1 August 2010

Luke 12:13-21

"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God." (v.20-21)


This passage in Luke's Gospel comes after a long section where the tension and antagonism between Jesus and the religious folk has increased markedly. It is followed by a more pastoral section addressed to the disciples.

At the time, it was normal for the elder son to receive double the younger son's proportion of the inheritance and disputes were common. Rabbis (teachers) were often called upon to settle such a dispute. Jesus refuses to be a judge or arbitrator and, through a parable (a story with a moral lesson), puts the enquirer in the position of the one who has died rather than the one who might inherit!

Two facets of human nature emerge from this short encounter. First, the greed, envy and desire to acquire things to make us feel secure. Second, the longing to be able to put our feet up and relax, eat, drink and be merry. At one level these are perfectly understandable impulses. But even a casual survey of what's happening around the world and within our own communities (and among our own friends) will reveal that in an instant something can overtake us and these things will mean nothing. Ultimately death renders them worthless but, if we are honest, they still have their powerful attraction!

Jesus invites the enquirer to consider their own mortality and, in this passage, is likely to be addressing a male because at the time only sons inherited. In the light of that, how prepared is he for death and how rich is he in relationship to God.

To Ponder

What are the longings and priorities of your heart?

What does it mean for you to be 'rich towards God'?

How prepared are you for your death? What needs to be put in order?

Bible notes author

The Revd Peter Barber

Peter Barber is an ordained Methodist presbyter currently serving as the chair of district for the Chester and Stoke-on-Trent District of the Methodist Church in Britain. Previously he has served in circuits in Cornwall, Aberystwyth, and Harpenden.