There is a passage of scripture that has intrigued me for years. Like many other verses, it is easy to read through it without noticing the careful choice of words used. When we look closely at these words, they become much more meaningful and life changing to us.
Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.
– Luke 12:15
First it is important to gain some context. Someone had just asked Jesus to tell his brother to divide his estate with him. Jesus answers by telling those around him to “guard against every kind of greed.” After this, he tells the parable of the rich fool. Obviously, Jesus was teaching us that we shouldn’t be greedy. We understand the gist of this and move on.
Not so fast! Let’s dig deeper for more insight.
The first thing that is interesting to me is that we don’t know which brother he was speaking about. Which one was greedy? The one who asked for part of the inheritance or the one who wouldn’t share? Jesus speaks to the heart so well. Maybe both of them needed to hear those words.
Next of interest to me is that he begins with “Beware!” or as another translation says, “Take heed!” Jesus obviously wants to share an important lesson. He is crying out to us to pay special attention and listen to His words. What is to follow is important, life changing, and will impact eternity.
Be on guard
Now Jesus says we should “Guard against every kind of greed.” Let’s focus on the word “guard.” Andy Stanley talks about this word in his book, “Enemies of the Heart.” The idea is similar to that of a guard on duty to protect a city. Picture a soldier posted in a tower along a protective wall surrounding a city. He is peering out into the darkness, watching for danger. It is his job to keep the enemy from entering the city and he must sound the alarm if he senses an attack. Do you actively guard your heart? Are you aware of the assaults that take place on not only your heart but also the hearts of others around you? When we are unguarded the enemy strikes undetected. We must adopt a spiritual discipline of guarding our hearts and take that job seriously.
SPECIAL NOTE TO PARENTS: To explain this further, let me tell you how this played out recently with a discussion with my oldest daughter, Brooke. She was in a bad mood and was being quite disrespectful to her family one day (which is unusual). My normal first instinct would be to give her a swift punishment of some sort to put her in her place. I had just read Andy’s book though and wondered if something was going on deeper. How was her heart? I asked Brooke if everything was ok. I told her that her choices so far that morning were not good and I wanted to know if something was making her upset. At that moment Brooke opened up to me and poured out her heart about something that had happened at school the previous day. I explained to her that her actions and behavior were not the proper way to deal with these feelings. Parents, it is our job to teach our children how to guard their hearts. When we realize this, it can dramatically affect our parenting techniques. This was a huge breakthrough for me.
Different kinds of greed?
The last thing I want to point out is that we are to guard ourselves from “every kind of greed.” I’ve often wondered how many kinds of greed there are. Based on this verse there are of course more than one, but what are they? Some thoughts that come to mind are:
- greed for more possessions,
- greed for more money,
- desiring power,
- envy of what others own,
- coveting someone else’s spouse,
- hoarding rather than freely giving to others, and
- desiring a more lavish lifestyle.
My guess is that all of us struggle with some sort of greed. Let’s take Jesus’ advice and guard our hearts from the enemy’s temptations. Let’s be aware of all kinds of greed that exist and not let them take root in our lives. Let’s guard our families and teach them to be conscious of the their hearts as well.