The Long View of Things

I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! – Luke 12:4-5

If you didn’t already know it and I haven’t already clearly stated it, Luke is an amazing author. Ok, so he had the singular advantage of being inspired by God, but he was still involved there. The major section I’m currently reading is an example of this. It runs from 11:29 to 13:9 and the theme is about greed. Greed can manifest itself in a number of ways including hording or fame-seeking. “It is all about me” in both cases. The way that Jesus’ addresses this to his disciples, and the way Luke teaches us Jesus’ approach to resisting greed is surprising and arresting to me.

What Jesus and Luke stress is dependence on God but it is more nuanced than that. Jesus promises throughout that God will meet our physical needs (11:13, 12:22-30). I think this is the lesson often learned about battling greed, but that isn’t all Jesus has to say. The section begins with the Lord’s Prayer. We’re not just supposed to believe that God will provide, we’re supposed to ask and trust that he will.

The part of this section that really caught my attention this morning, however, is 12:49-56. Suddenly, it seems, Luke jumps to eschatology and at first glance, it seems out of place. But it really isn’t. Jesus’ dealing with greed has had an eschatological element in it all the way through. See the quote at the beginning of this post. Threaded all the way through this teaching has been an eye to the future.

So eschatology is another element in this greed battle. There is a day coming when the Master will return and judge his servants. We don’t know when he will come back, but when he does he’s going to sort things out in a most graphic manner (see verse 46). So Jesus is kind of fencing us in on either side here. Trust that God will provide (the carrot) and don’t forget that Jesus is going to return and bring judgment (the stick).

Neither of these are very surprising to me. I mean, we’ve heard both of these before. What occurred to me this morning was that there is a third thing in this: the measuring stick. The Pharisees and lawyers had the people fooled into thinking they were pretty good (11:33-34) and were, I’m sure, convinced themselves that they were doing the right thing. The illustration Jesus uses to show that they were rotten on the inside is how they care for others. The lawyers load people down with burdens (11:46) and do nothing to help them. They studied the law, figured out all the little details of how much to give and what to do and not to do and when to not do it and how often you had to… Bah. They accomplished all that and yet had no love for God or people (11:42). In the parables Jesus tells to illustrate this he speaks of a servant abusing his master’s goods and other servants (12:42-48).

So Jesus encourages us to trust God and not be greedy, to recognize that the greed inside us will be judged, and he gives us a diagnostic to see if we are being greedy without realizing it. How are you doing? I am convicted by the fact that I’m slow to care for others and actually (subconsciously) judge some as unworthy of my time and energy. I wonder if the outside of the glass isn’t sparkling clean while the inside isn’t still dirty.

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