Luke

12:22-34

The teachings of Messiah, 9:51-19:44

2. The kingdom and power, 11:1-12:34

vi] Goals in life - to have or to live. 12:13-34

b) Care about earthly things

Synopsis

Someone in the crowed has asked Jesus to arbitrate over a family inheritance, 12:13. This prompts Jesus to make the point that "life does not consist in the abundance of possessions", v15. Within this context Luke draws together a set of Jesus' sayings dealing with the relationship between living and possessing.

 
Teaching

Jesus reminds his disciples not to be preoccupied with the things of this world, but rather to focus on the kingdom of God and live a life that reflects this focus.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 11:1-13. The linked sayings, which make up the second part of the sixth episode The inevitable victory the kingdom, conclude the section titled The kingdom and power, 11:1-12:34. This last episode examines the goals of life and makes the point that authentic life consists of a great deal more than what we own, 12:13-34. The concluding sayings, v22-34, serve to warn disciples "not to be anxiously concerned about food and clothing .... since their supreme aim in life (is) the attainment of the kingdom of God", Marshall.

 

ii] Structure: This set of linked sayings, Anxiety about earthly things, presents as follows:

An anxious preoccupation with life, v22-31:

Proposition, v22:

"do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or ...."

Reason #1, v23:

"life is more than food and the body more than clothing."

Reason #2 - "consider the ravens", v24:

"you are of much more value that the birds."

Reason #3, v25-26:

"which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?"

Reason #4 - "consider how the wild flowers grow", v27-28:

"how much more will he clothe you - you of little faith!"

Reason #5, v29-30:

"do not set your heart ....... your Father knows that you need them."

Reason #6, v31:

"seek his kingdom, and these thing will be added to you."

Reason #7, v32:

"do not be afraid .... your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom."

A joyous preoccupation with heaven, v32-33:

Proposition, v33:

"provide .... a treasure in heaven that will never fail ...."

Reason, v34:

"for where you treasure is, there your heart will be also."

 

iii] Interpretation:

Luke has neatly stitched together this group of sayings, sourced from the gospel tradition of Jesus, linking them together with a common theme, namely an anxious preoccupation with life in the here and now. He begins with a set of sayings also found in Matthew 6:25-33. In these sayings the inclination toward anxious preoccupation is developed in two particular areas, namely food and clothing, v22-28, and is then applied in v29-31. Luke then adds an independent saying stitched to v31 by the common word "kingdom", v32, and then follows up with sayings on true wealth, v33-34.

 

Anxiety and God's providential care, v22-31: Evans offers a useful theological approach to this passage: "Do not be anxious about the means of existence; behind these is that about which to be anxious, viz. God and his kingdom; birds and flowers show by their lack of anxiety that God is completely reliable; so there is a sustaining and clothing by God which is certain, and which banishes anxiety; do not seek for things in themselves, but seek the kingdom which brings all else with it."

Evans' theological approach is to be commended, but we do need to recognize that many commentators have tended to take this passage as a promise from God to supply our daily needs; "strive for his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well", v31. As Bock puts it, "God promises to provide basic needs for his disciples." Matthew 6:32 is handled in a similar way by most conservative commentators. The problem is that experience denies that God supports a form of divine rice-bowel Christianity. The evidence is that Christians suffer starvation and want along with their secular neighbors.

Yet, this is not the only passage that seems to promote this interesting idea. In Luke 18:18-30 (Matt.19:16-29, Mk.10:17-30) Jesus reminds his disciples that what they have given up for the kingdom is replaced, and more (although with "persecutions"), "and in the age to come, eternal life." Is Jesus being serious here? So, does the preacher have the right to tell the congregation that what they put in the plate will be multiplied in return? What of the promised reward for kingdom' sacrifice, a reward of a "hundred times as much" as sacrificed, cf. Matt.19:29? Surely the imagery here is more theological than literal. The kingdom community transcends whatever loss we may have suffered.

The Lord's Prayer, "give us today our daily bread", is another possible support for the idea that God supplies his children with their daily needs. The Lord's Prayer is a list of prayer points which are according to the will of God. Therefore, when we ask for "bread" it will be supplied. Of course, the obvious question we mast ask is, what is the "bread"? Commentators are all over the place on this one, but again, many argue for the daily provision of our needs.

So then, how do we handle the promise that "these things will be given to you as well, v31?

a) Literal - a promise to meet our daily needs. It is unlikely that we have a promise here for the daily provision of our needs. Propositional truth aligns with experience and experience tells us that the promise obviously references something other than our daily needs.

b) Eschatological - The promise may be eschatological, the promised blessings of the coming kingdom, tasted now, realized then, fulfilling all our needs, replacing anxiety with joy.

c) Metaphorical. It is quite possible that the promise is for the provision of resources for the journey of God's people to the promised land, the necessary manna required to serve the Lord. The Father knows what we need for his service, and he will supply it. So, we must not be preoccupied with the stuff of this age as though it can assure our security in the journey, but rather we should press forward, looking to God's provision in the journey and the kingdom's wide open doors at journey's end.

d) Theological. cf. Evans above.

 

Radical action for radical rewards, v33-34. This saying is similar to the one recorded by Matthew in 6:19:21. In the context of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus / Matthew outlines a righteousness that exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, a righteousness which exposes the sinful state of humanity and thus the need for a righteous that is given as a gift of God through faith (our faith in Christ's faithfulness). The stark nature of Luke's wording indicates a similar original purpose, although it is unlikely that Luke intends this purpose here, ie. the use of an ideal ethic to expose sin. Given the immediate context, Luke uses the saying as an ideal to aim at, encouraging disciples to practice "disencumberment and generous dispersal to the needy", Nolland. The kingdom age has dawned and God's remnant people are even now pressing along the way to a promised glory. Given the eternal provision that awaits us, we have no reason to be overly protective of our capital. We are therefore free to use our resources for the kingdom. Literal compliance is not intended and it is not helpful when commentators, who most often themselves own property, suggest that it is, cf. W. Pilgrim, Good News to the Poor: Wealth and Poverty in Luke-Acts.

 

iv] Synoptics:

This saying material is found in much the same form as in Matthew, indicating dependence on a common source (often suggested as Q, but possibly part of the set oral tradition of the time). What we may have here is a distinct discourse, with Jesus repeating material he often used, so Arndt. On the other hand we may have a set of conjoined sayings, v22-24, 25-26, 27-28, 29-30, 31, 32 (unique to Luke), but if the material is a melding of a number of Jesus' sayings, by the time of their recording by Matthew and Luke they are now a single saying unit of Jesus' teaching. Luke presents the sayings as a thematic whole - the futility of anxiety.

 

v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 12:22

Sayings concerning a disciple's relationship with earthly things, v22-34: i] The danger of an anxious preoccupation with life, v22-31. Proposition / exhortation, v22: Jesus calls on his disciples to cast aside "anxiety" for the security and protection of life that is seemingly gained by the accumulation of possessions, cf., Johnson. The following sayings establish the fact that "the security that many look for in possessions is to be found only in God", Bock. The point Jesus makes is that the goal of life is something more than just securing our earthly existence; such a preoccupation should not be the focus of our daily life.

eipen de "Jesus said" - but he said [to the disciples]. The conjunction de is contrastive. Jesus was speaking to the crowds in parables as usual, but now he spoke privately to his disciples.

dia touto "therefore" - because of this, on this basis. Causal construction. The question is, what basis? The following sayings are developing the punch-line of the parable, v21, although the fit is thematic rather than logical. Jesus' words certainly remind us that a person's security can never lie with their possessions, but rather, only with God.

merimnate (merimnaw) imp. "do not worry" - do not be anxious, worry, fret. Jeremias, Parables, argues that the sense is "to put forth effort" = "seek", so don't seek the things of the world but rather the kingdom of God, but the sense is more likely "unduly concerned" = "anxious". Possibly in the sense of preoccupied about the affairs of life, rather than anxious about them, given that some concern for our material welfare is necessary for survival.

th/ yuch/ (h) dat. "about your life" - the soul, inner life. Dative of reference: what not to worry about, namely, our being / person / existence ...

endushsqe (enduw) aor. subj. "[what] you will wear" - [what] you may put on. Deliberative subjunctive.

 
v23

Reason #1: Life is more than things, v23. Jesus states that "life is more than food, and the body more than cloths." Possessions, this world's things, are not just limited to worldly clutter, but include the necessities of life.

gar "-" - for. Expressing cause/reason, introducing a causal clause providing the reason why we should not be preoccupied with our physical security, "because" there is more to life than the everyday stuff of living.

yuch (h) "life" - soul, life. Is nothing more than "existence / physical life" intended here, or "spiritual life", "life in the kingdom of God", Evans, or "neither physical life nor spiritual life, but rather humanly meaningful and satisfying life", Nolland?

pleion adj. comp. "more" - much, many. This adjective functions as a substantive here. Life is obviously more than nourishment, but like the Rich Fool it is possible to see life secured by material possessions.

thV trofhV (h) gen. "than food" - of food, forage. The genitive is ablative, of comparison, as NIV.

 
v24

Reason #2. Because a believer is more valuable to God than things, v24. Nature tends to provide for its own and since we are the apex of God's creation (it is designed for us), then it will tend to provide for us as well. Jesus' point is that nature generally works. He is not saying it will provide if we have faith rather than diligence. He is just saying that nature provides, it works, and often works irrespective of us. So why be preoccupied with things?

katonohsate (katonoew) imp. "consider" - take note of, notice.

touV korakaV "the ravens" - crows. As unclean birds the point is, God feeds even unclean ravens.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what should be considered.

oi|V dat. "-" - to whom [there is not a storeroom or a barn]. Dative of interest, advantage, "for them" / possession. "They have no storehouse or barn", Barclay.

kai "yet [God feeds them]" - and. The conjunction here is concessive, ie. it introduces a concession, "and yet", "although".

posw/ (oV h on) dat. pro. "how much [more]" - how much more [are you worth than birds]. The substantive use of an interrogative pronoun of quantity, dative of interest, advantage. The object uJmeiV, "you", is obviously the disciples, those "more valuable, and as such objects of divine care due to their relationship with the kingdom. The lesson is not that we take no precautions for our security, given that God will feed us with much more than he feeds the ravens. What we have here is a "how much more" lesson. Given that God cares even for the ravens, "how much more" profound are his benefits toward us, benefits which transcends mere food. These benefits, primarily the now/not yet blessings of the kingdom, should be pursued and enjoyed. A Francis type interpretation of these benefits is not helpful, even though Francis was a wonderful example of simple living. See Evans' take above.

twn peteinwn (on) gen. "than birds" - of birds. The genitive is ablative, of comparison.

 
v25

Reason 3: Worrying by itself is futile and inefective, v25-26.

de "-" - but, and. Here serving as a connective and so left untranslated..

ex (ek) + gen. "[who] of [you]" - Here taking the role of a partitive genitive.

merimnwn (merimnaw) pres. part. "by worrying" - The participle is adverbial, probably instrumental expressing means, as NIV.

prosqeinai (prostiqhmi) aor. inf. "[can] add" - [is able] to add. Complementary infinitive, completing the sense of the verb "is able."

epi + acc. "-" - upon. Spacial, "adding to" when of a measure, specifying an accusative of measure.

thcun "a single hour" - a cubit = 46cm. Literally of adding length to the body, but often taken as adding a short span of time, an hour. Jesus often employs irony so, "add a single cubit to his stature", Cassirer.

thn hJlikian "life" - span of life, age / stature. The Biblical use of this word usually references stature, but again, age / life-span may be intended here. A preoccupation with things like food and clothing can't add an hour to our life. Obviously, we need to be preoccupied with gaining eternal life; "can worry make you live longer?" CEV. None-the-less, given the context and its focus on food, the point might be proverbial, namely that growth is dependent on nourishment rather than anxious thought; "who grows by worrying about his hight?", Danker.

 
v26

ei + ind. "since" - if. A first-class conditional sentence stating the given, "if, as is the case, ..... then ....". If we can't do the little, then we obviously can't do the much. If a preoccupation with little things doesn't get us anywhere, why be preoccupied with all the other stuff of existence, stuff that is beyond our control? "If you can't do a little thing like that, why worry about the rest of your life?" Barclay.

peri + gen. "about [the rest]" - Expressing reference / respect; "about, concerning."

 
v27

Reason 4: As God provides for nature so he also provides for the child of faith, v27-28. We can be totally preoccupied with our creativity and still not exceed the beauties of nature. Yet, if God creates the profound beauty of a flower which fades in a moment, "how much more" will he clothe his children in a beauty that is eternal!

katanohsate (katanoew) aor. imp. "Consider" - consider, understand. "Carefully fix your minds on", Hendriksen.

pwV "how" - Here forming an indirect question.

ou kopia/ oude nhqei "they do not labor or spin" - it does not labor or spin. The phrase refers to human industry and helps make the point that we can be totally preoccupied with design and production and still not exceed the wonders of nature.

periebaleto (periballw) aor. mid. "was dressed" - clothed himself. Probably best translated as a past event. Even Solomon's beauty can't surpass the natural beauty of one flower.

toutwn gen. pro. "[one] of these" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

 
v28

ei "if" - Forming a first-class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true, "if, as is the case, .... then ....." The verb "will he clothe" must be supplied for the apodosis. God does clothe the fields with grass, insignificant as it is, so he will clothe his children.

amfiezei (amfiezw) pres. "clothes [the grass]" - "If God so attires the grass that is in the field", Berkeley.

en + dat. "of [the field]" - in [the field]. Local, expressing space / sphere.

o[nta (eimi) pres. part. "which is here [today]" - being. The participle, as with ballomenon, "being thrown, is adjectival, attributive, limiting "the grass", as NIV.

ballomenon (ballw) pres. pas. part. "is thrown [into the fire]" - being thrown. Illustrating the insignificance of the grass which is gathered and bundled for kitchen fuel.

posw/ mallon "how much more" - how much more. An interrogative substantive pronoun of quantity with the dative of interest, advantage. The verb "will he clothe" is understood and so there are other possibilities, eg. "will he beautify", "will he care for." God will not just clothe his children as he clothes the fields, rather it is again a "how much more" picture. Jesus probably has in mind an eternal spiritual divine clothing, which is why we shouldn't be preoccupied with what we actually wear now.

okigopistoi (oV) "little faith" - Matthew uses this word a number of times, but Luke uses it only here. Many commentators suggest that this is a rebuke against those disciples who are anxious for their daily needs and who should know to trust God for them. The trouble is, as already noted, Jesus has not specifically promised to supply our daily needs, therefore, a faith in God's daily provision is misplaced. Faith is a reliance on the revealed will of God. God has promised an eternal home of abounding glory which far exceeds the glory of nature. A reliance on this truth, the "how much more" God has planned for us, quickly dispels any preoccupation with the fading images of this shadow-land. Those of little faith are those who believe that life consists in the "abundance of possessions."

 
v29

Reason 5: There is no need to be anxious for the Father knows of all our needs, v29-30. Given that there is more to life than eating and drinking, it is foolish to make our daily provision the focus of our life. Only "the pagan world runs after such things."

uJmeiV "-" - [and] you. Emphatic by use and position.

zhteite (zhtew) imp. "do [not] set your heart on" - do [not] seek. "Do not be intent on / be preoccupied with."

ti + subj. "what [you will eat]" - The interrogative pronoun with the deliberative subjunctive forms a dependent statement of perception expressing what not to set the heart on.

mh metewrizesqe (metewrizomai) pres. imp. "do not worry about it" - do not be preoccupied. The word is a hapax legomenon, ie. a once only use in the Bible. It means to be "lifted up", "puffed up", so here the sense of "get worked up over", or, as previously noted, "be completely preoccupied with." "What I'm trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God's giving", Peterson.

 
v30

gar "for" - Expressing cause/reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why the disciples should not be preoccupied with getting; because it is the preoccupation of secular society.

tou kosmou (oV) gen. "[the] pagan [world]" - [the nations] of the world. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, as NIV = "secular society."

epizhtousin (epizhtew) pres. "runs after" - continues to strive after. Plummer suggests the plural is used to express a distributive sense.

panta "all" - all. The clause may read "for these things all the nations of the world strive after", if "all" is taken with "nations", but given that "these things" obviously refers to "what you will eat and drink", then the sense is "all that maintains security."

tauta pro. "such things" - these things. Here serving as a substantive, as NIV.

oiden (oida) perf. "[and your Father] knows" - [but of you the Father] has known. The clause is similar to Matthew except that Luke drops "heavenly" and "all".

oJti "that" - that. Here forming an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what the Father knows.

crh/zete (crh/zw) pres. "you need" - Taking the sense "to have a necessary need of."

toutwn gen. pro. "[you need] them" - [you need] these things. Serving as a substantive, genitive of direct object after the verb crh/zete, "you need." The "them" presumably refers to the same "these things" at the beginning of the sentence, namely "what you will eat and drink."

 
v31

Reason 6: Everything belongs to the children of the kingdom, v31. The intention of Jesus' words here is a matter of some dispute. It is possible to establish from the sayings so far that the created order generally functions for our good, as it does for the birds, and so what a disciple needs to do is focus on eternal verities, rather than the next meal. The notes above provide four interpretive options that may apply to this saying; option [i] is unlikely, but is often promoted, eg. "It is far more important that you spend all your energy in search of the Kingdom of God, and let Him provide a way for you to acquire the few material things that you really need", Junkins.

plhn "but" - only, nevertheless, instead. Matthew has "first". The conjunction functions here as an adversive. Secular society chases after this world's things to maintain security, "but" believers should seek after the kingdom, for a disciple's security is ultimately found in eternal things.

zhteite (zhtew) pres. imp. "seek" - continue to pursue/seek [his kingdom]. The present tense gives the sense of ongoing habit. The meaning is vague: seek it out, seek to enter, seek to align with, seek to work for... By stitching the independent saying found in v32, Luke shapes the meaning in the terms of "seek the gift of the kingdom", "seek to possess", or even possibly, "seek to possess the blessings of the kingdom." So, "seek eternal life." Note, this verse, quoted by both Luke and Matthew, is the only reference in the synoptics to the kingdom being the object of a search. Note also it is "His kingdom", ie. "The Father's kingdom", although a variant "kingdom of God" exists.

autou gen. pro. "his" - The genitive may be classified as adjectival, possessive, or ablative, source/origin, or even verbal, subjective.

thn basileian (a) "the kingdom" - Given the context we may define the kingdom as the realm of God's gracious care.

tauta "these things" - Again obviously referring to the "what you will eat or drink."

prosteqhsetai (prostiqhmi) fut. "will be given" - will be given, added, put to. "God cares for his people as a shepherd for the flock", Green, cf. Ezk.34.

uJmin dat. pro. "to you as well" - to you. Dative of indirect object.

 
v32

Reason 7: God's kingdom, with all its blessings, is a gift that drives away fear, v32. Maintaining the theme of anxiety over the means of existence, Luke adds this sayings of Jesus. In this saying, unique to Luke, we are reminded that the uncertainties of life can easily drive fear promoting a state of anxiety, but it must be remembered that God's gift of his kingdom transcends the struggle for servival. As noted above, v31 leans toward rice-bowl-Christianity, but it seems likely that Luke has added this saying to move tauta, "these things", into the spiritual / eschatological / theological domain.

mh fobou (fobew) imp. "do not be afraid" - do not fear, worry. Fear brought on by the vulnerable nature of the "little flock."

to mikron poimnion "little flock" - Imaging the remnant of Israel, a diminutive people.

oJti "for" - Expressing cause/reason; introducing a causal clause explaining that there is no need to fear because the Father has willed to shower us with the kingdom and its associated blessings.

uJmwn gen. pro. "your [Father]" - [the Father] of you. The genitive is adjectival, relational.

eudokhsen (eudokew) aor. "has been pleased" - was well pleased. The tense seems to imply that the kingdom has already been given. It certainly has in Jesus and will be given in the day of glory, ie. the kingdom is a now/not yet reality. Yet, the sense here is probably "resolved", so "the Father has determined to give you the kingdom."

dounai (didwmi) aor. inf. "to give" - The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "was well pleased with / approved of". The kingdom is given as a gift rather than worked for.

uJmin dat. pro. "you [the kingdom]" - [the kingdom] to you. Dative of indirect object.

 
v33

ii] Treasure in heaven, v33-34. When the kingdom is our focus, the ceaseless chasing after the material props that secure the illusionary immortality of existence fades in importance. We are able to put them aside; their power is broken. This is because we have gained a treasure in heaven which provides an eternal security. Our "heart" being there, the things of this world grow increasingly dim.

pwlhsate (pwlew) imp. "sell" - Dispose of property, or provide services in exchange for money or other valuable considerations*.

ta uJparconta (uJparcw) pres. part. "possessions" - the things being possessed. The participle is used as a substantive, literally "that which is at one's disposal."

dote (didwmi) imp. "give [to the poor]" - give [alms (acts of mercy)]. The aorist tense expresses decisive action, while the wording of the sentence itself is, unlike Matthew, non-figurative. This exhortation to alms-giving exceeds the norm in that the giving is not just out of our abundance, but is the abundance/capital itself. See above for the idealistic nature of this saying.

poihsate (poiew) aor. imp. "provide [purses]" - make/do [money-bags / treasure-sacks]. The imagery is of making a treasure-bag that is subject to deterioration and theft, as compared to a permanent treasure-box in heaven which is not subject to deterioration and theft, ie. creating something that is permanent as compared to something that is impermanent. The problem with this imperative is that it is often linked with the giving of alms, when it is more likely linked to the gift of the kingdom, v32. We provide for ourselves an eternal treasure when we accept the gift of the kingdom. As a consequence, it is illogical to be overly focused on earthly treasure when we possess an eternal one.

eJautoiV dat. refl. pro. "for yourselves" - Dative of interest, advantage, as NIV.

mh palaioumena (palaiow) pres. pas. part. "that will not wear out" - not becoming old, wearing out, decaying. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "purses".

qhsauron (oV) "a treasure [in heaven that will not be exhausted]" - an [inexhaustible] treasure-box [in heaven]. Any secure receptacle, but obviously here a "treasure-box" is best. What actually is the treasure? Certainly the promised blessings of the kingdom, possibly God's good pleasure, the "well done thou good and faithful servant", although really only Jesus receives this commendation, a commendation we receive due to our association with him. The notion of heavenly reward for deeds done on earth is fraught with danger since it is by grace that everything is ours. In the end, the treasure is God's eternal blessings, given as a gift of grace through faith in Christ.

eggizei (eggizw) pres. "[where no thief] comes near" - The thief can't get near to steal it. "Where no thief can reach nor moth do its work of destruction", Cassirer.

 
v34

gar "for" - Expressing cause/reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why a disciple should practice "generous dispersal to the needy", because when we "follow the trail of the use of money ... it will lead you to the heart", Nolland.

o{pou "where" - Locative.

 

Luke Introduction

Exposition

 

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