When one hears the word “greed”, one usually jumps to the love of money. Greed can be a love of money, but it is much more complex than that–even Michael Douglas’ character in the 1987 movie Wall Street knows that. Greed is an excessive love for one’s own welfare–it is being consumed with one’s getting on in life without the consideration from Whom all the blessings originate.
In Luke 12:13-34, a man comes to Jesus to ask him to settle a dispute, “Rabbi, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus responds, “Man, who appointed me arbiter between you?” Indeed, the man is not asking for arbitration, he is asking for a judgment against his brother. In other words he is engaging in a bit of upward delegation, “Teacher, do what I tell you.” Little did the man know what he was saying.
When Jesus asks a question, it is important for us to consider the question and ask it of ourselves. Luke is doing this. He is not merely recording the interactions surrounding the events of Jesus’ life, he is telling us his gospel. So, when Jesus asks, “Man, who appointed me arbiter between you?” Not only is Luke recording the question he asked the man, but Luke has Jesus asking us as well. Who is Jesus and what is the basis of his authority?
The irony of the circumstance is that while the man is consumed with the greed to have what he desperately wants from his brother and in that desperation is bossing his teacher around, he is clueless as to the real identity of One standing before him. Had he known he was talking to the Lord and Giver of Life, he might have asked for far more than the short-sighted satisfaction his greed had latched onto.
Oh, and in case you hadn’t seen it in a while, here’s that clip from Wall Street.