Much of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) is committed to two great things - watching and learning from Jesus‘actions, and listening to his teaching. Luke chapter twelve is an example of how and what Jesus taught in order to move his disciples into the call we all face - the call into the mission, the call to actually live for Jesus. Jesus’ primary goal here is seen in the second half of the chapter (starting in verse 35). He wants his servants to be AWAKE and ready, AWAKE and committed to the mission, AWAKE and working, AWAKE and living in the reality that he will be coming back to finalize this phase of history.
In order to get there Jesus is being VERY practical with his disciples in the first part of Luke 12. He is talking with them about the concerns and fears they have - and then how they should actually think about these fears - this is great stuff.
In verse 4 of chapter 12 Jesus talks about the fear of death and it’s remedy - a bold life for Jesus. If we are not ashamed of Jesus and we acknowledge him publicly, Jesus will personally claim us as his own when we die. This will help us move through fear of death because physical death here brings us glory. Remember what Paul said to the church at Philippi:
Philippians 1:21 (NIV)
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Second - in verse 11 Jesus mentions the fear of not responding well, of not knowing what to say when we face ridicule for Jesus. Not to worry - the Holy Spirit will be there for us. We don’t need to have a PhD in apologetics or a doctorate in Theology - we need to live for Jesus and the Holy Spirit will equip us.
Matthew 10:19-20 (NIV)
But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Then, before Jesus goes to the third fear or worry, which we’re going to talk about, he tells a quick parable to introduce it. This is the parable about the rich man who is so focused on accumulating for himself that he is going to launch a major building project. He is going to tear down his existing barns and build new ones. God has a response to this:
Luke 12:20-21 (NIV)
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21 “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
And now we move to the third issue Jesus mentions - elevating minor, self-centered concerns while ignoring what we should be doing.
Luke 12:22-34 (NIV)
22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. (daily needs). 23 Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? 27 “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!
29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Jesus is clearly NOT saying we shouldn‘t work to provide for our needs. He‘s not saying we should live irresponsible lives - although God’s idea of how we should live a responsible life is clearly different than the world’s idea. He is addressing the issue of worry or preoccupation with the daily needs of live when there are much more important things to occupy us. He is talking about our tendency to focus on or worry about the small stuff which then causes us to neglect what’s most important. This is very easy to do and can easily imbed itself in our thinking so we think this is acceptable and normal – not for a disciple of Jesus. I get this from verse 23 - Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.
John 6:27; 33 (NIV)
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”; 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Verses 24-28 attempt to show how silly it is to worry this way.
Verses 29-30 approach this from a different angle. To set your heart on what you’re going to eat or drink is to copy the behavior of the world. Rather move toward the kingdom - seek the kingdom first - adjust your life so kingdom is first, food is later.
In verse 32 Jesus seems to take a different tone with the disciples here - a tender, intimate, caring tone. Don’t worry about the cost of following me, God is happy to give you the kingdom, God wants fullness of joy for you, God wants you to be involved in this great reality of Jesus’ victory. God wants the best for you, so loosen your grip on the things that take you away from living by faith.
Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
How do we live as people who have put their lives in the hands of Jesus? This is what we are doing when we trust Jesus as savior - we are giving our lives to him. We are saying, “Jesus, I am a sinful, self-centered person with sinful programming and sinful desires. This leaves me with judgment and not forgiveness, death and not life, separation from God and not friendship. I’m sorry - I will take you, Jesus, as my hope, I am trusting you to act on my behalf before God. I am trusting you to be the righteousness that I need.”
When God calls the sinner to himself, God is creating something new (2 Cor. 5:17) and we should strive to put on this new self (Eph 4:24). So, what does this look like? It means the things of Christ will be paramount in your life. We will be living lives that lift Jesus high.
- We need not fear death, especially if we live boldly for Christ.
- We don’t need to worry about what we must say when the world attacks - the Spirit of God will speak through you.
- We don’t need to live by the world’s rules and spend our lives chasing security here - that doesn’t exist anyway.
- And we don’t need to worry about God’s intention. He wants to give us the kingdom.