Luk 12:13 And one of the multitude said to him: Master, speak to my brother that he divide the inheritance with me.
And one of the multitude said to Him. My brother is injuring me, for he wishes to seize the whole of our father’s property, and he will give me no share of it. Command him therefore to do me justice, for Thou by Thy authority canst do this with a word, which I cannot effect by many suits and much litigation. For it is Thy office to defend the right and assist the oppressed, for Thou art the Lord of justice.
Luk 12:14 But he said to him: Man, who hath appointed me judge or divider over you?
The word “man” is a Hebraism for an unknown person, as in Luke 22:58, Peter said, “Man, I am not,” and Luk_22:60, “Man, I know not what thou sayest.” The meaning is, This is a matter of the courts which dispose of secular questions: it has no part in Me, who teach and dispense a heavenly heritage. Christ does not here deny that He has judicial power, for He was the King of kings and the Lord of lords; but He wished to use His power over a covetous man to cure him of his greed, and to teach him to prefer heavenly to earthly things, and to give way willingly to them, according to His own words, vi. 29, “From him that taketh away thy cloke withhold not thy coat also.” “He rightly sets aside earthly things,” says S. Ambrose, “who came down to us for heavenly ones. Hence this brother is rebuked not undeservedly, for he would fain have occupied the dispenser of heavenly things with those of earth.” At the same time He taught that ecclesiastics and spiritual persons ought not to meddle with secular things, but to employ themselves in divine ones, as S. Paul says, 2 Tim 2:4, “No ma, being a soldier of God, entangleth himself with secular business.” So S. Ambrose, Euthymius, Bede, and de Lyra from S. Augustine (serm. 196)—that is, unless the faithful have any suit; secular Bishops in former ages used to settle these, as S. Augustine says that he has done. Lib. de Opere Monachor, c. 29.
Luk 12:15 And he said to them: Take heed and beware of all covetousness: for a man’s life doth not consist in the abundance of things which he possesseth.
and he said to them, “as well to His disciples,” the Syriac says, “as to the multitude,” especially to him who had spoken about his brother dividing the property, Take heed. In this contention of brothers how much ill was caused by avarice. Whilst one from avarice refused to divide the inheritance, the other, with too much cupidity and out of all season, urged the division. Strife and dissention arose among them. Not only should we guard against the lust of seizing what is another’s, but also from too great cupidity to get possession of what is our own, for they who are too eager for earthly riches, neglect heavenly ones. S. Augustine, in his 28th Sermo. De diversis: “Not only is he avaricious who seizes what is another’s, but he also who covetously keeps his own.” The Arabic has, “See and beware of all evil—for avarice is the cause of all evil,” as in 1Tim 6:10, “The desire of money is the root of all evils.”
For a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. That is, it is not because a man abounds in riches that his life is abundant, so as to be longer and happier on that account, for it is shortened and made unhappy from the anxiety and luxury which attend upon great wealth. The Syriac version has, “Life is not in the abundance of riches;” the Arabic, “Man has not abundance in his much wealth”—that is, abundance does not prolong our lives, but rather shortens them. Theophylact says, “The measure of life is not contained in its abundance. For he who has great possessions does not live longer for them, nor does length of life attend upon the multitude of his riches;” and Euthymius, “Not because a man abounds in riches, does his life abound from such abundance. The measure of his life does not depend upon this.” The meaning is, Thou, 0 man, who greedily seekest a heritage from thy brother, seekest it that thou mayest live long and comfortably. But thou errest; for the rich, from their cares and the gluttony they indulge in, often pass short and miserable lives. If thou wouldest live long and profitably, despise money, be poor in spirit, entrust thy hopes and wealth to God alone, for He is the only giver of length of life and happiness. To show this Christ adds the following parable. S. Augustine, On Abel and Cain, i. 5, at the end: “If thou seek treasures, choose the unseen and hidden, those which are to be found in the highest heavens, not sought in the veins of the earth. Be poor in spirit and thou shalt be rich by every reckoning; for the life of man consists not in the abundance of his wealth, but in virtue and faith. These riches make us rich indeed, if we be rich in God.”
Luk 12:16 And he spoke a similitude to them, saying: The land of a certain rich man brought forth plenty of fruits.
And he spoke this similitude (parable) unto them, saying: the land of a certain rich man brought forth plenty of fruits. The ground in the Greek (χώζα) means a large extent of land, a number of fields.
Luk 12:17 And he thought within himself, saying: What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do? &c. Behold the care, behold the poverty of this rich man—he who is overflowing with wealth and receptacles has need of some place in which to store his goods. He is in doubt and perplexity, says Euthymius, as if he were really poor, though he is in truth wealthy. And S. Basil, in his homily on these words of Christ: “The earth did not return fruits but lamentations; for this unhappy man is afflicted quite as much as they who are oppressed by want, and he cries out saying, ‘What shall I do?’ Does not he who is in straits from his poverty utter the same words? and he who has to beg?” From all the good things that flowed in upon him he derived no gratification. They rather annoyed his mind and troubled him.
I have no room where to bestow my fruits. “Did he not,” says S. Basil, “collect his crops and incur the reputation of avarice when he called them his own (i.e., ‘my fruits’)?” For how many dangers are there before the harvest is gathered in. The hail often beats it down, and the heat snatches it out of the very grasp, and rains suddenly rush down from the mountains and sweep it away
Luk 12:18 And he said: This will I do: I will pull down my barns and will build greater: and into them will I gather all things that are grown to me and my goods.
And he said, This will I do, I will pull down my barns, &c. All the harvests collected in past years. He took counsel of his cupidity, not of his charity, which would have said to him, “Spend them on the poor.” “Dost thou want barns? Thou hast them in the bellies of the poor,” says S. Basil; and S. Ambrose (Lib. de Naboth, cap. vii.), “Thou hast storehouses; the bosoms of the poor, the houses of widows and orphans, the mouths of infants. Let these be thy barns, and they will last thee for ever.” S. Basil again, in the homily above: “He is a despoiler who, when he receives what he ought to dispense, considers it as his own. The bread thou hast is the bread of the famishing, thy robe is the robe of the naked, thy silver that is buried in the ground is the silver of the indigent: wherefore dost thou wrong so many poor whom thou mightest support?” He adds, “And, when thou hast filled thy barns, what wilt thou do with the harvest of the following year? Wilt thou pull them down again and build new ones for ever? Thou wilt always be consuming thy substance and thy wealth in pulling down the old and building new, that the fruits which sprang from the earth may return to it again. Thou wilt not bestow them upon the poor, because thou enviest others the use of them, and thus, when earth restored them again to thee, thou deprivest all men of their benefit, nay even thyself; for as corn, falling into the ground, brings gain to the sower, so thy bread, if thou gavest it to the hungry, would bring thee much profit hereafter.”
Luk 12:19 And I will say to my soul: Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years. Take thy rest: eat, drink, make good cheer.
And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years. This rich man again errs and commits sin. First, in promising himself very many years, when he was to die that night. He who promised himself a long life did not see the following day,” says S. Gregory (22 Moral chap. 6). And S. Cyril, in the Catena, “Thou hast fruits in thy barns, 0 rich man, but whence hast thou many years?” Secondly, in giving himself up to gluttony and luxury, saying, “Eat, drink, and be merry like an Epicurean.” For after death is no enjoyment.
Take thy rest. To the plague of avarice is joined that of sloth, says the Gloss. “If you had the soul of a sow,” says S. Basil, “what else could you propose for yourself?—you are so brutish, so ignorant of the soul’s good, that you indulge it in carnal gratification.” Being wholly of the flesh, you make yourself a slave to its lusts. An appellation worthy of you, was bestowed upon you, “Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee.”
S. Ambrose (Lib. ii. de Interpell. in Job c. 5) says wisely, “A great incitement to fall away is an influx of prosperity. It makes us supine, puffs us up, causes forgetfulness of its author.”
Luk 12:20 But God said to him: Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee. And whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?
But God said to him. God said this, not in word but in deed, sending him a fever or some other mortal disease, and causing his conscience by this means to speak thus to him. “God said this to the rich man,” says Euthymius, “through his conscience, which, as he felt death coming upon him, said this to him.”
Thou fool. Because in thy plan, in which thou appearedst to thyself wise, thou now perceivest that thou wast a fool.
This night. “His soul, which would take no heed of light, and which was tending on to Gehenna, was taken in the night.” Gregory, Moral., lib. xv. xi. II.
(this night) do they require thy soul of thee. (Repetunt, απαιτου̃σιν, Greek). They require: that is, God and His angels, who are His instruments, not by misfortune but by the just judgment of God, as if against His will.
Thy soul. “That thou mayest give account of all thy fruits and of the riches and other property which God has given to thee.” So Toletus. They seek it again, because thy soul does not die with the body, but is immortal; thy soul, too, is not thy own, but God’s, who breathed it into thee and entrusted it to thee as a sacred gift. Rightly, therefore, does He now seek it of thee again by a sudden death. Hear S. Jerome on the death that is imminent on all (Ep. iii. to Heliodorus): “Xerxes, that most mighty king, who overthrew mountains, who controlled seas, when he had viewed from a lofty place an infinite multitude of men and an immense army, is said to have wept, because after a hundred years none of those whom he then saw would be surviving. Oh, if we could ascend such a tower from which we could see the whole earth under our feet! I would show you the ruins of the world—nations in strife with nations—kings with kings—and, not the army of Xerxes alone, but the inhabitants of the entire globe, who are now alive, in a short space of time, passed away.”
And whose shall those things be which thou hast provided (for thyself)? “They shall not only not belong to thee,” says Euthymius, “they shall not be thine; but thou dost not know whose they will be—whether thy heir’s or a stranger’s, a friend’s or an enemy’s;—and this increases thy grief.” S. James says, “They shall eat your flesh as fire” (v. 3); and S. Ambrose, “The things that we cannot carry with us are not our own. Virtue alone is the companion of the dead. Mercy alone follows us—and mercy alone gains abodes for the departed.” S. Augustine: “The purse contains that which Christ receives not” (Hom. 48, inter. 50). Well says the wise man, “What fortune has lent let her take, what nature has changed let her seek again, what virtue has gained she will retain.” See what I have collected from the Fathers on vanity and the perniciousness of riches on Isaiah v. 9.
Luk 12:21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God.
So is he that layeth up treasure for himself. Such an end and such a death did the rich covetous man meet who had not laid up treasure toward God. It will be asked, Who is rich towards God? I answer—He who has by alms and other good works many merits and safeguards hidden up as treasures before God, and who day by day hides more, as the apostle teaches at length, 1 Tim 6:17 and following. See what is said thereon.
Secondly, “He is rich in God who studies to please God alone, who fixes all his hope and love on God, who rests wholly on Him, that he may be blessed by Him and made eternally happy.” “He is rich,” says the Gloss, “whose expectation is the Lord, and whose substance is with God.” “The rich in God,” says S. Augustine, “is poor in gold” (Serm. xxviii. de verb. Apostoli)—that is, poor in spirit, as St. Peter was when he said to the lame man, “Silver and gold have I none; but what I have, that I give thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk,” Acts 3:6 On Ps. xl. he says, “When Christ was rich He became poor, that by His poverty He might make you rich. He enriches the truly poor, He brings the falsely rich to poverty. ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,'” Matt 5:3. “Let us endeavour,” says Theophylact, “to be made rich in God, that is, to have trust in Him, that He may have our wealth and the granary of it, and not call our goods our own but God’s, and if they are God’s, let us not deprive Him of His own. This is to be rich in God, to believe that if I give Him all things and empty myself, nothing that is needful for my good shall ever fail me. God is my storehouse, which I will open and take from it all of which I have need.”
Thirdly, He who is rich, that is liberal, in God, is charitable to the poor. For what is done to them God holds to be done to Himself and rewards it. “Let him,” says Bede, “who wishes to be rich in God, not lay up treasure to himself, but distribute his possessions among the poor.” The meaning is good, but it is not complete: for Christ is not speaking here exclusively of almsgiving, but of the true riches, which He declares to be not the fruits of the ground and the wealth of mines, but virtues and good works, for these procure us long life and blessing, as well in this world as in the world to come.
Fourthly, S. Augustine, in his 44th Discourse on the Temptation, teaches that “he is rich to God who is full of love and therefore of God.” “God is love and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God abideth in him,” 1 John 4:16. “If you have love you have God. What has the rich man if he have not love? If a poor man have love, what has he not? You think him rich perhaps whose chest is full of gold; and is he not so whose conscience is full of God? He is truly rich in whom God deigns to dwell.” S. Augustine.
Lastly, The rich man toward God is one who abounds in every virtue. So S. Ambrose explains at length (lib. iv. epis. 27), to Simplicianus, whose words I have cited on 1 Peter 3:4, “That which is not corruptible, the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”
In allegory. The rich toward God are the blessed who enjoy God and all His works. S. Augustine (Serm. 74 de Temp.) teaches that the blessed alone are happy, both because they possess God, and want nothing. “He,” he says, “is truly rich who wants nothing, but the blessed alone want nothing—the blessed alone are truly happy.” He says in the preface of Psalm 41, “Christ was rich to the Father, and poor to us—rich in heaven, poor on earth—rich as God, poor as man.”
St Ambrose in his Epistle to Demetrias, wisely says, “By what price can the repose of this world be more fitly purchased than by the restoration to the world itself of all riches, all dignities, and all desires; and the purchase of Christian liberty by a holy and happy community by which the sons of God, from having been poor will be made rich, from patient will become brave, from humility be exalted?”