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Bible: What Does Luke 12 Teach Us About Hypocrisy, Persecution, Covetousness, and Service?

Updated on September 15, 2016

Against Hypocrisy

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Jesus and the Pharisees

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The Leaven of the Pharisees

Next, Luke the evangelist seemingly transports his readers to another scene featuring a rather rambunctious crowd (v. 1a).

No longer dining with Pharisees and lawyers, Christ appears informing His disciples about the chief characteristic of the Jewish leadership (that is, hypocrisy) [v. 1b].

[Jesus spoke similar words to the Twelve after the feeding of the four thousand (see Matt. 16:6).

Interestingly, His warning—“Beware of the ‘leaven’ of the Pharisees”—followed the latter’s request for a sign (16:1-4), as it nearly does in this context].

After assuring His men that the course of events (or God’s judgment) will uncover the Pharisees’ true character, Jesus asserts that all the apostles’ secret words will come to light as well (vv. 2-3).

[Much of what Christ communicates now parallels what He instructed the twelve in preparation for their short missionary journey (see Matt. 10:26-33).

Verse 27 indicates that the wisdom Jesus shared with them in the dark they should preach on the housetops in broad daylight].

Not only does the Lord speak against the Pharisees’ hypocrisy, but He also warns His followers about future persecution at their hands, and encourages them with knowledge of their Father’s care (vv. 4-12).

[The chart below clearly shows the differences between this passage and the episode in Matthew 10:28-33, indicating that they represent two separate occasions.]

"Do Not Fear"

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Matthew
“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows. Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.”
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

The following three verses provide further proof that Jesus spoke the same or similar messages at different times in different locations.

Whereas much of this passage in Luke Matthew records in his tenth chapter, Luke 12:10 shows up in Matthew 12:32 (and Mark 3:29 in significantly different order) immediately after “The House Divided” speech.

Verses 11-12, however, occur once again in Jesus’ instruction to the twelve fledgling missionaries of Matthew 10.

This prophecy of testifying before authorities finds its way into Mark’s eschatological passage transpiring toward the end of Christ’s ministry on earth (13:11).

Compare the passages below:

Luke
Mark
Matthew
“And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven.
“but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation.”
“Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.”
“Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
“But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.”
“You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”

Jesus and His Apostles

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The Rich Fool

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Jesus gives this instruction to His apostles shortly after choosing them and shortly before leaving them; it constitutes sagacious counsel at any time.

During a lull in Christ’s remarks, a man breaks into the discourse and demands that Jesus resolve a dispute between him and his brother over their inheritance (v. 13).

The Lord immediately dismisses the case, refusing “to assume the position of judge in this secular matter” (v. 14; Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible, 133); however, He does take the occasion to “parabolize” about the dangers of covetousness (vv. 15-21).

Transitioning from His assertion that “life” does not equal one’s “possessions” (v. 15), Christ relates “The Parable of the Rich Fool.”

He presents the case of a wealthy landowner (whose property has produced even more abundantly than normal) facing a dilemma: should he give toward God’s purposes, or should he build more storage barns for himself? (vv. 16-17).

[Actually, concern for God’s will in the stewardship of his finances has not entered this man’s mind at all (“thought within himself”).

His is a totally narcissistic, self-centered attitude; note how many “I’s” and “my’s” occur in this passage.]

He determines to hoard all his goods in larger facilities, requiring his slaves and managers to tear down his old barns and build new ones wherein he would house all his crops (v. 18).

[At least unemployment is down!]

Satisfied that his plans are now set for the rest of his days, the man again converses with his “soul”—perhaps a sign of lonely emptiness—and decides to retire to a life of epicurean ease (v. 19).

God, however, abruptly interrupts his self-congratulations with a disturbing, life-shattering revelation: “You’re a dead man tonight.”

The “soul” that the man has just addressed is “required of” him immediately (v. 20a).

Having no heirs (apparently), the man must forfeit all of his possessions (v. 20b).

[In this culture—assuming it is Jewish—where would all of his wealth go?]

Not only does he lose all of his worldly riches, but he also has no wealth accruing for him in the “Land of True Wealth” (v. 21).

The Sermon on the Mount

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Applying more divine wisdom concerning possessions to His disciples’ philosophy, Jesus exhorts them not to worry about the necessities of life (v. 22; cf. Matt. 6:25-34 [found in the Sermon on the Mount]).

Christ has already pointed out that life does not consist generally in the abundance of “possessions” (cf. v. 15); now He specifically names food and clothing as two “necessaries” about which His people should not fret (v. 23).

Since God “feeds” ravens, though He does it through their own daily foraging, He will certainly care for his elect, who have more intrinsic value to the Lord than do birds (v. 24).

Jesus also questions their anxieties about “the rest” when they cannot do “the least” thing (namely, add “one cubit” to their stature (height) [vv. 25-26].

[Verse 26 does not appear in Matthew’s “Sermon.”

How is adding eighteen inches to one’s height “the least” thing?

By the “rest,” does Jesus mean “the basics of survival”?]

Solomon and The Lilies of the Field

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Verses 27-28—observations about lilies and Solomon—mirror the Sermon’s words, though small distinctions exist.

Likewise, verses 29-30 contain little changes—something one should expect in a different sermon.

Instead of phrasing His order to include the kinds of anxious questions they would ask (as in the Sermon; see Mt. 6:31), Christ merely commands them neither to “seek” food and drink—that is, make that activity all-important in life—nor to worry about acquiring them as do the nations (“Gentiles,” Matt. 6:32a) [vv. 29-30a).

When/If they “seek” the kingdom of God—that is, work to promote the Lord’s values and way—they can rest assured their omniscient and omnipotent Father will provide these necessities for them (vv. 30b-31).

Not only should they not worry about necessaries, they should not fear that they will somehow “miss the mark” of the kingdom.

Jesus promises His “little flock” that their loving Father will unfailingly bestow it upon them (v. 32).

In light of this certainty, Christ’s people should “give alms”—support “charities”—after selling their possessions (after considering what they do not need themselves) [v. 33a].

By so doing, they will (unlike the rich fool of the parable) lay up unassailable, incorruptible heavenly treasures (vv. 33b).

Where people devote their finances—whether in selfish pursuits or in kingdom growth— manifests where their heart resides (v. 34).

Faithful Stewardship in Light of Second Coming

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Reward and Punishment

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Now Jesus instructs His disciples with a longer version of the “Faithful Servant, Evil Servant” parable (vv. 35-48; cf. Matt. 24:43-51).

Its first part (vv. 35-40) addresses a similar, but different scenario than Matthew’s version.

In Luke, the Lord simply commands His disciples to be ready—“Tuck in your robe; keep your lamps lit.”

Be like male servants waiting for their master to return after he receives his bride from her home (vv. 35-36; cf. Matt. 25:7-9).

Jesus bestows blessedness upon “those servants” who watch, men who are ready to welcome their returning lord at any time (second or third watch, v. 38) [vv. 37-38].

Such servants their lord will honor by serving them (v. 37).

Verse 39 picks up whence Matthew 24:43 begins, but both passages refer not to the servant’s vigilance, but to the lack thereof on the part of the master of the house.

Christ exhorts the disciples not to be like this master but to be always on the alert, for the Son of Man (the thief) will return at an unexpected hour (v. 40).

[Who is the "master of the house"?]

In the second part, Jesus responds to Peter’s specific question about the identity of the subject of His parable (vv. 41-48).

Pronouncing the same happiness upon “that faithful and wise steward” (whom the master finds giving his household “their portion of food in due season”) [v. 42; cf. Mt. 24:45-46] as the servant who watches, He seems to make the blessing universal.

“That servant” who performs his stewardship well the master will reward with an even greater responsibility: governance over all that he has (vv. 43-44).

On the other hand, “that servant” who mistreats “inferior” slaves, the master, providentially delayed, will discipline severely upon his unexpected return (vv. 45-46).

Servants who have knowledge of their master’s will but neglect to obey it will suffer greatly; those ignorant of it will receive lesser punishment (vv. 47-48a).

The more grace a servant has received, the more production the lord will require from him (v. 48b).

Contextually speaking, both sections provide further insight into the necessity of having the right “kingdom” mindset in light of the Lord’s return.

[What would characterize the “day” or “hour” when one would not be looking for the Son of Man to return to set up His kingdom?

Would it be a time of “worldly” peace and affluence?

A time when one could assert one’s will over underlings (beat servants), and spend one’s life partying (get drunk)?

What were the days of Noah like?

Will not the Second Advent occur at the end of the Great Tribulation (cf. Matt. 24)?

How does this doctrine square with what Jesus says here?]

The Cross Precedes Peace on Earth

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The Lord now addresses why He came to Earth (vv. 49-53).

At that time, Jewish belief hoped for a conquering Messiah who would deliver the nation from its oppressors and “give peace on earth” (v. 51).

Jesus corrects that notion, asserting that He came not to give peace, but to bring division within families (vv. 51-53).

[Did not Jesus come announcing the arrival of the Kingdom?

His advent promised “peace among men with whom He [God] is pleased” (cf. Lk. 2:14), but the Jewish nation was not ready to receive it.

Some members of families chose to follow Jesus (and thus receive reconciliation with God), but others rejected Him (and continue at enmity with God and cause household discord). See Matt. 10:34-39.

Earlier, He notes that he came to “send fire on the earth” (judgment) and to die (“a baptism to be baptized with”) [vv. 49-50.]

Christ wished that the “fire”—the judgment ushering in His kingdom—were already kindled, but realized (with not a little grief) that He had to die first.]

Having identified the Pharisees and Sadducees at another time and location as hypocrites for not being able to “discern the signs of the times” (see Mt. 16:3), Jesus now assigns the same label to the multitudes who (like their leaders) can predict the weather but cannot “discern this time” (vv. 54-56).

Christ continues this theme of poor moral judgment, but now relates it not to eschatological perceptions but to legal matters.

Using an illustration from the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mt. 5:25-26), He points out their inability (or unwillingness) to judge themselves correctly and to settle issues out of court (vv. 57-59).

[The commoner’s discernment was no better than the elite’s spiritual understanding.]

© 2013 glynch1

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