And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? Luke 12:13-14
In the days that we are living in the gospel of Jesus Christ has been compromised and today gain is thought to be godliness, as the Apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:5. Paul called the people who advance these kinds of teachings “men of corrupt minds” and “from such”, he admonished Timothy, “withdraw thyself”.
Recently, on TV, a prominent preacher was praying over people who had various needs in his church. There were hundreds, probably thousands, each holding up a placard with their prayer requests written on them.
One man had a placard that read, “LAND CASE”, and when the preacher got to him, he placed his hands upon him and said to him, “You have won”. In other words, this preacher was telling this man, ‘by the word of the Lord’, that he had won a dispute over land.
Immediately I heard that, somehow I knew it was not right. There was no Biblical basis for what this preacher had just told this man. I would not contest the fact that he might have received a revelation concerning that man’s situation, but as far as I was concerned, his words or prophecy had to link up with scripture. And they didn’t.
But what disturbed me even more was the fact that this is a prominent preacher, whom millions of people from all over the world pay attention to. And he was doing or saying something that was completely contrary to the Word of God right on TV!
When we look at scripture, we see that Jesus’ approach to a similar situation is poles apart from this preacher’s. Contrary to this preacher, Jesus told His man that He did not come to be a ‘judge’ or a ‘divider’ of worldly possessions.
But what did Jesus mean then and what are the implications of His words for us today? Let us look at this scripture in some detail.
The first thing we notice is that this is the only scripture in the Bible where Jesus used the word “Man” to address a person; and notable still is the fact that He used this word in connection with worldly possessions. The conclusion we come to here is that someone whose heart is set on worldly possessions is a mere man. He is not a spiritual man. Spiritually speaking, that is a sick person and what he needs above all else is the healing of his heart.
To bring this into even clearer perspective, let us consider another place where the word ‘man’ is used in a similar fashion. Paul, speaking to the Corinthians, says, “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” 1 Cor. 3:3. Notice the connection between the words ‘men’ and ‘carnal’ here. The two go together. They are allies. A carnal person is a worldly-minded person. He might be a Christian, but as long as his heart is set on the things of this world, the Bible calls him carnal. He is a man or woman in whom the works of the flesh are evident.
There is only one person in the world who is not carnal, and that is the spiritually-minded born-again believer, one whose affection is set on “things above, not on things on the earth” (Col.3:2). A spiritual person is no mere man.
Back to Jesus and His man. The claim of this man was acceptable in the natural, but in the Spirit, it pointed to a very big spiritual problem in this man’s heart. By addressing him “Man”, Jesus was telling him. ‘With your attitude, you are a mere man’. It is important we understand the sense in which Jesus addressed this man because, as we shall see, this is very relevant to the church at present.
The second thing we notice about this scripture is Jesus saying He was neither judge nor divider between a man and his brother. Who or what is a judge? A judge is a person who administers justice. He is an arbiter. This is the second important thing we need to keep in mind as we continue with our discussion. Since the matter in hand involved a familial inheritance, we can safely conclude that Jesus was telling this man that He did come to arbitrate on worldly possessions. We wouldn’t know whether what this man wanted Jesus to do was right or wrong until Jesus agreed or refused his request. And His answer was a ‘no’.
Lastly, let us consider Jesus’ words in verse 15: “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (verse 15).
The words “consisteth not” say it all. Here Jesus was saying that the Life that God is giving us has nothing to do with worldly possessions. Whether you own the whole world, or whether you are so poor that even the shirt on your back is someone else’s property; none of these state of affairs has anything to do with the Kingdom of God that dwells in our hearts.
Now, remember that the Jews in Jesus’ day did not have the Holy Spirit in them and everything Jesus told them left them totally confused. They did not have the revelation of the Word. But we have the Holy Spirit, and we can understand clearly what God is saying. You see, Jesus was not simply ‘putting off’ the man, but He was making a very important statement whose meaning the Holy Spirit would later reveal to the church.
So what’s in it for the church here? What is God telling His people here?
There are Christians today who are using the Word of God to ‘claim’ worldly possessions, just like this man wanted to use Jesus to claim his ‘right’. There are they who claim it is their God-given ‘right’ as children of God to have this and that thing. They say, “I claim this and that in Jesus’ Name!”, – and they are referring to just a natural or worldly ‘right’. There are preachers who are teaching people that “It is your right as a child of God to have this and that!”
This heart condition of wanting the things of this world is a sin called covetousness, and the Bible equates it to idol worship (Col.3:5). In the Old Testament, this was the one sin that angered God above all. God’s first commandment to man is: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Mat. 22:37-38).
There are people, infinitely more so today than in Jesus’ day, who want to use the Word of God as a ‘judge’ and a ‘divider’ of worldly possessions. A judge, as we just saw, grants rights to people. In the same way, people – Christians – want to use the Word of God to lay claim to certain ‘rights’ they feel they are entitled to as children of God. They use the Bible to ‘claim’ anything and everything they want.
I am referring here to the gospel of prosperity and other kindred gospels. These are carnal, worldly gospels.
But we have been called to serve God in Spirit and truth. I admire the Apostle Paul, who calls himself a “servant” of Jesus Christ. Paul was not a servant to this world.
In the final analysis, we have no rights to claim. On the contrary, we are called upon to lose our rights. That is what a revelation of the cross in our lives will teach us: to deny self, take up our cross and follow Christ.