Luke 12:13-21 CEB
Someone from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus said to him, “Man, who appointed me as judge or referee between you and your brother?” Then Jesus said to them, “Watch out! Guard yourself against all kinds of greed. After all, one’s life isn’t determined by one’s possessions, even when someone is very wealthy.” Then he told them a parable: “A certain rich man’s land produced a bountiful crop. He said to himself, What will I do? I have no place to store my harvest! Then he thought, Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. That’s where I’ll store all my grain and goods. I’ll say to myself, You have stored up plenty of goods, enough for several years. Take it easy! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself. But God said to him, ‘Fool, tonight you will die. Now who will get the things you have prepared for yourself?’ This is the way it will be for those who hoard things for themselves and aren’t rich toward God.”
This is a parable of Jesus. Sometimes we feel that parables are fables that don’t speak to anyone, but this parable is based on a true story. It may open us up to think about what we read and who is being talked about in the text. This entire section of Luke is dealing with an initial question of a family that is broken. The reason why it is broken is that they are fighting over money. The term inheritance in this case means that a parent or parents bequeathed at their death everything that they owned, usually to the oldest son. The question posed to Jesus initially is about the oldest son splitting that inheritance fairly amongst the rest of the family. Jesus’ answer? I don’t care! This man asks the question that he feels this is injustice, and Jesus replies that he won’t judge something this meaningless. What’s the issue? Possessions here on earth are temporary and too many times we make them seem important when Jesus says that they don’t. He bases his perspective on a very infamous Old Testament character. Who is that character?
Let me take you back to the Old Testament. David is now up in years and is very frail. His son Adonijah, according to traditional monarchal requirements should be the next king. However, there are two people who want to change that tradition, they are Bathsheba and Nathan the court prophet. Nathan convinces Bathsheba to go to David, her husband, and complain that Adonijah is sitting on his throne. Nathan then said that after she did so, he would follow her stating that David had said that Solomon would be the next king, not Adonijah, but Adonijah is already celebrating and acting as king. Nathan also throws the priest Abiathar and Joab, the commander of the Israelite army, as celebrating with Adonijah with their support and Solomon was not invited to the party. This is all found in 1 Kings chapter 1.
David, convinced and heavily manipulated by Bathsheba and Nathan tells them to have Zadok the priest and Nathan anoint Solomon. So, Solomon becoming king was done by deception and it even split the priesthood pitting Zadok against Abiathar.
After this, David speaks to Solomon and David convinces Solomon, because of them working against the wishes of the still reigning king that he must kill Joab and Shemei and make them pay for their treasonous ways. So, we have deception that leads to violence.
Walter Brueggemann, in his book titled Truth Speaks to Power elaborates this transition of power. As the story continues, Solomon orders a hit on his brother Adonijah. Brueggemann suggest that these actions are just like the movie The Godfather.
So, when all is said and done, Adonijah, Joab, and Abiathar are all dead. Now, Solomon is the uncontested and legitimate king. Tuck in this area of the second chapter of 1 Kings is a dream that Solomon has that says that due to his modesty, God would bless him with wealth and honor. Yes, and the nation of Israel celebrated years of prosperity and peace. However, how it was done was not honorable. In fact, Solomon does something that had angered God in the past where God had to intervene. That story deals with the Pharaoh of Egypt and Moses leading them out of Egypt. What did Egypt do? Well, the same things that Solomon would do. It isn’t by accident that Solomon marries Pharoah’s daughter at the beginning of 1 Kings 3. Solomon begins to accumulate “stuff” at the expense of the people.
- Solomon and the elite had food, the rest of the people did not. According to Amos 6:4, the poor rarely has meat to eat. Meat therefore was considered an indulgence. The elite ate well while the poor struggled. If you supported Solomon, you ate well. (1 Kings 4:20-23)
- Because of the indulgence of the king, he needed some way to finance it. What did he do? He formed an Internal Revenue Service. It was a tax that exploited the poor. (1 Kings 4:7-19)
- Solomon collected “stuff”. (1 Kings 4:32) He collected artwork, poems, and proverbs. Having these things is liquifiable wealth.
- Solomon did this using “forced” cheap labor. (1 Kings 5:13-16) Even though in 1 Kings 9:22 states that Solomon had no slave’s, forced labor is not exactly optional either.
- Solomon wanted to protect his wealth by using the best and greatest weapons of his day. (1 Kings 10:28-29) Solomons arms program made the nation of Israel even more secure.
- Israel became a respected superpower in the global economy. Solomon had the best of everything in his house. Gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks. If they had golden toilets back then, he would have had many of those too. (1 Kings 10:14-22)
- One of his greatest commodities that Solomon traded in was human trafficking, especially women. (1 Kings 11:3)
- Solomon’s extravagance culmination is the temple. (1 Kings 6:20-22 and 7:48-50) Everything was covered in gold. Who paid for that? This area, temple and palace became a great citadel, that boasted of political and theological superiority to surrounding nation. Solomon attempts to domesticate God. God, however, will not be controlled by any man, even if they are a king.
Eventually, the truth comes out and God must correct Solomon. 1 Kings 11:1-13 is judged for not following the Torah. Interestingly, God condemns his marriages as one of the causes for his demise. After all, wasn’t Solomon just acting exactly like the Egyptian Pharoah’s? Where do you think he learned such a thing? Interesting, Jeroboam, who by the way is the Secretary of Forced Labor in the north, becomes a prominent person. The alliances with Syria and Egypt are fractured, and Solomon loses ground. Of course, Solomon tries to kill Jeroboam so that he can keep “the peace”. Therefore, Solomon is the rich and foolish man in Jesus’ story. How do I know this?
Because this is what Jesus said next…
Luke 12:22-34 CEB
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. There is more to life than food and more to the body than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither plant nor harvest, they have no silo or barn, yet God feeds them. You are worth so much more than birds! Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? If you can’t do such a small thing, why worry about the rest? Notice how the lilies grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. But I say to you that even Solomon in all his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, how much more will God do for you, you people of weak faith! Don’t chase after what you will eat and what you will drink. Stop worrying. All the nations of the world long for these things. Your Father knows that you need them. Instead, desire his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well. “Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights in giving you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to those in need. Make for yourselves wallets that don’t wear out—a treasure in heaven that never runs out. No thief comes near there, and no moth destroys. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be too.