Monday, May 28, 2012

Patience, Anxiety, and Resistance - Luke 12 – Living Free and without Fear in a Contrary World

(Click here to read Luke 12)

Luke 12:1-3 (ESV)
In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2  Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

Luke describes a great reversal. Jesus travels Galilee and then Jerusalem, gathering followers and preaching to the masses about a New Kingdom, the Kingdom of God, where everything is different. Mountains are brought down. Valleys are brought up. Rulers are removed. The humble are exalted. The proud are humbled. The rich are poor. The poor are blessed. The blind see. The deaf hear. Sins are forgiven. People are set free.

Along with this radical message of freedom, he also pronounces deep warnings for those on the wrong side of the coming change. Jesus warns the oppressive rich and comfortable that their time of laughter is coming to an end (chapter 6 - and notes). He pronounces judgment on towns that refuse his messengers (chapter 10 - and notes). So far, he has reserved his strongest and most specific warnings of judgment for the religious and political elite, the pharisees and lawyers, whom he calls hypocrites, unmarked graves, bowls buffed shiny on the outside but filled with greed (chapter 11 - and notes).

This is the scene we enter in this passage. Jesus does not leave his words of judgment hanging alone. He turns to the crowds, and explains the other side of the story. The rules and striving and control of the religious elite don't have the answer, but with the crowds Jesus willingly shares the freedom and good news of the Kingdom of God.

After warning them with a quick summary that they should not be like the pharisees in their hypocrisy, he tells the crowds that the truth of their inner lives will eventually be revealed. There is no need to put on a face as the religious people do. God knows our hearts anyway. We should instead humbly present ourselves as we are. In faith, we are forgiven and justified. In the kingdom, we do not judge and no one judges us. So we do not need to be afraid to be seen as the people God is making us. We are free. Neither need we fear the judgment of those who live outside of Kingdom principles. The most they can do is kill us. God justifies or condemns eternally. The reversal will set it right (vv4-7). He knows us utterly. The words and actions of the unrighteous and judgmental toward us are meaningless.

Jesus tells us that we will, in fact, be brought before the corrupt and controlling powers of the world to justify our free lives under the authority of the King. Jesus assures us that the Holy Spirit inside the believer will give them the words to say before the kings of the world (vv8-12). No fear.

The Kingdom is here, inaugurated in the life of Jesus on earth. But the Kingdom is also coming, to be consummated upon his return. Though the order is changing now, and we see it and participate in its change, a day will come when all will be put right, and justice will truly be finally served. Jesus promises the crowds that he will return, and they should remain ready (vv35-48).

He encourages his followers to keep watch on the reversal, the great struggle between the corrupt power of the orders of the world and the Kingdom of justice and peace that is growing from within. He describes family being torn apart as people choose sides in an epic battle toward the end (vv49-53). His warnings until now are not without reason. Those that seek to keep the selfish and corrupt order will not give up their power easily. But he encourages us to continue to persevere in peace and justice, submitted to God. If we keep our eyes on the sky, we know the end of the great reversal is coming (54-59). Do not remain in fear and anger toward one another. True justice is coming.

It is sobering to be reminded that this already-but-not-yet time of change does not come easily. It is hopeful to remember that the change is happening. We need not fear or lose heart. We are justified, forgiven, and freed by our faith in Jesus Christ. Like the woman with the issue of blood, and the sinful woman who is forgiven because of their faith, we are saved (Greek “sozo”), a present reality. God is making us fully whole, and the world along with us.


In the midst of such a resistance, Jesus says these beautiful words about living as agents of the Just Kingdom of God now.

Luke 12:22-31 (ESV)
22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24  Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

If God is my sole master, at the expense of wealth and earthly treasure, I must also trust that he will also be my sole provider. If earthly treasure is my master, I will be a slave to worry. If God is my master and provider, I will have nothing to worry about.

Psalm 23 – The Lord is my Shepherd. I have everything I need.

God gave us life. He gave us a body. Of course he can sustain it. Do not worry.

Philippians 4:6 – . . . do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

We can’t drive out worry with possessions, because possessions are just another thing to worry about. We cannot drive it out anxiety with striving for financial freedom or worldly acclaim, because these strivings are anxiety themselves. They become a temporary and uncertain foundation, because all stuff is temporary and uncertain. We can’t drive out cares with cares.

Anxiety always exists in tomorrow, while our things are only to be used for today (daily bread). There is no insurance in our things.

Jesus is speaking to very poor people, and for those who are not poor, he’s calling them to leave everything and become poor in themselves. These are the people he instructs not to worry about what they will eat tomorrow.

Our lives are small, weak, and short in comparison to the might and eternity of the living God. But God is willing to clothe the grass, which is gone in a moment. Of course he will take care of us. Grass is considered the least important of plants, bundled and burned for cheap fuel without thought. Throughout scripture, it represents the shortness and frailty of life.

If we believe God is our judge, provider, and king, we do not need to seek approval from people (Luke 12:1-12). God is our total satisfaction. We do not even look at our income as having come from our own efforts. We are simply obedient, and God is our provider.

This is a different Kingdom, a different order, a different way of being that requires a faith in a just God who really will fulfill his promises. If we do, we need not fear though the world be against us. We need not be anxious though our strange lifestyle of resistance marks us for fools in a world struggling for power. We need not hide under masks of hypocrisy, because our true judge knows our hearts and calls us righteous. We need not judge, because we know we are all equal both in our skullduggery and salvation by God's grace.

Psalm 23 (ESV)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3     He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the


vv20-21 – Our riches are before God. Earthly riches are worthless.
vv22-34 – God is our provider. This is why we do not need to worry or store up treasure on Earth.
v34 - Do not worry about tomorrow. Heavenly Father knows what you need.

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