Solving Temporary Matters – A Response to Brother B


Luke 12:13 And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. 14 And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? 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.


With the question raised how far we are to get involved in temporary matters, because SoP has been mentioned, it will be the key to interpret itself. But first things first


Among the Jews, the children had the inheritance of their fathers divided among them; the eldest had a double portion, but all the rest had equal parts. It is likely the person complained of in the text was the elder brother; and he wished to keep the whole to himself-a case which is far from being uncommon. The spirit of covetousness cancels all bonds and obligations, makes wrong right, and cares nothing for father or brother.


Christ was the wisest man that ever lived and he uses his words carefully in the narrative, you will do well to notice them. Without some judgment given in the case, no division could be made; therefore Jesus added the word judge. A minister of Christ ought not to concern himself with secular affairs, [this we shall see soon in SoP], any farther than charity and the order of discipline require it. Our Lord could have decided this difference in a moment; but the example of a perfect disengagement from worldly things was more necessary for the ministers of his Church than that of a charity applying itself to temporal concerns. He who preaches salvation to all should never make himself a party man; otherwise he loses the confidence, and consequently the opportunity of doing good to the party against whom he decides. Better to leave all these things to the civil magistrate, unless where a lawsuit may be prevented, and the matter decided to the satisfaction or acquiescence of both parties.


Ellen White adds important elements in this case. This was not just a case of injustice but covetousness was involved in it, something that don’t get solved by providing justice but addressing the sin problem. Jesus dealt with the sin problem in the parable given and left the civil matters to their rightful entity. Quote:


In Christ’s treatment of this case is a lesson for all who minister in His name. When He sent forth the twelve, He said, “As ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:7, 8. They were not to settle the temporal affairs of the people. Their work was to persuade men to be reconciled to God. In this work lay their power to bless humanity. The only remedy for the sins and sorrows of men is Christ. The gospel of His grace alone can cure the evils that curse society. The injustice of the rich toward the poor, the hatred of the poor toward the rich, alike have their root in selfishness, and this can be eradicated only through submission to Christ. He alone, for the selfish heart of sin, gives the new heart of love. Let the servants of Christ preach the gospel with the Spirit sent down from heaven, and work as He did for the benefit of men. Then such results will be manifest in the blessing and uplifting of mankind as are wholly impossible of accomplishment by human power.  {COL 254.2}


The phrase temporary matters as concerns this story has to do with that which is the duty of the civil laws to solve which Christians have no part. You will notice shortly


Our Lord struck at the root of the affair that troubled this questioner, and of all similar disputes, saying, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness; for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.  {COL 254.3}


Now take keen look at the parable Christ gives next to help understand the issue with the complainant


“And He spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall these things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”  {COL 255.1}


By the parable of the foolish rich man, Christ showed the folly of those who make the world their all. This man had received everything from God. The sun had been permitted to shine upon his land; for its rays fall on the just and on the unjust. The showers of heaven descend on the evil and on the good. The Lord had caused vegetation to flourish, and the fields to bring forth abundantly. The rich man was in perplexity as to what he should do with his produce. His barns were full to overflowing, and he had no place to put the surplus of his harvest. He did not think of God, from whom all his mercies had come. He did not realize that God had made him a steward of His goods that he might help the needy. He had a blessed opportunity of being God’s almoner, but he thought only of ministering to his own comfort.  {COL 256.1}


The situation of the poor, the orphan, the widow, the suffering, the afflicted, was brought to this rich man’s attention; there were many places in which to bestow his goods. He could easily have relieved himself of a portion of his abundance, and many homes would have been freed from want, many who were hungry would have been fed, many naked clothed, many hearts made glad, many prayers for bread and clothing answered, and a melody of praise would have ascended to heaven. The Lord had heard the prayers of the needy, and of His goodness He had prepared for the poor. (Psalm 68:10.) Abundant provision for the wants of many had been made in the blessings bestowed upon the rich man. But he closed his heart to the cry of the needy, and said to his servants, “This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.”  {COL 256.2}


This man’s aims were no higher than those of the beasts that perish. He lived as if there were no God, no heaven, no future life; as if everything he possessed were his own, and he owed nothing to God or man. The psalmist described this rich man when he wrote, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Psalm 14:1.  {COL 257.1}


This man has lived and planned for self. He sees that the future is abundantly provided for; there is nothing for him now but to treasure and enjoy the fruits of his labors. He regards himself as favored above other men, and takes credit to himself for his wise management. He is honored by his fellow townsmen as a man of good judgment and a prosperous citizen. For “men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself.” Psalm 49:18.  {COL 258.1}


But “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” 1 Corinthians 3:19. While the rich man is looking forward to years of enjoyment, the Lord is making far different plans. The message comes to this unfaithful steward, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.” Here is a demand that money cannot supply. The wealth he has treasured can purchase no reprieve. In one moment that which he has toiled through his whole life to secure becomes worthless to him. “Then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?” His broad fields and well-filled granaries pass from under his control. “He heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.” Psalm 39:6.  {COL 258.2}


The only thing that would be of value to him now he has not secured. In living for self he has rejected that divine love which would have flowed out in mercy to his fellow men. Thus he has rejected life. For God is love, and love is life. This man has chosen the earthly rather than the spiritual, and with the earthly he must pass away. “Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.” Psalm 49:20.  {COL 258.3}


“So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” The picture is true for all time. You may plan for merely selfish good, you may gather together treasure, you may build mansions great and high, as did the builders of ancient Babylon; but you cannot build wall so high or gate so strong as to shut out the messengers of doom. Belshazzar the king “feasted in his palace,” and “praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.” But the hand of One invisible wrote upon his walls the words of doom, and the tread of hostile armies was heard at his palace gates. “In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain,” and an alien monarch sat upon the throne. (Daniel 5:30)  {COL 258.4}


To live for self is to perish. Covetousness, the desire of benefit for self’s sake, cuts the soul off from life. It is the spirit of Satan to get, to draw to self. It is the spirit of Christ to give, to sacrifice self for the good of others. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” 1 John 5:11, 12.  {COL 259.1}


Wherefore He says, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness; for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”  {COL 259.2}

From another perspective of the story, I quote:


When we are prepared to take hold of the work in earnest we shall be better able than we are now to deal with the questions involved in this work. Let every believer do his best to prepare the way for the gospel missionary work that is to be done. But let no one enter into controversy. It is Satan’s object to keep Christians occupied in controversies among themselves. He knows that if they do not watch, the day of the Lord will come on them as a thief in the night. We have no time now to give place to the spirit of the enemy and to cherish prejudices that confuse the judgment and lead us away from Christ.  {9T 216.2}


What is EGW saying above? All temporary affairs that are not salvific in nature has no place to occupy the time of a gospel minister. Issues that are temporary and can be solved on temporary basis and not related to the gospel should not be mixed with gospel affairs to derail the important work. Family feuds should be left thus with the rightful people to attend to them. Don’t mix secular and holy things neither common with uncommon.


A Lesson from Christ’s Labors


On one occasion, while Christ was in the midst of His work of teaching and healing, one of the company assembled about Him said: “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.” Luke 12:13.  {9T 216.4}


This man had witnessed Christ’s wonderful works. He had been astonished at the clearness of His comprehension, His superior judgment, and the fairness with which He viewed the cases brought to Him. He heard Christ’s stirring appeals and His solemn denunciations of the scribes and Pharisees. If words of such command could be spoken to this brother, he would not dare to refuse the aggrieved man his portion. He solicited Christ’s influence on his side. “Speak to my brother,” he said, “that he divide the inheritance with me.”  {9T 216.5}


The Holy Spirit was pleading with this man to become an heir of the inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away. He had seen evidence of the power of Christ. Now the opportunity was his to speak to the Great Teacher, to express the desire uppermost in his heart. But like the man with the muckrake in Bunyan’s allegory, his eyes were fixed on the earth. He saw not the crown above his head. Like Simon Magus he valued the gift of God as a means of worldly gain.  {9T 217.1}


Pause. This far being from a case of justice vs injustice, was a case of man who was pursuing mammon and at the same time heaven, the two do not co-mingle. While his brother was on the wrong, he was too on the wrong motive. Jesus could not decide for his case for he had no part in that but addresses that which will help the two brothers.


The Saviour’s mission on earth was fast drawing to a close. Only a few months remained for Him to complete what He came to do in establishing the kingdom of His grace. Yet human greed would have turned Him from His work to take up the dispute over a piece of land. But Jesus was not to be diverted from His mission. His answer was: “Man, who made Me a judge or a divider over you?” Luke 12:14.  {9T 217.2}


Christ gave the man plainly to understand that this was not His work. He was striving to save souls. He was not to be turned aside from this to take up the duties of a civil magistrate.  {9T 217.3}


How often today labor is forced upon the church that should never be allowed to enter the work of the gospel ministry!  {9T 217.4}


Again and again Christ had been asked to decide legal and political questions. But He refused to interfere in temporal matters. [ooohhhh]. He knew that in the political world there were iniquitous proceedings and great tyranny. But His only exposure of these was the proclamation of Bible truth. To the great multitudes that thronged His steps He presented the pure, holy principles of the law of God and spoke of the blessing found in obeying these principles. With authority from on high He enforced the importance of justice and mercy. But He refused to become entangled in personal disputes.  {9T 218.1}


Point of note:

Never start involving yourself in personal disputes you do not know their backgrounds and motives and the story behind


Christ stood in our world as the Head of the great spiritual kingdom that He came to our world to establish -the kingdom of righteousness. His teaching made plain the ennobling, sanctifying principles that govern this kingdom. He showed that justice and mercy and love are the controlling powers in Jehovah’s kingdom.  {9T 218.2}


Let me merely suggest something not a truth per se neither a lie. The rich man spoken in the parable could have been the real brother of the complainant. From the parable which was given, it would appear that the complainant had no just claim on the inheritance, but was influenced by covetousness. Besides, if he had any just claim, it might have been secured by the laws of the land. Had the laws of the land denied him justice like the unjust judge of Luke 18. Who knows! Could this same rich man, supposed to be the brother of the complainant the same Judge in Luke 18 and at the same time the rich young ruler of Luke 18 and we are missing the connections that he used his power as rich, judge and ruler to oppress the brother and the widow and so Christ did not want to involve himself in political matter lest people start bringing to him political cases and his mission be ruined? Was Satan trying to counter Christ’s mission in another way we don’t understand?


According to the Laws that governed civil affairs, among the Jews the older brother had two shares, or twice as much as any other child, De 21:17. The remainder was then equally divided among all the children. Why was it so? Because he was now assuming the parenthood of the siblings in both temporal and spiritual affairs. Jesus said, it is not my business to settle controversies of this kind. They had to be settled by the magistrate for that is where they fell. Jesus came for another purpose–to preach the gospel, and so to bring men to a willingness to do right. Civil affairs are to be left to the magistrate. There is no doubt that Jesus could have told him what was right in this case, but then it would have been interfering with the proper office of the magistrates; it might have led him into controversy with the Jews; and it was, besides, evidently apart from the proper business of his life. There is a time we should clearly discern the motives of the people and also be diligent enough to know what falls under our jurisdiction. We may remark, also, that the appropriate business of ministers of the gospel is to attend to spiritual concerns. They should have little to do with the temporal matters of the people. If they can persuade men who are at variance to be reconciled, it is right; but they have no power to take the place of a magistrate, and to settle contentions in a legal way.




A question is asked, how far does the temporary matter go and when should gospel ministers be involved in and not?


  1. It is not a duty of a gospel worker to solve matters of civil laws and magistrates


  1. A gospel minster can solve temporary matters as far as Isaiah 58 and James 1:27 are concerned


  1. The Gospel worker is to preach the gospel to eradicate sin from the hearts of men then all the other things will fall in place. You cannot try to reconcile two covetous people or two sinners, at the end of the day it is your reputation which will be ruined when they turn against you.


  1. In the case of the man who had two wives and what the minister did, I cant relate to the story and though a temporary matter, the minister used his wisdom not to waste time when there was an option that won’t ruin his reputation


“The gospel is a wonderful simplifier of life’s problems. Its instruction, heeded, would make plain many a perplexity and save us from many an error. It teaches us to estimate things at their true value and to give the most effort to the things of greatest worth–the things that will endure. This lesson is needed by those upon whom rests the responsibility of selecting a home. They should not allow themselves to be diverted from the highest aim. Let them remember that the home on earth is to be a symbol of and a preparation for the home in heaven. Life is a training school, from which parents and children are to be graduated to the higher school in the mansions of God. As the location for a home is sought, let this purpose direct the choice. Be not controlled by the desire for wealth, the dictates of fashion, or the customs of society. Consider what will tend most to simplicity, purity, health, and real worth.  {MH 363.1}”


We are seeking for a heavenly home and we better take in the lessons of the aforementioned case and the whole of Matthews Chapter 6


God bless


Sami Wilberforce

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