A blog by Josh Humbert
Bold Moves Of The Bible
An unnamed man in Luke’s Gospel commits one of the boldest, most audacious acts in the entire Bible….and he couldn’t be more wrong.
Every time I read it, I am floored at his bravery but aghast at his thinking. It is next-level foolishness.
Although before I can slam the gavel of judgement down and render my verdict on him, I realize I am very capable of the same thing. And so are you.
This Guy. Thiiiiiiiiiis Guy.
See the scene from Luke 12 in your own mind: Jesus is teaching “when many thousands had gathered.” Place is packed and Jesus is delivering truth and wisdom.
All of a sudden (here comes our guy), we see this in verse 13, “Someone in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’” OhNoHeDidn’t. Queue up your favorite face-palm gif.
Jesus, the Son of God, the Great I Am, the Light of the World – that Jesus is teaching and you have the audacity to INTERRUPT Him? Furthermore, you interrupt not with a request but with a COMMAND, like He answers to you? OhNoHeDidn’t. Queue up your favorite shocked gif.
Let’s be clear: if Jesus is teaching then the only thing you interject is a hearty “AMEN!!” or as I’ve always enjoyed “SAY SOMETHIN’!” Like…that’s it. Those are the options. He is the Living Word and if He’s breaking it down then that’s the play for anyone in the audience.
#1 on the list of things NOT to do is: Interrupt Jesus and start giving Him commands. Now, Bane would drop a “Do you FEEL in charge on this guy?-”, but Jesus will graciously handle it differently, as we will see in just a moment.
However, there’s something sinister at play here. What would drive a man to…..be like this guy? It’s the same thing that silently awaits us every time we sign on the internet.
It’s the same thing that may just have a hold of you.
The Double Warning
Jesus wisely diagnoses the situation and sees the hidden sin underneath. He knows exactly what this man is dealing with: coveting. Coveting is: an inordinate desire for riches or things, a strong desire after the possession of worldly things. Coveting is when you think someone else doesn’t deserve what they have and instead it should be yours. It’s an unhealthy grasp for more.
Coveting (silently) dominates all over our culture and world today, especially in social media.
Jesus sees it here in this man and then, in verse 15, Jesus gives one of the wisest statements in the history of our planet: “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”
In one sentence Jesus gives more precise, applicable wisdom than thousands of philosophy books on the human condition. You may think “coveting isn’t really a big deal for me. It’s not something I struggle with.” And Jesus would disagree with you, rather strongly.
Notice, He gives two forceful warnings to begin: “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed.” He doubles it up especially for hard-headed folk like you and me who want to “well, actually”/disagree with His diagnosis. Coveting IS an issue we need to deal with. Coveting IS a problem and the reason we may not see it in ourselves is because coveting is perhaps the most sneaky sin of all.
Coveting Breaks In & Breaks Promises
The reason Jesus gives that doubly strong warning about coveting is because this is a sin that silently, ever-so-quietly slips into your heart. It’s not an “obvious” type of sin.
Take theft, for example. That’s obvious and you are aware it’s happening. You don’t get home with someone’s wallet and be like, “well, guess I did theft today that I wasn’t aware of!” Theft is obvious and you know you are doing it. I would say the majority of sin functions the same way.
Coveting is not like that, especially in the earliest stages. You may not even be aware of your desires slowly growing unhealthy towards some material thing, or lifestyle, or body image or a million other possible options. Coveting is the stealth assassin of sins. It’s the cat burglar that’s seldom caught. It quietly slips in the one window you happened to leave unlocked. Coveting breaks in.
Further, coveting breaks promises. Coveting promises you: “This person doesn’t deserve their health/wealth/spouse/family/opportunities/body/money/etc, etc…but if YOU had it, things would be perfect! If you just had _______, your problems would be solved.” Then, over and over and over, coveting never fulfills that promise.
Let’s see it with wealth for a moment. Not a stretch to say that many people covet wealth and all it brings. The nice house, the ridiculous car, the cool toys, etc. Many of us struggle with coveting that wealth because we believe the lie it tells us. But what about the people who actually get stupid rich? Hear them in their own words.
Andrew Carnegie, who had a vast fortune said it this way, “Millionaires who laugh are rare. You may have all the money in the world, and yet, be a lonely, sorrowing man.”
Sir Earnest Cassel who had a vast fortune said it this way, “The light has gone out of my life. I live in this beautiful house, which I have furnished with all the luxury and wonder of art; but, believe me, I no longer value my millions. I sit here for hours every night longing for my beloved daughter.”
Christina Onassis who had a vast fortune said it this way, “Happiness is not based on money and the greatest proof of that is our family.”
You can open the history books and read similar quotes for a long time – there’s not a shortage. In our stubbornness though, we are more prone to believe the LIE that coveting gives instead of the truth of Jesus OR even just the honesty of those whose hearts have been shattered by the broken promises of coveting.
Jesus is so forceful and strong because He knows how susceptible we are to coveting and how sneaky it can be. And then He goes a step further….
You Don’t Exist There
The second half of what Jesus says goes like this, “..for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” Or, as it is said in the original language, “you do not exist in your possessions.”
There is a freedom and healing that comes when you surrender to what Jesus says right there. Do you believe it?
You do not exist in your possessions.
You do not exist in your bank account.
You do not exist in your followers and subscribers.
You do not exist in your titles and resume.
You do not exist in your grade point average or degrees.
You do not exist in your wardrobe.
You do not exist in your phone.
Life, joy, and peace will never be found in those things. You can learn easy by accepting the teaching of Jesus now or you can waste years of your life only to find heartache at the broken promises of coveting.
Heed the double warning and fiercely grab hold of the truth: you do not exist in those things.Yes, those things can be good things, blessings from God…but they cannot provide ultimate answers.
But then where are life, joy, and peace to be found?
The Gospel of Getting (and Giving)
The Gospel is the opposite of coveting. The Gospel is that Jesus “did not consider equality with God as a thing to be grasped,” (Philippians 2). Jesus HAD all the glory, the wealth, the joy, the riches, and the praise as He existed in loving unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. And yet…. and yet, He instead GAVE UP those things to come be a lowly, poor, humble Servant to sinners who rebelled against Him. He didn’t harbor unhealthy desires to take stuff from others; instead He laid down His life so others may freely gain from Him.
Jesus gave His all so that we could get the best – namely, Jesus. He set aside all the glory (that is rightly His!) – He set aside all the blessings to take upon Himself the curse that was due to us.
Only Jesus does stuff like that.
The Gospel is that we first GET salvation, new life, and adoption into God’s family through Christ so that we can then GIVE blessings to a world that’s gone mad with coveting, grasping, and taking. When a Christian graciously gives blessings to those who don’t deserve it – the light of Christ shines brightly. Life, joy, and peace are found and also multiplied.
So maybe we look at obituaries for a new beginning.
Obituaries Can Be Helpful (If You Read Them In Time)
There was a brilliant, intelligent Swedish chemist who woke up one day to read his obituary in the newspaper. It read: “Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, died yesterday. He devised a way for more people to be killed in a war than ever before, and he died a very rich man.”
The obituary was actually for Alfred’s brother but as Alfred read it, the impact on him was immediate. He was thoroughly unsatisfied with the summary of his life. He decided he wanted to be known for something more than just dynamite and weapons and his riches.
So he began to give out an award for scientists, writers, and leaders who actually work toward peace. He changed his life from being about weapons and riches to being about things that makes a positive difference. The award is still given out today and it bears Alfred’s name. It’s the Nobel Peace Prize.
I know, I know – all of a sudden, you realize that maybe Marvel was heavily influenced by Alfred because this sounds A LOT like Tony Stark’s character arc! Mega-wealthy guy who makes his money off dangerous weapon invention has “near death experience” which leads to profound change wherein he becomes a force for good. Are we sure Alfred wasn’t an Avenger?
Either way, that’s a true bold move but this time – the right kind of bold move. Wisdom is the ability to look down a path and see where it ultimately leads. We have that opportunity in front of each of us right now, no matter how old or young we are.
Will we live to get, grasp, and take? Or will we live to give, donate, and bless?
Thanks for reading. Your comments and insights are always welcomed. If you enjoyed this, please share it. Want more content? Check the archives or listen to me on the Cross-Cutting Culture Podcast on iTunes.