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Then one from the crowd said to [Jesus] “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But Jesus said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” And Jesus said to them: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Luke 12:13-15

“I want you to write a lawyer’s letter to . . .”

How often have you heard these words? How often have people been wronged by others and then they come to a lawyer and say these words? The object and hidden meaning being that the letter will threaten legal action and consequences if the addressee does not comply with the terms. The letter in itself has no magic in it—it is the influence and position of the lawyer that bears the impact. People often want others to their influence to get them what they want, whether it be rights, possessions, desires, etc.

When this man approached Jesus, he wanted Jesus to help him set things right. He was hoping that Jesus as a respectable man and rabbi would carry enough influence that would move his brother to share the inheritance. Jesus reacted by doing two things:

1. He considered his own role and responsibility.

He said: “Man, who has appointed me a judge or umpire and divider over you?” Jesus’ role was that of Redeemer, Savior, the Way to the Father—not an earthly divider and legal representative, but rather our Advocates with the Father. There was a temptation for Jesus to turn to the materialistic expectations of this man and forget who He was and what He came to do. When a client comes to consult us as lawyers, what are our roles? Are we there just to attend to the wishes of our clients? Certainly not! We are ambassadors for God and our first responsibility is towards Him. Yes we are called to serve and use our gifts to serve others, but in God’s way. My real client is God because everything belongs to Him anyway. What would God have me do in this situation? That is the question when I am consulted by a client. Let us not try to please clients.

2. He then addressed the root of the problem.

He turned to the crowd saying: “Guard yourselves and keep free from all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in and is not derived from possessing overflowing abundance or that which is over and above his needs.” (Amplified Bible). The reason why this man is wanting the half of the inheritance is greed and covetousness. This is the root problem and the surrender of the inheritance is not solving the problem—it is fueling it. The question is thus: Why is the client not turning the other cheek? We should be like Jesus and not be satisfied with the materialistic focus and superficial questions that often initially bring clients to our offices. Often, these are not their real needs or their deepest desires. Rather, look into the client’s heart and determine what is his real need? As we share and explore with clients their fears and hopes, often these issues deepen and so does our understanding and response.

Obviously this will take time and we won’t be able to immediately get to the problem like Jesus did. But that should not deter us. We have the whole case to attend to this question. God had a reason why this client is coming to me with this problem. Jesus never wasted any opportunity to minister and speak the truth in love to people. Attending to their spiritual needs and identifying the root problem will serve the client eternally and save us a lot of frustration with an idolatrous client who will evaluate us only to the extent that we serve his idol with him!

What is your role and what is the root problem of your next client?

Reg Joubert
South Africa

– This article comes from AI’s “No Higher Calling,” a devotional for lawyers.

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