Last week we left off in chapter 12. You may remember that, as Jesus was teaching, someone interrupted Him and said
Luke 12:13 "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me."
Jesus tells the interrupter: "Be on your guard against every form of greed." We are always subtly slipping back into the "more more more" mentality. The writer of the book of Hebrews exhorted us,
Hebr. 13:5 Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have
Paul, writing to Timothy, reminded him,
1Tim. 6:6-11 ...Godliness is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang. But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.
And writing from a prison cell, he told the Philippians,
Phil. 4:11-13 ...I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Luke 12:15 And He said to them, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions."
No matter how rich we may be, our lives don't consist of our possessions. But that really goes against the grain of our thinking, doesn't it? When we find out what someone does for a living, we form ideas regarding them. When we find out what neighborhood they live in, we think we know something about them. When we see what kind of car they drive, we make decisions concerning them. But these things don't have anything to do with who a person is or what that person is like. Jesus said, "Your life does not consist of possessions". We'll strive for riches, but for some reason, the person we really are, inside, we don't work on, we don't devote time to, we don't strive to elevate and improve. Proverbs 24 says,
Prov. 24:3-4 By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; And by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.
Riches and wealth mean nothing from God's eternal perspective. Your house will not be built by marble staircases and handcrafted oak trim - your house can only be built by wisdom. Your house will not be established by a landscaped yard and a redwood deck - it will be established by your understanding. Your rooms will not be filled by antique furniture or expensive decorations - they will be filled by knowledge. It is your heart and your mind - wisdom, understanding, and knowledge - that build your true fortune. The man in the parable shouldn't have been laying up treasure physically, he should have been storing up treasure spiritually.
When you die, God's not going to care what the highest income bracket you attained was, what neighborhood you lived in, or what car you drove. And believe it or not, neither are you! Imagine verse 20 being spoken to you:
Luke 12:20 ...God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?'
Now, it is very true that you can't take it with you - but you can send riches on ahead of you. You can lay up treasures in heaven. It is essential that we stop striving to invest in what we own, and begin to invest in who we are. Right now, in your life, what are you investing in that is eternal? Your house, your car, your job? No, those things will all be burned with fire. How can we be sending treasure on ahead of us to heaven? What can we invest in that is eternal? Jesus said,
Matt. 24:35 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away."
The Word is eternal! By taking in His Word, living it, loving it, and applying it, we are investing in eternity. Please don't get caught up in the cares and desires of this world... Jesus once asked,
Mark 8:36 "...What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?"
A man's life does not consist of his possessions.
Jesus has just taught us about the frustration of focusing on being rich, and the futility of fixating on what we have and how much we have. Now He says, "For this reason, stop worrying about food and clothing, and all of these earthly things." God can and will take care of the necessities in life. Your major concern should be on the spiritual, on living with the Lord, on living before the Lord, and on living for the Lord. Seeking first the kingdom of God, and He gives you what you need.
Because God provides for all of our needs liberally, He encourages us to be generous and giving people. Forsaking worldliness and helping the poor. It really shames us when we're out eating at Red Lobster, when we know a family that doesn't have enough money to buy bread. It shames us when we've got three or four cars to drive, and we know a family who's walking. John the Baptist said,
Luke 3:11 ..."Let the man who has two tunics share with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise."
Jesus said, "Sell your possessions and give to charity (Lk 12:33). We think, "What did He mean by that? I can't do that! Maybe I can interpret this spiritually, typologically, or loosely..." We can't. Jesus meant what He said and said what He meant. Is He telling you to be homeless for Him? Doubtful. But He is saying that since you have more than enough, you are to share with them who don't. An illustration of the reality of this fact is in the book of Acts. After the beginning of the church, we read that
Acts 4:32-35 ...The congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales, and lay them at the apostles' feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need.
Did you catch that? "The apostles had a powerful witness, and abundant grace for there was not a needy person among them..." That's why they had a powerful witness! Because they were living the life that Jesus had told them to! How much more powerful our witness could be if the world saw us putting the teachings of Jesus to action! Being giving instead of greedy, being selfless instead of selfish, being loving instead of judging.
It's been a long time since Jesus said He was coming back to get His church - over 1,900 years now. And there has been a tendency on our parts to become complacent. A tendency towards slothfulness. We've gotten spiritually sleepy. But Jesus said in Revelation 16,
Rev. 16:15 "Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake..."
He is coming like a thief. Thieves come when they're not expected. If you're going to be ready for a thief, you need to be constantly ready, 24 hours a day. That's the way we must be ready for Jesus' return.
I find it interesting that many people don't expect the Lord to return soon. "Oh, He's not coming until the end of the tribulation period", they say. And in one respect, that's true - He is coming to judge the world then. And yet, Jesus tells us that He's coming at an hour that we do not expect - that we won't know the day or the hour. But if I'm living during the tribulation period, I'll know exactly the day that Jesus is coming back. From the day that the antichrist commits the abomination that causes desolation, I'll simply count 3 1/2 years until Christ's return. From the time that "he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God" (2Ths. 2:4) it will be exactly 1,260 days until Christ comes conquering!
But the day that we do not know is a day that will happen before the anti-Christ is revealed: the rapture of the church, when the Lord comes and in the twinkling of an eye, He snatches us away from this world. The rapture must happen first, for many eschatological reasons, but the most obvious is, as Paul said in 2Thessalonians,
2Ths. 2:6-8 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. And then that lawless one will be revealed...
Who is this that restrains evil, lawlessness, and the antichrist from being revealed? The Holy Spirit working through the church. Before the antichrist can be revealed, the church must be gone. The post-tribulation view says, "Oh, there's no need to expect Christ's return yet - the tribulation hasn't even started! We've got at least 7 years left!" But the pre-tribulation view falls in line with the earnest expectation that Jesus told us to have constantly - to be dressed in readiness, so that whether He came soon, in the second watch, or even in the third, we would be ready. He is coming at an hour we do not expect. Do you expect Him in this hour? No? Then this hour is a perfect candidate for His return.
This is a very sobering passage. For Jesus is not talking about unbelievers, indeed, this servant will be assigned a place with the unbelievers. This the servant who is put in charge of the other servants, and responsible to give them their rations. I read that as being those in leadership, or specifically, teaching positions in the kingdom. James tells us something horrifying:
James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.
In John 21, Jesus told Peter, "Feed My sheep." He absolutely did not say, "Beat My sheep." A question addressed to those of us who are Pastors and Teachers: "Are you blessing your fellow servants, or are you beating them? Are you ministering to the people in the church, or are you mistreating them? Are you being gracious to God's people, or grievous to them?" Jesus said very clearly,
Matt. 7:21-23 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.' "
Pastors and Teachers: we are accountable for what we know, what we've heard, what we've learned, and what we've taught. Are you loving God's people like Jesus told you to? Are you forgiving others like Jesus told you to? Are you living your life like Jesus told you to? If you're just being a hearer, and not a doer of the Word, can such a faith save you? James says "no". Jesus says "no". Put your faith into action, and be an alert servant, one who has no need to fear his master's return.