Here’s an interesting couple of verses in Luke:
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide my inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” (Luke 12:13-14, TNIV)
Some context: Jesus goes on to talk at length about money and possessions and worry. About trust and generosity. The thrust of the passage is to be “rich towards God“…his purposes, his Kingdom.
But, if you read that reply in a certain tone, you get the impression that Jesus, as blasphemous as it might seem, was kind of annoyed with this guy. As in, “come on man,” don’t you see that there are bigger things going on here than how you divide your inheritance with your brother.
Jesus was welcoming, hospitable, and compassionate. But he was also protective of his mission and priorities. The Word did not become flesh to settle petty disputes. He knew where he was going and was not going to get sidetracked.
As ministers, leaders, pastors, we want to help people. That’s why most of us get in to this work. When someone comes to us and wants our help, our natural tendency is to say “yes”. This is the work we signed up to do, after all. But not every ask moves the mission forward…not every idea is the right idea for right now…some things people can (or need) to figure out on their own.
I find Jesus’ response strangely encouraging. But also challenging because I want to help everyone. Anyone else struggle with this?
*For the sake of full disclosure, the essence of this idea is stolen from a talk Rob Bell did in the poets, prophets, and preachers series but his emphasis was narrower, focusing on how people respond to sermons.
3 thoughts on “Man…*”
Part of me wonders if Jesus is asking the same question He asks of many, “Who do you think I am?” Asking people to consider what He came to do and who He came to represent. But it still makes me wonder, how and when do we help?
I often fall into this struggle. Can we help everyone without hurting some? How do we choose between good and bad ideas? Harder still is how do we choose between several good ideas? And if we do choose, how do we respond to those we didn’t?
Maybe this is where I’m at these days, but another concept I hear is empowerment. When we tell people their passions aren’t our mission, people tend to feel abandoned, as though we didn’t care. And if this passage is read in this way, Jesus does sound insensitive. In another light, He could also be challenging this man that the arbitrators for his dispute already exist. Him and his brother.
If the man would go, plead with his brother in an offering of peace and humility, I wonder if the situation would resolve itself.
As ideas come and go, even if we can’t help them all move forward, we can move people’s hearts. When someone brings me an idea that isn’t my passion, I can always encourage them. If their passion is truly a good idea, a God idea, then they shouldn’t let it go. They should grow it, make it flourish, tell everyone they know about it. People can move mountains. Sometimes they just need to be reminded of that.
Tony, thanks for your thoughts! Excellent…
You nail two things in particular: one, you are right, the dude had everything he needed at his disposal to work the situation out…coming to Jesus was an abdication of responsibility.
two, love your last paragraph about moving hearts. that is what Jesus does in the next 20 or so verses…go be generous!
thanks for weighing in!
Yes! As an old Baptist might say, “That’ll preach!”