Ordinary 18 Year C
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
St. Luke 12: 13 — 21
This reading from St. Luke begins when Our Lord is reaching the high point of His teaching. He has just declared:
“When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers
and the authorities, do not be anxious how or what you are
to answer, or what you are to say. The Holy Spirit will teach
you in that very hour what you ought to say:”
There is a large crowd of followers present and they are deeply moved by our Lord’s assurances.
Some Reflections On Our Text
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my
brother to share the inheritance with me.”
Suddenly someone in the crowd totally ignores what our Lord has been saying and blurts out:
“Master, tell my brother that he must share with me the property our father left when he died.” Although he would have addressed Our Lord as “Rabbi” St. Luke, writing for non-Jews, used the alternative term “Master” in a way rather similar to the term for a male teacher used even until the mid 20th Century. (Now replaced by “teacher” as in our translation above.)
He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your
judge and arbitrator?”
Not surprisingly our Lord is annoyed that someone should interrupt his passionate teaching with a matter like this which could easily be dealt with later.
Jesus shows his strong disapproval by addressing him sternly yet politely. He then asks a question, “Who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” This is really a strong statement in the negative, “I have not come to be a judge in temporal matters!” (Our Lord’s answer corresponds to the reply of Moses during an incident recorded in Exodus 2: 14.)
Our Lord takes a very wise position. He knows that the slightest interference in matters of civil government would compromise His position and place him under unnecessary obligation.
Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all
greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not
consist of possessions.”
Immediately Jesus issues the strongest possible warning:
“Watch out and be on your guard against every conceivable
form of greed!”
Then he gives his followers a little pearl of wisdom to remember. It can be translated in several ways:
• “Your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions.”
• “You are not the master of your own life just because you are master
of many goods”.
• “No matter how few or how many possessions you may have, they
will not give you the power to live any longer.”
No one hearing this believes Jesus is saying we do not need material things for our happiness: clearly we do. We must have food, clothing, shelter and so on. What He is emphatic about is that we make a serious error when we measure our wealth in terms of material possessions.
Our Lord has been interrupted whilst in full flight of teaching. He deals with the incident swiftly and regains the full attention of His hearers who suddenly find themselves asking: well, if life does not consist in abundant possessions then just what does it consist of?
Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose
land produced a bountiful harvest.
Our Lord immediately elaborates what he has just declared by telling a parable. And he starts off by teasing (in the true sense of the word) just a little.
The land of a certain rich individual produced an abundant crop. Everyone listening would agree: a good life does include abundant crops! They are at least a very good start! So far, so good.
He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space
to store my harvest?’
The parable then takes a very specific direction, for the owner of the land “debated with himself”, that is, reviewed his options without making reference to any other source of moral standards as to what he should do with such over-abundance.
“I have no place to store my crops, he comments, “since my barns are already completely filled up. I have so much already, I don’t know what to do with it all. But, somehow, I have got to make provision for even more.”
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down
my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store
all my grain and other goods …..
It appears he comes to a conclusion: “I have no choice, there is only one thing to do — and that is to build bigger and bigger barns to store even more than the abundance I already have.”
and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have
so many good things stored up for many years, rest,
eat, drink, be merry!”
“What a great joy. With so much wealth I can rest assured that for many, many years I can please myself how I live and what I do. I can suit myself, take life easy: eat, drink, and be merry — for who or what can harm me!”
Surely most of Our Lord’s listeners assembled around Him at that time, and many others down through the ages would have been tempted to feel the same. Wouldn’t it be just as true of many of us today? Our Lord knows just how to hold a mirror up to our souls — and that is just what He is doing here. He is not sending anyone on a guilt trip. He is simply demonstrating how easy it is for us to slip into this mode of thinking. He often uses parables for this purpose: to reflect to us the weaknesses within us that we need to be aware of. For that reason we need not fear looking into any mirror He holds up to us. He does it for our good and the greater glory of God.
But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be
demanded of you; and the things you have prepared,
to whom will they belong?’
But God interrupts the man as he takes pleasure in reciting to himself all his rights and privileges. The language is strong: “You fool!” (The Greek word means, without mind, or sense or understanding). “The word ‘fool’ (aphron) is not used lightly but in the Old Testament sense of one who rejects the knowledge and precepts of God as a basis for life.” (Liefeld)
This is very significant and extremely important in the Jewish concept of obeying the Torah: the path of God’s Wisdom laid out to guide His People into the restored Kingdom of God; also referred to as God’s Law and Divine Will. When any person ignores that, they do so deliberately — it is no accident, and they cannot claim they were led into such a mind-set by anyone else.
Where did the man go wrong?
When he took his very first look at the superabundant harvest, he made a serious mistake. He did not see it as a blessing from God, but rather the result of his own efforts. From that moment all we hear about is: my crops, my barn, my grain, and my goods.
No one else figured anywhere in this person’s thinking! Everything revolved around him and his total self-indulgence.
God completes his declaration. (We expand it to unpack the extremely condensed Greek text.)
“Tonight your life will be taken from you. At that moment you will no longer possess even the smallest item of the great wealth I entrusted to you. Sadly, because of the way you looked on it, and selfishly kept every little bit to yourself, you will end your life with absolutely nothing to your name. Grace is the only lasting possession, and you are totally bereft of even the slightest portion. And it was entirely by your own choice!”
Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself
but is not rich in what matters to God.”
In this way Jesus concludes the parable with a sober warning.
In verses 20 and 21 Our Lord demonstrates what will happen when God’s people ignore His Holy Law which, in these notes, we often call by its Hebrew name, the Torah. The Torah is more strictly the first five books of the Bible, and is often called the Law of Moses. The word also means the whole of God’s Teaching in His Sacred Scriptures. In this passage Yeshua, Jesus, is giving an example to His listeners of what happens when someone deliberately pushes aside God’s Teaching and decides to make their own rules. His lesson here telescopes the time-frame so we see the end-time as part of His parable. The death of the wealthy man represents the end-time towards which Our Lord’s teaching frequently points us. We are to follow God’s Holy Will recorded in the Scriptures, fulfilled as they are by Our Messiah Jesus and now presented for us in the Church, His living Body.
Our Lord is well aware that we all (so very righteously) love to despise the behaviour of the man in the parable. But he is also deeply concerned lest his disciples fall into the same trap. By implication it is clear he expects all of this followers to think beyond their own well-being to help supply the needs of others, and thus to grow rich “in what matters to God.” And that is to practise “lovingkindness” by any other name.
And, so what is it that matters to God?
Obviously, listening to His Son whom He sent into the world, believing Him and showing our love for Him in all we think, do and say. As Jesus proclaimed:
“Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may
see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. “
(Matthew 5: 16)
We are reminded by our Lord, that we were made, not simply to amass wealth, but to glorify God on earth and enjoy Him hereafter in heaven. That was the purpose of our being made, and given breath. And so, the true life indeed does not consist in the abundance of possessions. Whilst we need material things to survive, life is not improved by having more than we need. We may find that hard to understand, but Jesus requires his followers to believe Him and put into practice the key ideas He has, in this episode, been teaching.
“The hands of the poor, the houses of the widows,
are storehouses that endure for ever.”
(St. Ambrose: CE 340 — 397)
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Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in doing so,
Ordinary Sunday 18 Year C St. Luke 12: 13 — 21
1. Our Rabbi Yeshua teaches us, “Take care to guard against all greed”. His
It is always going to be a danger for us, living in comparative wealth and plenty,
2. Warning number two is just as severe: “Thus it will be for the one who
Our Lord’s parable starts with us as individuals, but applies equally to nations,
Our Messiah has come to call us back to God and provide the way, the truth
“Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may
3. Our Lord also implies a third warning: despite the danger signs, people
But there is hope when we meditate on Our Lord’s teaching and put it into
If we are in the right frame of mind, Our Lord’s teaching in this parable is not
Let us pray for one another to make sure we take time out to prepare
Luke 12: 13 ― 21
13 6 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to
14 He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and
15 Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed,
16 Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land
17 He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to
18 And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns
19 and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many
20 But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be
21 Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but
7  Rich in what matters to God: literally, “rich for God.”
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible,