How’s Your Soul

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15).

Last week we looked briefly at a story Jesus told about a very wealthy man, a story we’ve come to know as the parable of the ‘rich fool.’

Remember: The central figure of the story – the rich man whose business grows rapidly – is not a fool because he is rich or successful. He’s a fool because he has placed his wealth at the center of his life. This isn’t a money issue. This is a heart issue that can afflict anyone, regardless of how much you have (or don’t have).

If you’ll take a moment and read Luke 12:13-21 slowly you will notice the reoccurrence of a particular word. That word in the ESV translation is ‘soul.’ The rich man sees his success and holds a conversation with his own soul, planning a life of food, drink, and leisure. When God speaks into the story, he tells this man that ‘this night your soul is required of you.’

The real drama of the story has little to do with the man’s business. The real drama unfolds in his soul – and it is to the soul that we must all pay careful attention.

Watch Out

Jesus said to be vigilant “against all kinds of greed.”

All kinds. The little Greek word used there is malleable and can shape-shift when it comes to precise translation: “all,” “every,” or “each” are all possible renderings of the word. Let’s leave it to translators to wrangle over the exact use and meaning of nominal adjectives. The implication for us is clear. Greed isn’t a simple thing. It comes in various forms, cloaked in a variety of disguises.

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed, greed in all its forms. Not just the obvious greed that shows itself in what we buy and own, not just the kind of greed that shows up on a bank statement or sits parked in our garages or hangs in our closets. The vigilance Jesus calls for requires more wisdom and discernment than that.

Watch out for all kinds of greed. Greed has its roots in the human soul, and being vigilant means paying attention to what’s happening in our own soul.

The Many Faces of Greed

Watch out for kind of greed that craves approval, and its cousin the need to prove oneself. This greed always knows the right thing to say and the right thing to do – but does it to receive praise from the people around us.

Watch out for the kind of greed that obtains one position only to start eyeing the next, always climbing. A greed for power, the need to be looked to as the authority, is often wrapped inside this greed for position.

Watch out for the kind of greed that is fed by the constant pursuit of leisure.

Watch out for the kind of greed that is fed by constantly posting tweets, forever checking to see how many people commented on or liked what you last wrote on your Facebook wall.

Watch out for the kind of greed that looks like other “deadly” sins. Be vigilant against lust and gluttony and envy – all forms of greed at their core.

Watch out for the kind of greed that doesn’t look like sin at all, but rather looks pious and devout. This greed buys book after book on prayer but never prays. Conferences and Bible studies are consumed while the neighbor you’ve never spoken to is ignored.


Yes, greed is chameleon like, hard to see against the backdrop of our own decent lives. So pay attention to your soul and be on your guard against all kinds of greed. Like many life-threatening diseases, we can have the illness while feeling perfectly fine and living a life that seems perfectly “normal.” But Jesus calls us to vigilance and reminds us that greed rarely announces itself.

How we handle our possessions is a big part of what it means to follow Jesus. What I’ve written here isn’t meant to evade the hard questions about money – how we spend it, how much we keep, how much we give, and how we easily exhaust ourselves trying to get more of it. But all those important questions are symptoms of something deeper. They reflect a condition of soul.

And now the real question: How is greed masked in your own life? Where do you detect it? And how are things with your soul?


Gracious God, make us vigilant against all kinds of greed, and in our vigilance make us truthful. Help us to be truthful with ourselves, willing to see the places in our lives where geed hides and disguises itself as something good and admirable. Above all, help us to be truthful with you, ever ready to confess and repent by the power of your Spirit in us. Amen.

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