Jesus says to beware of leaven of Pharisees. Don’t fear those who can kill only the body, but fear the one, who, after our death, has the authority throw us into Gehenna. Acknowledge Christ before men. He tells the Parable of the Rich Fool. He tells us not to be anxious about food and clothing or drink. We must be ready, for the Son of Man can come at any time. Jesus came to bring division, not peace. We must interpret the times. Settle with your accuser before you get to a magistrate (a reference to impending judgment).
As I write in every chapter:
This commentary and entire website is for everyone, but it is mainly for those in oppressed or developing countries, where Christians cannot afford or have access to wonderful Study Bibles or commentaries. I hope it helps them.
The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section of Scripture, for discipleship.
The translation is mine. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.
The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at biblehub.com. However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. A pronunciation guide is also offered. And I keep things nontechnical.
Links are provided for further study.
Watch Out for Hypocrisy (Luke 12:1-3)
1 While a crowd of thousands were gathering with the result that they trampled on each other, he began to say to his disciples, first, “Watch out for yeast, which is the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. 2 There is nothing that has been hidden away that will not be revealed, and concealed that will not be known, 3 because whatever you have spoken in darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in storerooms will be proclaimed on the rooftops.”
“disciples”: the noun is mathētēs (singular and pronounced mah-they-tayss), and it is used 261 times in the NT, though many of them are duplicates in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative Greek lexicon of the NT, and it says of the noun that it means (1) “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”; (2) “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.”
“first”: this chapter includes all sorts of kingdom teaching. Here is the first item.
“yeast”: In Luke 13:20-21 yeast is a simile (like) for the kingdom of God. In Matt. 16:12, it means the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. So its meaning was variable, depending on the context. Now what does it mean here? The yeast or leaven of the Pharisees = hypocrisy. It can infect people. Why does it mean hypocrisy here?
During the Passover memorial and the feast of Unleavened Bread, which directly followed the Passover, the Jewish home and the entire territory were supposed to swept clean of yeast (Exod. 12:14-20; 13:3-10). The absence of yeast signified that had no time to wait for the bread to rise because the people were to depart in a hurry. They mixed flour and water and oil to make the dough, baked it on a hot rock or in a clay oven, and then ate in a hurry (Exod. 12:39). In fact, when they ate the Passover, they were supposed to wear their traveling clothes (Exod. 12:11).
So here’s why yeast = hypocrisy in this context. The Pharisees had secret places in their lives where they disobeyed the strictures of the law. They never entirely swept clean their own inner lives of their secret flaws. They still had yeast hidden in their house, in their storerooms, down in the cellars, the darkest rooms of their souls. Further, the Pharisees were so blind that they could not even detect the yeast in their dank storerooms. It is one thing to have secret sins but refusing to acknowledge them compounds the problem.
Further, the absence of yeast and eating in haste at the Passover and Unleavened Bread means that we must not mess around with peripheral things, like clothing and material possessions, but we must be in a hurry to follow Jesus without encumbrances. In his original context, he was firmly resolved to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), where he would die. The first disciples could not allow themselves to be weighted down with the care of this world—and the original disciples included women too (Luke 8:2-3 and 23:27, 49, 55-56; 24:1-10). Today we cannot afford to be distracted with silly things.
“hypocrisy”: our word hypocrisy comes directly from Greek: hypokrisis (pronounced hoo-poh-kree-seess), and it means “pretense, outward show.” The Pharisees made an outward show of righteousness but evidently refused to acknowledge their secret sins or hidden yeast in their dark storerooms. We need to get our yeast or secret sin out of our lives, but is complete eradication of secret sins possible in real life? No, not in my view, but let’s acknowledge and admit to them and then at least we won’t be hypocrites and put on a big show of our outward righteousness, while we are inward sinners. At least we will be honest Christians or followers of Jesus. We will tell the truth about ourselves before we speak the truth to others.
See my posts about sanctification (process or act of being made holy), beginning with Bible basics:
“Pharisees”: You can learn more about them at this post:
This group, among others, were the Watchdogs of Theology and Behavior (Garland, p. 243). The problem which Jesus had with them can be summed up in Eccl. 7:16: “Be not overly righteous.” He did not quote that verse, but to him they were much too enamored with the finer points of the law, while neglecting its spirit (Luke 11:37-52; Matt. 23:1-36). Instead, he quoted this verse from Hos. 6:6: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13; 12:7). Overdoing righteousness, believe it or not, can damage one’s relationship with God and others.
Now with that background information about yeast and other things, these verses are clear. Jesus states that things that are hidden away in storerooms or cellars or secret rooms will be brought out in the light. What you whisper (literally “speak in the ears”) in storerooms will be announced on the rooftops. The secret sins that will come to light the most clearly is that the Jerusalem establishment will crucify its Messiah. They were hiding malice and evil and murder in their hearts.
You have hidden yeast in the secret rooms and have not swept your life clean. “Hey, this disciple has yeast hidden in the secret places! He hasn’t swept his house clean as the law demands! He has secret sins that he refuses to acknowledge and bring to the light, yet he lords it over us!” It is better to bring all your sins to God in his throne room and confess them to him. If you need an accountability group, find one.
The passive verbs indicate the divine passive, which is an understated way of saying that God is the one who makes the secret things public.
“known”: the verb is ginōskō (pronounced gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). The verb is so common that it is used 222 times in the NT. (Its cognate epiginōskō, pronounced eh-pea-gee-noh-skoh is used 44 times). BDAG has numerous definitions of the verb, depending on the context: (1) “to arrive at a knowledge of someone or something, know, know about, make acquaintance of”; (2) “to acquire information through some means, learn (of), ascertain, find out”; (3) “grasp the significance or meaning of something, understand, comprehend”; (4) “to be aware of something, perceive, notice, realize”; (5) to have sexual intercourse with, sex / marital relations with”; (6) “to have come to the knowledge of, have come to know, know.” (7) “to indicate that one does know, acknowledge, recognize.” So we can know a person, a thing, a fact, an abstract thing like pure math. We can even know God personally or know about him from a distance, like a theological truth. It is best to know him personally. We can know all these things deeply or shallowly. Probably the fourth definition works best here.
GrowApp for Luke 12:1-3
A.. How has God swept away sins in your life?
B.. Study Jas. 5:16. Do you have secret sins (“yeast”) to confess to a trusted friend or an accountability group? How would this help you? If you have done this, share your story as openly or discreetly as you wish.
Fear of God and God’s Value of You (Luke 12:4-7)
4 “I tell you, my friends: don’t fear those who kill the body and afterwards have nothing more to do. 5 I’ll show you whom you are to fear. Fear the one who, after killing, has authority to throw you in Gehenna. Yes, I tell you: fear this one.
6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And one of them is not overlooked before God 7 Rather, even all the hairs of your head are numbered. Don’t fear. You are worth more than sparrows!”
I like how Jesus calls his disciples his “friends.” He is not just the boss over nameless employees, but his followers are called by their names. He knows them personally. It is a good thing that he calls them friends, because he is about to teach a heavy subject. With the crowds gathering (v. 1), he needed to find out who his true followers were.
“fear”: in these four verses Jesus uses the same verb: phobeomai (pronounced foh-beh-oh-my) or phobeō (pronounced foh-beh-oh). BDAG defines the verb, depending on the context, as follows: (1) “to be in an apprehensive state, be afraid”; people can become “frightened.” “Fear something or someone.” (2) “to have a profound measure of respect for, (have) reverence, respect”; a person like God or a leader can command respect.
The Shorter Lexicon says adds nuances (1) “be afraid … become frightened … “fear something or someone” (2) “fear in the sense of reverence, respect.”
So what is the definition here? The second ones fit better.
Men and women—dictators or nations that have the death penalty—all of them have authority to kill the body. But afterwards literally “they don’t have more to do anything.” So we learn in the next verse that they cannot throw people into Gehenna.
“fear”: it is used three times here. See v. 4 for more comments.
“killing”: it is the same verb for kill in v. 3. (The Shorter Lexicon also defines it as “deprive of life.”) So God has the authority to kill the body. This may not sit well with modern happy theology, but God does have this legal authority to give and take life. I know someone who died young-ish. He should not have died at the age he did, but he could not seem to figure out how to live within the parameters of moral law. He made a mess of everyone’s life around him and of his own life. As I prayed about his life and what I would say in my eulogy, I believe that God allowed his health to deteriorate down to zero, so the physical life was taken from him, with the purpose that his soul would be saved. He is now in heaven because two people closest to him brought him to salvation. Eternity lasts longer than seventy-five years. Eternity is endless. Don’t hold so tightly to this life that you lose your eternal perspective. We did not lose this person, because we know where he is. You lose something like keys when you don’t know where they are. But by God’s grace he is in heaven with his relieved mother and stepfather and numerous others. We know where he is.
So did God actually kill his body? Not directly. He let nature take its course, which is a form of killing.
But has God directly killed people in the past or in the NT?
Direct and deadly and final judgment on living people sometimes happened in the Sinai Covenant. Please see my posts:
Hint about the latter couple in the Book of Acts: they were still part of the Sinai Covenant. Don’t believe it? Click on the link and read the whole post.
So does this mean that God does not throw people into hell because of the New Covenant? He does put people in hell at final judgment. Judgment is part of the New Covenant too. But the point is that with the coming of the New Covenant God’s judgment now and here on earth is done temporarily through law enforcement (Rom. 13:1-6). Direct and final judgment will be done after Christ’s second coming.
Matt. 10:28 says that God can destroy both the body and soul in hell. Luke omits the word soul. Destroying the soul in hell sounds like the soul evaporates or comes to nothing, so say the Evangelical, Bible-believing interpreters who believe in the annihilation theory. That is, after everyone is punished in hell, God eliminates them or makes them disappear or vaporizes them (so to speak).
Please read a three-part series, each of which has plenty of Scriptural support:
Each theory teaches punishment in the afterlife, but the debate is over the duration of punishment. It may be surprising to many traditional Christians, but the latter two theories have plenty of Scriptural support. But whichever theory you decide on, please don’t call the other theories heretical or unorthodox, particularly if you believe in eternal, conscious torment. The theory of eternal, conscious torment did not gain momentum until Augustine’s time in the fifth century. Until then, church leaders easily believed in the other theories of annihilation or restoration.
Charismatic theologian and Presbyterian minister J. Rodman Williams (d. 2008) says fire and darkness are just metaphors, which cannot be taken literally, for separation from God and punishment:
These two terms, “darkness” and “fire,” that point to the final state of the lost might seem to be opposites, because darkness, even black darkness, suggests nothing like fire or the light of a blazing fire. Thus again we must guard against identifying the particular terms with literal reality, such as a place of black darkness or of blazing fire. Rather, darkness and fire are metaphors that express the profound truth, on the one hand, of terrible estrangement and isolation from God, and on the other, the pain and misery of unrelieved punishment. It is significant that Jesus in His portrayals of darkness and fire often adds the statement “There men will weep and gnash their teeth.” This weeping and gnashing … vividly suggests both suffering and despair. So whether the metaphor is darkness or fire, the picture is indeed a grim one, even beyond the ability of any figure of speech to express.
One further word: both darkness and fire refer to the basic situation of the lost after Last Judgment. However, we have already observed that there will be degrees of punishment; hence in some sense the darkness and fire will not be wholly the same. Some punishment will be more tolerable than other punishment: some people will receive a greater condemnation, while some (to change the figure) will be “beaten with few blows” [Luke 12:48]. Thus we should not understand the overall picture of the state of the lost to exclude differences in degree of punishment. Even as for the righteous in the world to come, there will be varying rewards, so for the unrighteous, the punishment will not be the same. (Renewal Theology, vol. 3, 470-71).
For the record, Williams did not believe in annihilationism (or terminalism or conditionalism) or universal reconciliation (or restorationism).
Personally, I believe that the topic of punishment in the afterlife is secondary or nonessential, so I like this saying:
“In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity (love).”
Give people space to choose one of these nonessential, Bible-supported theories. You can still have fellowship with them.
“authority”: it is the noun exousia (pronounced ex-oo-see-ah), and it means, depending on the context: “right to act,” “freedom of choice,” “power, capability, might, power, authority, absolute power”; “power or authority exercised by rulers by virtue of their offices; official power; domain or jurisdiction, spiritual powers.”
Let’s explore this term more deeply.
The difference between authority and power is parallel to a policeman’s badge and his gun. The badge symbolizes his right to exercise his power through his gun, if necessary. The gun backs up his authority with power. But the distinction should not be pressed too hard, because in some contexts exousia can also mean “power.” In any case, God through Jesus can distribute authority to his followers (Matt. 10:1; Luke 10:19; John 1:12). Jesus will give us authority even over the nations, if we overcome trials and persecution (Rev. 2:26). And he is about to distribute his power in Acts 2.
Never forget that you have his authority and power to live a victorious life over your personal flaws and sins and Satan. They no longer have power and authority over you; you have power and authority over them.
Now back to this verse. God has ultimate exousia, so much so that he can throw people into Gehenna.
“Gehenna”: Luke uses it only here. The term comes from the Valley of Sons of Hinnom (= Gehenna), a ravine south and west of Jerusalem that was a trash heap where refuse and dead criminals were discarded and burned. At this dump wicked kings of Israel / Judea worshipped Baal-Molech, including offering children in fiery sacrifices—they put children to the flames (2 Kings 16:3; 23:10; 2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6; Is. 66:24; Jer. 7:31-32; 19:4-6; 32:34-35). So it is apt to say that Gehenna is the place where people go who have done wicked deeds and are not saved, after final judgment.
Now Jesus shifts gear. He told us to fear God because he has authority to throw us into Gehenna, but now we are worth much more than sparrows who live and die in a short lifespan. Jesus affirms our infinite value before God. Sparrows were sold for two assarias, which is one-sixteenth of a denarius, and a denarius was typically a day’s wage for an agricultural worker. So each sparrow was valued at a few Roman pennies, and five sparrows, of course, more so.
Yet when one of them dies, this happens under the watchful eye of God. God did not cause their deaths, but he allowed nature to take her course. Birds don’t live forever. There’s a lesson in their for us humans. That’s the point of the short illustration.
Now Jesus employs the image of numbering hairs. This “hairs” image gets repeated in Acts. Paul speaking to everyone on board the ship taking him to Rome, but was tossed by a ferocious storm:
“Therefore I urge you to take food, for this is for your survival! Not even one hair of your head shall perish!” (Acts 27:34). Today we might say God has every cell in your body numbered under his watchful gaze. In other words, he knows all about you. He has not forgotten you. He knows the life you lead right now, all the trials and good times. We are much more valuable than sparrows.
The argument goes from the lesser (sparrows) to the greater (humans). If God watches the lesser creatures, how much more does he watch the greater ones, us humans (Liefeld and Pao, comments on vv. 6-7)?
Then once again Jesus ends with fear or reverential awe of God. This time he uses the present tense of the verb “fear.” So we should be in a continuous state or sense of reverential awe towards God or fear of him. Yes, have laughter in your life, but be mindful that God both loves you and is bigger than you are. He deserves respect, even fear.
Even Americans who go to Buckingham Palace should reverence the Queen and nod their heads (men) or do a quick curtsey (women) when she appears before them. You should follow their protocol. Wear the required clothes. Speak only when spoken to. Say “your majesty” at first and then “ma’am” afterwards. Carry a respectful air about you.
God is much more important than any earthly monarch. He is the biggest and most majestic of all beings inside or outside the universe. That’s the reason why Scripture encourages us to fear God or simply describes people who fear God. They tremble when they catch a glimpse of him in his partial glory, as Peter, James, and John did on the mount of transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36). The shepherds feared when the glorious light shone around them (Luke 2:8-10). People today who claim to see the glory of the Lord manifest before them and do not have the initial response of fear and awe are missing something in their stories.
“The point here, however, is not that God will rescue them from danger (see the death of Stephen in Acts 7:54-60), but that they should fear only the one who is able to know the number of their hairs and who has the power to cast them into Gehenna after death” (Garland, comment on 12:6-7).
GrowApp for Luke 12:4-7
A.. What does fearing God mean to you? How do you have this emotion or mental state and keep it in balance with loving God?
B.. What does God’s watchful care over you mean in your life?
Confessing Christ before People (Luke 12:8-12)
8 I say to you, “Everyone who acknowledges me before people—the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. 9 He who denies me before people will be denied before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven him. But he who slanders the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and rulers and authorities, don’t worry how or what you will speak in self-defense or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very time what must be said.”
“everyone”: it is the Greek noun anthrōpos (pronounced ahn-throw-poss), and even in the plural some interpreters say that it means only men. However, throughout the Greek written before and during the NT, in the plural it means people in general, including womankind (except rare cases). In the singular it can mean person, depending on the context. In Luke 2:25; 4:33; 6:6; 7:8, for example, the context says one man or male. So “person” or “people” or “men and women” (and so on) is almost always the most accurate translation, despite what more conservative translations say.
“acknowledges”: this verb from homologeō (pronounced hoh-moh-loh-geh-oh, and the “g” is hard as in “get”), which is a compound: hom– (same), and log– (speak). It can mean “confess” in the sense of “agreeing and speaking” or “speaking agreement.” BDAG says it means, depending on the context: (1) “to commit oneself to do something, for someone, promise, assure”; (2) “to share a common view or be of common mind about a matter, agree”; (3) “to concede that something is factual or true, grant, admit, confess”; (4) “to acknowledge something, ordinarily in public, acknowledge, claim, profess, praise.” It seems the fourth definition fits best here. We must profess and acknowledge and praise Jesus in public. It is used twice in this verse, so do we dare say that Jesus would profess and praise us before the angels? Yes.
“angels”: We must picture God in the middle of these angels. We acknowledge Jesus in public, and he will acknowledge us in the public of his angles. An angel, both in Hebrew and Greek, is really a messenger. Angels are created beings, while Jesus was the one who created all things, including angels (John 1:1-4). Renewalists believe that angels appear to people in their dreams or in person. It is God’s ongoing ministry through them to us.
Here is a multi-part study of angels in the area of systematic theology, but first, here is a summary list of the basics:
(a) Are messengers (in Hebrew mal’ak and in Greek angelos);
(b) Are created spirit beings;
(c) Have a beginning at their creation (not eternal);
(d) Have a beginning, but they are immortal (deathless).
(e) Have moral judgment;
(f) Have a certain measure of free will;
(g) Have high intelligence;
(h) Do not have physical bodies;
(i) But can manifest with immortal bodies before humans;
(j) They can show the emotion of joy.
“Son of Man”: it both means the powerful, divine Son of Man (Dan. 7:13-14) and the human son of man—Ezekiel himself—in the book of Ezekiel (numerous references). Jesus was and still is in heaven both divine and human.
The opposite is true. If we deny the Son of Man, he will deny us in heaven. Always, always remain true to God and the faith. You do not want to experience his public, heavenly denial.
“people” see “everyone” in v. 8 for more comments.
“angels”: see v. 8 for more comments.
I take this verse seriously. The warning is not empty. It is a potential denial that can become actual.
However, the good news is that God will work with the disciple to prevent him going so far. In Luke 22:32, Jesus prayed for Peter so that his faith would not fail (permanently). Jesus restored him.
“a word”: this comes from the noun logos. The definite article is not used, so “a word” is the probable translation. This can either be a single sword, or it can be an entire message (Matt. 12:32 also says logos). It can also be a logical presentation of the kind that the critics of Jesus spoke against Jesus in Luke 11:14-23. They had everything logically worked out (so it seemed) and used the (false) claim that Jesus was expelling demons by Beelzebub, the rule of demons. Therefore, in context, blasphemy against the Spirit is probably an entirely (and falsely) logical system and presented it to the people, in public.
“will be forgiven”: it is in the passive, so it could be the divine passive here, which is an understated way of saying God is at work forgiving.
“forgiven”: it comes from the verb aphiēmi (pronounced ah-fee-ay-mee), and BDAG defines it with the basic meaning of letting go: (1) “dismiss or release someone or something from a place or one’s presence, let go, send away”; (2) “to release from legal or moral obligations or consequence, cancel, remit, pardon”; (3) “to move away with implication of causing a separation, leave, depart”; (4) “to leave something continue or remain in its place … let someone have something” (Matt. 4:20; 5:24; 22:22; Mark 1:18; Luke 10:30; John 14:18); (5) “leave it to someone to do something, let, let go, allow, tolerate.” The Shorter Lexicon adds “forgive.” In sum, God lets go, dismisses, releases, sends away, cancels, pardons, and forgives our sins. His work is full and final. Don’t go backwards or dwell on it. Clearly the most significant definition in this context is the second one. It means to forgive.
Please read these verses for how forgiving God is:
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10-12)
And these great verses are from Micah:
18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:18-19, ESV)
“Son of Man”: see v. 8 for more comments.
“slanders”: it comes from the verb blasphēmeō (pronounced blahs-fay-meh-oh), and we get our word blaspheme from it. BDAG says it means, depending on the context: “to speak in a disrespectful way that demeans, denigrates, maligns, … in relation to humans slander, revile, defame … in relation to transcendent or associated entities slander, defame, speak irreverently / impiously / disrespectfully of or about.” The Shorter Lexicon adds the obvious: “blaspheme.”
A few people are anxious about this blasphemy verse in their own lives. I address this topic in a separate article. It’s too complicated to cover here.
If you’re anxious about blaspheming the Spirit, then this proves that you did not do this.
“worried”: see v. 22 for more comments.
The best example of having the Spirit inspire a person who is brought before a religious court is found in the book of Acts. Here are the key verses:
8 Then Peter, being filled with the Holy Spirit, replied to them. “Rulers of the people and elders: 9 if today we answer for the good work done to this disabled man, by what means this man has been saved, 10 let it known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this one does this man stand before you healthy. 11 This Jesus is ‘the stone which was rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.’ [Ps. 118:22] 12 And salvation is not by anyone else, for neither is there another name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12, my tentative translation).
Here are some of my posts on a more formal doctrine of the Spirit (systematic theology):
“must”: It comes from the word dei (pronounced day), and in some contexts it denotes a destiny orchestrated by God, as it does here. (Compare the French il faut, “one must” or “it is necessary,” if you know this language.) The Greek verb means: “it is necessary, one must … one ought or should … what one should do” (Shorter Lexicon). In Luke it often means divine necessity; that is, God is leading things: Luke 2:49; 4:43; 9:22; 12:12; 13:33; 15:32; 17:25; 18:1; 19:5; 21:9; 22:37; 24:7; 24:26, 44; Acts 1:16; 1:21; 3:21; 4:12; 5:29; 9:6;, 16; 14:22; 16:30; 17:3; 19:21; 20:35; 23:11; 25:10; 27:21; 27:24, 26.
Peter is standing before the most august council or court in Judaism in Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin. He was just then (re-)filled with the Spirit, and he proclaimed in v. 12 that Jesus was the only name under heaven by which all people are saved. Peter was bold. I admire him. That is why I can never deny that Jesus is the only way to salvation, even for Jews. I won’t leave Peter and John alone standing before the Sanhedrin. Peter spoke words that “must be said.”
GrowApp for Luke 12:8-12
A.. Have you ever almost denied the Lord for any reason like an unfulfilled desire? How did you stop short of denying him? Or maybe you did deny him for a while. How did you come back? Share your story.
B.. Blasphemy against the Spirit is too complicated in this forum. If anyone is worried that he might have done this, then he has not done it. He still has a conscience; he is not beyond the reach of forgiveness. Have you met someone who thought he had? How did you minister to him?
Once again: What Is the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?
Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21)
13 Someone from the crowd said to him. “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me!” 14 But he said, “Man, who appointed me to be a judge or arbiter over you?” 15 He said to them, “Watch out and guard yourselves from all greed because anyone who has abundance—his life is not sourced from his possessions!”
16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced bumper crops. 17 And he reasoned to himself, ‘What will I do? Because I don’t have any place to store my crops!’” 18 “He said, ‘I’ll do this! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones! Then I’ll store there all my grain and my goods. 19 I’ll tell my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years. Take it easy, eat, drink, and celebrate!”’” 20 “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This very night, your life will be demanded from you! What you set up, to whom will it belong?’ 21 And so it is for anyone who stores up possessions for himself but is not rich towards God.”
While Jesus was speaking, a man interrupted him. He respectfully called him teacher. Often experts in the law and teachers of the law—a class of proto-Rabbis, let’s say—sat in a synagogue or other local courts, to explain and adjudicate the law to them.
This man’s mind was stuck on his father’s possessions and the fact that his brother, probably the older one, would not share. Jesus saw that his mind needed to be elevated above material possessions. A believer is allowed to go to court (1 Cor. 6:1-8), though not a brother against a brother. It is wise to settle out of court, but if your opponent is stubborn and committing an injustice against you, then let a judge decide.
“Man”: Jesus addressed him in a polite way for his time. The Message Bible says, “Mister.” Another translation says, “Friend.” Most other translations have “man.” I like the Message’s translation, but I decided to go conservative. But it may also be the case that the direct address creates distance between Jesus and the interrupter. Jesus wanted to be firm with his reply.
Jesus was not a judge in the law in the specific way that the man demanded. The Lord knew the law well, but he was not a judge or arbiter over such mundane matters. It would distract him from his calling, on his way to Jerusalem to die. The interrupter did not discern who Jesus really was, nor his mission.
“greed”: it is the noun pleonexia (pronounced pleh-oh-nex-ee-ah), and it means “greediness, insatiableness, avarice, covetousness.” It combines the word pleon– (“much” or “more”) and echō (pronounced eh-khoh and means “to have”), so it means to “grasp for more.” The lexicon put together by Liddell and Scott says it means, “greediness, grasping, assumption [taking], arrogance.”
“watch out” and “guard yourselves”: Jesus issues two commands in quick succession, so we must take these words seriously. He is about to tell us that money and resources like a land or a farm that produces bumper crops can deceive us. We can allow money to blind us to what matters.
We have all known people who are greedy. Yes, he may be a certain businessman who swallows and takes down other businesses by uneven and dubious means. But we ourselves can be greedy. We can covet out neighbor’s possessions. It violates the tenth of the Ten Commandments: “Don’t covet.”
Life does not consist in possessions. I translated the preposition ek (“from” or “out of”) as “sourced from.” The source of our joy and satisfaction is not in what we own, but in God.
Now let’s look at biblical life more closely.
“life”: it is the noun zoē (pronounced zoh-ay, and girls are named after it, e.g. Zoey). BDAG says that it has two senses, depending on the context: a physical life (e.g. life and breath) and a transcendent life. By physical life the editors mean the period from birth to death, human activity, a way or manner of living, a period of usefulness, earning a living. By transcendent life the lexicographers mean these four elements: first, God himself is life and offers us everlasting life. Second, Christ is life, who received life from God, and now we can receive life from Christ. Third, it is new life of holiness and righteousness and grace. God’s life filling us through Christ changes our behavior. Fourth, zoē means life in the age to come, or eschatological life. So our new life now will continue into the next age, which God fully and finally ushers in when Christ returns. We will never experience mere existence or death, but we will be fully and eternally alive in God.
Here life first means earning a living, but Jesus is also raising the basic definition to life in God and his kingdom.
“parable”: literally, the word parable (parabolē in Greek) combines para– (pronounced pah-rah and means “alongside”) and bolē (pronounced boh-lay and means “put” or even “throw”). Therefore, a parable puts two or more images or ideas alongside each other to produce a clear truth. It is a story or narrative or short comparison that reveals the kingdom of God and the right way to live in it and the Father’s ways of dealing with humanity and his divine plan expressed in his kingdom and life generally. The Shorter Lexicon says that the Greek word parabolē can sometimes be translated as “symbol,” “type,” “figure,” and “illustration,” the latter term being virtually synonymous with parable. Here you must see yourself in the parable.
“land”: it could be translated as “farm.” Land was the major source of money or wealth in the ancient world, because it was more stable than trading, sending out merchant ships that might sink. If the land was managed properly, like letting it rest on the seventh year, a kind of Sabbath (Lev. 25:1-7), then the soil could renourish itself and produce a bumper crop during the other six growing seasons.
The man was reasonable in wanting to build bigger barns. It is reasonable to expand a business or move to a bigger place when it grows. No doubt a growing business helps the local economy, provides more jobs for people, and prospers the business owner. None of this is immoral in itself, but in the next verses Jesus is about to drive home what was really in the rich man’s heart.
The rich landowner spoke to his own soul. King David and other psalmists did that (Pss. 42:5, 11; 43:5; 57:8; 62:5; 103:1-2, 22; 104:1, 45; 116:7; 146:1). But they did not speak low-grade ideas to their soul. They exhorted it to praise the Lord or to cheer up in him.
So what is the soul? In Greek the soul is the noun psuchē (pronounced ps-oo-khay, and be sure to pronounce the ps-, and our word psychology comes from it). It can mean, depending on the context: “soul, life” and it is hard to draw a firm line between the two. “Breath, life principle, soul”; “earthly life”; “the soul as seat and center of the inner life of man in its many and varied aspects, desires, feelings, emotions”; “self’; or “that which possesses life, a soul, creature, person.”
A little theology:
Most Renewalists believe in the three parts of humanity: body, soul and spirit (1 Thess. 5:23 and Heb. 4:12 and other verses). Other Renewalists believe that we are two parts: body and soul / spirit (2 Cor. 4:16). Spirit and soul are just synonyms, like heart and spirit / soul are synonyms. Surely there are not now four parts, are there (body, soul, spirit, heart)? So the issue is not as simple as one has been first taught.
“All of the ‘I’s’ and ‘my’s’ in his interior monologue are shortsighted. He is going to die, as all humans eventually do, rich and poor” (Garland, comment on 12:20)
The psalmist calls people fools who boast in their riches:
6 those who trust in their wealth
and boast of their great riches?
7 No one can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for them—
8 the ransom for a life is costly,
no payment is ever enough—
9 so that they should live on forever
and not see decay. (Ps. 49:6-9, NIV)
In this parable, God breaks into the man’s life and calls him a fool.
“fool”: it is the noun aphrōn (pronounced ah-frone). It combines the a-, which negates (un- or not) and phrōn, which means prudence or clear, sober thinking. So it could be translated as “unwise!” (See also Luke 11:40.) “The word ‘fool’ … is not used lightly but is used in the OT sense of one who rejects the knowledge and precepts of God as a basis for life” (Liefeld and Pao, comment on v. 20).
“will demanded of you”: it could be translated as “required of you.” The verb is in the passive form. Commentators teach us that in this context it is the divine passive, which is an indirect way of saying that God is the one who is about to demand the man’s soul.
“what you set up”: it could be translated as “what you have prepared.” God tells the rich man that everything he had built is about to be useless to him. It is about to belong to someone else. You are born naked into this world, and the hearse that transports your soulless body to the cemetery will not pull a U-Haul trailer behind it, so that your prized possessions will be thrown into the grave. Once in a while, however, the family of the deceased will put in the coffin a valued book or jewel or such like, but it does no good in the afterlife, biblically speaking. The deceased cannot take it with them. Back in the days of the Pharaohs, they commanded giant pyramids to house their priceless possessions to signal the gods in the afterlife that the Pharaoh was rich and therefore acceptable to them; he was another god. But the treasures were still in the burial cavity when thieves broke in and stole them.
Morris: “A man whose life hangs by a thread and who may be called upon at any time to give an account of himself is a fool if he relies on material things” (comment on v. 20).
“possessions”: this was added from the context (v. 15) for clarity.
And now Jesus delivers the punchline or main point to the parable. The rich man lost his perspective on material possessions and ignored God. It is better to ignore the accumulation of material possessions and be rich towards God, and this wealth is not measured in dollars and cents.
“It is important to note that the issue in the parable is not wealth, but how wealth is directed. The sin is accumulating riches for oneself. … Paul also teaches that the love of money—not money per se—is the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). It is how money can cause us to focus inwardly that is the danger. … The one who relies on God has the true wealth of life” (Bock, p. 1154).
So what does it mean to be rich in God? It means having salvation, which is eternal life starting the moment you surrender to Christ and are saved. It means entering, by God’s grace, the kingdom of God and keeping it first in your life. Matt. 6:33 says that we are to seek first his kingdom, and then all these things will be added to us. And Jesus is about to repeat this truth in v. 31, below. Being rich towards God means that you go from darkness to light. It is reaching out in Jesus’s name to the lost. It is sharing your possessions with the needy. Most of all, it is in loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind and loving your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). And how do we love our neighbor? The Golden rule: Do to others as you would have them do to you (Matt. 7:12; Luke 6:31). If we were to do those basics, we would be rich towards God, and he would say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21).
Jeremiah the prophet has this relevant insight:
This is what the LORD says:
… Let not the rich boast of their wealth, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight. (Jer. 9:23-24, NIV)
The rich man in Jesus’s parable should have had a higher perspective than money. Focus on the Lord and his kindness, justice, and righteousness—on earth, not just in the air or in the abstract.
GrowApp for Luke 12:13-21
A.. Study Exod. 20:17, the tenth of the Ten Commandments. How have you overcome greed or excessively desiring what your neighbors have?
B.. How do you become rich towards God?
Don’t Worry, But Pursue God’s Kingdom First (Luke 12:22-34)
22 He said to his disciples, “Because of this, I tell you: don’t worry about what you will eat for your life and what you will wear for your body, 23 for life is more than food and the body more than clothing. 24 Observe the crows: they neither sow nor harvest, and not a storeroom or a barn for them! And God feeds them; how much more valuable are you than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a cubit to his height? 26 If therefore you are unable to do the least thing, why do you worry about the remaining things? 27 Observe the lilies, how they grow. Neither do they work nor spin. But I tell you not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of them. 28 If God clothes the grass in this way, which is in the field today and thrown in an oven tomorrow, how much more will he clothe you, you of little faith! 29 So don’t pursue what you will eat or what you will drink; don’t be suspended in midair. 30 For all the nations of the world pursue these things, but your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, pursue his kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. 32 Don’t fear, little flock, because your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give donations. Make money purses for yourselves that don’t become old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where a thief does not come near it, nor a moth corrupts it. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Jesus told a short parable about the rich fool (vv. 13-21), so we would know what not to do. Now he is about to tell us what we are proactively to do, how to truly live life in his kingdom.
In this pericope (pronounced peh-RIH-coh-pea) or section of Scripture Jesus tells a series of quick parables that teach kingdom truths. See v. 16 for a working definition of a parable.
“worry”: it is the verb merminaō (pronounced mair-mee-nah-oh), and it means, depending on the context: “to be apprehensive, have anxiety, be anxious, be (unduly) concerned” In other contexts, it can mean “to attend to, care for, be concerned about” (BDAG). Here it clearly means the first definition.
This verse could be translated something like this: “don’t worry, in regards to your life, what you will eat, and in regard to your body what you will wear.” Here Jesus makes a distinction between food for sustaining your whole life—life could be translated as soul (and see v. 19 for more comments)—and the body. Whether food or clothing, they don’t matter. Life and body are more important than these exterior material objects. In other words, Jesus is about to teach us, focus on more important things. Fads comes and go every five years or so. But on what basis can he issue such a radical statement? God our Father is the basis of his statement, as the rest of pericope says.
Then he probably saw a flock of crows (or ravens) fly overhead, and he used them as object lessons. He tells his disciples to “look at,” “consider,” “contemplate,” “ponder,” or “think about,” “observe,” or “notice” them (all in a spiritual sense). Those are all possible translations of the verb katanoeō (pronounced kah-tah-no-eh-oh, and the noe– stem is related to the mind). I chose the translation “observe,” because I like to think of the crows cawing and disturbing his teaching, but he wasn’t upset. He just used them for a lesson. He observed their nature in a spiritual sense and related them to our lives, in a sharp contrast between them and us.
Do crows sow seeds of grain and harvest the crops? Do they own a storeroom or a barn? Obviously not. Yet God feeds them—as the Greek literally says—but usually translators say that God provides food for them because God does not literally throw out refuse or dead animals for them to feed on them. Instead, we are to understand that God allows nature to take its course, and the crows on their own can feed on the throwaway or dead things. God has set up the world of nature in this way. Allowing nature to take its course is called secondary causes, as distinct from the Primary Cause (God himself) directing everything in detail.
We are supposed to learn from these verses that we are much more valuable than birds, yet God cares for and feeds them. The argument again goes from the lesser (crows) to the greater (us humans). How much more will he feed and provide for us, his highest earthly creation (Ps. 8), made in his image (Gen. 1:26-27)!
One day, while I was needing work, God whispered to my heart to apply at such-and-such a college. By then, I had been abused by colleges many times because I’m conservative in my politics, and the authoritarian left dominates colleges and universities, so I got squeezed out. However, in this latest round I was not filled with anxiety about God’s provision. He saw the injustices committed against me. Through practice I learned he would take care of me. I delayed in applying to the college, so the Spirit urged me to apply, now! I did, and they hired me. It’s amazing to think he clearly led me to apply at that specific college that was closer to home, because he could see in advance that I would be accepted by them. My need for an income was met. He provided. I’m happy to report that my recent student evaluations were through the roof. The dean was thrilled. God is faithful.
Verse 24 alludes to Ps. 147:9:
9 He provides food for the cattle
and for the young ravens when they call. (Ps. 147:9, NIV)
Morris, quoting another scholar (Arndt): “Greed can never get enough, worry is afraid it may not have enough” (p. 231). Then Morris continues: “Wealth can represent a danger to those who do not have it as well as to those who do. Jesus emphasizes the importance of trust in God and detachment from things.”
Jesus is deploying the obvious truths about what worrying cannot accomplish (see v. 22 for more comments on “worry”). We cannot add a cubit to our height by sitting in a rocking chair—a symbol of worrying, because we do a lot of moving, but we go nowhere! (Incidentally, a cubit is about 18 inches or .462 of a meter). Can we accomplish anything meaningful by worrying? Of course not! Jesus uses this absurd idea of adding a cubit because we can’t come anywhere near that height, despite all of our most strenuous efforts, though we might be able to add a couple of inches with platform shoes, like they used to wear in the 1970s! Or maybe we could add more than cubit if we walked on stilts, but then we cannot live life that way!
All humor aside, if we can’t do a small or minor thing like adding a cubit to our height, which is an ironical idea Jesus poses, then we mustn’t worry about the rest of the things. In other words, stop worrying about big or small things.
I should add that some scholars drop the idea of adding a cubit to one’s height and instead translate it that we cannot add one hour to our lifespan. That makes sense. Either way, we should not expend energy worrying about things that we cannot change or control.
Solomon was a very rich man, the richest of his time (1 Kings 10:14-29). After describing his wealth in gold and ivory, but not silver because “silver was not considered anything in the days of Solomon” (v. 21, ESV), the historian writes: “Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom” (v. 23, ESV). No doubt he ordered weavers and spinners to makes clothes for him. But lilies do not work or spin. Yet Solomon in all his splendor could not match them in their natural, delicate beauty.
“spin”: it is the verb nēthō (pronounced nay-thoh). It is used only here and in Matt. 6:28, which parallels this verse. It is related to the verb neō, which has the image of a spider spinning a web or the Greek Fates spinning out the threads of life. The lilies don’t spin out threads to make clothing for themselves. Their Father provides for them.
“grass”: it could be translated as “blade” or “stock of grain.” Whichever one you go with, it is here today and gone tomorrow.
He calls us “you of little faith.” Faith and worry are opposites. If we spin our minds to make threads that we don’t use—mental, useless threads, then we do not have faith. Let’s not exhaust our mind with anxiety, but instead learn who the Father is. What is he willing to do for us? Verses 31 and 32 will tell us, but here in v. 28 God provides for the lilies, so he provides for us. Again, it is the lesser to greater argument. He provides for the lilies (lesser), so he will provide for us humans, made in his image, his highest earthly creation (the greater).
“nations of the world”: This means the pagans or non-Jews.
“pursue”: it comes from a very versatile verb zēteō (pronounced zay-teh-oh). It is used three times in vv. 29-31, so it is a key word here. It means, depending on the context: (1) “seek, look for, search for”; “investigate, examine, consider, deliberate”; (2) “try to obtain,” “desire to possess,” “strive for,” “aim at,” “desire,” “wish,” “ask for,” “request,” “demand.” Sometimes it can be translated as “try.” I chose “pursue,” as in “aim at” or “strive for” (the second definition). The kingdom of God is serious business. Are you ready for it? Cheer up, because in v. 32 Jesus will announce that the Father has been pleased to give it to you. Your striving can come to an end. The main point is that we are to focus on the kingdom, instead of all the trivial, surfacey matters. If you take a single-minded, big step towards the kingdom, he will hand it to you.
Once again, he exhorts or strongly urges and advises us not to pursue the basics, like eating or drinking (see v. 22). Of course, he does not mean we should never go grocery shopping, for example, but we should not pursue such things with anxiety.
Don’t hang in midair, between doubt and the solid earth. People who float around cannot be settled in their walk with God. Walking with God happens on the ground.
“don’t be suspended in midair”: this clause comes from the negation “not” and one verb meteōrizo (pronounced meh-teh-oh-ree-zoh) or meteōrizomai (pronounced meh-teh-oh-ree-zo-my). It is used only here in the NT. It is related to the adjective meteōros (pronounced meh-teh-oh-ross), and our word meteorological comes from it. The whole idea is that things are in the air. The verb means “to raise to a height, raise” or “to life up, buoy up with false hopes.” It is related to the Latin suspensus or “suspended” in the air (Liddell and Scott). Picture a ship being hoisted up, out of the water. So I chose the idea of being suspended or floating in the air, but you could translated it as “unsettled” or “upset.”
The pagan nations of the world pursue such trivial things. Jesus is speaking to his fellow Jews, and he contrasted life in Israel under God’s watchful care against the pagans or Gentiles around the world. Who says Jesus was not a little patriotic? He did see differences between pagans and God’s chosen people. Let’s not make a big thing of it, however, because he is telling his disciples that they were copying the pagans in their anxiety, and his followers had to up their game.
But why should they raise their sights without anxiety? On what basis? He tells them—because their Father knows that they need those things. God is omniscient, a big word meaning “all-knowing” (omni– means “all,” and scient– stem is related to “knowing”). He sees and knows exactly what you need.
Recall my own story (see vv. 22-24). God saw and knew the injustice that was about to happen to me. He spoke to me to apply at a college, and the door opened up. He rescued me.
“pursue”: see vv. 29-30 for more comments. This verse from Jeremiah is relevant: “Then you call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you” (Jer. 29:12-13, ESV).
“kingdom”: What is it? As noted in other verses that mention the kingdom in this commentary, the kingdom is God’s power, authority, rule, reign and sovereignty. He exerts all those things over all the universe but more specifically over the lives of people. It is his invisible realm, and throughout the Gospels Jesus is explaining and demonstrating what it looks like before their very eyes and ears. It is gradually being manifested from the realm of faith to the visible realm, but it is not political in the human sense. It is a secret kingdom because it does not enter humanity with trumpets blaring and full power and glory. This grand display will happen when Jesus comes back. In his first coming, it woos people to surrender to it. We can enter God’s kingdom by being born again (John 3:3, 5), by repenting (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:5), by having the faith of children (Matt. 18:4; Mark 10:14-15), by being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son whom God loves (Col. 1:13), and by seeing their own poverty and need for the kingdom (Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20; Jas. 2:5).
It also includes the Great Reversal in Luke 1:51-53, where Mary said that Jesus and his kingdom were brining to the world. The powerful and people of high status are brought low, while the humble and those of low status are raised up. It also fulfills the reversal in 2:34, where Simeon prophesied that Jesus was appointed for the rising and falling of many. It is the right-side-up kingdom, but upside-down from a worldly perspective. Jesus would cause the fall of the mighty and the rise of the needy, and the rich would be lowered, and the poor raised up. It is the down elevator and up elevator. Those at the top will take the down elevator, and those at the bottom will take the up elevator.
Here it is the already and not-yet. The kingdom has already come in part at his First Coming, but not yet with full manifestation and glory and power until his Second Coming.
1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)
Matt. 6:33 has some extra words: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” So we are supposed to seek his kingdom and his righteous living, and then what happens? The next verse answers the question.
“don’t fear”: it is the verb phobeomai (pronounced foh-beh-oh-my), and see v. 4 for more comments. This fear seems to be the kind that causes us to shrink back. Jesus tells us not to have this fear.
“little flock”: this phrase speaks of intimacy and his care for his sheep. I like the phrase. Jesus is the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14).
“pleased”: it is the verb eudokeō (pronounced yew-doh-keh-oh). BDAG says it means, depending on the context: (1) “to consider something as good and therefore worthy of choice, consent, determine, resolve”; (2) to take pleasure or find satisfaction in something, be well pleased, take delight … also delight in, like, approve” of something. Here the second definition is best. The Father is pleased and takes delight in you, his creation, his followers. He takes pleasure and satisfaction in you. Yes, he is in the process of cleaning you up, but even in that process he takes delight in you, like a mom who cheerfully cleans her kid up after he stomped in a mud puddle. He loves you.
“to give”: it is the standard verb for “give” or “grant.” When you take a step to pursue him and his kingdom, he gives you what you were pursuing or seeking. So you don’t need a lifelong journey to find it, as various religions teach. It’s yours instantly. You can find what you’re looking for right now.
“kingdom”: see v. 31 for more comments.
Luke 12:32 is, for me, the best verse in the Gospel of Luke, and possibly the entire NT. It shows God’s willing and generous heart to grant us everything he has to offer. He takes delight and satisfaction and pleasure in us. He likes us. Wow. Just think about that.
Bock: “To speak of God’s pleasure is to speak of his will (Mark 1:11; Luke 2:14; 10:21)” (p. 1165). “With the call to trust, a promise is given that the Father is pleased to give his children the kingdom. The promise of the kingdom is not specified or described in detail. What seems to be in view are kingdom blessings that are the product of pursuing the kingdom. In other words, pursuit of the kingdom is a goal that can be realized. Above all, secure relationships with God is alluded to in the promise, one that can bring stability and absence of anxiety” (Bock, p. 1165).
If the translation is unclear, that’s because the Greek is too. Here is an expanded translation: “Sell your possessions and give donations. Make money purses for yourselves that don’t become old, (but make money purses for yourselves that are) an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where a thief does not come near it, nor a moth corrupts it.”
This verse is a big challenge to all of us. Sell your possessions. Wow. However, he does not say sell all your possessions. “The point of Jesus’ teaching on treasures is that they are not to be hoarded for one’s selfish pleasure (cf. v. 21; Mt. 6:19. Nevertheless, the interpreter [you and me] must be careful neither to blunt Jesus’ strong teaching as expressed in Luke regarding a life of abandonment and giving (cf. 6:27-36; 14:26, 33)” (Liefeld and Pao, comments on v. 33).
The command comes in a context. He set his face like a flint or became firmly resolved to go to Jerusalem where he knew he was about to “depart” or die (Luke 9:51). He was taking the “ministry route” or his time to minister to people before reaching the holy city. During this journey on the road to Jerusalem, there is no more room for monkeying around. Tradition says the apostles were all martyred. The next-best illustration, other than martyrdom, is found in the book of Acts.
32 The believing community was in one heart and soul, and not one said what possessions belonged to him was his own, but everything was in common for them. 33 In great power the apostles were giving forth their witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was upon all of them. 34 No one among them was poor, for as many as owned land or possessed houses, sold them, brought the money from the sales, 35 and placed it at the feet of the apostles; it was distributed to each one according to his need. 36 Joseph, surnamed Barnabas by the apostles (which means “son of encouragement”), was a Levite, a Cyprian by birth. 37 Owning real estate, he sold it, and brought and placed the money at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:32-37, my tentative translation)
The earliest generation saw great miracles, probably because they gave up so much. They were pioneers. Do we want to see their kinds of miracles? Yes? Then are we willing to give up as much as they did? Are we willing to be such ground-breaking, territory-penetrating pioneers as they were?
However, Bock balances things out: “The stress is not on literally selling all, but on making use of one’s resources in a way that benefits others. Zacchaeus is the positive example of how resources are to be used (19:1-10)” (p. 1167).
“give donations”: it is understood that we give alms or donations to the needy. Sometimes I wonder about gigantic church buildings costing $50-100 million+. Yes, we need a place to meet, but what about gutting and rebuilding old warehouses? Why do we give big donations for gigantic, luxurious church buildings? Maybe that is one more reason why so many westerners, particularly Americans, don’t see apostolic miracles. Just a thought, which will be quickly ignored and skimmed over!
“inexhaustible”: I like this adjective. It could also be translated as “unfailing.” It is found only here in the NT. Treasures in heaven are inexhaustible, contrasted with earthly treasures. Even all the billionaires in the world cannot match heaven’s resources. Treasure in heaven can never be stolen or worn out or eaten away by moths.
Where is your treasure? On earth or in heaven? Wherever your treasure is, your heart will be attached to it. The main point is that we should always look to heaven for our resources, even when we go about our daily lives, working and driving the kids to soccer practice.
Who is in heaven? All the riches and gold and jewels that are more beautiful than any on earth? Yes, that’s true. But I asked “who,” not “what.” Jesus is in heaven. He is our redeemer. He has opened up access to the Father’s throne. Through him we can seek the kingdom and all the resources we need. Focus on him.
GrowApp for Luke 12:22-34
A.. Are you anxious about the trivial things in life? Study Phil. 4:6-7. How do you overcome your anxiety?
B.. Do you really believe the Father is pleased enough with you that he would give you his kingdom? How do you acquire this knowledge of the Father’s generous, giving heart?
Watching for the Son of Man’s Return (Luke 12:35-40)
35 “Tighten your belt around your waist and keep your lamps burning. 36 Indeed, you are like people waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that when he comes and knocks, they might open the door to him immediately. 37 Those servants are blessed, when the master comes and finds them watching. I tell you the truth: he will tighten his belt and have them recline at table and come and serve them! 38 If he should come either in the second hour or third hour of the watch and find them doing thus, those servants are blessed.
39 Know this: if the master of the house knew which hour the thief would come, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 40 You also be prepared because you don’t know which hour the Son of Man comes.”
There are two parables here in the section: vv. 35-38 and 39-40. Both are about watchfulness. The third parable is in vv. 41-48., which are also about watchfulness and right leadership. Many translations bunch them together in one long pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-coh-pea) or section, from vv. 35-48.
This verse is a quick version of a parable, which can often be translated as an illustration. (See v. 16 for a working definition of a parable.) We are now supposed to see ourselves tightening our belt and lighting an oil lamp. Are you willing to do that?
This pericope is about God’s people generally. The next pericope (vv. 41-48) is about leaders in the kingdom.
“Tighten your belt” could literally be translated your loins “must be girded up.” In those days, men wore robes, and to move quickly, running, they had to pull up their hem. Then they could attach a belt and wrap it around.
A “burning lamp” speaks of being ready in your soul, which must be brightly lit. Picture a good and wise servant who is alertly waiting for his master’s return by staying awake and keeping the light on. Your porchlight is always on, for your master’s return.
Fire can sometimes symbolize or even accompany the Spirit (Luke 3:16; Acts 2:1-4), so we could say that we must be continually filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). That’s the best way to stay alert.
“people”: it is the Greek noun anthrōpos (pronounced ahn-throw-poss), and see “everyone” v. 8 for more comments. I chose “people,” instead of “men.”
“like”: this introduces a simile: this is like that. It is yet another version of a parable. (See v. 16 for a working definition of a parable). It could be translated as “be like.” We are supposed to see ourselves in it. Are we alertly waiting for our master’s (the Lord’s) return, or are we unprepared and sleepy and lazy?
This wedding feast, which could last seven days in Jewish culture, may symbolize the master’s existence in heaven, and he is about to return to us, as we live in his earthly kingdom. Or it could be just a feature of the story. But then why a wedding feast, and not just a journey? Therefore, I believe the phrase symbolizes his existence in heaven.
Here Jesus knocks on the door to his own household. The door must be open to him. Are we the ones who will usher in his return? Will he whisk us away to another home, or will we greet him at the door and usher him into his house where we live right now? Many—perhaps most—interpreters of the Bible teach that when the Lord returns, he will rapture us away, back into heaven. But here Jesus teaches that he will not rapture away his servants, but instead enter his house and live with his servants. He will live in his “kingdom house,” which is located where the servants are. His kingdom has fully come. It is realized eschatology (“eschatology” is a big word for “end times” or “final things.”)
Incidentally there is no two-stage return in this pericope: (a) a secret rapture and (b) his visible second coming. Let’s explore this a bit more.
1 Thess. 4:13-18 says that Jesus will whisk or rapture or catch or snatch us away (v. 17), and we will meet him in the air, and so shall we be with him forever. In v. 15 the Greek word parousia (pronounced pah-roo-see-ah), and it means presence as distinct from absence. In its cultural context, it meant a visit from a dignitary, like a proconsul, to a Roman colony. Then the local dignitaries would go out to greet and meet him and usher him back into their city. The city leaders would not get in the Roman ship and be taken off to who-knows-where. No, they escorted him into their city. It means arrival. Here in Luke 12:35-40 the word parousia is not used, but the idea is the same. The master’s servants greet him at the master’s own house (kingdom) and welcome him in. He does not take them away to another place.
“I tell you the truth”: “Truth” comes from the word amēn (pronounced ah-main and comes into English as amen). It expresses the authority of the one who utters it. The Hebrew root ’mn means faithfulness, reliability and certainty. It could be translated as “truly I tell you” or I tell you with certainty.” Jesus’s faith in his own words is remarkable and points to his unique calling. In the OT and later Jewish writings is indicates a solemn pronouncement. It means we must pay attention to it, for it is authoritative. He is about to declare an important and solemn message or statement. The clause appears only on the lips of Jesus.
“blessed”: it is an adjective or descriptor of who we are in Christ. Luke begins this verse with the word “blessed” for emphasis. The more common adjective, which appears here and in vv. 38 and 43, is makarios (pronounced mah-kah-ree-oss) and is used 50 times. It has an extensive meaning: “happy” or “fortunate” or “privileged” (Mounce, pp. 67-71).
Let’s look more deeply at “blessed.”
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the main word for blessing is the verb barak, used 327 times throughout the Hebrew Bible: Genesis 76 times, Deuteronomy 40 times, and Psalms 76 times. Each time it is people-related. The noun is beraka, used 71 times, and “denotes the pronouncement of good things on the recipient or the collection of good things” (Mounce, p. 70).
The New Testament was written in Greek, and the verb for bless is eulogeō (pronounced yew-loh-geh-oh, and the “g” is hard as in “get”), which is used 41 times and means to “bless, thank, or praise.” The adjective eulogētos (pronounced yew-loh-gay-toss, and the “g” is hard), which is used 8 times, means “blessed, praised.” The noun is eulogia (pronounced yew-lo-gee-ah, the “g” is hard, and we get our word eulogy from it), and is used 16 times. It means to “speak well.” It is mostly translated as “praise.” The log– stem is rich in Greek, and it can include speaking a word.
The servants are supposed to be watching. The Greek word for watching here is gregoreō (pronounced greh-gohr-eh-oh, and the boy’s name Gregory comes from it), and it literally means “keep awake” but figuratively “be on the alert, be watchful, be alive.” Every option fits except possibly “be alive,” unless we make even this clause extra-figurative.
“I tell you firmly”: “firmly” comes from the Hebrew word amen, which is also imported into Greek. It means, “Let it be (so)!” One translation says, “I assure you.” What Jesus says next is startling, so he needs to introduce the idea with an amen or firm assurance. In other words, believe what he’s about to tell you.
He actually says that when he returns and finds his servants keeping awake and watching for his return and immediately opens the door for him, then the Lord himself, King Jesus, will invite the watchful servants to recline at the table (in those days they lay down at a low table to eat, with the feet sticking out away from the table), he will tighten his belt, and he will serve them! This speaks of rewards for watching for his return. Keeping awake, then, is more than the opposite of sleeping. It means being productive while watching. It may also speak of eating the victory supper with the King in his fully realized kingdom on earth. He will serve his servants. Amazing!
“servants”: The word servant (doulos, pronounced doo-loss, in the singular, but here it is plural) could be translated as slave, but I chose servant because in Jewish culture a Hebrew man who sold himself into servitude to his fellow Jew was like an indentured servant whose term of service had a limit; he was freed in the seventh year. But then the indentured servant could stay with his family, if he liked his owner (Exod. 21:2-6; Lev. 25:38-46; Deut. 15:12-18). So there was a lot of liberty even in servitude, in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).
It is a sure thing, however, that Luke’s Greek audience would have heard “slave” in the word doulos. So if you wish to interpret it like that, then that’s your decision. But culturally at that time slavery had nothing to do with colonial or modern slavery.
This verse builds on the previous one, for emphasis. We are supposed to pay attention. Whether in the second or third watch, if the master comes and finds them “doing thus” or keeping awake and ready to serve when he returns, then those specific servants are blessed.
“second or third watch”: on the Roman schedule, which is three watches, it is between 9:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. (21:00 to 3:00); or on the Jewish schedule, which is four watches, it is between 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. (22:00 to 6:00). Luke uses the Roman schedule in Acts 12:4, so this may be what he has in mind here (see NET translation and commentary). But either way, the timing is unknown, so watch for it even at night.
“blessed”: see v. 37 for more comments.
“know”: the verb is ginōskō (pronounced gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”), and see vv. 2-3 for more comments. Here it means to grasp or comprehend the significance of what he is about to tell them.
And so begins the second parable in this pericope. It changes the subject matter a little bit. Jesus return is unknown—so much unknown—that it is compared to the coming of a thief, which is also unpredictable. No, Jesus is not a thief, but his surprise coming parallels the surprise coming of the thief.
Then the truism is stated. If the master of the house or head of household knew when the thief planned to burgle, then the head of household would not have allowed his house to be broken into. He would have been on guard or appointed his servant to be watchful.
“Son of Man”: see v. 8 for more comments.
Warning! The parable is not teaching that Jesus = a thief; rather, “the image is of a thief-like surprise (1 Thess. 5:1-2; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 3:3; 16:15)” (Garland, comment on 12:36-39).
As I noted at Luke 9:26, in these two verses Jesus teaches us about his Second Coming. He is here now, and this is first coming. No one should be ashamed of him. If someone is, then Jesus will be ashamed of him at his coming with glory and with the Father’s glory and angels. This verse does not teach a secret rapture before his coming a second time.
When Jesus came the first time and was in the process of inaugurating the kingdom of God, the kingdom came subtly and mysteriously. When he comes a second time, his inaugurated kingdom will be fully accomplished or realized.
Here it is in a flow chart:
________________← This Age –—–→| End of
First Coming → Inaugurated Kingdom → Parousia → Messianic Age / Kingdom Age / The Age to Come
Before the kingdom is fully realized at his Second Coming (Parousia), the kingdom is announced and ushered in by Jesus at the launch of his ministry. So there is overlap between This Age and the Kingdom Age.
A little more expansion, adding in the final judgment.
The Second Coming (Parousia) stops This Age. Then there is one big judgment, in which the righteous and wicked are judged together. One can even say that the final judgment happens during the Messianic Age / Kingdom Age / The Age to Come. All three terms mean the same thing. Finally, the Kingdom which Jesus inaugurated at his first coming will have been fully realized and accomplished at his Second Coming, after judgment. And so after God sweeps aside the wicked and Satan and demons, the New Messianic or Kingdom Age can begin in true and pure and undisrupted rulership.
Bottom line: All of the New Testament (outside of a few contested verses in the Revelation) fully and clearly and consistently teach this flow chart:
___________← This Age ———⸻→| End of
First Coming → Inaugurated Kingdom —→ Second Coming → Judgment → Fully Realized Kingdom Age
What about the Church? The Father and the resurrected and ascended Son and the outpoured Spirit, by means of the inaugurated kingdom, created the church at Pentecost (Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:1-4). It exists in This Age and preaches the gospel of the kingdom. It will be snatched up or raptured at the Second Coming, meet Jesus in the air, descend with him, go through judgment, and then finally will last forever in the Fully Realized Kingdom Age.
Let’s look more deeply at the overlapping This Age and the Kingdom of God. Until and before the Second Coming, we now live in the conflict and battle between This Age and the Inaugurated Kingdom, proclaimed by Jesus during his ministry. (They are not the same things but are at war with each other!) We are in the process of binding Satan and his demonic hordes, by expelling demons from people’s lives but mainly by preaching the gospel, so people surrender to the Son’s Lordship, and then Satan is pushed back and people experience victory in their lives. The gospel and life in the Spirit, coming after Jesus’s ascension in This Age, though happening during the inaugurated Kingdom, are so powerful that saved and redeemed kingdom citizens can experience victory over the power of sin in their lives in This Age. The presence of sin in their lives is not removed until they get their new resurrected and transformed bodies and minds in The Age to Come. The Second Coming stops This Age, which is replaced and displaced with the fully realized Messianic or Kingdom Age or The Age to Come.
Let’s wander just a little way from Luke’s Gospel and discuss other eschatological teachings circulating around the Church today, the American Church in particular.
In Jesus’s teaching throughout the Gospel of Luke, there is no word on a literal thousand-year reign with two comings and “several first” resurrections. And there is no separate rapture that makes the church disappear, before the Second Coming. If Jesus believed in a separate rapture, he would have taught it here; he missed his chance. However, he did not miss his chance and he did not teach it. Therefore, he did not believe in a separate rapture. All of it is too convoluted. Instead, the Gospel and the other three Gospels (and Epistles) present a streamlined picture of salvation history and God’s dealing with his human creation and the return of Christ.
An amillennialist believes that the millennium begins with the Inaugurated Kingdom, but apparently it is quiet and behind the scenes (note, for example, the Parable of the Mustard Seed and its slow growth in Matt. 13:31-32); Satan is not literally bound with chains (as if a spirit being could be), even though Jesus did teach that he bound the strongman (Matt. 12:29; Mark 3:27; Luke 11:21-22). So what this binding means is that Satan cannot now fully stop the advance of the kingdom (as Satan did to the ancient Israelites, except a remnant). Before Jesus came, every nation was bound by satanic deception. However, after Jesus inaugurated the kingdom, even under Islamic and communist regimes, the gospel has a way of infiltrating societies, even if underground. Satan can no longer deceive the nations as he did before Jesus came. Instead, kingdom citizens, surrendered to the Kingship of the King and following him, are plundering Satan’s domain of This Age and rescuing people out of it and transferring them to the inaugurated kingdom of God. The final victory over Satan will be fully manifested at his Second Coming.
In contrast, based on his interpretation of a few verses in Rev. 20, one chapter in the most symbolic book of the Bible, a premillennialist believes that a literal thousand years of Christ (not shown in flow charts) is ushered in at the Second Coming, where there will be peace and harmony. And Satan is literally bound in chains until the end of the thousand years. During the literal millennium, people will still die, so the last enemy (death) is not defeated after all, at the Second Coming (even though Paul said death would be defeated, in 1 Cor. 15:23-26, 51-56). However, the theory of a literal thousand years says that death and Satan are defeated at the end of the millennium, when another resurrection and another judgment will take place.
Never mind, however, that in John 5:28-29 and Matt. 13:41-43 and 25:31-46, Jesus teaches that the wicked and righteous are judged together at the end of This Age, as indicated in the above flow charts. Interpreting literally a deliberately and intentionally symbolic book (Revelation) runs aground quickly. Things soon become convoluted and complicated, in comparison with the nonsymbolic, streamlined Gospel and Epistles.
So then where does the rapture fit in? When all peoples are called out of their tombs and those who are alive also respond to Christ descending from heaven at the Second Coming, they will be “caught up” (the rapture) and meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:15-17). Then they will descend with Jesus to a new heaven and new earth, which will have been recreated, renewed, renovated or reconstituted. They will be judged, and the wicked will be sent away to punishment, and the righteous will be welcomed into the Messianic Age / Kingdom Age / The Age to Come (as distinct from This Age). In other words, the rapture and the Second Coming happen at the same time and are the same event.
Please see my post:
There is no reason, biblically, to overthink and complicate these verses and insert a separate rapture that happens before the Second Coming. Just because a teaching is popular does not make it right.
Personally, I have now accepted amillennialism because it is streamlined, and I don’t believe the NT teaches convoluted theories. The entire NT fits together if we adopt amillennialism, from Matt. 1 to Rev. 22. I cannot allow, in my own Bible interpretation, a few contested verses in Rev. 20 to confuse the clear teaching of Jesus in the Gospels and the apostolic teaching in the Epistles. That is, I don’t believe we should allow Rev. 20 (the only few verses where one thousand years are mentioned) or the entire book of the Revelation, the most symbolic book of the Bible (after Chapter 3), to guide our interpretation of these clear teachings in the Gospels and the Epistles. Instead, we should allow the clear, straightforward, nonsymbolic teachings in the Gospels and Epistles to guide our interpretations of the most symbolic book in the Bible, in which even the numbers may be symbolic and probably are. To see everything fit together, all we have to do is turn the kaleidoscope one notch or click and adopt amillennialism. I am willing to do that.
Clarity guides the unclear portions. My main point: keep the plain thing the main thing in hermeneutics (science of interpretation), and let the clear verses guide the unclear ones.
This interpretation enjoys the beauty of simplicity by eliminating all the complications that popular end-time Bible prophecy teachers have been imposing on the Gospels and Epistles for decades—over a century. Since this tradition has deep roots—not to say entrenched—in the conservative sectors of American Evangelicalism (broadly defined to incorporate the Renewal Movements), these teachers won’t give up their interpretation easily. So I hope to reach and teach the younger generations and all other openminded people of all generations. They need to prepare for tough times ahead. I’m not a pastor, but I can still have a teacher’s pastoral heart.
The bottom line for these two verses: we must also be likewise prepared. Why? Because we don’t know when the Son of Man is returning to realize and implement his kingdom in its fullness. Will he find us awake and productive? Then he will reward us, by inviting us to recline at table and his serving us.
This parable teaches a delay about his Second Coming or parousia. However, the point is not to speculate about signs, but mainly to repent. Be watchful on a moral and spiritual level.
I covered this pericope in a long post (scroll down to Unit 25):
But in these eschatological (end-time) discussions:
“In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity (love).”
We should not break fellowship with those with whom we differ in eschatological matters.
Now let’s move on.
GrowApp for Luke 12:35-40
A.. How do you tighten your belt and keep your lamp burning?
B.. What is the best way for you to watch for the return of the Lord?
Warning to Kingdom Leaders (Luke 12:41-48)
41 Then Peter said, “Lord, are you saying this parable to us or to everyone?” 42 The Lord said, “Who then is the faithful, wise manager whom the Lord will put in charge over his servants, to give the allotment of food at the right time? 43 Blessed is that servant, whom his master will find doing thus when he comes. 44 Truly I tell you that he will put him in charge over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant were to say in his heart, ‘My master takes his time to come,’ and he were to begin to beat the male servants and female servants and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come at an hour when he does not expect or is unaware of. And he will cut him in two and assign him a place with the unbelievers. 47 But that servant who knows his master’s will and neither prepares nor performs his will shall be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who didn’t know, although he did deeds deserving of blows, will be beaten with a few blows. Everyone to whom much is given, much will be demanded from him; and to him who is entrusted with much, much more will be asked of him.”
On the word servant possibly being translated as slave, see the introductory comments in vv. 35-40.
This section is the third parable in a series of three. The first two were in the previous pericope (pronounced peh-RIH-coh-pea): vv. 35-38 and 39-40. So many translations have vv. 35-48 as one long pericope. Since Jesus shifts up to a higher level and warns kingdom leaders, I separated this section from the previous one.
Peter introduces this pericope, which signals that Jesus is in fact addressing leaders. I like Peter. He is the first to speak out. It shows he has an active mind. It is clear why he was considered the lead apostle.
Jesus had been talking to all of his disciples, but now he is about to address the leaders generally. He is about to answer Peter’s question by saying the word manager. What kind of responsibility does a kingdom leader have? Is the manager a servant? What must he not do? What kind of judgment will he get in his disobedience or obedience? Is judgment meted out in proportion to behavior?
One must get promoted from the ground up. Do you want to be a leader to give food—spiritual food, the bread of life (John 6:30-40)—to people in accordance to how much they can take? An allotment of bread for the mature in their faith and the immature in their faith? Then you know how to feed his sheep. Then that is a sign of a faithful and wise servant. Food allowance also speaks of the Word of God.
“faithful”: it is the adjective pistos (pronounced peace-toss) and it means: “trustworthy, faithful, dependable, inspiring trust or faith”; or in other context it means “trusting, cherishing faith or trust, also believing, faithful.” So you have to be consistent in your service. Are you willing to stack chairs, to set up before the service, to rehearse with the worship team, to go to choir practice? Or do you show up intermittently, when you feel like it?
“wise”: it comes from the adjective phronimos (pronounced froh-nee-moss), and it means: “sensible, thoughtful, prudent, wise.” A wise and prudent manager of God’s household or portion of his kingdom can figure things out by the Spirit. He knows how to plan and surrender his plan to God. He is in constant communication with God through prayer. God gives him heavenly wisdom to apply God’s kingdom principles to everyday life. It is God-given know-how. It may even include shrewdness (Luke 16:8).
“servant”: see v. 37 for more comments.
“manager”: the noun is oikonomos (pronounced oi-koh-noh-moss), and it can be translated as “steward” or “estate manager.” This is clearly a leadership position in the “kingdom / household.”
“right time”: the noun here is kairos (pronounced kye-ross and is used 85 times), which speaks more of a quality time than quantity. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, and it defines the noun as follows: (1) a point of time or period of time, time, period, frequently with the implication of being especially fit for something and without emphasis on precise chronology. (a) Generally a welcome time or difficult time … fruitful times; (b) a moment or period as especially appropriate the right, proper, favorable time … at the right time; (2) a defined period for an event, definite, fixed time (e.g. period of fasting or mourning in accord with the changes in season), in due time (Gal. 6:9); (3) a period characterized by some aspect of special crisis, time; (a) generally the present time (Rom. 13:11; 12:11); (b) One of the chief terms relating to the endtime … the time of crisis, the last times.
All of this stand in a mild contrast—not a sharp contrast—from chronos. Greek has another word for time: chronos (pronounced khro-noss), which measures one day, one week or one month after another.
In this context the wise servant’s actions fit into the first definition and (b).
Jesus call this household servant blessed. Why? When the master returns and find his servant feeding his sheep or taking care of the household business, then that servant is blessed.
“blessed”: see v. 37 for more comments. This is the third time he used this word: twice in the previous pericope and once here. It means that Jesus is willing to heap praise and reward on any manager-servant whom he finds feeding his people with the right allotment or allowance of food at the proper time.
“master”: it is the noun kurios (pronounced koo-ree-oss), and it typically means Lord, as in the Lord Jesus Christ or lord or master or even sir in some contexts. Here it means both: Jesus is the master who returns, and he is the Lord. When Jesus appears on the scene at his return, he changes the title manager to servant. All of us in leadership are manager-servants. We are not the boss. He alone is the boss.
Do you want promotion in God’s kingdom? Then do the small things, like feeding the little lambs their food allowance at the proper time in Sunday School. Feed the elderly lambs in the convalescent or rest home with their food allowance at the proper time. Go out to the highways and hedges to draw—compel—people into the banquet, to give them their food allowance at the proper time (Luke 14:12-24). God promotes faithful and wise servants. When he deems you wise and faithful, he will put you in charge over all his possessions.
Now the manager-servant becomes arrogant, which comes from self-deception. He is being pulled away from his duties by the lust of his flesh. He sees that his authority has been God-given and people respect him, and this respect and admiration opens the door just a crack, so that self-deception and arrogance creeps in. This is similar (some say) to the pride of Satan, who had been given God’s authority, but pride filled his heart when the heavenly beings admired him and worshiped under his leadership (see. Is. 14:12:20 for a possible reference to this). One thing is certain: novices or recent converts should not be appointed as leaders in the church, or else they will fall into the punishment of the devil (1 Tim. 3:6). But are these leaders necessarily novices? No, but something is going wrong. One of the seeming wrong things is the delay of the Lord. This manager-servant misinterprets the long time of his return as a license to escape judgment and therefore do as he pleases (see 2 Pet. 3:4, 8-10).
What actions does the manager-servant do? He “eats and drinks.” This is more than just eating and drinking for daily sustenance. It refers to Is. 22:13, which says that some people say they should eat and drink, for tomorrow they will die (see 1 Cor. 15:32). More precisely it refers to Is. 56:12 which shows some people getting strong, intoxicating wine, because tomorrow will be just like any other day. And that’s why Jesus finished his three-fold description of a deficient manager-servant as getting drunk. Not every day will be like the last day. One day will be unlike any other—the return of the Lord. The added wrongdoing is that these misguided leaders use the resources of the kingdom for their own selfish benefit. Worst of all, they have lost the ability to provide the allowance or allotment of food for the various citizens of the kingdom at the proper time.
“servant”: see v. 37 for more comments.
“unaware of”: it is the negation of the verb ginōskō (pronounced gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”), and see vv. 2-3 for more comments. We simply do not know the day or the hour when the Lord will come back. It will happen when we least expect it or when we are not waiting for it, when we are going about our daily routine.
“cut … in two”: the phrase is not taken literally but shows the severity of judgment. It is the verb dichotomeō (pronounced dee-kho-toh-moh-eh-oh and our word dichotomy is related to it). It literally means “cut in two.” Reader’s Greek-English Lexicon suggests “punish severely.” Note how the bad manager is still alive after being sawn in two, so the punishment cannot be taken literally.
“unbelievers”: it is the negation of the adjective pistos (see. v. 42) and stands in the opposite camp as the wise and faithful manager-servant. So it could be translated as “unfaithful.” So the defective kingdom leader is the opposite of the faithful and wise manager.
And now Jesus teaches that judgment-punishment will be distributed based on knowledge. If someone knows what God’s will is but does not do it and in fact does bad deeds, then his punishment will be more severe. If someone does not know but does bad deeds deserving blows, then his punishment will be less severe. Of course, let’s not forget that Jesus pronounced a blessing on the manager-servants who did what the master wanted (v. 43), so the outcome is not only bleak. The wise and faithful manager-servant will be rewarded.
Luke 12:47-48 “shows that knowledge influences the severity of the punishment, which in turn is meted out with various intensities. … the more one knows, the more responsible one becomes, so that more will be asked of one when evaluated” (Bock, pp. 1184-85).
God’s wrath is judicial.
It is not like this:
But like this:
That is a picture of God in judgment.
“know”: it is the verb ginōskō (pronounced gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”), and see vv. 2-3 for more comments. It is used twice in these two verses.
“will”: it is the noun thelēma (pronounced theh-lay-mah), and it combines the stem thel– which means “want” or “desire” or “will,” and the suffix –ma, which means the “result of.” Together they literally mean “the result of willing,” which becomes the noun “will.” The Shorter Lexicon says it simply means “will” or “desire.” It is used twice in this one verse.
Now Jesus finally delivers the punchline to this entire pericope. If God has given a kingdom leader a greater responsibility to lead, then an equal accounting will be demanded of him when the day of reckoning arrives. Next, if the leader has been assigned much, then the corresponding account of what he has done with his leadership will be asked of him, and even more so. So in his repetition Jesus raised the standard, just to drive home the main point.
This verse recalls James 3:1, which says that there should not be many teachers because they will incur a greater judgment or judged with greater strictness. Further, Heb. 13:17 says that leaders will have to give an account, so the people should be sensitive to the leaders’ ultimate responsibility and not be a burden to them.
“servant”: see v. 37 for more comments.
Stein on the divine passives in v. 48: “This statement contains two divine passives, ‘has been given [by God]’ and ‘will be demanded [by God],’ and two uses of the third person plural as a circumlocution for God: ‘has been entrusted [by God]’ (literally they entrust) and “will be asked [by God]” (literally they will ask).
GrowApp for Luke 12:41-48
A.. How do you become faithful and wise in the small things and then get promoted over all God’s possessions?
B.. Study Luke 6:46-49 and 9:23. What must you do first to discover God’s will in his kingdom living?
Jesus Causes Division (Luke 12:49-53)
49 “I have come to start a fire on the earth, and how I wish it had already been ignited! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how I am hard pressed until it is fulfilled! 51 You think that I have appeared to give peace on the earth. No, I tell you, but division instead! 52 For from now on there shall be a dividing of a household, three against two and two against three!
53 Father will be divided against son,
And son against father,
Mother against daughter
And daughter against mother,
Mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
And daughter-in-law against mother-in-law! [Mic. 7:6]
Jesus had a surge of emotions when he thought about his direction—towards Jerusalem. He shifts his focus from his future return and the judgment of good or bad behavior to the near future, virtually here and now.
Good news, however:
28 Then Peter said, “Look at us! We have left what we had and we have followed you!” 29 He said to them, “I tell you the truth: There is no one who has left household or wives or brothers or parents or children because of the kingdom 30 who shall not receive in return many times as much in this age and eternal life in the age to come.” (18:28-30)
“start”: Jesus literally says “cast” or “throw” (the verb is ballō and pronounced bahl-loh) a fire, but “start” seems to be more easily to relate to a modern audience. Incidentally, “fire” is the first word in the sentence, for emphasis.
“wish”: it is the verb thelō (pronounced they-loh), and it is the standard one for want or will or wish. The Shorter Lexicon says it means, “wish of desire, wish to have, desire, want”; (2) wish, will of purpose or resolve” (and so on). Either definition fits here.
“ignited”: it will be kindled or ignited at the cross, “the focus of all his activities” (Morris, comment on vv. 49-50).
So what is the fire? Fire speaks of judgment (cf. Ps. 97:3; Is. 10:16-17; 2 Amos 7:4; Thess. 1:7); God’s wrath (Ps. 89:46; Mal. 4:1); purging out wickedness (Mal. 3:2); burning or devotion for the Lord (1 Thess. 5:19); the word of God in the soul (Jer. 20:9); the fulness of the Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). Here it speaks of the utmost seriousness of following Jesus, no matter what. It is a fire that divides. It is a fire that burns down old religious systems and blazes a new path. Jesus wishes it to be already ignited, so that he can pass through his death and open up a new way for all to enter, and not just a few chosen people, which Judaism had taught.
“baptism”: Mark 10:38 says this baptism is a cup, and the cup was Jesus’ giving his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Therefore, this baptism speaks of his suffering and death on the cross.
“hard pressed”: it comes from the verb sunechō (pronounced soo-neh-khoh), and it means here “distressed” or “hard pressed.” It comforts me that Jesus would feel hard pressed in his soul at this stage. Recall that Jesus had firmly resolved or set his face like a flint that he was heading towards Jerusalem to die (9:51). And right now he feels his impending suffering and death. But how does he respond? He forewarns his followers that family division is coming, by the nature of the case. Jewish culture at this time would follow the logic of division.
Incidentally, “daughter-in-law” has the connotation of a bridal daughter-in-law, or one who just married a mother’s son. What happens if the new bride were to convert? Apparently, she would feel the wrath of the mother-in-law!
In Israel at this time, thousands of Jews converted to the Messiah in Judea (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6:7; 21:20). Then the persecution hit hard, mostly by Saul (later Paul) (Acts 7:8-15; 8:1; 9:1-2). No doubt households were divided, three against two and two against three. And no doubt fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law did betray each other. So it is very important that no one deny the Lord before people or Jewish synagogue tribunals (vv. 8-9, 11-12).
Sometimes one hears of reports which say that Jewish parents throw out a converted son or daughter from their household. That is one of the main themes of the musical Fiddler on the Roof.
Further, this rejection happens in Muslim households. Sometimes a son or daughter who converts is dragged before a shariah court and is punished in some way. A daughter may be “honor-killed” for giving her life to Christ.
During the decades when the old Soviet Union dominated eastern Europe, reports escaped from behind the Iron Curtain that said Christians were being betrayed by other members of their household. It is happening in China now, with the rise of new and severe persecution.
Let’s pray for the persecuted church.
GrowApp for Luke 12:49-53
A.. Do you know of cases in which people suffered or are suffering persecution in their own households? What should you do about it?
B.. Review Luke 12:8-9 and 11-12. What you do if you suffer family persecution?
Discerning the Messianic Times (Luke 12:54-56)
54 Then he proceeded to tell the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘A rainstorm is coming,’ and so it does. 55 And when a south wind is blowing, you say, ‘It’ll be a scorcher!’ and it is. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but you don’t know how to interpret this season of time?”
This is a parable or illustration. See v. 16 for a working definition.
Jesus addresses the crowds, while in the previous pericopes he had been teaching his disciples.
The Greek tense in this context calls for the verb “tell” (or “say” or “speak”) to be translated as “proceeded to tell” or “began to tell” (Culy, Parsons, Stigall, p. 445).
A westerly wind that mixes with the Mediterranean Sea produces moisture and then rain and sometimes a rainstorm. A southerly wind comes up from the desert of Arabia (broadly defined), and the wind is really hot and scorches the land and wilts plants. Jesus’s description of these weather conditions was easily understandable and experienced for the Israelites of his day. These weather signs show that Jesus experienced them too, and the Bible is accurate and reliable on such historical, natural conditions and facts.
Hypocrites could be translated as “Inconsistent ones!” Originally, the term comes from the Greek play actor on the stage. They wore masks and played roles. There were stock characters, such as the buffoon, the bombastic soldier, or the old miser. In this context hypocrites appeared one way, but in reality they were different. They appeared outwardly religious, but inwardly they were full of dead men’s bones. They wore religious masks. In this verse, they could analyze or interpret or examine the weather, but they could not see God’s activity right in front of them, through Jesus the Messiah and Lord. Their discernment was shallow and inconsistent.
They are called hypocrites in this case because they can forecast the weather from the signs in the earth and the sky but who cannot discern the signs of God’s presence when it is staring them in the face” … It is tied to end time blindness, not playacting. Garland, comment on 13:15, referring to 12:56).
“season of time”: see v. 42 for more comments.
The whole point of this pericope is that the crowds listening to him can analyze the weather, but not God’s activity right in front of them. It has nothing to do with discerning the end-time, Bible prophecy signs of the time today, two thousand years later. However, from this pericope we can transfer to today the general principle that we must stay alert to discern what God is doing nowadays to further his kingdom. How is God working to expand his kingdom around the globe? How are the missionaries that we support? What is the health of the church, which is his hand extended of the kingdom? To boil things down, how is your spiritual health to extend his kingdom in your sphere of influence? Can you discern how to do this?
“This season of time”: it means that the Messiah is standing right in front of them, yet they cannot perceive the sign of this time or the season (Garland, comment on 54-57).
GrowApp for Luke 12:54-56
A.. Have you ever missed the moment that God appointed for you? What did you do? How did God redeem the lost time?
Settling with Your Accuser (Luke 12:57-59)
57 “Why don’t you also judge for yourselves what is just? 58 For as you are going with your accuser to the ruler, make an effort to settle with him along the road, so that he will not drag you before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the bailiff, and the bailiff throw you in prison. 59 I tell you that you will not exit from that place until you pay back the last penny.”
This pericope or section of Scripture fits perfectly with the previous one. He is still talking to the crowds, and he calls them to use sound judgement, much like he called on them to discern the Messianic times. If they could judge the weather correctly, then why couldn’t they judge the spiritual atmosphere and the Messiah right in front of them? Likewise, why can’t they judge for themselves what is right or just?
Here the adjective “just” could also be translated as “right,” because the dik– stem (pronounced deek) can be defined, depending on the context, as “right” or “righteous” or “just” or “upright”; “law-abiding,” “honest,” “good.” When Jesus is put on trial, it can be translated as all those terms rolled into one and also “innocent” (Luke 23:47; see also Matt. 23:37 and 27:24).
So what is right or just? Jesus tells them to be as wise as snakes and innocent as doves when they live in the context of the world system (Matt. 10:16). This idea will be expanded to the nth degree in the Parable of the Dishonest (or Shrewd) Manager (Luke 16:1-13), in which the manager, who got himself in trouble with his boss, forgives debts owed to his boss, so that the forgiven parties will be kind to the shrewd manager after he is shown the door. Application: in this pericope use your business acumen. Use sound judgment. On the route to the ruler (archōn and pronounced ahr-khone or “lord, “prince,” or plural “authorities” or “officials”), be free of the accuser.
“settle”: it comes from the verb apalassō (pronounced ah-pahl-lahs-soh), and it literally means in the active voice “free, release” (I free or release you) and in the passive “be released, be cured” (I am freed or cured by you). Intransitively it can mean “leave, depart” (I leave, depart). Here it means “come to a settlement with someone.” So it could also be translated as “be free of your accuser.”
Now Jesus uses his culture—the legal culture—to lay out the chain of custody. If you don’t settle along the road to the synagogue, where legal disputes were settled, or another court, then the judge will hear your case. Your accuser has paperwork that proves you owe him a debt. The judge will look at it and ask whether you have the money. You answer no. Then the judge has to follow the law and hands you over to the bailiff or court sheriff, who will put you in the prison van, and drive you to jail or prison, where you will sit until you can scrape together the money. But this is impossible because you are not at work.
“lepton”: one-twenty-eighth (1/28) of a denarius, and a denarius was the standard day’s wage for an agrarian worker. This amount was so small that Jesus uses it to indicate you will not get out of prison until you pay it. No half-hearted debt and no half-hearted forgiveness. Your accuser is playing “hardball.”
Let’s expand the parable a little, because I believe some in the crowds would know about this part of the law. You must depend on a family redeemer.
Lev. 25:47-55 speaks of redeeming a poor man, who has to sell himself to a stranger or sojourner. He can be redeemed by his family member, like a brother or uncle or cousin.
Do we dare spiritualize this true-to-life illustration or parable? Let’s go for it. The archōn or judge can be viewed as justice or the law. It has to be followed. You have not followed it. Your accuser is Satan. You better get yourself free of him on the road to the courtroom before he drags you before the judge or law. The judge will ask if you are in debt to your accuser, and you have to say yes. And so you are be placed in the prison provided by justice or the law. Your accuser doesn’t have to keep the key or guard the prison. The law and justice do that. He has you dead to rights, by the law.
So how can you be free of him? Along the road, your brother must run to catch up to you and redeem you. If you are not wise enough to call on your brother en route, your brother can still pay what is owned to your accuser once you are put in prison. Either way, your brother frees you.
Your brother-redeemer is Jesus. He has canceled the paperwork against you. The Scriptures say: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them” (Col. 2:13:15).
So does Jesus have to pay off Satan? Let’s not push the illustration too far, but in a sense he does pay him within the system of justice that God set up, and Satan knows enough to work within that system. He manipulates it, which shows he has to submit to it. Satan is not sovereign; only God is.
In any case, the illustration is designed to show that you must judge what is just or right. Be free of your accuser before things get too far. Use your head. Work the legal and economic system that God has ultimately put in place.
But now let’s bring this parable back down to earth, in its original context.
Jesus is not giving mundane advice about how to avoid going to court or going to jail. With the coming judgment, the audience is in dire straits and does not know it. IN this parabolic warning, what the secular judge will do in a lawsuit God will do in the judgment. The warning is not addressed to individuals but to Israel. In the context, Jesus refers to God’s coming judgment on Israel, which is temporal, rather than to the last judgment. Reconciliation is still possible, but Jesus underscores the gravity of the situation by insisting that even such a small amount, the last cent, must be repaid. After the verdict is settled it is too late to settle (comment on vv. 58-59)
Bock, in contrast, does interpret the two verses on a personal level. It is the debt that one owes God. “One must settle accounts with him. Jesus actually said “I say to you” (singular). So Jesus is talking to one person (pp. 1199-1200).
Liefeld and Pao say it is both a warning to the individual confronted with the impending judgment of God, and it is also a warning to Israel as a people. “In terms of context, the theme of judgment on God’s people is a prominent one in Luke’s central section. The address to the ‘crowd’ (v 54) further highlights this point. This address to Israel is continued in 13:1-9, when Jewish readers are again called to repent” (comments on vv. 57-59)
GrowApp for Luke 12:57-59
A.. This pericope (pronounced peh-RI-coh-pea) speaks of being free from your accuser for a just debt you owe. How has Jesus set you free from your accuser, Satan?
Summary and Conclusion
Recall that Luke announced that Jesus had firmly resolved to go to Jerusalem to die (Luke 9:51). Jesus is on the road to the capital of his death. Then Luke 13:22 says that he journeyed through towns and villages, on his way to Jerusalem, so he is taking the “ministry route.” He is in no hurry because he must minister to people. Therefore, we should see this chapter in the context of his ultimate mission.
He is taking his time because he needs to teach the people kingdom principles or life in the kingdom. What is that like? Nine points:
First, he tells the disciples to be wary of the leaven or yeast of the Pharisees. Before Passover, yeast had to be cleaned out of all households, even in the storerooms or basements. But the Pharisees had some hidden “yeast” or “sins” that had not been cleared out. Don’t be like them.
Second, Jesus teaches the disciples not to fear the one who can kill the body, and afterwards not do anything, but fear him who can kill the body and throw them into hell. But then he tells them that they are much more valuable to God than sparrows, and the hairs on our head are numbered, so God cares for them.
Third, in the context of being dragged into synagogues for the “crime” of following Jesus, he commands his disciples not to deny him before the authorities. If they do, he will deny them before his Father. Jesus means business, and so must his followers. He is on his way to die, and the twelve apostles, church history tells us, were martyred. So they took his words serious, and so should we.
Fourth, in a parable Jesus warns against the misuse of money by a rich man having an earthbound perspective and not an eternal one. He expands his assets and decides to party, to the neglect of his soul. He dies unready, and now what? He riches can’t do anything for him.
Fifth, then Jesus give an extended teaching on not being anxious. He calls his disciples to seek his kingdom first, then the daily things of life will be added to his disciples. The best news: God likes his followers well enough to gladly give them the kingdom. If they take one step towards it, and he’ll give it to them.
Sixth, he teaches them in two quick parables to stay awake as they wait of their master or boss to return from a wedding feast. They will be blessed if they are awake and welcome him into his own house, his kingdom down here on earth. We don’t know when he will come back, and this unpredictability is likened to a thief whose time of burglary is also unpredictable. Be on guard.
Seventh, in the third parable in the series on watchfulness, he shifts his focus to kingdom leaders. If they are wise and faithful and lead well, they too will be blessed when he returns, and they have to give an account. But if they abuse kingdom citizens, they will be judged severely and placed among the faithless or unbelievers. It is a warning to all leaders.
Eighth, he shifts his focus to the crowds. They are not responding well (enough) to his Messiahship. They can correctly interpret the weather that is building, either a rain cloud in the west or a hot, southerly wind, but they cannot accurately interpret the Messianic times right before their eyes. Then he calls them inconsistent for this lack of insight.
Finally, the crowds must also use accurate judgment in their legal dealings. They are to be free of their debtor-accuser on the road to court, because if they don’t, they will be thrown in prison. They are to use business acumen in their daily life in the kingdom, when they have to interact with the worldly system.
In the next chapter, he will teach people more kingdom principles, on the road to Jerusalem.
Bock, Darrel L. Luke 1:1-9:50. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 1 (Baker, 1994).
—. Luke 9:51-24:53. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 2. (Baker 1996).
Culy, Martin M., Mikael C. Parsons. Joshua J. Stigall. Luke: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Baylor UP, 2010).
Fitzmyer, Joseph A., SJ. The Gospel according to Luke, I-IX. Vol. 28. The Anchor Bible. (Doubleday, 1981).
—. The Gospel according to St. Luke, X-XIV. The Anchor Bible. Vol. 28A. (Doubleday, 1985).
Garland, David E. Luke. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. (Zondervan, 2011).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014).
Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Eerdmans, 1997).
Liefeld, Walter L. and David W. Pao. Luke. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. (Zondervan, 2007).
Marshall, I. Howard. The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. (Eerdmans, 1978).
Morris, Leon. Luke. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. (IVP Academic, 1988).
Stein, Robert H. Luke: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture. The New American Commentary. Vol. 24. (Broadman and Holman, 1992).