Covetousness is a deadly danger, and it is often fueled by anxiety. Jesus not only warns us of the temptation of covetousness, but also provides the antidote to anxiety.
In our last Wisdom Journey, Jesus taught the huge crowd gathered about Him whom they should fear—not the Pharisees and their traditions, not any man, but the almighty God alone. Apparently, one man was too much into his bank account and was not listening.
This man speaks rather irreverently to Jesus in Luke chapter 12, verse 13: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus bluntly refuses to get involved, saying, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?”
It was typical for rabbis of this day to be sought out as mediators for legal disputes, especially as it related to the Mosaic law. But that is not the mission of Jesus. He is not setting up a little business on the side to settle legal disputes.
Now we know from Jewish law that the firstborn received as his birthright twice the inheritance received by younger siblings. The oldest brother was then responsible for the support of his mother, along with any unmarried sisters in his family. That is why he received more.
Well, the younger brother is speaking here, and he’s become impatient waiting for his share. But Jesus sees in his heart something more than impatience. In verse 15, Jesus says, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness.” Covetousness, or greed, is the real issue here.
We are to be on guard—literally, post a guard at the doorway of our heart. Money happens to be neutral; but our desire for it can become sinful.
Jesus says in verse 15, “For one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” A fulfilling life has absolutely nothing to do with how many things you possess.
Today, advertisers target elementary-school-age children to the tune of over $15 billion a year. And that is because children can be taught that what they have is not new enough or good enough or exciting enough. Even children can experience the cravings of covetousness.
Now to drive home this point, Jesus tells a parable, beginning in verse 16.
“The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (verses 16-21)
The problem with this farmer isn’t his surplus; it’s his spirit. He takes no thought of God or anybody in need around him; he is a fool because his life is built around himself. He is governed by the fear that one day he might not have enough.
Jesus turns to His disciples specifically and speaks to them:
“Do not be anxious [don’t worry] about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” (verses 22-23)
Now you might be thinking, If I don’t look after my needs, who will? Jesus delivers an answer to that question. In fact, He gives us a three-part antidote to anxiety.
Part one is to think correctly! He says in verse 24, “Consider the ravens.” This word for “consider” means to think, based on knowledge. In other words, when you are weighed down by worry, tell yourself the truth.
What is the truth? God “feeds” the ravens, and you are of “much more value” than they are. Think about it: no amount of worry will add to your days or change God’s timing in His caring for your needs (verses 25-26). And as Jesus goes on to say, if God provides for lilies, which last only a brief time, He is going to provide for your needs—and you are going to live forever (verses 27-28).
Listen, beloved, if God is powerful enough to create your life, He is powerful enough to direct your life. So, think about that truth—think correctly.
The second antidote against worry is to live generously. Jesus says in verse 33, “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.” Do not misunderstand; Jesus does not say here to sell all your possessions and give everything you have to the needy. Otherwise, you would be needy, and somebody else would have to bail you out.
One author explains that the Lord is encouraging us to hold on to our possessions loosely—to live with an open hand. And by the way, your possessions include your time, your talents, testimony, and spiritual gifts, to name a few.
Here’s part three in this divine antidote to anxiety: we are to invest eternally! Listen to Jesus here in verses 33-34:
“Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Beloved, earth’s moneybags have holes in them. Our stuff will not last, and it isn’t going to satisfy us either. Here is the Lord’s advice—invest in things that last forever. God lasts forever, so invest in spreading His gospel; people last forever, so invest in ministry to them.
I am reminded of a young man born in the 1800s who became a partner in a retail business and eventually full owner. He soon became wealthy through a chain of stores that earned him more and more profits each year.
Then the stock market crash of 1929 left him in financial ruin. Broken emotionally and mentally and crushed by the weight of anxiety about the future, he began to lose his grip on sanity.
In 1931, he checked himself into the Battle Creek Sanitarium, where he wrote farewell notes to his family and friends, assuming he would die there. One night he tiptoed downstairs to roam around and heard music from the hospital’s chapel.
A few people had gathered and were singing a hymn. He went in, sat down, and listened.
It was God’s divine appointment for him because the words of that hymn brought to his memory the gospel of his past that he had rejected. He knew the gospel in those words were God’s message for him. He returned to his room and gave his life to Christ.
He would tell people from then on that he had been born again in a sanitarium. His mental health returned, and he was dismissed from the institution with a newfound passion for Christ. Even though he was fifty-six years old, he returned to the retail business and again quickly began to succeed. As his wealth grew, he gave more and more to charitable causes, especially those connected to the gospel of Christ. He continued leading his company until he died in 1971 at the age of ninety-five.
His name was James Cash Penney. We know him as J. C. Penney. The year he died his stores earned over $4 billion in revenue.
But for J. C. Penney, what mattered most was that he had begun thinking clearly, living generously, and investing eternally. And by the way, the hymn he heard that night in the sanitarium was inspired by this text in Luke’s Gospel. Some of the lyrics go like this:
Be not dismayed what e’er betide,
God will take care of you . . .
Through every day, o’er all the way;
He will take care of you. . . .
No matter what may be the test,
God will take care of you.
That is the antidote to anxiety—knowing that God will take care of you.
 Clinton E. Arnold, ed., Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, volume 1 (Zondervan, 2002), 427.
 Ivor Powell, Luke’s Thrilling Gospel (Kregel, 1984), 286.
 Katy Kelly and Linda Kulman, “Kid Power,” U. S. News and World Report, usnews.com, September 5, 2004.
 Fritz Rienecker, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, ed. Cleon L. Rogers Jr. (Regency, 1980), 177.
 Clinton E. Arnold, ed., Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, volume 1 (Zondervan, 2002), 429.
 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel (Augsburg Publishing, 1946), 694.
 Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Luke (Zondervan, 2012), 334.
 Adapted from Paul Harvey, “The Rest of The Story.” See also, Isadore Barmash, “J. C. Penney of Store Chain Dies; Built Business on ‘Golden Rule,’” New York Times, February 13, 1971, nytimes. com.
 Civilla D. Martin, “God Will Take Care of You.”