Luke 12: It isn’t a sin to be rich

Luke 12: It isn’t a sin to be rich

“Take heed and beware of covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses” (Luke 12:15).

Often, biblical texts wherein the wealthy are condemned are often misconstrued and misunderstood as condemnation for being wealthy, but this is never the case. Many of the Bible’s great characters were men of incredible wealth: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, David, Solomon, etc.

The rich but foolish farmer in today’s text is a good case study. The problem was not that he was rich, but that he was covetous. This is seen from the context whereby Jesus told the parable.

In Luke 12:13, a man tried to draw Jesus into a family squabble over money, telling Jesus to admonish his brother to divide his inheritance with him. Jesus refused such intervention on two grounds: 1) He was not sent to be an arbiter over men’s business or family affairs (as Moses was for a time – Ex 18:13-16); 2) it appears obvious (at least to me) that the man’s motives were not pertaining to right and wrong but out of covetousness (v 15).

Following this is the parable of the farmer who was condemned not for being rich, but for laying up treasure for himself and not being rich toward God (v 21).

The rich young ruler was not rejected or condemned because he was rich, but because he placed his trust in his riches. Mark’s account of his story makes this clear (Mark 10:23-25).

We would also do well to remember that Jesus was helped in His personal ministry by women of substance (Luke 8:3). Isaiah’s prophecy of Jesus making his grave with the rich (Isa 53:9) was fulfilled by Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man who buried Jesus in a new tomb (cf Matt 27:57-60). Finally, Paul gave explicit instructions to wealthy Christians in 1 Timothy 6:17-19, which did not include divesting themselves of all their possessions as some think they should.

Proverbs 18:11 is an excellent text to conclude these thoughts: “The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own esteem.

Take heed and beware of covetousness!

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