less. Now, let me encourage all of us that we need not pay attention to Jesus if we are not going to do what Jesus did, that is, talking with people about the things of God. That’s not to say that we force the issue, but it is to affirm that when opportunity arises, we take that opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Luke 12.13-14

We learned early in this series of sermons that Jesus often answers a question with a question. In the first one we examined, he asked a question for clarification. We might recall that story when Jesus was asked by what authority He preached and did the things He did. He turned the question back on them by asking what authority John the Baptist preached and when they could not answer, neither did Jesus answer. This question in Luke 12 is also in response to a question but instead of putting the onus back on the questioner, this time Jesus makes the question invalid. He is asked to tell a man’s brother to divide their inheritance. This sounds a lot like the beginning of the prodigal son story, another one from Luke. In this one, Jesus makes clear it is not His role to arbitrate these things between brothers. Jesus is asked to make a decision that sets Him up between these two brothers.

In counseling we call that a triangle. Two people, or one of the two, seeking to get us intertwined in their dispute or in their problem in such a way that we are in a no win situation. Jesus is careful not to fall into this trap. Even good counselors, when counseling couples, are careful not to get in between them, but to help them work between themselves.

How might that manifest itself in our conversations with others? Jesus teaches us here to take great care in how we become engaged in people’s lives through our conversations. In this case Jesus is saying, “Here is why I am here and it is not to judge between you. I am here to help you understand that your question reveals something deathly wrong in your life – covetousness.” Questions people ask may tell us a great deal about their heart. Questions reveal motives and world views and other aspects of personality, character, intelligence, and matters of the heart. What is revealed in this persons question is a heart of covetousness. I want my share and I want it now! Jesus does not deal with the question itself, but instead deals with the revelation of the persons character.

Know that questions we are asked often reveal something of the person asking.



  • Warnings for Life


Luke 12.15

Instead of deciding how to divide the brother’s inheritance, Jesus deals with the sin revealed, the breaking of commandment not to covet. Jesus is telling him to take care that in desiring to get his share, he is showing that his covetousness could or will lead to serious problems. In conversations I would categorize this as tough love. Sometimes we have to have the courage to show such love. Sometimes it might come out of our experience. “In my experience...this could lead to disaster.” Other times it may come from our knowledge of truth. “The Bible tells us not to act in this manner.” Jesus is giving the warning to guard against breaking one of the tenth commandment.


Dt 5.21 “And you shall not covet your neighbor's wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.”


In this case the neighbor is his brother and his father and his family. Why is it such a problem to covet what will one day be yours, but us not yet yours? Because it demonstrates that he believes his life consists of possessions, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. There are great responsibilities with wealth and we have to take great care not to contort our perspectives on riches. The rich young ruler is one of Jesus most well known stories and when told to sell all he had and give to the poor and follow Jesus, he could not do it. He thought life consisted of his possessions. In another parable, the sowing of the seeds, Jesus explains that the seed that is sowed among the thorns is about the deceitfulness of riches and it can choke the Word out of us. Jesus is not teaching that we cannot be wealthy, in fact God often increases our riches on this earth, but He is warning that we cannot let those riches distort our true love.

Isaiah also teaches us that life is about more than our possessions. True riches are in the Words of God. Bread and wine and fine things of life are okay as long as we recognize that what is most important are riches in and toward God. Our conversations with people may lead us to give warnings about distorted views of life. This day and age we might offend, we might upset, and we might turn them off, but if they sense we are doing so because we care, they might also come to see the truth.

Sometimes we need to warn people about their lives.


  • Comforts of This Life


Luke 12.16-20

As Jesus does in many places in the gospels, He tells another story. We learned this conversational technique in our first look at Jesus in conversations in Luke 20 when He tells the story of the wicked tenants. Here He tells a story about a man who builds bigger barns to store all his crops and thinks that his life is fulfilled in all that he has produced. So he takes on the philosophy “eat, drink, and be merry!” It’s the old narrative of comfort in riches. The story is told to reveal more about the meaning of this entire conversation, that we need to understand that riches in this life are not so important that they take over our lives. We need to have a proper perspective on our earthly wealth and our heavenly wealth.

Jesus does this through story telling. I don’t want to go over this method of conversation since we covered this once before, but suffice it to say that we can use our stories and stories from others and certainly Bible stories to help people see the truths of life and the truth of Jesus.

Tell a story to help people see.


  • Redefining Riches



Luke 12.21

What Jesus does through this particular story is redefine riches. This too is something we might do in conversations – to redefine things that have been misunderstood or defined in ways that are harmful. Often what we do for others is help to redefine understandings. It might be about life in general. It may be about wealth or love or faith or God. If we listen to their questions and speak long enough to gain some understanding of how they understand life, much of what we talk about might be sharing how we understand those same topics biblically and through our love for Jesus.

In this reading from Luke 12 the real questions worth asking are things like:

How do we guard against covetousness? How do we understand real wealth? How do we become rich toward God? We don’t have to answer every question, but as I noted last Sunday, we can at the very least get those with whom we talk to begin to entertain the questions for themselves.


So let’s take from Jesus this week these four ideas:


1) Pay close attention to what questions might reveal.

2) Do not be afraid to warn people.

3) Tell a good story!

4) Redefine terms and ideas and understandings.


These are the things Jesus did for people when He engaged in conversations. These are the kinds of things we can do to help people see the truth of God’s Word and the reality of Jesus Christ who died for us and rose from the dead that we might live. All of these conversations of Jesus sought to direct people toward God. So too might we have opportunity to direct people toward God by directing them to Jesus. Pray that we all might have those opportunities before us and that the Holy Spirit might guide our conversations and open hearts to God’s love and forgiveness.