Luke 12:15
And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
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(15) Take heed, and beware of covetousness.—The better MSS. give, “of all (i.e., every form of) -covetousness.” Our Lord’s words show that He had read the secret of the man’s heart. Greed was there, with all its subtle temptations, leading the man to think that “life” was not worth living unless he had a superfluity of goods. The general truth is illustrated by a parable, obviously selected by St. Luke, as specially enforcing the truth which he held to be of primary importance. (See Introduction.)

12:13-21 Christ's kingdom is spiritual, and not of this world. Christianity does not meddle with politics; it obliges all to do justly, but wordly dominion is not founded in grace. It does not encourage expectations of worldly advantages by religion. The rewards of Christ's disciples are of another nature. Covetousness is a sin we need constantly to be warned against; for happiness and comfort do not depend on the wealth of this world. The things of the world will not satisfy the desires of a soul. Here is a parable, which shows the folly of carnal worldling while they live, and their misery when they die. The character drawn is exactly that of a prudent, worldly man, who has no grateful regard to the providence of God, nor any right thought of the uncertainty of human affairs, the worth of his soul, or the importance of eternity. How many, even among professed Christians, point out similar characters as models for imitation, and proper persons to form connexions with! We mistake if we think that thoughts are hid, and thoughts are free. When he saw a great crop upon his ground, instead of thanking God for it, or rejoicing to be able to do more good, he afflicts himself. What shall I do now? The poorest beggar in the country could not have said a more anxious word. The more men have, the more perplexity they have with it. It was folly for him to think of making no other use of his plenty, than to indulge the flesh and gratify the sensual appetites, without any thought of doing good to others. Carnal worldlings are fools; and the day is coming when God will call them by their own name, and they will call themselves so. The death of such persons is miserable in itself, and terrible to them. Thy soul shall be required. He is loth to part with it; but God shall require it, shall require an account of it, require it as a guilty soul to be punished without delay. It is the folly of most men, to mind and pursue that which is for the body and for time only, more than that for the soul and eternity.Beware of covetousness - One of these brothers, no doubt, was guilty of this sin; and our Saviour, as was his custom, took occasion to warn his disciples of its danger.

Covetousness - An unlawful desire of the property of another; also a desire of gain or riches beyond what is necessary for our wants. It is a violation of the tenth commandment Exodus 20:17, and is expressly called idolatry Colossians 3:5. Compare, also, Ephesians 5:3, and Hebrews 13:5.

A man's life - The word "life" is sometimes taken in the sense of happiness or felicity, and some have supposed this to be the meaning here, and that Jesus meant to say that a man's comfort does not depend on affluence - that is, on more than is necessary for his daily wants; but this meaning does not suit the parable following, which is designed to show that property will not lengthen out a man's life, and therefore is not too ardently to be sought, and is of little value. The word "life," therefore, is to be taken "literally."

Consisteth not - Rather, "dependeth" not on his possessions. His possessions will not prolong it. The passage, then, means: Be not anxious about obtaining wealth, for, however much you may obtain, it will not prolong your life. "That" depends on the will of God, and it requires something besides wealth to make us ready to meet him. This sentiment he proceeds to illustrate by a beautiful parable.

15. unto them—the multitude around Him (Lu 12:1).

of covetousness—The best copies have "all," that is, "every kind of covetousness"; because as this was one of the more plausible forms of it, so He would strike at once at the root of the evil.

a man's life, &c.—a singularly weighty maxim, and not less so because its meaning and its truth are equally evident.

The pleonexia, here translated covetousness immoderate desire of having of this world’s goods, which discovers itself either by unrighteous acts in procuring, or uncharitable omissions for the keeping, of the things of this life. It is that filarguria, love of money, which the apostle determines to be the root of all evil. It is also discovered by a too much thoughtfulness what we shall eat, drink, or put on, or by the too great meltings of our hearts into our bags of gold or silver. All these come under the notion of that covetousness which is here forbidden. In short, whatsoever it is that hindereth our contentment with the portion God giveth us upon our endeavours, though it amounts to no more than food and raiment, according to the apostle’s precept, 1 Timothy 6:8 Hebrews 13:5. This is what Christ warns his disciples to beware of; he gives us the reason, for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of what he possesseth: which is true, whether we understand by life the subsisting and upholding of our life, or (as life is often taken) for the happiness and felicity of our lives. Abundance is not necessary to uphold our lives. Ad manum est quod sat est, saith Seneca, Nature is content with a little. Sudamus ad supervacanea, ( saith he), We sweat only to get superfluities. Nor will abundance protect our lives; it will not keep off an enemy, but rather tempt him; nor fence out a disease, but rather contribute to it, as engaging us in immoderate cares or labours to procure and keep it, or as exposing us to temptations to riot and debauchery, by which men’s lives are often shortened. Nor doth the happiness of life lie in the abundance of what we possess. Some philosophers determined rightly, that something of this world’s good is necessary to our happiness of life, but abundance is not. The poor are as merry, and many times more satisfied, more healthy, and at more ease, than those that have abundance. It is a golden sentence, which deserves to be engraven in every soul.

And he said unto them,.... Either to the two brethren, or to his disciples, as the Syriac and Persic versions read, or to the whole company:

take heed, and beware of covetousness; of all covetousness, as read the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, and some copies; that is, of all sorts of covetousness, and every degree of it, which of all vices is to be avoided and guarded against, being the root of all evil; and as the Persic version renders it, is worse than all evil, and leads into it:

for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth; of flocks and beasts, as the Persic version renders it: a man's natural life cannot be prolonged by all the good things of the world he is possessed of; they cannot prevent diseases nor death; nor do the comfort and happiness of life, lie in these things; which are either not enjoyed by them, but kept for the hurt of the owners of them, or are intemperately used, or some way or other imbittered to them, so that they have no peace nor pleasure in them: and a man's spiritual life is neither had nor advantaged hereby, and much less is eternal life to be acquired by any of these things; which a man may have, and be lost for ever, as the following parable shows.

And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of {c} covetousness: for a man's life {d} consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

(c) By covetousness is meant that greedy desire to get, commonly causing hurt to other men.

(d) God is the author and preserver of man's life; goods are not.

Luke 12:15. Jesus recognised πλεονεξία as that which had stirred up the quarrel between the brothers, and uses the occasion to utter a warning against it.

πρὸς αὐτούς] i.e. πρὸς τὸν ὄχλον, Luke 12:13.

ὅτι οὐκ ἐν τῷ περισσεύειν κ.τ.λ.] for not by the fact of a man’s possessing abundance does his life (the support of his life) consist in his possessions. This—the fact that one’s life consists in one’s possessions—is not dependent on the abundance of the possession, but—this, the contrast unexpressed, but resulting from Luke 12:30—on the will of God, who calls away the selfish collector of treasures from the midst of his abundance. The simple thought then is: It is not superfluity that avails to support a man’s life by what he possesses. “Vivitur parvo bene.” To this literal meaning, moreover, the following parable corresponds, since it does not authorize us to understand ζωή in its pregnant reference: true life, σωτηρία, or the like (Kuinoel, Bornemann, Olshausen, Ewald, and the older commentators); on the other hand, Kaeuffer, De ζωῆς αἰων. not. p. 12 f.[156] Observe, moreover, that οὐκ has been placed at the beginning, before ἐν τῷ περισσ., because of the contrast which is implied, and that τινί, according to the usual construction, that of the Vulgate, goes most readily with περισσευειν (Luke 21:4; Tob 4:16; Dion. Hal. iii. 11), and is not governed by what follows. An additional reason for this construction lies in the fact that thus the following αὐτοῦ is not superfluous. Finally, it is to be noted that εἶναι ἐκ is the frequent proficisci ex, prodire ex. De Wette is wrong in saying: “for though any one has superfluity, his life is not a part of his possessions, i.e. he retains it not because he has these possessions.” In this manner εἶναι ἐκ would mean, to which belong; but it is decisive against this view entirely that οὐκ ἐν τῷ περισσεύειν must be taken together, while in respect thereof, according to the former view, no contrast can be conceived; for the life is in no case a part of our possessions (in the above sense).

[156] Kuinoel: “Non si quis in abundantia divitiarum versatur, felicitas ejus a divitiis pendet.” Bornemann (Schol. p. 82, and in the Stud. u. Krit. 1843, p. 128 ff.): “Nemini propterea, quod abunde habet, felicitas paratur ex opibus, quas possidet (sed ex pietate et fiducia in Deo posita).” Olshausen says that there are two propositions blended together: “Life consists not in superfluity” (the true life), and “nothing spiritual can proceed from earthly possessions.” Ewald says: “If man has not from his external wealth in general what can be rightly called his life, he has it not, or rather he has it still less by the fact that this, his external wealth, increases by his appeasing his covetousness.”

15. beware of covetousness] The better reading is “of all covetousness,” i.e. not only beware of avarice, but also of selfish possession. Both the O. and N. T. abound with repetitions of this warning. Balaam, Achan, Gehazi are awful examples of this sin in the O. T.; Judas Iscariot, the Pharisees and Ananias in the New. See 1 Timothy 6:10-17.

a man’s life consisteth not] i.e. a man’s true life—his zoe: his earthly natural life—his bios, is supported by what he has, but his zoe is what he is. Such phrases as that a man ‘is worth’ so many thousands a year, revealing the current of worldly thought, shew how much this warning is needed. The order of words in this paragraph is curious. It is literally, “For not in any marts abundance is his life (derived) from his possessions,” or (as De Wette takes it) “is his life a part ^his possessions.” The English Version well represents the sense. Comp. Sen. ad Helv. ix. 9, “Corporis exigua desideria sunt.... Quicquid extra concupiscitur, vitiis non usibus laboratur.”

Luke 12:15. Πρὸς αὐτοὺς, unto them) viz. to the two brothers, or else, to His hearers: comp. Luke 12:16.[116] The discourse returns to the disciples [to whom it was at first addressed], at Luke 12:22.—πλεονεξίας, covetousness) which may possibly lurk beneath, even in the case of a cause however just: Luke 12:13.—ἐκ τῶν) These words are to be construed with ζωή.[117] Life is well lived on little.[118]

[116] Where also πρὸς αὐτοὺς occurs: the parable there would probably be addressed to all His hearers.—ED. and TRANSL.

[117] i.e. “In the case of one’s having abundance, his life is not derived from one’s goods.” But Engl. Vers. joins ἐκ τῶν with ἐν τῷ περισσεύειν, in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.—ED. and TRANSL.

[118] If there be contentment and the grace of God.—ED. and TRANSL.

Verse 15. - And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. The older authorities read, "beware of every kind of covetousness." No vice is more terribly illustrated in the Old Testament story than this. Prominent illustrations of ruin overtaking the covetous man, even in this life, are Balaam, Achan, and Gehazi. Has not this ever been one of the besetting sins of the chosen race, then as now, now as then? Jesus, as the Reader of hearts, saw what was at the bottom of the question: greed, rather than a fiery indignation at a wrong endured. "A man's life." His true life, would be a fair paraphrase of the Greek word used here. The Master's own life, landless, homeless, penniless, illustrated nobly these words. That life, as far as earth was concerned, was his deliberate choice. The world, Christian as well as pagan, in each succeeding age, with a remarkable agreement, utterly declines to recognize the great Teacher's view of life here. To make his meaning perfectly clear, the Lord told them the following parable-story, which reads like an experience or memory of something which had actually happened. Luke 12:15Beware of (φυλάσσεσθε ἀπὸ)

Lit., guard yourselves from.

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