Luke 12:13 — Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother …"

It’s probably one of the easier prayers to cross our lips. It’s certainly one of the more sincere prayers. It can be motivated by genuine concern, frustration, nosiness, hurt or guilt.

In this chapter of Luke, it appears to be motivated by one brother’s sense of injustice at not receiving a fair share of his father’s wealth. "Jesus, tell my brother to share my inheritance with me …" More broadly, it sounds something like, "Jesus, please fix that person over there and what they’re doing wrong."

It’s so easy to recognize when someone else is doing wrong. Neighbors, family members, co-workers and certainly our political leaders are all possible targets. If only they could see, or Jesus could show them, their errors and their sins. … Then, surely they’d straighten up and behave as we think they should, right?

Ultimately, Jesus doesn’t take sides in the brothers’ inheritance dispute. Instead, he responds with a parable about a rich fool who invests more in building bigger barns than in people. The man dies with no one to whom he can give his great wealth.

Maybe Jesus thought that neither the unjustly treated younger brother or the inheritance-hoarding older brother had the better claim to the inheritance. Maybe Jesus didn’t think very highly of the inheritance or the things that the men were fighting over anyway. Maybe their relationship with each other was a richer treasure than any wealth their father could have left them.

The younger brother’s attempt to control his brother’s behavior through Jesus failed, as do all our attempts to control the behavior of those around us. The only thing we can really control is ourselves and how we act and react.

In light of this, a more difficult but much more fruitful prayer we might consider is found in Psalm 139:23-24: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

What might the brother have found if he’d asked Jesus to help him understand the ways he was allowing jealousy and greed to influence his life instead of asking Jesus to side with him in the dispute? What growth in himself and in his relationship with his brother was he missing because of his unhealthy focus on the inheritance?

What if every time we noticed something someone else was doing wrong, we asked God to search us and show us where we are in error, too?

The Rev. Jon Priebe is a pastor at Christ United Methodist Church and First United Methodist Church.