What does Luke 12:14 mean?
ESV: But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?”
NIV: Jesus replied, 'Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?'
NASB: But He said to him, 'You there—who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over the two of you?'
CSB: "Friend," he said to him, "who appointed me a judge or arbitrator over you? "
NLT: Jesus replied, 'Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?'
KJV: And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
NKJV: But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?”
Verse Commentary:
A crowd of thousands surrounds Jesus as he tries to teach His disciples (Luke 12:1). A man calls out, demanding Jesus force his brother to share an inheritance (Luke 12:13). We don't know any details about the situation. Did this man receive anything? Is his brother older and the sole heir of their father? Those details aren't given since they're not the point of the story.

Jesus is giving the disciples important information about sacrifice in the kingdom of God, but He breaks to teach the crowd some basics. This squabble about money is not worth His time. What is worthwhile is redirecting the man's priorities. So, Jesus tells a parable about a wealthy farmer who has accumulated enough grain to live in leisure for several years. Yet the farmer dies that night. He has spent so much time accumulating wealth, he forgot about his relationship with God. Now, he has no wealth and no relationship with his Creator (Luke 12:15–21).

After returning to the disciples for a bit, Jesus will speak again to the crowd. He will scold them for not understanding that God's kingdom is near and explain what they need to do because of it: make peace with people they have wronged and with God (Luke 12:54—13:9).

This is not the first time Jesus is called on to settle a dispute among siblings. While visiting Mary and Martha, Mary sat at Jesus' feet and listened to His teaching. Martha stayed in the kitchen to fix the meal. Finally giving in to frustration, Martha told Jesus to send Mary back to help. Jesus told her that Mary had chosen what was best and He would not send her away (Luke 10:38–42).

Jesus has just told His disciples that He will act as judge in the end times, validating their relationship to Him (Luke 12:8). Now, in a different context, He says He is not a judge. This "judge" refers to an official who is commissioned to determine legal matters. It is the same word used in Luke 12:58 when Jesus tells the people to reconcile with each other personally, without resorting to legal authorities. "Arbitrator" is unique to this verse. It refers to one who decides between one thing and another.

This passage does not mean that religious leaders should never be involved with arbitration. In Acts 6:1–4, the apostles commission deacons to resolve unfair practices. In 1 Corinthians 6:4–6, Paul chastises the church in Corinth for resorting to secular courts instead of resolving issues in-house. Jesus merely means that He has greater priorities—training the disciples—than negotiating for bickering brothers who should be able to resolve the issue on their own (Luke 12:57–59).
Verse Context:
Luke 12:13–21 records Jesus taking advantage of an interruption to explain a proper perspective of wealth. Jesus has been warning the disciples that faithfulness to Him may require their deaths. A man in the crowd, possibly shouting in the middle of that teaching, demands Jesus settle a family conflict over an inheritance. Jesus declines that request but warns the crowd against temporary, earthly treasures if they distract from their relationship with God. He will return to this theme, telling the crowd to reconcile with people and God or risk earthly and eternal ruin (Luke 12:54—13:9). This parable is unique to Luke's Gospel.
Chapter Summary:
Jesus teaches the disciples about proper priorities. This includes recognizing that God knows all things, even secrets. Believers should honor God more than they fear death, or than they worry about things like food and clothes. Christians are to remain ready for Christ's return, even as faith separates those who believe from those who do not. These ideas revolve around the central theme of verse 34: that a person's heart reflects what they value most.
Chapter Context:
Luke 12:1—13:9 compares the world with the kingdom of God. Jesus has condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (Luke 11:14–54). He now instructs His disciples to reject the fame and security that Pharisees crave, and hold lightly to their lives, wealth, security, and even family. He then warns the crowd to be wise about their relationships with other people and with God. The next two units each include a miracle and teaching on God's kingdom and salvation (Luke 13:10—15:32). Then the final section in the "travelogue" repeats that three-unit pattern (Luke 16:1—19:27) before Jesus arrives in Jerusalem.
Book Summary:
Luke was a traveling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10) and a physician (Colossians 4:14). Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke writes his gospel as an historian, rather than as a first-hand eyewitness. His extensive writings also include the book of Acts (Acts 1:1–3). These are deliberately organized, carefully researched accounts of those events. The gospel of Luke focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke's Gentile perspective presents Christ as a Savior for all people, offering both forgiveness and direction to those who follow Him.
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