19 August 2015

Luke 12:13-21

“Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” (v. 15)

Psalm: Psalm 71:1-14


These are uncomfortable words for those of us who live in prosperity. Building bigger barns is - metaphorically - a temptation we find hard to resist. In my case the barns often come in the form of extra bookshelves and more space for my CD collection. But - and this is the point that Jesus makes to the crowd - we become rich in 'stuff' at the expense of our relationship with God. Greed is not only immoral because it makes our desires more important than the basic needs of our fellow-human beings, it is also destructive of our character. Greed (the Greek word is 'pleonexia')is centred on avarice; once in its grip we will never be satisfied by what we have but will go on lusting after a bigger share.

Notice that the question posed to Jesus seems, on the face of it, a fair one. Everyone wants to be treated fairly and to receive what is rightfully theirs. Religious teachers would be expected to arbitrate in family disputes. But Jesus' response is to a different question, one that runs much deeper. That question is about personal identity and whether it is shaped by a relationship to possessions or a relationship to God.

To Ponder

  • How would you describe your relationship to your possessions? How is that relationship challenged by the story Jesus tells here?
  • Which forms of greed do you find most tempting? How might you invite Jesus to help you counter that temptation? 

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Richard Clutterbuck

Richard Clutterbuck is a minister of the Methodist Church in Britain but since 2004 has served the Irish Methodist Church as principal of Edgehill Theological College in Belfast. His ministry has been divided between pastoral appointments in North London and theological education in the South Pacific (Tonga), Britain and Ireland.