Sunday, August 26, 2012

Luke 12:22-34 - The Wrong Kind of Fear

Worried! (photoloni)
There is a bumper sticker that you might have seen a few times: He who dies with the most toys wins. That driver is just the kind of person Jesus is most interested in helping in today’s passage. Jesus’ parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21) taught us that life is not about possessions. How foolish to spend one’s whole life accumulating things that death only strips away. People whose cars wear those kinds of bumper stickers go through life wearing spiritual blinders, always thinking horizontally, never lifting their eyes to see things from God’s perspective.

The two passages from last week and today are closely related and happened in the same incident in Jesus’ life. Jesus points out the wrong kind of focus and the wrong kind of fear. In the first, Jesus teaches us that the wrong kind of focus is on accumulating more and more possessions (Luke 12:13-21). In the passage before us today, Jesus teaches us that the wrong kind of fear is more and more worry about having everything provided that we need. Jesus teaches us to think vertically so that we can spend our precious energies and short number of days on thing that really matter in life.

Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 12:22-34 to teach believers that one’s focus should be not worry, but trust.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about genuine provision.
Key Verse: Luke 12:22
Pray and Read:  Luke 12:22-34

Since the beginning of his Gospel, Luke has focused on the importance of walking in faith and not in unbelief. Luke’s Gospel makes a major shift at Luke 9:51 where Jesus leaves his Galilean ministry and turns resolutely toward Jerusalem and His coming Suffering, Death, and Resurrection. Luke’s message of trusting Christ sharpens, and his warning against unbelief hones in on the very religious yet unbelieving Jewish leadership. 
Luke shows us that new resolute focus in chapters 10 and 11, calling us to realign our own priorities to those of our resolute Lord: First, the priority of His Gospel to the nations (Luke 10:1-24); second the priority of our love for our neighbors (Luke 10:25-37); third, the priority of His Presence (Luke 10:38-42) walked out a higher priority of prayer in our lives (Luke 11:1-13); fifth, the priority of Jesus’ authority in our lives (Luke 11:14-28) which calls us to a high priority on repentance (Luke 11:29-36).
First, Jesus condemns the wrong kind of religion – dead religion that is devoid of relationship with Him (Luke 11:37-54). Then he warns his disciples of hypocrisy and points away from the fear of man to the right kind of fear, the fear of God (Luke 12:1-12). Jesus next warns against materialism but instead to focus on being rich toward God (Luke 12:13-21), then warns against worry and encourages his disciples to trust the Lord for provision (Luke 12:22-34). The right kind of focus follows (Luke 12:35-59), then Luke’s outline calls us to the right kind of religion, one of repentance and grace (Luke 13:1-19).[1]
Luke 10:1-24              The Priority of His Gospel (for the nations)
Luke 10:25-37            The Priority of Your Love (for your neighbor)
Luke 10:38-42            The Priority of His Presence
Luke 11:1-13              The Priority of Your Prayer
Luke 11:14-28            The Priority of His Authority
Luke 11:29-36            The Priority of Your Repentance

Luke 11:37-54            The Wrong Kind of Religion (without relationship)
Luke 12:1-12              The Right Kind of Fear (not of men, but of God)
Luke 12:13-21            The Wrong Kind of Focus (not greed, but God)
Luke 12:22-34            The Wrong Kind of Fear (not worry, but trust)
Luke 12:35-59            The Right Kind of Focus
Luke 13:1-9                The Right Kind of Religion
Sermon Points:
1.   Not worry but trust: Focus on genuine provision (Luke 12:22-34)


a.   Luke 12:22-30 – Do not worry: (|| Matt 6:25-34). From the warning against greed, now Jesus positively applies his teaching to his disciples from abundant possessions (wealth) to an abundant life of trust and dependence on God, free from worry and anxiety. Jesus uses two Greek words here: anxious (merimnao “to be divided, distracted” like Martha Luke 10:41), and worrying (meteorizo “to be tossed like a ship at sea . . . to be in doubt”).[2] For his disciples, Jesus identifies fear as the source of greed (Luke 12:22). We are physical beings in a material universe, and we must have food, clothes, and shelter to survive. Yet he tells them not to worry about the food we need to eat nor the clothes we need to wear (Luke 12:22-23). Since God feeds the birds of the air and beautifully clothes the flower of the field, he will surely care for his own children.
b.   Why? Jesus gives six reasons why.
                    i.        First, He said a person is more than a body (Luke 12:23), and the total person needs more than material things. Jesus says we are not to fret about things that are not our responsibility (Luke 12:23). Should we stop working? No, but Jesus is warning us against being obsessed with these things to the point of distraction.
                  ii.        Second, He emphasized that all God’s creatures are under His care. The birds of the air neither sow nor reap, yet God feeds them (Luke 12:24). God views people as more important than ravens (Luke 12:25-26, 29-31), unclean birds and of no value (Lev 11:15; Deut 14:14), such careless creatures that the ancients said they failed to return even to their own nests, yet the Lord feeds them (“He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call” Psalm 147:9; Job 38:41), and ironically they fed Elijah (1 Kings 17:4, 6).
                iii.        Third, Jesus reminds them that they cannot extend their lives anyway (Luke 12:25-26). We worry about things we cannot change or control. We cannot add literally “a single cubit to his length” (Luke 12:25), height or life. A cubit is the approximately 18 inches from elbow to end of the hand. APPLICATION: Can you alter a hurricane’s path? Can you control people’s reactions? Can you make the stock market go up? Can you choose people’s attitudes and decisions for them? So why are you giving so much energy to those kinds of things you cannot change or control?
                 iv.        Fourth, Jesus says that people cannot provide as well as God can anyway. Take the lilies of the field. They are robed in greater glory than Solomon ever was (Luke 12:27; Song of Solomon 2:1; Solomon’s glory described in 1 Kings 10:4-23; 4:20, 22; 10:5; 2 Chron 9:13-21). No one is sure if Jesus was referring to a specific flower, but one interesting suggestion is the purple anemone, a contrast with the royal purple of Solomon’s robes.
                   v.        Fifth, God takes care of His own. God’s friends are more important than flowers (Luke 12:28-29). Dried grass was used to kindle fires (Psalm 37:2; 90:5-6; 102:11; 103:15; Isaiah 37:27).
                 vi.        Sixth, he reminds them that the Father knows what they need better than they do anyway (Luke 12:30). Luke 12:30 – Your Father: As a Father, God is merciful to us (Luke 6:36); dearly loves us (John 16:27); rewards us (Matt 6:1); Listens to us (Matt 6:6); knows and meets our needs (Luke 12:30), gives us good gifts (Matt 7:11); disciplines us (John 15:2; Heb 12). The pagans (Greek: “nations of the world,”) i.e., the Gentiles, run after these things. But instead, Jesus says, seek God’s kingdom, i.e., focus your life on things that have eternal value rather than on material things.
               vii.        Luke 12:31 – Faith: As an alternative to anxiety and fear, Jesus challenges them to faith, to trust Him. Seeking God’s kingdom means focusing one’s life on things that have eternal value rather than on material things (cf. Matt 6:33). The blessing of that future kingdom includes God’s faithful provision now. The one who trusts God to meet needs will find that He is faithful.
c.   APPLICATION: Jesus challenges us not to be anxious even about necessities and gives us two vital insights. First, we should not be anxious because we have a heavenly Father who cares for us. Second, we must not be anxious because that would shift the focus of our attention from God to the things of this world. Greed, or covetousness often has its root in insecurity. Insecurity is a form of fear. The person who tries to secure the future is the one who covets material things. Greed arises from idolatry of self, treasuring oneself more than anything or anyone else. What a man loves and treasures, he serves.
d.   Luke 12:32-34 – This passage brings an end to the section Luke 12:13-34, and invites a comparison to the rich fool at the beginning. Both passages make essentially the same point – that material possessions do not give life security. In Luke 12:13-21, the uncertainty of life is emphasized. Here the uncertainty of possessions is emphasized. Little flock: a fragile people cared for by God (Psalm 23:1; 28:9; 74:1; 77:20; Isaiah 40:11; Jer 13:17; Zech 11:11; 13:7). Give you the kingdom: This is the end-time rule of God’s people (Luke 22:30; Isaiah 41:10, 14). Treasure: One should place a priority on investing in eternal life rather than in possessions (Matt 6:19-21). Material treasures are fleeting and unreliable. Putting God’s kingdom first stores up treasures for eternity. This is why Jesus applies his teaching by telling them to sell their possession and give to the poor! If we will walk in faith toward Him, we would not only find provision in this life but also accumulate “treasure in heaven” (Luke 12:33). Jesus tells them to sell their possessions and ‘give alms’ to the poor, showing them practically how to lay up treasures in heaven (Luke 12:33). If we know that we have treasure in heaven, the need to hoard treasure on earth disappears (Luke 12:34). Jesus nowhere in the Scripture prohibits possessions, but he does teach that possessions should be placed within proper priorities. People and their needs matter, but there is little worth in possessions beyond one’s needs.
e.   APPLICATION: Jesus is not commanding us to make ourselves destitute (this is not a vow of poverty), but to give to the poor (don’t hoard your treasure) as a recognition that all our possessions are to be used for God’s purposes. What we treasure always gets priority in our lives. What receives most of your time and energy? What do you stand over and protect? What a man loves, he serves. Life is not about what we own – or think we own. Life is about God’s kingdom, because it will last.
f.    What should we do to change our priorities and focus on things that matter? First, we have to prepare before things happen. We must say to ourselves, “I want God’s will, not mine.” Then we will look at situations differently. We will have the energy to find opportunities to display Christ’s character and Kingdom to others. Second, we have to change the way we react after things happen. We must say to ourselves, “Lord, I trust You right now; I rest in Your provision. Now show me where you are at work, and I’ll make the adjustments to join you.”
g.   There are some dark days ahead because our leadership does not want to deal with things the way that need to be dealt with. You and I cannot let the idolatry of fear paralyze us because a plant closes and thousands are put out of work or because some crazy walks in your restaurant and starts shooting or because a tree falls through the roof of your house or because there are rumors of layoffs coming or because a doctor tells you they have found a tumor or because you got the teacher or the student no one wanted or because you think your spouse is involved with someone at work or because the Middle East is heating up again. Prepare yourself now so that when the Lord moves, you will not be running around with your hair on fire, but you will be a stable, solid place of provision for your family and neighbors.

F.F. Bruce, gen. ed. The International Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 1208-1209.
S. MacLean Gilmour, “Luke.” George Arthur Buttrick, gen. ed., The Interpreter’s Bible. Vol. 8 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1952), 8:227-231.
Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1993), 224.
David W. Pao and Eckhard J. Schnabel, “Luke,” G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson, gen. eds., Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 330-1.
Dwight J. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 313-315.
Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Reader’s Companion (Wheaton: Victor, 1991), 663.
David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996), 126.
Mark Strauss. “Luke.” Clinton E. Arnold, gen. ed. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 1:429-430.
Charles R. Swindoll and Bryce Klabunde, The Declaration of Something Mysterious: A Study of Luke 10:38-16:18 (Anaheim, CA: Insight for Living, 1995), 66-73.
Harold L. Wilmington, The Outline Bible (Nashville: Tyndale House, 1999), 539-540.

[1] Luke 11:14-17:11 are called the Perean Discourses, during a time of ministry in Perea just east of the Jordan from about Sept A.D. 28 to April A.D. 29 when he returned to Jerusalem for his final week of ministry. Perhaps because it was winter, Luke records more teaching than activities of Jesus. Luke is the only record of these days and teachings with the exception of Matt 12:22-45 and John 10:22-42; 11:1-54. Like the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (Luke 6:20-49), this period of ministry nearer Jerusalem was marked with much teaching and many parables. In the Perean Discourses, Jesus resumes, repeats, and reinforces with more fullness some of his Galilean teaching.
[2] Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 177.