“Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?'” – Luke 12:13-14
Greedy? Never! Jesus, you misunderstand!
Of course I come to you for aid
in seeking justice for myself
(and for my sisters, too, of course, which goes
without my even mentioning their needs to you).
You are a Teacher, you a specialist in Law,
in virtue, and in righteousness.
Who better to give me advice, or (better)
act for me in dealing with my brother, or
declaring in my favor (that would be the best).
But greedy? No! Oh, Jesus, you are just so wrong.
It’s just the justice of the thing. I did as much
(and more, much more) than he, my older brother, did.
We both were active on the land, but he, it must be said,
just doesn’t have the feel for farming, doesn’t have
the skill to know which crops to plant and plants to tend.
Left solely in his hands, our patrimony withers on the vine.
(Why yes, there’s grapes upon the land. How did you know?)
And – quietly into your ear, O Teacher of the Law,
he hasn’t really been the best of men. He stays up late.
Well, I do, too, but I still rise before the dawn and he
comes stumbling out just as the sunbeams gleam.
It’s not a major difference, sure, but which of us
should have the double portion, would you say?
The one born first, or me, the one who’s first to greet the day?
So Jesus, I don’t need a lecture on the sin of greed,
nor echoes of another ancient Teacher (“the things you have
prepared, whose will they be?”) when I’m arguing
quite clearly and with concrete proofs
my brother, though he’s mostly fine, is not
equipped to fairly manage this estate, and I,
in humble duty, must step forward, and
in justice, ask you to decide for me.
What are you saying now?
Didn’t I tell you I do not need to hear
a story about greed?
A poem/prayer based on Luke 12:13-21, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year C, Proper 13 (18).
The image is The Parable of the Rich Fool by Rembrandt (1627) – http://www.uni-leipzig.de : Home : Info : Pic, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5812686.
2 thoughts on “Misunderstood?”
O dear. Very pointed indeed. Thank you for lifting up the framework of what I always thought of as the story.
Jesus had an… awkward… habit of not answering the questions he was asked, but addressing the underlying questions no one really wanted answered.