Luke 12: 13-15 – On Greed

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This passage (Lk 12: 13-15) is found only in gospel of Luke, and its source is ‘L’. In the earlier section (Lk 12: 1-12), a warning about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees occasioned the teaching on the need for fearless proclamation of Jesus. Now a dispute about material possessions becomes a setting for the teaching on the danger of greed and on trust in God (Lk 12: 13-34).

It was a common practice of the time to seek settlement of disputes over material inheritance from rabbis or religious teachers (Lk 12: 13), who were expected to be experts in all the civil, religious, ethical, cultic and criminal aspects of the Mosaic Law. Jesus refuses to act as judge or arbitrator in such a family dispute over material inheritance (Lk 12: 14). He does not consider it his role to settle legal questions (see also Lk 12: 51-53). In the context of the story, the main reason for his refusal is that such family disputes arise out of greed or covetous desire for earthly possessions (Lk 12: 15). By declining to arbitrate Jesus exposes and opposes such attitude. What is required in such situations is not arbitration by a religious ‘teacher’ but a concern for the values of the Kingdom of God. It is essential to recognize that greed is the root cause of all evil including family dissension, that fulfilment of life does not consist in material possessions. Luke 12: 15 serves as a preparation for the parable to follow and anticipates its moral.

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