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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, August 5, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 12:13–21

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 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 toward God.” (NRSV)

I imagine everyone in the crowd listening to Jesus must have had a question or a request they wanted to make of him. They must have heard what he had done for the man whose child was dying or the leper who longed to be made clean.

But in this story, the man who speaks up, who gets to have a one-on-one moment with Jesus, is this guy—the one who demands “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” The man doesn’t ask for restoration of a loved one or inclusion back in the world of the living. He asks for earthly justice in a family fight over money.

I get it. He probably had an older brother who—unfairly, he thought—would inherit all of their father’s money, leaving him with nothing. He was roiled by a sense of injustice over what he felt was due to him, what was rightfully his. He wanted Jesus to fix that.

I get that, too. I’ve been right there, my thoughts churning over some perceived unfairness: the false accusation, the blindsiding ambush. How much time have I wasted carrying on long arguments in my head with those I think have wronged me?

Jesus wasn’t interested in getting involved in the man’s dispute with his brother. Jesus didn’t address it at all, except to say, in essence, “You are asking the wrong question. You’re focusing on the wrong thing. It’s not important. What you think your brother owes you doesn’t matter; what does, now and forever, is the powerful, here-and-now life of the spirit, the kingdom of God.”

I am learning not to waste one more minute having arguments with people in my head. This passage teaches me to leave them to God; to see that we are both precious in God’s sight; and to give my mind and heart to building up God’s eternal kingdom of love, justice, and peace.

God of wisdom, guide me to ask the right questions, to listen for your answers, and to trust in you. Amen.

Written by Jeanne Bishop, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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