As Jesus was addressing a crowd of thousands (Luke 12:1), “[s]omeone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ 14But [Jesus] said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’” (Luke 12:13-14). Jesus then turned to the crowd and warned them “against all kinds of greed; ‘for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’” (Luke 12:15).

In this exchange, Jesus refused to assume the role of judge or arbitrator, a role that rabbis often played in resolving disputes involving religious law. Did he then offer to mediate between these two brothers? He did not even recommend it. In this sacred story, Jesus was neither judge, arbitrator, nor mediator; he was, as the aggrieved brother said, a teacher, and, as the text that follows tell us, a storyteller.

“Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull 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, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” Luke 12: 16-20.

Quotations and citations come from the New Revised Standard Version of the Christian Bible.