Luke 12

 

 

The Lord, after leaving the Pharisees house, speaks at great length to a numerous

crowd waiting for Him, addressing His words principally to His own disciples. The

foregoing scene (ch. 11.), when the Master addressed His bitter reproaches to the

learned and cultivated of the great Pharisee party, took place in a private house

belonging to an apparently wealthy member of this, the dominant class. The name of

the large village or provincial town where all this happened is unknown. The

crowd who had been listening to the great Teacher before He accepted the

Pharisee’s invitation still lingered around the house. Many from the

adjoining villages, hearing that Jesus was in this place and was publicly

teaching, had arrived; so, when the Lord came out from the guest-chamber

into the street or market-place, He found a vast crowd — literally, myriads

of the multitude — waiting for Him. The words descriptive of the crowd in

v.1 indicate that a vast concourse was gathered together. His fame then

was very great, though His popularity was on the wane.

 

1 “In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable

multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, He began

to say unto His disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees,

which is hypocrisy.” In dwelling on this and similar expressions used by our Lord in

respect to the life and work of this famous section of the people who were

generally so bitterly hostile to Him and His teaching, we must not condemn

their whole character with a condemnation more sweeping than the

Master’s. Utterly mistaken in their views of life and in their estimate of

God, whom they professed to know, our Lord here scarcely charges them

with deliberate hypocrisy. These mistaken men dreamed that they

possessed a holiness which was never theirs; unconscious hypocrites they

doubtless were, without possibly even suspecting it themselves.

 

2 “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed;

neither hid, that shall not be known.  3 Therefore whatsoever ye have

spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light;” -  The day would come

when His estimate of this now popular teaching of the Pharisees would be

found to have been correct. Its real nature, now hid, would be revealed and

fully known and discredited; while, on the other hand, the words and

teaching of His disciples, now listened to but by few, and those of

seemingly little account, would become widely and generally known and

listened to -  “and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall

be proclaimed upon the housetops.”   These were flat, terrace-like roofs, and,

the houses generally being low, one who spoke from them would easily be

heard in the street beneath. These words have a strong Syrian coloring. The Syrian

house-top (in <401027>Matthew 10:27 and here) presents an image which has no sense

in Asia Minor, or Greece, or Italy, or even at Antioch. The fiat roofs cease at the

mouth of the Orontes; Antioch itself has sloping roofs.

 

 

                                    Hidden Things (vs. 2-3)

 

Our Lord’s affirmation implies that there is a great deal which has been

long beneath the surface, and we naturally ask Does God hide? And the

answer is — Yes, truly, “thou art a God that hidest thyself” (Isaiah 45:15)

He hides His own glory, that we may not be dazzled thereby; He hides the bliss

of the beatified, that we may not be discontented thereby. Like as a father hides

from his children many things which they will better learn a little later on, or had

better make out for themselves, so God hides many things from us for the very same

reasons. But He has so hidden treasures of truth and wisdom from us, that we have

every possible inducement to search for them, and FULL CAPACITY TO FIND

THEM! (God told man to do two things in the beginning:  [Genesis 1:28] – this

means fill the earth with people and find out its secrets! – CY – 2012)     

 

·         THE PROVISION MADE FOR OUR TEMPORAL WELFARE..  Did

He not hide the coal, the copper, the iron, the lead, the silver, the gold, that

we might discover, might raise, might refine, might shape them to our use?

And the corn which he gives us to eat, the raiment to wear, the music to

enjoy, — these are only to be had by searching, by inquiry, by study, by

endeavor. The powers of steam, of electricity, were long hidden from the

knowledge of mankind, but they, with the other secrets of the world, such

as the Space Age, computers, Information Age, have become known.

These are preliminary to what God really planned to do!  God’s great

purpose is to redeem the whole human race from sin, spiritual servitude

and degradation;  His purpose to accomplish this by coming to the world

in the Person of his Son Jesus Christ was hidden in Old Testament promises,

and in the Law given by Moses; it was there, undiscovered by any but a few

discerning souls; and it was not  revealed unto the sons of men” (Ephesians

3:5) until, enlightened by the Spirit of God, the  apostles made known the

riches of His grace. There are still some things in connection with Christian

doctrine which may be said to be hidden, but which sooner or later will be

revealed and known.

 

·         HIS SAVING AND SANCTIFYING TRUTH. Paul speaks much of

“the mystery hidden from the generations,” i.e. God’s great purpose to

redeem, not a nation from political bondage, but the whole human race

from spiritual servitude and degradation; his purpose to accomplish this by

coming to the world in the Person of his Son Jesus Christ. This was hidden

in Old Testament promises, and in the Law given by Moses; it was there,

undiscovered by any but a few discerning souls; and it was “not revealed

unto the sons of men” until, enlightened by the Spirit of God, the apostles

made known the riches of his grace. There are still some things in

connection with Christian doctrine which may be said to be hidden, but

which sooner or later will be revealed and known.

 

·         HUMAN CHARACTER AND HUMAN LIFE. There are depths of

secrecy in these human hearts of ours. Evil thoughts may hide there

unknown to any but to those that entertain them; nay, may lurk and work

within the soul unsuspected even by that soul itself. For men are both

better and worse than they know themselves to be. What purity and

gentleness and self-sacrificing love may steal silently through life, and may

pass and be forgotten! what deeds of truest heroism may be wrought which

no pen records and no tongue recites.  Yet the wrong shall be exposed, and

the right be understood and honored; human character shall be read in the

light of truth; the guilty shall be humbled and the upright be exalted “in that

day.”  (Something that MUST BE REMEMBERED in our day!  CY - 2021)

 

Ø      Our duty. It is that of:

 

o        Exposure. Tear the mask from the hypocrite; let the covering be torn

off the false man, the charlatan, the betrayer of the soul, with a firm

and fearless hand; make him stand out before his fellows stripped of

his pretences; make it true that “there is nothing covered, that shall

not be revealed.”

 

o        Disclosure. Live to teach, to enlighten, to enlarge. Let the secret of

health, of wisdom, of usefulness, be published on every hand. Tell all

you can reach — the children in the school, the sick by the bedside,

the loiterers by the wayside, the congregation in the cottage, or the

hall, or the church — the secret of pure and lasting joy, of real and

true success.

 

Ø      Our danger.Since God will cause the hidden things to be known,

since He will “bring to light the hidden things of darkness

(I Corinthians 4:5),  and make manifest the counsels of all hearts,”

since He “will judge the secrets of men” (Romans 2:16) well may

the guilty shudder, well may we all ask — Who shall abide that solemn

hour? But there is an alternative. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses

from all sin”  (I John 1:7).  True penitence and genuine

faith will secure for us such a covering that nothing shall be revealed.

There is a Divine forgiveness which swallows up and hides for ever the

wrong that we have done.  (Psalm 130:4,7)

 

Ø      Our hope. “And then” — at that day — “shall every man have praise

      of God”  (I Corinthians 4:5) i.e. every man who is, in the true sense,

praiseworthy; every man to whom Christ will be free to say,

“I was hungry, and ye gave me meat; for inasmuch as ye have done

it unto one of the least of these , my brethren,, ye have done it unto

me.” (Matthew 25:35, 40)  He who does good “to be seen of men”

(ibid. ch. 23:5), has his reward now; his recompense is exhausted here.

But he who works for Christ and for men in the spirit of his Master

has not his reward now; he has only a foretaste of it. The best of it

has yet to come. AND IT WILL COME,  for there is nothing hidden

that shall not be revealed. Blessed is the quiet, humble life of

unpretending goodness, which is like the silent spring that makes the

meadows green; from such lives as these come deeds of loveliness and

usefulness to be made mention of by the lips of the Lord Himself, when

the things that are covered now shall be revealed, and the things which

man overlooks God will own and honor.

 

 

 

Hypocrisy (v. 1-3)

 

 

4  “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that

kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.”  All this the

Master knew was true and would shortly happen, His words were verified

before fifty years had passed. The triumphant success of the great Christian

preachers and the discredited condition of the old rabbinic schools is

testified to by such words as we find in Paul’s letters. “Where is the

wise? where is the scribe?” (I Corinthians 1:20). But this success the

Master well knew would be accompanied with many a suffering on the part

of the heralds of His message. Persecution in its many dreary forms would

dog their footsteps; a death of agony and shame not unfrequently would be

their guerdon. It was, for instance, we know, the earthly recognition of that

devoted servant of the Lord (Paul) who, we believe, guided the pen of

Luke here. This painful way, which His disciples must surely tread, had

already been indicated in no obscure language by the Master (“some of

them” — my apostles — “they shall slay and persecute,” ch.11:49).

A triumph, greater than any which had ever been given to the sons of men,

would surely be theirs, but the Master would not conceal the earthly price

which His chosen servants must pay for this splendid success. There was a

point, however, beyond which human malice and enmity were utterly

powerless; He would have His servants turn their thoughts on that serene

region where men as men would have no power.

 

5 “But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear Him, which after He hath

killed hath power to cast into hell;” -  literally, into Gehenna. This is simply

Gee-hinnom, valley of Hinnom,” translated into Greek letters· This valley was

situated in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, and originally was noted for the infamous

rites practiced there in the worship of Moloch, in the times of the idolatrous kings

of Judah. King Josiah, to mark his abhorrence of the idol-rites, defiled it with corpses;

fires were subsequently kindled to consume the putrefying matter and prevent

pestilence. The once fair valley, thus successively defiled with hideous

corrupting rites, by putrefying corpses, and then with blazing fires lit to

consume what would otherwise have occasioned pestilence, was taken by

rabbinical writers as a symbol for the place of torment, and is used not

unfrequently as a synonym for “hell.” The translators of the Authorized

Version have done so here. The reminder is, after all, we need not fear

men. When they have done their worst, they have only injured or tortured

the perishable body - “yea, I say unto you, Fear Him.”  The One whom all

have good reason to fear is God, whose power is not limited to this life, but

extends through and beyond death.

 

                                   

 

                                    The Power to Hurt and Bless (vs. 4-5)

 

We are admonished of:

 

·         THE POWER WHICH MAN HAS TO HURT US.

 

Ø      He can wound our body. He can smite, can wound, can slay us. The sad

story of human persecution contains only too many illustrations of this

fact.

 

Ø      He can wound our spirit. This is a course he can, and still does very

often take; he can mock, can sneer, can indulge in heartless ribaldry, can

hold up our most sacred convictions to ridicule, and thus he can inflict on

us a very deep wound. For words, though they may be the slightest, are

yet the keenest of weapons, and “a wounded spirit who can bear?” 

(Proverbs 18:14)

 

Ø      He can tempt us to evil. This is the worst thing he can do; he can make

the evil suggestion, can give the perilous invitation, can make the guilty

overture, which leads down to sin and to spiritual failure. There is no

measure of pain he can inflict, or loss he can cause us to suffer, which

equals in shamefulness this act of dark temptation. That is the deadly

thing to do.

 

·         THE LIMITATION OF HIS POWER. Beyond these lines our worst

enemies cannot go.

 

Ø      No man can follow us into the unseen realm. Beyond the veil we are

safe from the questions of the inquisitor, the blows of the tyrant, the

suggestions of the tempter. These may hunt us to very death, but “after

that have no more that they can do.” (v. 4)  Truly, if this life were the

sum of our existence, that would be much indeed — it would be

everything. But since we know that it is not so, but only its first short

term, only its initial stage, only its brief introduction, we may console

our hearts with the thought that it is no great harm that the strongest

potentate, with the sharpest sword, can do us.

 

Ø      No man can compel us to sin. A sinful deed includes the consent of the

agent; and all the forces of iniquity and error can never compel a true and

brave soul to assent to an evil act. The only great harm that can be done us

is that which we do ourselves when we “consent to sin” when men tempt

us to sin, — after that there is no more that they can do; if more is done, it’

the line is crossed, it is of our own accord; the tempting is theirs, the

sinning is ours.

 

·         THE ONLY ONE OF WHOM WE HAVE TO BE AFRAID. “Fear

Him,” etc.; i.e. shrink from the disfavor of that Divine Lord of the human

spirit who can punish according to our desert. To shrink from the

condemnation of God is not an unworthy act on our part. It is both right

and wise; for His condemnation is that of the Righteous One, and of the

Mighty One also. It is only the guilty that are lost to all sense of obligation,

and the foolish that are dead to all sense of prudence, who will be

indifferent to the anger of God. Fear God’s solemn displeasure, for if He

rebukes it is certain that you are grievously in the wrong; fear it, for if He

inflicts penalty there is none to deliver out of His hand, and, what is more,

even death, that does deliver from the hand of man, is no shield from His

power. Beyond the veil we are as much within His reach as we are on this

side of it. There is every reason why we should seek and find His Divine

favor, and live in the light of His countenance. We may go on in our

thought, and be reminded by our Lord’s words of:

 

·         THE ONE WHOSE FRIENDSHIP WE SHOULD SEEK. “I say unto

you, my friends. We do not simply want to escape the wrath of an

offended Judge; we aspire to his favor and his love. Jesus Christ is offering

us His friendship (see John 15:14-15). If we will cordially accept Him

for all that He desires to be to us, we shall find in Him the Friend in whom

we shall implicitly confide, whom we shall gladly and happily love, by

whose side and in the shelter of whose guardian care we shall walk all the

            way till the gates of home are reached.

 

6 “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is

forgotten before God?  7  But even the very hairs of your head

are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many

sparrows.”  Though persecution and bitter suffering, even death, may be the

guerdon of the Lord’s true servants here, none of these things can happen

without the consent of God. This thought will surely give them courage to

endure. Suffering undergone in God’s service, inflicted, too, with His entire

consent, so that the suffering becomes part of the service, — what an

onlook is afforded to the brave, faithful servant by such a contemplation!

Oh the welcome from God he is sure to meet with when such a death has

been endured! These extreme instances of God’s universal care — His

all-knowledge (omniscience) of everything, however little and insignificant,

belonging to His creatures — are chosen to give point to the Master’s words.

If He knows of the death of these little, almost valueless, birds — ay,

 even of the falling of one of the many hairs of your head surely you

cannot doubt His knowledge of, His caring for, the life or death of

one of His proved and gallant followers. These little sparrows were sold

in the markets, strung together, or on skewers.

 

8 “Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him

shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God.”

The great Teacher pursues the subject of the future of His disciples. It is by

no means only to a wise fear of that God, whose hand stretches beyond

this life, that He appeals as a mighty inducement for His servants utterly to

disregard all dangers which may meet them in the course of their service;

He tells them, too, of a splendid recompense, which will assuredly be the

guerdon of all His true followers. Before that glorious throng of heavenly

beings, whose existence was a part of the creed of every true Jew; before

the mighty angels, the awful seraphim; before that countless crowd of

winged and burning ones who assisted at the awful mysteries of Sinai,

would they who witnessed for Him, and suffered because of Him, be

acknowledged by Him. Their sufferings in the service of the King of

heaven, whom they knew on earth as the poor Galilee Teacher, would be

recounted before the angels by the same King of heaven, when He returned

to His home of grandeur and of peace in heaven.

 

9 “But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before

the angels of God.”  Splendid as would the recompense be to the faithful

and the loyal, equally shameful would be the guerdon meted out to the

cowardly and faint-hearted. Before the same glorious throng would the

King detail the failure, through slavish fear, of those whom He had chosen

for so royal a service. Such an announcement as this proclamation of glory

and of shame before the holy angels, in which stupendous scene He, the

poor Galilaean Rabbi, was to play the part of the Almighty Judge, could

only have been made in the last weeks preceding His Passion. All reticence

was then laid aside. Before friend and foe, in public and in private, in these

last solemn weeks Jesus tore away the veil of reticence with which He had

been pleased hitherto in great measure to shroud His lofty claims, and the

Master now declared before all that he was the King of kings, the Lord

alike of angels and of men. In the face of such an announcement, His

prosecution by the priests and the Pharisee party for blasphemy naturally

follows. He was either a daring impostor or, in the latter case, to the poor

Galilee Rabbi belonged the Name of names which no Jew dared to

pronounce.

 

 

 

                                    Confessing Christ (vs. 8-9)

 

From these solemn words we gather:

 

·         THAT CHRISTIANITY CENTERS IN THE PERSON OF JESUS

CHRIST. Our Lord taught us much concerning ourselves — the

inestimable value of our spiritual nature; the real source and spring of evil

in our own souls; the true excellency of a human life; whom we should

regard as our neighbor, etc. But He taught us still more of Himself — of His

relations with the Divine Father; of His essential superiority even to the

greatest among mankind; of His sorrow and His death on behalf of the

human race; of His mission to enlighten, to redeem, to satisfy the souls of

men. And He not only affirmed, but frequently and emphatically urged, the

doctrine that, if we would enter into life, we must come into the very

closest personal relation with Himself — trusting in Him, loving Him,

abiding in Him, following Him, making Him Refuge of the heart, Sovereign

of the soul, Lord of the life. Not His truth, but Himself, is the Source of our

strength and our hope.

 

·         THAT JESUS CHRIST DEMANDS AN OPEN CONFESSION OF

OUR FAITH IN HIM. More than once (see Mark 8:38) He insisted

upon a clear recognition of His authority and regal position. He will have us

“confess Him before men.” How shall we do that?

 

Ø      In a heathen country, by avowing the Christian faith, renouncing

paganism and declaring before all that Jesus Christ is the one

Teacher  of truth and Lord of man.

 

Ø      In a Christian country, by making it clear that we have accepted Him as

the Lord whom we are living to serve. We shall probably think it right to

do this by attaching ourselves to some particular Christian community;

also by regular, public worship of Christ; but certainly, in all cases,

 

o       by paying honor to His Name;

o       by upholding against His enemies the truth and worth of

o       His religion;

o       by translating His will into active human life in all its

      departments — domestic, social, commercial, political,

ecclesiastical.

 

·         THAT COMPLIANCE WITH HIS DEMAND WILL SOON PROVE

TO BE AN ACT OF THE FIRST IMPORTANCE. The day draws on

when we shall meet our Master: then will He tell us what He thinks of us.

Then, if we have failed to honor Him, He will refuse to honor us “before the

angels of God.” What is involved in that denial? The worst of all exclusions

— exclusion from the favor, from the home, of God. And then, if we have

honored Him, He will acknowledge us as His own. And what will that

include?

 

o       Acceptance with the Judge of all.

o       The expression of His Divine approval — the “well done” of the Lord.

o       Admission to the heavenly kingdom, with all its advancing glory, its

            deepening joy, its extending influence, its enlarging life.

 

10 “And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man,

it shall be forgiven him:”  - And yet even that offense, which consisted in

playing the renegade and the coward; which refused to suffer for Him here;

which, out of slavish fear of man, consented to abandon His pure and

righteous cause; — that offense, which would be proclaimed before the

angels of heaven, would in the end find forgiveness. Some commentators

point, as an illustration of this, to the fact of the dying Lord praying on the

cross for His murderers; but the offense alluded to here, which should in the

end be blotted out, was of far deeper dye. He prayed on His cross for those

Romans who sinned, but sinned in the face of little light. But this

forgiveness was to be extended to men who, through fear of men and love

of the world, should deny Him whom they knew to be their Redeemer. This

is one of the most hopeful passages which treats of sin eventually to be

forgiven, in the whole New Testament. But even here there is no so-called

universal redemption announced, for in the next sentence the Lord goes on

to speak of a sin which He emphatically said shall never have forgiveness -

“but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be

forgiven.”  What is this awful sin? We have only to speak of its connection

in this place. Here there is no possibility of mistake; it was that determined

hatred of holiness, that awful love of self, which had induced the Pharisee

leaders to ascribe His beneficent and loving works to the spirit of evil and

of darkness. The accusation was no chance one, the fruit of impulse or of

passion. They who accused Him knew better. They had beard Him teach,

not once, but often; they had seen His works; and yet, though they knew

that the whole life and thoughts and aspirations were true, who were

conscious that every word and work was holy, just, and pure, in order to

compass their own selfish ends, simply because they felt His life and

teaching would interfere with them, they dared to ascribe to the devil what

their own hearts told them came direct from God. This sin, now as then,

the merciful Savior tells us has no forgiveness.

 

11 “And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto

magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye

shall answer or what ye shall say:”   The Master comes back again to His

old calm, and continues His loving instructions to His disciples; and turning again

to the little group of His friends, He says. to them.” When they bring you before

hostile tribunals, special help, you will find, will be given you. Have no fear,

then, that you will be wanting in wisdom or courage; the Holy Spirit of God will

be your Advocate, and will whisper to you words for your defense.” The

best example of this supernatural aid to the accused followers of Jesus

which we possess is the grave and stately apology of Stephen before the

Sanhedrin (Acts 7).  Peter’s speech before the same tribunal, and Paul’s before

Felix and Festus, are also fair instances.  (Ibid. chps. 24-25)  12 “For the

Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.”

 

 

 

            An Evil to be Shunned, and a Virtue to be Cultivated (vs. 1-12)

 

Jesus had been partaking of the light forenoon meal with a Pharisee. In this

Pharisee’s house He proclaimed war to the death with the bigots who had

been dogging His steps. A small fire may kindle much wood. For some

reason unknown to us, He had omitted the washing of hands before sitting

down to meat. Instantly the whole company turned on him with scowl and

sneer and shrug. And the action of the Truth incarnate, in reply to this, was

the utterance of the six “woes” — scathing thunderbolts — which St. Luke

has recorded between vs. 42 and 52 of the previous chapter. His

utterance was the signal for something like a riot (vs. 53- 54). Ah! thou

Son of Mary, thou Meekest and Lowliest, the column has turned. Hitherto

thy progress has been, not without contradiction of sinners, but for the

most part one of sweet poetries — unbounded the wonder and generous

the admiration of the people. Thine enemies have been kept back; they

have been held in restraint by the lightning which has flashed from thee.

But now thou must enter on a new phase of thy ministry; henceforth the

issues towards which thou hast been looking will be hastened.

 

“Ride on, ride on in majesty!

The winged squadrons of the sky

Look down with sad and wondering eyes

To see the approaching sacrifice.”

 

“In the mean time,” whilst the dinner with its tumultuous conversation is

proceeding, the crowd has so accumulated that “many thousands are

gathered together.” They are so eager to hear the Prophet that some

persons are trodden down. To this seething mass Christ comes forth, His

heart stirred by the controversy, vehement and provocative, which single-

handed He had sustained. Most natural, in view of the circumstances

related, is the discourse which follows, addressed immediately to His

followers, but reaching the ear of “the many thousands.”

 

·         First, there is the word as to “the leaven of the Pharisees, which is

hypocrisy (vs. 1-3). Hypocrisy was the evil which permeated and

vitiated their action. What is meant by hypocrisy? The hypocrite is “the

man who has to play a part, to maintain a reputation, to keep up a

respectable position, to act consistently with the maxims of the party to

which he is allied, or the profession to which he belongs.” As thus

interpreted, is not the “beware!” of the afternoon long ago, a “beware!” for

this day as well? “Pharisee” and “Sadducee” are words which no longer

distinguish classes; but when the classes which they once designated are

studied, it is found that, for what was most characteristic of each, there are

correspondents among us. Let it not be supposed that the Pharisee was

nothing else than a sanctimonious charlatan, a mere pretentious formalist.

He was the representative of the more earnest religious spirit. The

Sadducee was generally a wealthy man, one belonging to the ruling order.

Content with easy and low standards, the worldly or rationalistic Jews

belonged to the party comprehended by the name. The Pharisee disowned

such a conception of religion. He would not have any fellowship with such

latitudinarianism. To him the Law was the Law of God, and he was bent on

keeping it to its minutest point. In over-zeal he even added, to the

observances enjoined, observances which might be inferred or which had

been added by rabbins. The traditions of the elders were, in his view, a

supplement to the Law and the prophets. “It is needless,” as has well been

observed, “to show that there was something in Pharisaism worthy of

admiration, for this is implied in the charge brought against the Pharisees of

our Lord’s time. They were accused of being hypocrites, of not being what

they pretended to be; in which it is implied that, if they had really been

what they seemed, they would have deserved the praise they claimed. And

doubtless there were some whose goodness was more than outside show,

both in the first original of the sect, and in those later times when Pharisaic

culture prepared the soil on which the seeds of the gospel most readily

flourished; for to this sect belonged the majority of the first converts, and

the many thousands (like Paul) who believed are all described as ‘ zealous

for the Law.’” Any one playing the hypocrite will prefer the Pharisee type. The

scanty clothing of the Sadducee will not suit; the fitting dress is the long

robe and the well-phylacteried garment of the Pharisee. The devil’s homage

to truth, which hypocrisy has been declared to be, is more becomingly

rendered in such a garb. A part-actor! Ah! we need to be reminded that

this is a character still to be found in the religious world.  Bunyan in

Pilgrim’s Progress  introduces us to persons who are not mere fictions —

My Lord Turnabout, my Lord Fair-speech, Mr. Smooth-man,

Mr.Facing-both-ways, the parson Mr. Two-tongues; the points  in which all

agree being “that they never strive against wind and tide, and that they are

always most zealous when religion goes in his silver slippers.” A part-actor!

Almost unconsciously, we play a part which marks an excess of what we have

ourselves verified — a part beyond, if not covering, the very thought of the

soul. “Beware of the leaven!” Milton describes hypocrisy as “the only evil

that walks invisible except to God alone.” To be real, not to be a Mr.

Facing-both-ways, is one of the great lessons of the life of Christ. In any

diagnosis of human nature, we must remember the mixture to be found in

character. Few persons intend, deliberately and systematically, to lie to God

and man. The Pharisees whom our Lord condemned were not — at least

we may in charity so suppose — intentionally false. If they prayed to be

seen of men, we need not imagine that they secretly mocked at and

disbelieved in the duty of prayer. The leaven was the endeavor to maintain

a reputation with which they were credited; so much had this endeavor

gained on them, that they were far more anxious about it than about their

possession of truth in the inward parts. And thus they became part-actors.

Now, so with regard to ourselves and our fellow-men. A person is

observed doing, in some directions or at some times, what is inconsistent

with his conduct at other times or in other directions· And worldly minded

people, always eager to scent blemishes, cry out, “Hypocrite!” This is a

harsh, and may be a wrong, judgment. A lapse from the standard aimed at

does not evidence insincerity. Nay, those who observe most closely the

facts of life, can often trace what seems a two-foldness of self. The Apostle

Paul in a most striking passage (Romans 7.) has described the struggle in

his own heart, the contending laws, the spiritual and the carnal, the

oppositions and thwartings of the sin that dwelt in him — oppositions so

fierce that it seemed as if he were sold under sin. “O wretched man that I

am!” he cries. His hope, his triumph, is, “I thank God through Jesus Christ

our Lord” (Ibid. vs.24-25).  Looking up to Jesus Christ, he saw his right and

higher self; looking down on the evil ever present with him, on the body of death in

which he appeared to be enslaved, he saw the lower and the wrong self. “I

myself with the mind serve the Law of God; but with the flesh the law of

sin” (Ibid.).  The one feature in this portrait is the determination of the will. That

was God’s; the deflections from it were the signs of an alien force from

which he wished to be free. So long as this feature is predominant, the

sanctification may be imperfect, but the life is true. What constitutes

hypocrisy is appearing to be what one is not; concealing the want of piety

in the heart under the cloak of piety in the action; such a study of outward

effect that the conduct gradually becomes a tissue of dishonesties. This

posing to be something and this anxiety about the pose rather than the

truth constitute the leaven of hypocrisy. “Be no part-actor,” says Christ

(vs. 2-3); no whisperer in darkness, be no mutterer in the ear in inner

chambers. Be not one thing in secret, and another thing in public. Keep

clear of pretences of all sorts. Remember, concealment cannot avail. Walls

have ears. The universe has its libraries on which all that is whispered is written.

And there is an Eternal Truth to whom all hearts be open, all desires known,

and from whom no secrets are hid!

 

Next, there is the word as to courage. Is it not the word which we might expect from

Him who had defied the most compact order in the land? Listen to the Christian’s

“Fear not,” and the Christian’s “Fear·” “Fear not man, having power only over

the body” (v. 4). Have the courage of your convictions. Trust in God and do the right.

Fear God (v. 5). Fear not to speak the truth; fear to tell the lie. “Yea, I say unto you,

fear the Eternal Righteousness.’ The lesson is enforced by three considerations.

 

  • The value to God of every true and honest life (vs. 6-7). Not one

sparrow is forgotten, not one of the tiniest and least valued of God’s

creatures is outside His care. Every hair on your head is numbered. You

are dear to God. He is waiting for you to work with Him. The life of

 each of you is of value to Him. Fear not.

 

  • The danger of trifling with conviction (vs. 8-10). Do not refuse, for

some fear of man, to give effect to it. You may possibly, says the Lord,

quench the Holy Spirit This was the sin of the Pharisees This is the

unpardonable sin. A word against Jesus may be spoken “ignorantly in

unbelief;” and the Redeemer says, “Father, forgive for they Know not

what they do” But to shut the eye to the light, to refuse to see light as light,

to sophisticate the voice of God’s Spirit speaking through reason and

conscience, this is to destroy the possibility of spiritual health. Christ

says to the disciples, “To confess me before men, no matter what the

consequences to yourselves, is to deliver your souls, is to realize the

confession in heaven; to deny me is to lose the fellowship of the holy

angels, is to approach the confines of the sin which shall not be forgiven.”

 

  • The support assured for all testimony to Him (vs. 11-12). God is ever

on the side of the true. Christ bids these who confess Him dismiss anxiety

when brought to “synagogues, magistrates, and powers.” They are never

alone. Moses — the stammering, had his Aaron with him when he went in

unto Pharaoh. A Mightier than Aaron is with the most timid and

stammering of the confessors of the kingdom of God. “The Holy Ghost

shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.”

 

 

 

                                    A Call to Courage (vs. 1-12)

 

The commotion between the scribes and Pharisees and our Lord seems to

have increased His audiences, as we find “an innumerable multitude,” as the

Authorized Version has it, or “the many thousands of the multitude,’’ as

the Revised has it, treading on one another in eagerness to hear Him. And

His subject at this time is important — a denunciation of Pharisaic

hypocrisy and a call to courage under their certain opposition. And here we

have to notice:

 

·         THE CURE FOR HYPOCRISY. (vs. 1-3.) Our Lord brings this out

in a distinct revelation that everything is yet to be dragged into the light of

day. These are His words: “There is nothing covered [‘covered up,’

Revised Version’], that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be

known.” There is nothing in nature which would lead us to such a

wonderful truth; it is a matter of distinct revelation. Everything, it appears,

is constructed on the public principle. We are all living public lives if we

only knew it. All attempts at secrecy are destined to prove failures;

consequently, hypocrisy is a mistake. It can impose only for a time; sooner

or later it will be exposed and despised. Hence our Lord recommends the

people to speak, if they have to do so, in the darkness only what they are

willing should be heard in the light, and to whisper in closets only such

things as may be proclaimed on the housetops. By God’s arrangement

secrecy is impossible, and publicity the inevitable destiny of all and of

everything. It is consequently this persuasion of ultimate publicity which

constitutes the Divine remedy for hypocrisy. All hypocrisy proceeds from

forgetfulness or disbelief of this.

 

·         THE EXPULSIVE POWER OF GODLY FEAR. (vs. 4, 5.) Our

Lord wishes to guard the people from the leaven of the Pharisees, which is

hypocrisy, and also from cowardly fear of Pharisaic opposition.

Accordingly, He points out that the Pharisees could at the very most kill the

body; they have, after that, “no more that they can do.” But there is

another One who can cast into Gehenna after He hath killed, and Him

they should fear. We discard the idea suggested by Stier and others that

this is the devil; especially as courage is not likely to be created by

substituting, for fear of diabolical men, the fear of the devil himself. This

would be a poor basis for the martyr-spirit. We believe that the fear of man

is to be expelled and supplanted by the fear of God, who can consign the

soul to Gehenna after death. And our Lord shows here that the fear of God

begins in dread of His infinite power. No soul, we suppose, ever turns to

God without passing through this stage, however brier’ may be the sojourn

in it. God’s vaster power makes the hostile power of mere men appear

trifling, and we wisely resolve to have men for our enemies rather than

God. But once this sense of God’s great power has overcome our cowardly

fear of man, we begin to realize that we may have all His power on our

side. He will pardon us and take us under His protection, and enable us to

fear no evil. Godly fear, consequently, gets modified in our experience, and

passes from slavish fear and dread into reverential and filial fear of God as

an almighty Father.

 

·         GOD’S MICROSCOPIC AND PRESENT PROVIDENCE. (vs. 6-7)

The sparrows may be cheap in man’s estimation — five for two

farthings — but “not one of them is forgotten before God.” He caters for

them. His providence is minute enough to take them under His wings. Men

ought, therefore, to take courage from the assurance that, in God’s sight,

they “are of more value than many sparrows.” And God’s oversight is so

microscopic that He counts the very hairs of our head. Hence the contest

with their Pharisaic and worldly foes is to be conducted under the sweet

assurance that greater is He who is for them than all who are against them,

and that His care is so minute as to extend to the numbering of the hairs of

their head. A great Being on our side, so minute and careful in His interest,

is fit to inspire with dauntless courage every one who realizes His presence

by faith and trusts Him.

 

·         THE IMPORTANCE OF CONFESSING CHRIST. (vs. 8-9.) Our

Lord further shows how important it is to confess Him; but in the other life

there is to be another confession — the confession before the angels of the

courageous souls who have confessed Christ here. On the other hand, there

is to be a denial of the cowards who denied Christ here. Out of the

publicity of the future life, therefore, our Lord draws such considerations

as are fitted to rally souls around Him in courageous confession. And there

can be no doubt that this great publicity which our Lord locates in the

future life is a fountain-head of courage for souls struggling with

opposition. The highest type of courage can undoubtedly be produced

through the doctrine of a future life with its rewards and punishments.

 

·         THE DANGER OF BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE HOLY GHOST.

(v. 10.) The introduction of the Holy Ghost in connection with the

Pharisaic opposition seems to have been suggested in this way: the

Pharisees, not content with libeling and defaming Christ, professed to

trace His power over demons to its source. This, they asserted, was not the

Holy Ghost, but Beelzebub within Him. That is to say, they attributed

spiritual results to a diabolic origin. In this way they blasphemed the Holy

Ghost. Now, our Lord, in His meekness and lowliness of mind, declares

that there is forgiveness for unfair words against Him, but warns those who

are misinterpreting the Spirit’s work, that blasphemy against Him if

continued cannot be forgiven. Now, this subject of the unpardonable sin

has given rise to much discussion, but, perhaps, the best view is that

adopted by such men as Stier, Tholuck, Olshausen, Hahn, Julius Muller,

and Hoffmann — “an internal state of the highest sinfulness which cannot

be changed, and shows itself in speech or action, resisting or deliberately

setting the soul against the influences of the Holy Ghost.” Its practical

value is immense. It should lead every thoughtful soul to guard against all

trifling with or grieving of the good Spirit whose agency within us alone

secures the victory over evil. The Pharisees were treading on the confines

of the terrible sin in their denunciation of Christ, and the multitude Christ

was addressing and all who have the offer of spiritual help should guard

against all offense offered to the all-important Spirit.

 

·         THE INSPIRATIONS TO BE EXPECTED FROM THE GOOD

SPIRIT, (vs. 11-12.) The calumniated Spirit would sustain the

confessors of Christ before their enemies, so that all the tried men had got

to do was to rely on his inspirations, and they would never fail them. The

Holy Ghost would prompt such words and thoughts as would secure on

their part a good confession. And a similar aid is to be expected by all

Christ’s witnesses as they confront the world. If we but rely on His help, He

will never fail us. Of course, this does not encourage idleness and want of

preparation for the emergencies of life. The Spirit is more likely to inspire a

studious, careful, prayerful man than a self-reliant idler. But reliance on the

Spirit’s inspirations must never be rendered needless or doubtful by any

prudent forethought we entertain. We are to be organs of the Spirit, and

ought to act worthy of our high calling

 

13 “And one of the company said unto Him, Master, speak to my

brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.  14  And He said unto

him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?” Apparently there

was a pause here in the Lord’s teaching. The Master was about to enter on

a new subject, and at this juncture one of the crowd, waiting for such a

break in the Master’s discourse, came forward with a question. It was

purely connected with his own selfish interests, He seems to have been a

younger brother, discontented with the distribution of the family property,

of which, most likely, in accordance with the usual Jewish practice, a

double portion had been taken by the elder brother. This was likely enough

the point which he submitted to the Lord. Such a reference to a scribe and

rabbi of eminence was then not uncommon. Jesus, however, here, as on

other occasions (see John 8:3-11), firmly refuses to interfere in secular

matters. His work was of another and higher kind. The word He addresses

to the questioner has in it a tinge of rebuke. The utter selfish worldliness of

the man, who, after hearing the solemn and impressive words just spoken,

could intrude such a question, comes strongly into view. Was not this poor

unimpressionable Jew, so wrapped up in his own paltry concerns that he

had no thought or care for loftier things, perhaps a specimen of most of the

material upon whom the Lord had to work? Is He an unknown figure in our

day and time?

 

15 “And He said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness:

for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he

possesseth.”  The older authorities read, “beware of every kind of covetousness.”

No vice is more terribly illustrated in the Old Testament story than this. Prominent

 illustrations of ruin overtaking the covetous man, even in this life, are Balaam

(Numbers 22-24), Achan (Joshua 7), and Gehazi (II Kings 4-5). Has not this

ever been one of the besetting sins of the chosen  race, then as now,

now as then? Jesus, as the Reader of hearts, saw what was at the bottom of

the question: greed, rather than a fiery indignation at a wrong endured. “A

man’s life.” His true life, would be a fair paraphrase of the Greek word

used here. The Master’s own life, landless, homeless, penniless, illustrated

nobly these words. That life, as far as earth was concerned, was His

deliberate choice. The world, Christian as well as pagan, in each

succeeding age, with a remarkable agreement, utterly declines to recognize

the great Teacher’s view of life here. To make His meaning perfectly clear,

the Lord told them the following parable-story, which reads like an

experience or memory of something which had actually happened.

 

The worth of a man’s life does not depend on duration.  For while to the

insect the term of seventy years would seem a most noble expanse, on the other

hand, compared with the age of a mountain or the duration of a star, it is an

insignificant span. The truth is that the value of human life depends on what is

done within its boundaries.

 

 

                                    A Man’s Life (v. 15)

 

What is the worth of a man’s life? Clearly that does not depend merely on

duration. For while to the insect the term of seventy years would seem a

most noble expanse, on the other hand, compared with the age of a

mountain or the duration of a star, it is an insignificant span. The truth is

that the value of human life depends on what is done within its boundaries.

Here quality is of the chief account. To the insensible stone all the ages are

as nothing; to the dormant animal time is of no measurable value. To a

thinking, sensitive spirit, with a great capacity for joy and sorrow, one half

hour may hold an inestimable measure of BLESSEDNESS or of WOE. There

are three things it may include; we take them in the order of value, beginning at

the least.

 

·         HAVING WHAT IS GOOD. “The things which a man possesseth” are

of value to him. “Money is a defense,” and it is also an acquisition, for it

stands for all those necessaries and comforts, all those physical, social and

intellectual advantages which it will buy. But it is a miserable delusion — a

delusion which has slain the peace and prospects of many a thousand souls

— that the one way to secure the excellency of life is to gain amplitude of

material resources.

 

Ø      Abundance of money does not even ensure human happiness. The wealth

that lives in fine houses and sits down to sumptuous tables and moves in

“good circles” is very often indeed carrying with it a heavy heart, a

burdened spirit, an unsatisfied soul. This is not the imagination of envy; it is

the confession of sorrowful experience, uttered by many voices, witnessed

by many lives.

 

Ø      Abundance of money does not constitute the excellency of human life. In

a country where “business” means as much as it does in England, we are

under a strong temptation to think that to have grown very rich is, by so

doing, to have succeeded. That is a part of some men’s success; but it does

not constitute success in any man’s life. A man may be enormously rich,

and yet he may be an utter and pitiable failure. “In every society, and

especially in a country like our own, there are those who derive their chief

characteristics from what they have; who are always spoken of in terms of

revenue, and of whom you would not be likely to think much but for the

large account that stands in the ledger in their name So completely do they

paint the idea of their life on the imagination of all who knew them, that,

when they die, it is the fate of the money, not of the man, of which we are

apt to think. Having put vast prizes in the funds, but only unprofitable

blanks in our affections, they leave behind nothing but their property, or, as

it is expressly termed, their effects. Their human personality hangs as a

mere label upon a mass of treasure”  A mans life should

rise higher than that.

 

·         DOING WHAT IS JUST AND KIND. Far better is it to do the just

and kind action than to have that which is pleasant and desirable. Life rises

into real worth when it is spent in honorable and fruitful action. In

sustaining right and useful relationships in the great world of business,

carrying out our work on principles of righteousness and equity; in ruling

the home firmly and kindly; in espousing the cause of the weak, the

ignorant, the perishing; in striking some blows for national integrity and

advancement — in such a healthful, honorable, elevating action as this “a

man’s life” is found. But this, in its turn, must rest on —

 

·         BEING WHAT IS RIGHT. For “out of the heart are the issues of

life.” (Proverbs 4:23)  Men may do a large number of good things, and yet be

“nothing “in the sight of heavenly wisdom (see I Corinthians 13:1-3). The one

true mainspring of a worthy human life is “the love of God which is in Christ

Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)  To love God, and therefore to love all

that is good; to love God, and therefore to interest ourselves in and try to help

all those who are so nearly related to Him; to love God, and therefore to be

moving on and up in an ever-ascending line toward Divine wisdom and worth; —

this is the one victorious and successful thing. Without this,a man’s life”

is a defeat and a failure, hold what it may; with it, it has the beginnings of a

true success — it is already, and will be more than it now is, eternal life.

 

Bowing to and serving the god of “materialism is the great mistake men are

making today.  They imagine that things can satisfy their hearts; whereas we

are so constituted, with our affections and emotions, that fellowship with persons

is indispensable to any measure of satisfaction, and to full satisfaction with no

less a Being than God Himself (God has ordained it to be this way!).  All the effort,

consequently, to be satisfied  with things, with gifts, when the Giver is left out,

proves vain.  No abundance can satisfy the craving of the heart (Ecclesiastes 5:10). 

And the feverish desire for more and more wealth on the part of worldly men

demonstrates simply that they are on the wrong track altogether, and that satisfaction

can never be found in things. Covetousness, consequently, as the idolatry of things,

is a total mistake. It misinterprets human nature, and is doomed to terrible

disappointment.  As the rich man in the following parable, it is truly lamentable to

watch the self-inflicted wrong which the worldly minded experience as they try

to garner more and more of the world’s goods to the neglect of their very souls!

The rich man’s idea was to gain rest by wealth.  Jesus said, “What shall it

 profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?  (Mark 8:36)

I Timothy 6:6-10 tells us that “godliness with contentment is great gain”.

We need to be on our guard against such a low view of life as materialism

is a purely secular and temporal life!

 

16 “And He spake a parable unto them saying, The ground of a certain

rich man brought forth plentifully.”  The unhappy subject of the Lord’s story

was a common figure in Palestine in an ordinarily prosperous time. We have the

portrait of a landowner whose farms do not seem to have been acquired by any

unjust means. This man, after years of successful industry, having acquired great

wealth, wholly devotes himself to it and to its further increase. He does not

give himself up to excess or profligacy, but simply, body and soul, becomes

the slave of his wealth; utterly, hopelessly selfish, he forgets alike God and

his neighbor.

 

17 “And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have

no room where to bestow my fruits?   18 And he said, This will I do: I will

pull down my barns, and build greater;” - “No place to bestow my fruits.”

Well answers St. Ambrose,” Thou hast barns — the bosoms of the needy, the

houses of the widows, the mouths of orphans and of infants.” Some might argue,

from the sequel of the story, that God looks with disfavour on riches as riches.

St. Augustine replies to such a mistaken deduction, “God desires not that thou

shouldest lose thy riches, but that thou shouldest change their place” (‘Serm.,’ 36:9).

The Greek word rendered “barns” (ἀποθήκαςapothaekas — whence our word

apothecary”) has a broader signification than merely barns; it signifies store or

warehouses of all kinds, thus suggesting that the hero of the story was more than a

mere wealthy farmer — he was probably also a trader – “and there will I bestow

all my fruits and my goods.”  As he grew richer, he grew more covetous.

Absolutely no care or thought for anything save his loved possessions

seems to have crossed the threshold of that poor mistaken heart of his.

This strange hunger after riches for riches’ sake is, alas! a very usual form

of soul-disease. Can it be cured? Alas! it is one of the most hopeless of

soul-maladies. This unhappy love in countless cases becomes a passion,

and twines itself round the heart, and so destroys all the affections and

higher aspirations.

 

19 “And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid

up for many years;”  “What folly!” writes St. Basil. “Had thy soul been a

sty, what else couldst thou have promised to it? Art thou so ignorant of

what really belongs to the soul, that thou offerest to it the foods of the

body? And givest thou to thy soul the things which the draught receives?”

Many years. How little did that poor fool, so wise in all matters of earthly

business, suspect the awful doom was so close to him! He forgot

Solomon’s words, “Boast not thyself of to-morrow” (Proverbs 27:1) -

“take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.”  Extremes meet,

and the life of self-indulgence may spring either from an undue expectation

of a lengthened life” (as was the ease here), “or from unduly dwelling on its

shortness, without taking into account the judgment that comes after it.

The latter, as in the ‘carpe diem’ of Horace (‘Odes,’ 1:11. 8), was the current

language of popular epicureanism” (see Paul’s reproduction of this thought,

I Corinthians 15:32).

 

20 “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall

be required of thee:” -  The literal rendering of the Greek here is more

solemn and impressive in its awful vagueness: This night they require thy

soul of thee. Who are meant by they? Most likely the angels whose special

function it was to conduct the souls of the departed to their own place. So

we read in the parable of Lazarus and Dives how angels carried the soul of

Lazarus into Abraham’s bosom. (ch. 16:22).  On the words, “they

require,” Theophylact writes, “For, like pitiless exactors of tribute, terrible

angels shall require thy soul from thee unwilling, and through love of life

resisting. For from the righteous his soul is not required, but he commits it

to God and the Father of spirits, pleased and rejoicing; nor finds it hard to

lay it down, for the body lies upon it as a light burden. But the sinner who

has enfleshed his soul, and embodied it, and made it earthy, has so

prepared it to render its divulsion from the body most hard; wherefore it is

said to be required of him, as a disobedient debtor that is delivered to

exactors.” – “then whose shall those things be, which thou hast

provided?”  Our Lord here reproduced the thought contained in passages

with which no doubt He had been familiar from His boyhood. “Yea, I hated

all my labor which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto

the man that shall be after me. And who knoweth whether he shall be a

wise man or a fool?” (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19). “He heapeth up riches,

and knoweth not who shall gather them” (Psalm 39:6).

 

 

 

                                                Sudden Death (v. 20)

 

Sudden Death!  Sudden death in overtime of a basketball or football game

is exciting, but when we speak of human life, it is another matter!

The parable which Jesus Christ delivered in rebuke of covetousness puts in

striking and even startling form the facts on which God’s providence

requires us to look. For we know:

 

·         THAT SUDDEN DEATH IS AN EVENT WHICH MAY OCCUR TO

ANY ONE OF US. Human science has done much for us; and much in the

direction of preserving and prolonging life. It has given to us a

considerable knowledge of disease, and therefore an increased sense of

danger. But it has not materially diminished the fact of a sudden and

unanticipated end of our mortal life. It is probable that with the advance of

civilization and the growing intricacies, complications, and obligations of

human life, diseases of the heart have increased, and it is quite open to

doubt whether sudden death is less frequent than it was. Certainly it is an

ordinary rather than an extraordinary event. It is probable that these two

words will be found at the head of at least one paragraph in any newspaper

we may chance to be reading. Little as we realize it, it is a stern fact that it

            is quite possible that any man enjoying the most robust health and in the

midst of the most pressing and weighty duties, may be dead within the day

or hour in which we speak to him; that to this possibility there is

ABSOLUTELY NO EXCEPTION!   (I came across a calling card that

had a picture of a hearse on it and it said - You may tie your shoes in the

morning but an undertaker may untie them tonight.  CY - 2021)  Just now life

may be to us and to those related to us of the greatest value; there may be a

thousand reasons why,  as it seems to us and to them, our life should be spared;

and yet it may be of us  that the word is passed in that realm where there is

 none to hinder, “THIS NIGHT THY SOUL SHALL BE REQUIRED OF

THEE!”   It may be very trite, but it is most seriously true, that sudden death

may come to any one of us.  The right and wise course to take is to be ready

for death whenever it may come.  (Up until around 10 years ago, when

traveling back home to Somerset via old KY Hwy. 80, when nearing the Todd

and Logan Counties line, there was a sign by the road “Prepare to meet thy

God, O Israel- Amos 4:12.  God has been gracious to me but we have spent

our lifetime in bondage to the fear of death.  Hebrews  2:15 – CY – 2012) 

Readiness for death will secure us a true peace when the hour of trial arrives;

it will also give us calmness of spirit, and therefore capacity for service and

for pure enjoyment in the midst of life. “Yea though I walk through the valley

of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me” – (Psalm 23:4).

(Phillip Henry, father of Mathew Henry, was known for his prayer, “Lord,

help me to be ready to leave this world or to be left.”  CY - 2021)

 

·         THAT SOME SUDDENNESS IN DEATH IS AN EXPERIENCE

WE ARE ALL LIKELY TO SHARE. Few remarks are more often made

than that death was “sudden at the last.” Even the sick man thinks that he

will live; that there are months, or at least weeks, before him. They who

are clearly and even loudly admonished, either by serious illness or by

advanced age, that their end is drawing on will think and talk of the days

that are coming, of the things they will accomplish. It is usually with a start

of surprise that the patient learns from his attendant that he must die. Such

is our human nature that, even when death comes gradually and kindly, the

Master’s words are applicable: “In such an hour as ye think not, the Son of

man cometh.”

 

·         THAT AMIDST HUMAN UNCERTAINTIES WE MAY HOLD

FAST SOME DIVINE AND EVER-LIVING TRUTHS.

 

Ø      That it matters little whether our life be long or short, if only it be given

to the service of Christ. Our Lord died a young man, and the term of His

active public life is counted by months rather than by years; but what

did He achieve!

 

Ø      That temporal success is not the true or the wise aim to prefer before the

soul. There are far higher things we can do, and therefore should do;

besides, our material achievements and possessions may be taken from our

grasp at any hour.

 

Ø      That the right and wise course to take is to be ready for death whenever

it may come. Readiness for death will secure us a true peace when the

hour of trial arrives; it will also give us calmness of spirit, and therefore

capacity for service and for pure enjoyment in the midst of life.

 

 

21 “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward

God.” - better rendered, if he is not.  And this slight change helps us, too, in

drawing the right lesson. The being rich is never condemned by Jesus Christ;

nor even the growing richer.  Among the saints of God in both Testaments are

many notable rich men, whose possessions seem to have helped rather than

hindered their journey to the city of God. The lesson which lies on the forefront

of this parable is the especial danger which riches ever bring of gradually

deadening the heart and rendering it impervious to any feeling of love

 either for God or man.

 

 

Rich Toward God (v. 21)

 

Jesus Christ is here drawing a contrast between the inward and the abiding

on the one hand, and the outward and the perishing on the other hand.

When He disparages the act of “laying up treasure for ourselves,” He does

not mean to say either:  (1) that material wealth is not of God, for it is He who gives

us “power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18); or that the spiritual treasure a man

secures is not “for himself,” indeed, that is the only treasure he can make permanently

his own; he that is wise is wise for himself (Proverbs 9:12), and he has “rejoicing in

 himself alone, and not in another.” (Galatians 6:4)   But Christ would have us

regard material acquisitions as of very small account indeed in comparison with the

enrichment of the soul in God, with spiritual wealth.  To be rich toward God may

include:

 

  • A WEALTH OF RIGHT FEELING TOWARD GOD. There are certain

thoughts and feelings which every intelligent being ought to cherish toward

his Creator, in the absence of which he himself is poor, and in the presence

of which he is rich. The more we have in our hearts of reverence for God;

of trust in His Word of promise; of gratitude for His goodness and

faithfulness; of love for Him, our Father and our Savior; of filial submission

to Hs holy will; of consecration to His cause and interest in the

advancement of His kingdom, — the more “rich we are toward” Him.

 

 

  • WEALTH IN QUALITIES WHICH ARE DIVINE, or being rich in

the direction in which God Himself is rich. We cannot, indeed, hope to be

rich in some of His attributes in majesty, in power, in wisdom. But there are

qualities in Him in which we may have a real and a valuable share. As God

is rich in righteousness, in truth and faithfulness, in goodness and kindness,

in mercy and magnanimity, so may we hope, and so should we strive and

pray, that we may be “partakers of the Divine nature” (II Peter 1:4)

in these things also.  Illumined by His truth, guided by His example, and

inspired by His Spirit, we may have a goodly share in these great and

noble qualities.

 

  • WEALTH IN GOD HIMSELF; in the enjoyment of His Divine favor

and friendship; in the indwelling of His Holy Spirit in our souls, being thus

enriched with His abiding presence and His gracious influence; in the

enlarging and elevating contemplation of His character and the worshipping

of Him.

 

Ø      Have we any treasure at all in God.? As the Church at Laodicea

imagined itself to be spiritually rich when it was miserably poor

(Revelation 3:17), so may any Christian society of our own time; so

may any individual member of a Church of Christ. If, in a searching

and devout examination, we find that we are poor, there is nothing

for us but to go to Jesus Christ anew, in humblest penitence and

simplest faith with whole-hearted surrender.

 

Ø      Are we rich toward God? There are many degrees between

beggary and wealth. We may not be absolutely destitute, and yet we

may be far from rich toward God. We should aspire to “abound,”

to “be enlarged,” to have a good measure of those qualities which

constitute spiritual wealth. We must “buy of Christ” (Revelation 3:18),

that we “may be rich;” we must abide in Him, and so “bring forth

 much fruit” (John 15:5).

 

Ø      If we are rich toward God we may thankfully rejoice. The man

who is “laying up treasure for himself” may be essentially and radically

poor; he may be securing that which will give him no happiness, but

only be a burden and a bane to him; he must part with it all soon.

But he who is “rich toward God” has that which is wealth indeed;

has a treasure which will gladden his heart and brighten his life; has

a joy and an inheritance which are his for ever, and that fadeth

not away reserved in heaven for you.” (I Peter 1:4) 

 

The directions which immediately followed upon this parable were

addressed to the inner circle of disciples. The general instruction, it will be

seen, belongs to all who in any age wish to be “of His Church;” but several

of the particular charges cannot be pressed as general commands, being

addressed to men whose work and office were unique.

 

22 “And He said unto His disciples, Therefore I say unto you,

Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body,

what ye shall put on.”  A better rendering for “Take no thought” is Be not

anxious about. This, too, suggests a more practical lesson. “What ye shall

eat.” How repeatedly in the Master’s sermons do we find the reminder

against the being careful about eating! We know from pagan writers in this

age how gluttony, in its coarser and more refined forms, was among the

more notorious evils of Roman society in Italy and in the provinces. This

passion for the table more or less affected all classes in the empire.

23 “The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.

24 Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither

have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more

are ye better than the fowls?  25 And which of you with taking thought

can add to his stature one cubit?”  So completely are we in the hands of

our Creator that we cannot, by any amount of thinking, “add one cubit to our

 stature.” Do what we may, try what we can, WE ARE STILL ABSOLUTELY

DEPENDENT UPON GOD!   It rests with Him to decide what shall be the

length of our days, what shadow or sunshine shall fall on our path, whether our

cup shall be sweet or bitter. We are in His Divine hands; let us be His servants;

let us ask His guidance and blessing; and then let us trust ourselves to His

power and His love.  He will not give us anything that would be hurtful, for His

fatherly love will constrain Him to withhold it. We are immeasurably safer

in His hands than we should be in those of the kindest of our human

 friends, or than we should be if it rested with our own will to shape

 our path, to fill our cup.  “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not

in himself:  it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.”  (Jeremiah

10:23)  (Therefore, because of our impotence,  we ought to seek God’s

direction whenever we rise in the morning – CY – 2012)  26  “If ye then be

not able to do that thing  which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? 

27  Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say

unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

What a contrast  between the life of the rich and prosperous landowner just related,

whose whole heart and soul were concentrated on a toil which should procure him

dainty food and costly raiment, and these fowls fed by God so abundantly, and those

flowers clothed by God so royally! The ravens knew nothing of the anxious care and

the restless toil of the rich man in the midst of which he died, and yet they lived.

The lilies simply grew, and God’s hand painted the rich and gorgeous clothing

for each golden-jewelled flower; Solomon, the splendid Jewish king, the example

of all that was magnificent, was never arrayed, men knew, like one of these

lilies. With such a God above them, who surely loved each one as He never

loved a bird or flower, was it worth while to wear a life away in toiling for

less than what God simply gave to raven and to lily? Such was the

Master’s argument, adorned, we may well conceive, with all the beauty and

force of Eastern illustration. We possess, after all, but a scant resume of

these Divine sermons. To apostle and chosen missionary His words had a

peculiar interest. He bade them, in coming days of poverty and

abandonment, never to lose heart. They would remember then their loved

Teacher’s words that day when He spoke of the fate of one whose life had

been wasted in filling his storehouses and his barns; would remember how

He turned from the foolish, toiling rich man, and told them of the birds and

flowers, and how God tenderly cared even for such soulless things. Did

they think He would ever lose sight of them, His chosen servants? They

might surely reckon on the loving care of that Master to whose cause they

were giving their life-service. Yet have these and other like words of the

great Teacher been often misunderstood; and Paul’s earnest and

repeated exhortations to his converts — not to neglect honest toil, but by it

to win bread for themselves, and something withal to be generous with to

in too literal a sense, and using them as a pretext for a dreamy and idle life.

those poorer than they — were his protest against taking the Master’s words

Paul’s teaching, and perhaps still more Paul’s life — that life of brave,

simple toil for himself and others — were his comment upon this part of

the Master’s sermon. The lilies. It is a little doubtful whether our Lord

meant to speak of the red anemone, a very common but beautiful flower,

with which the meadows throughout all Palestine are enamelled (Anemone

coronaria), or the great white lily (Lilium candidum), or the exquisite red

lily (Lilium rubrum); these latter are more rare. The Savior, probably, had

each of these and other specimens of the flora of Palestine in His mind,

when He spoke of the inimitable beauty and the matchless splendor of these

flowers of God.

 

Here we are face to face with nature The purple lilies which deck the spring

field are gorgeously apparelled. (I saw a note on TV last night about the beauty

of blue bonnets in Texas – CY – 2012)  Even Solomon in all his glory was not

arrayed like one of them. So that when God is allowed to work, He weaves a

more splendid texture in His loom than ever was produced by man. The lilies

are evidences of His microscopic care of the flower of the grass, how worthy He

regards it of beautiful raiment. But then He values His children more than

His plants. Men may go the length of lavishing more attention upon their exotics

and their flowers than upon their children. But this is not God’s order. He has

taken more thought for His human children than for all His gardens and their

magnificent contents. He loves a family more than a conservatory; a school

more than a forest; a population more than a deer-park or prairie. (He also

loves the millions of the aborted children of the world than ten thousand

GREEN EARTH’S – CY – 2012)  Hence we may trust Him about raiment;

 it will come in due season and order. He will not give it to us like paupers

clothing, for we should hardly like it in that way; but to honest work there

will come substantial reward.  THEREFORE, IT IS BETTER TO LET

GOD REIGN AND ACCEPT THE CONDITIONS WHICH IN HIS

WISDOM HE ASSIGNS!

 

29 “And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink,” -

Again, after the moving, touching words we have been commenting on,

does the Lord return to the pressing injunction with which He began His

lessons to His disciples upon the parable of the “rich fool.” Trouble not

yourselves about your eating and drinking. This repeated insistence of the

Master upon this point in the future lives of His disciples has evidently a

deeper significance than a mere injunction to cast all their care on Him, and

not to be over-anxious about their poor earthly maintenance. This was, of

course, the first lesson they had to learn from these words; but beneath all

this they could, and no doubt often in later days did, read in the words a

clear expression of their dear Lord’s will in favor of the utmost simplicity

in all matters of food and drink. His own must be marked men here, ever

frugal and temperate even to abstemiousness. It is a grave question

whether His Church has ever fully grasped the Master’s meaning here.

“neither be ye of doubtful mind.” -  literally, do not toss about like boats in

the offing.   The word is not found elsewhere in New Testament writers, but

it is known in classic writers. Its use here is one of the many signs of Luke’s

high culture.

 

30 “For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your

Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.  31  But rather seek

ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

 

 

 

                                    Anxiety or Trustfulness? (vs. 22-30)

 

We read of “care-encumbered men;” and truly we see more than we could

wish of them. As we look into the faces of those we meet daily, we are

saddened with the thought that a great weight of care rests on our race as a

heavy burden. And when we see, as we do, a few faces that wear the look

of a sweet serenity born of holy trust in God, we ask — Is it necessary that

such an oppressive burden should be borne by the children of men? Jesus

Christ answers this question in the negative. He says that anxiety is quite

needless to the children of God; he says, “Trust and rest; believe in God,

and be at peace; recognize the power and the love of your heavenly Father,

and do not be ‘greatly moved’ by temporal necessities.’’ And He reasons

with us on the subject; He desires to prove to us the needlessness of anxiety

in the presence of such a God and Father as is He whom we worship. He

argues thus:

 

·         FROM GOD’S GREATER KINDNESS TO OURSELVES. (v. 23.)

Any one of our friends who would do us a very great kindness would

certainly be prepared to render us a very small favor. To one who has done

us a valuable service we should look with perfect confidence to do some

slight thing for us. The love which is equal to the one will be more than

equal to the other. Now, God has given us life, and has been sustaining us

in being by His constant visitation; He has given us our wonderfully

constituted body, and He has been preserving it in health and strength for

years. (Psalm 139)  Will He who has conferred these great boons upon us

withhold from us blessings so simple and so slight as food and raiment? “

Is not the life more than meat [food], and the body than raiment?”

Will he who grants the greater refuse the less?  “He that spared not

His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not

with Him also freely give us all things?”  (Romans 8:32)

 

·         FROM GOD’S CARE OF THINGS THAT ARE OF LESS

ACCOUNT THAN WE ARE. (vs. 24, 27, 28.) “Consider the ravens”

— birds of the air, creatures that are interesting in their degree, but

unintelligent, unaccountable, perishable: God feeds them. “Consider the

lilies, how they grow;” they do nothing for their clothing; and not only are

they unintelligent and irresponsible like the birds, but they are unconscious,

inanimate  things; yet they are exquisitely fair: God clothes them. If He takes

thought for such creatures and for such things as these; if He concerns

Himself with that which is so much lower in the scale than are we, His own

beloved children, created in His image and formed to share His own

immortality, how certain it is that He will provide for us! The Divine

wisdom that expends so much upon the lower will not neglect the higher.

 

·         THE COMPLETENESS OF OUR DEPENDENCE ON GOD. (v. 25.)

      So completely are we in the hands of our Creator that we cannot, by

any amount of thinking, “add one cubit to our stature.” Do what we may,

try what we can, we are still absolutely dependent on God. It rests with

Him to decide what shall be the length of our days, what shadow or

sunshine shall fall on our path, whether our cup shall be sweet or bitter. We

are in His Divine hands; let us be His servants; let us ask His guidance and

blessing; and then let us trust ourselves to His power and His love. And this

the more that we should remember:

 

·         THE UNWORTHINESS OF GREAT CONCERN FOR SUCH

TEMPORALITIES. To be greatly troubled about what we shall eat, or

what we shall wear, or in what house we shall live, — this is pagan, but it

is not Christian; leave that to “the nations of the world” (v. 30).

 

·         THE RELATION IN WHICH GOD STANDS TO US. (v. 30.) This

is that of an all-wise Father. “Our Father knows.” We are in the power of

One who is perfectly acquainted with our circumstances and with

ourselves; He will not deny us anything we need because He understands

our necessity.; He will not give us anything that would be hurtful, for His

fatherly love will constrain Him to withhold it. We are immeasurably safer

in His hands than we should be in those of the kindest of our human friends,

or than we should be if it rested with our own will to shape our path, to fill

our cup.

 

 

 

                                    Service and Sufficiency (v. 31)

 

It has been much debated whether God should be represented as the

Sovereign or the Father of mankind. It has been but a foolish strife; it has

been another case in which both disputants have been right and both

wrong. God is the Sovereign of the world, and a great deal more than that;

God is the Father of men, and a great deal beside. He is a royal Father, or a

fatherly King. The Lord’s Prayer might have taught us this: “Our Father…

thy kingdom come.” God is to us all and much more than all both these

human relationships represent, only that one presents Him in one aspect and

the other in another. Here Christ invites us to think of Him as a Sovereign;

and we look at:

 

·         THE KINGDOM OF GOD, of which we may become citizens. “Seek ye

[the citizenship of] the kingdom of God.” Jesus Christ launched a perfectly

new idea when He spoke of this kingdom. In His mind that was nothing less

than a universal spiritual empire; a kingdom of peace, righteousness, and

joy, wide as the world and lasting as time; a kingdom to be established

without forming a regiment, or shaping a sword, or fashioning crown; a

kingdom of God, in which all men of every land and tongue should own

Him as their rightful Sovereign, should cheerfully obey His righteous laws,

should dwell together in holiness and in love.

 

·         THE ALLEGIANCE WHICH IS OUR SACRED DUTY. Christ

summons us to citizenship. He says imperatively, “Seek ye the kingdom;”

and He bids us seek entrance into it “rather” than pursue any earthly

objects, rather than be anxiously concerning ourselves about temporal

supplies. He indicates that this is something which has the first claim on

our thought and on our endeavor. And so, indeed, it has. For God is that

King

 

Ø      without the exercise of whose sovereign power there would be no

other kingdom, no subjects, no liberties, no riches, no honors, in fact,

 no being;

 

Ø      to be disloyal to whom is the lowest depth of ingratitude, is the

deliberate abandonment of the most bounden duty, the guilty severance of

the most sacred tie. Being what He is to all men, and having done what He

has wrought for all men, He rightly demands of us, through Jesus Christ,

our fealty, our loyal service. To respond to this summons of the Savior and

to become citizens of the kingdom of God, we must offer Him something

more than the honor of the bended knee, or the tribute of the acclaiming

voice, or the service of the dutiful hand; we must bring the homage of the

reverent spirit, the affection of the loving heart, the submission of the

acquiescent will. And out of this inward and spiritual loyalty will proceed

the praises of the tongue and the obedience of the life. Seeking the

kingdom means a real returning of soul unto God and a consequent

devoting of the rest of our life to His service.

 

·         CHRIST’S PROMISE OF SUFFICIENCY to all loyal subjects. “All

these things shall be added unto you.” It is well for the world that there is

not attached to the service of Christ any very valuable and attractive

treasures which are of this earth. If there were, we should have the Church

choked with insincere and worldly minded members, paying as little

devotion as they thought necessary for as much enjoyment and prosperity

as they could reap. Christ has mercifully saved us from this calamity; but He

has not found it needful to leave us without a provision for our need.

 

Ø      He has made present happiness an attendant upon virtue, and virtue is

 an appanage of piety.

 

Ø      But He has given us a promise and a pledge in our text. He assures to

those who enter His holy kingdom not, indeed, luxury, not a large

measure of prosperity and enjoyment on an earthly ground, but

sufficiency. They who yield themselves to Him and who live in His

service may be well assured that they will want “no good thing;”

(It apparently is possible to want things we think are good for us

but in reality are bad - CY - 2021), nothing that would really

make for their well-being will He withhold. All resources are at

His disposal, and He will see that His children are supplied.

 

o       Let none be kept out of the kingdom because they dread

      social or evils; God will shield and save them.

 

o       Let none who are in the kingdom despond, though circumstances

     are against them; at the right moment God will appear on their

behalf; “goodness and mercy will follow them all the days of

their life” (Psalm 23:6), and attend them right up to the gates

of the heavenly city.

 

 

Now, God has given us life, and has been sustaining us in being by His constant

visitation; He has given us our wonderfully constituted body, and He has been

preserving it in health and strength for years.  Without God exercising His

sovereign power, there would be no kingdom, no subjects, no liberties, no

riches, no honors,  in fact, NO BEING! Will He who has conferred these

great boons upon us withhold from us blessings so simple and so slight as

food and raiment? “Is not the life more than meat [food], and the body

than raiment?” (v. 23)  Will He who grants the greater refuse the less?

“He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,

how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”  (Romans 8:32)

“He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the

day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)   To be disloyal to God for His great

goodness is the lowest depth of ingratitude, a deliberate abandonment of

the most binding duty, the guilty severance of the most sacred tie!

Seeking the kingdom means a real returning of the soul unto God and

a DEVOTING OF THE REST OF OUR LIFE TO HIS SERVICE!

They who yield themselves to Him and who live in His service may be well

assured that they will want “no good thing;” nothing that would really

make for their well-being will He withhold from “them that walk uprightly.”

(Psalm 84:11)  Goodness and mercy will follow them all the days of their

lives and they will dwell in the house of the Lord “for ever.”  (Ibid. 23:6)

It is well for the world that there is not attached to the service of Christ any

very valuable and attractive treasures which are of this earth. If  there were, we

should have the Church choked with insincere and worldly minded members,

paying as little devotion as they thought necessary for as much enjoyment and 

prosperity as they could reap. 

 

 

Worldliness (vs. 13-31)

 

To the earnest teacher nothing can be more irritating than a half-attentive

attitude or a remark which indicates preoccupation of mind with other and

inferior things. Think of Christ, towards the close of a day of controversy

with the Pharisees, and in the midst of solemn speech as to the duty of a

true man, invited on a sudden to decide in a family quarrel, to settle a

dispute about some money or some acres of soil. We know nothing about

the person who appealed to him (v.13) — “one out of the multitude.”

But it is evident that, while the discourse proceeded, he had been

engrossed with the consideration of his own rights and interests; like many

who may be in the multitude thronging around Jesus, but are secretly

busied with their own concerns — earth-grubs, intent only on getting all

they can get from others for themselves. The abrupt reply (v.14) shows

the displeasure of the Lord. It is a reply of reproof; it is a reply of

instruction also. God has a great variety of spheres and ministries for men,

and the Son of God will not contravene His Father’s ordering. The judge,

the measurer, the arbiter as to property, is a Divine calling. Those who are

entrusted with it are God’s servants. The State is no less sacred than the

Church. Let each realize its own place, and each respect the other — the

State looking to the Church as the expounder of the eternal principles, the

Church looking to the State as charged with government and the

settlement of the issues between man and man. “My kingdom,” says the

Christ, “is not of this world.” The incident gives a new direction to the

teaching of Jesus. It is a disclosure of the mind against which He must warn

His followers. And then follows one of the most solemn and beautiful of

expositions — that in which the Lord conveys His great lesson as to

worldliness. Observe:  The more public instruction, (vs. 15-21), and

the more private instruction, specially addressed to the  disciples, vs. 21-32.

The more public is the admonition concerning covetousness; the more private is

The admonition concerning carefulness. The two types of the  one spirit —

WORLDLINESS!

 

  • The more public instruction, vs.15-21; is enforced  by a parable, by

observing the point of which we discern THE MEANING WHICH

CHRIST GIVES TO THE WORD “COVETOUSNESS,” AND

THE PRINCIPLE IN RELATION TO IT WHICH HE LAYS

DOWN. Notice, it is the most insinuating, therefore the most dangerous,

form of the temptation which is presented.  The ground (v.16) of a man

already rich brings forth plentifully. There is no dishonesty charged; there

is no financial finesse suggested; it is in the natural course of things. The

money makes money, and good soil and good harvests aid, The covetousness

is the greed of having rather than getting; it is manifest in the thought as to

that which has been already got. The anxiety is to treasure up for self. Existing

barns are insufficient (vs.17-18). What is to be done? There never enters the

thought of any stewardship of the substance with which the man is enriched;

NEVER THE FEELING “What I have God has given me. The labor of

others, too, has helped me to acquire it. I am the custodian of so much of a

commonwealth.  God wills that I enjoy richly, but not that I keep all to myself.

I enjoy in the measure in which the use of the gifts unites me to the will of Him

who is the Giver.”  Not a word of the poor in all his self-communion.

It is simply a hard, selfish “greater barns.” Covetousness is not the desire

to enjoy so much as the desire to have. First, the having of a great store; then,

not until then (v.19), “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many

years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” Very delicate is the

Master’s touch. The happiness in the wealth is a thing future, and the

future never comes. Do we not often see abundance going about with a

load of care on its back — fear about losses, anxiety about investments,

etc.? The wealthy are often prevented from getting the full good of their

wealth. They are possessed by their money more than they are possessors

of their money. “The increase serves not as water to quench, but as fuel to

feed the fire; “he that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver.”

(Ecclesiastes 5:10)  Christ is not condemning wealth or denouncing abundance

of things. “The filling of the barns with plenty, and the bursting out of the vats

 with new wine,” is represented (Proverbs 3:9-10) as the blessing prepared

for those who honor the Lord with their substance. What He condemns is the

vice which specially threatens the rich — the tendency to identify the life with the

possessions (v.15), to love the money, to hoard it, and regard it all as a

treasure to be devoted to self. (Remember the warning in I Timothy 6:9-10,

“But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into

many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and

perdition.  For the love of money is the root of all evil:  which while

some coveted after, they have erred from the faith and pierced

themselves through with many sorrows.” CY – 2012)  And truly the

words of the Truth are most needful for our time. “The desire to accumulate

is the source of all our greatness and of an our baseness.” The baseness

begins when the barn, with its “much goods” is regarded as the soul’s portion;

when that is the man’s main interest; and, looking on to some day when the pile

will be complete, he says in himself, “Then eat, drink, and be merry.” Very

striking the sentence (v. 20). “God says, Thou fool!” Folly indeed! The

competency of earthly things is a blessing; but what is this to abundance?

Is not he as warm that goes in russet as another that rustles in silk? Has not

the poor laborer as sound a sleep in his flock bed as the epicure on his down

bed? Doth not quiet lie oftener in cottages than in glorious mansions? And,

for a good appetite, we see the toiling servant feed savourly of one homely

dish when his surfeited master looks loathingly on his far-fetched and dearly

bought dainties. This gentleman envies the happiness of his poor hind, and

would be content to change states with him on condition he might change

stomachs. (When I was a child my Dad said that “Every time that the clock

ticks, John D. Rockefeller made $1000.  I have since read Mr. Rockefeller’s

testimony that he would give half his fortune if he could only enjoy a simple

meal at supper, like one of his common laborers.  – CY – 2012)  It is not the

plenitude, but the competency of these things that affords even content; so

that a man’s estate should be like his garment, rather fit than long.” Folly

indeed! What stupidity to contemplate the many years! “This night thy soul

shall be required.” Thy soul, thyself, without all the goods. “When I die, let

my hands be outside my shroud,” said the emperor, “that all may see they

are empty.” And what is to become of the “much goods”? Pass into the

hands of others, possibly only to do them harm, neither the accumulator

nor his kind made the better for all the gathering. “Fool, fool! this thou art,

O man, who, without generosity of heart or liberality of hand, day by day

scrapest the dust of earth to thy store, oblivious of the celestial crown

above thy head, rich in man’s estimation, but (v. 21) a pauper, a bankrupt

towards God.”  (See Job 27:8; Psalm 52:7; Proverbs 30:7-9; and especially

Ecclesiastes 2:18-19).  The more general instruction sounds the warning,

 “Take heed, and keep yourselves. . from all covetousness.”

 

  • The more special and private instruction to the disciples is joined to the

preceding parable by a “therefore” (v. 22). It, too, is an admonition

against worldliness. It presents that aspect of the worldly spirit which more

immediately tempted the disciples of Jesus; it gives also the key-note for

that higher life which, as those joined to the Lord, they are called to live.

The two parts of the discourse illustrate the meaning of Paul’s saying as

to “the new man created after God, in righteousness and true holiness

[or, ‘holiness of truth’]” (Ephesians 4:24). The righteousness which is

incumbent on all, from the very nature of their existence and their relation

to God and men, is represented in the part already considered; “the

holiness of truth” — that plus which is because of our place in the body of

Christ, and our relation to Him as the Head of the body — is represented in

the beautiful words which are prefaced by the injunction, “Be not anxious

for your life, what ye shall eat, nor yet for your body, what ye shall put

on.” With some variations, a part of the sermon from the mount is repeated

One or two remarks will here suffice.

 

Ø      The life which marks the holiness of the new man created in Christ

Jesus consists in a supreme preference “But rather seek ye

the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added

unto you.” (v.31). What distinguishes this life is that it has a “rather”

or a “howbeit” at its heart. Its first concern is the kingdom of the

Father; its second is (v.30) the things which the nations of the world

seek after. “These things” — eating, drinking, clothing, etc., have their

value. But THE MIND is not in search of them! They are not its

good or portion. Its sympathies and craving are towards the eternally

right and true. To realize that in self, and aid its fulfillment everywhere,

is the highest aim and object of the being. The property of the soul

 rich towards God is, indeed, A VAST PROPERTY  but it has

heights as well as lengths; it is the threefold estate — “all things are

yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (I Corinthians

3:23). The things which the nations of the world seek after are given

into the bargain, so to speak, as far as they are necessities, to all

who seek the Father’s kingdom.

 

Ø      For those in whom this life is formed, a rule is laid down (v.22),

“Be not anxious as to these things.” The rendering of the Greek

word in the Authorized Version might mislead. Christ Himself has

 taught us to take thought for our life — to provide for the morrow.

He bade His disciples gather up the fragments, that nothing might be

lost. He had a bag, of which Judas was the bearer, from which

things needful were purchased. It is a sign of the savage, not the

civilized man, to live only for the present hour, wasting what he

does not immediately consume. The teaching is that, living

the true life, and preferring what is right to what is merely politic,

we may COUNT ON GOD FOR THE SUPPLY FOR ALL

OUR NEES!   As to eating and drinking, we will not ask the

satiety of abundance, we will ask only sufficiency; and on this

we may rely. He who feeds the ravens will not forget those who

faithfully serve Him (vs.23,30). We are to labor constantly and

diligently whilst we have strength, to sow and reap, to “provide

things honest in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17); “for

labor is God’s appointed means of feeding and clothing — as

even the raven witnesses, which God feeds, but which yet is ever

picking what it can find; as even the lily witnesses, which is faithful

to the conditions of its growth. But we are to toil with a free heart,

delivered from carking and worrying care, turning ever trustfully to

the love of our Father in heaven.  Matthew Henry puts it thus: “As in

our stature, so in our state, it is our wisdom to take it as it is, and make

the best of it; for fretting and vexing, carking and caring, will not mend

it.” “Do not live in suspense; do not cherish the doubting, doubtful

mind,” says the Lord to His followers. “Do not fear. A little flock you

may seem; but the shepherding is perfect. Live generously, self-

denyingly, self-sacrificingly (v.31). The purses which hold good

deeds never wax old. The treasure bestowed on that which is

out of sight is laid up in the heavens (v.33), and no thief can abstract

it, and no moth can destroy it. Living in the unseen, in God’s

kingdom of grace as its subjects, your heart (v.34) will settle

towards its treasure; you will be prepared and fitted to be the

princes of your Father’s kingdom of glory.”

 

 

 

                        A Warning against Covetousness (vs. 13-21)

 

Amid the important teaching of our Lord there comes an interlude by

reason of a brother, who had been wronged out of his share of the

inheritance, appealing for redress to Christ. He wanted our Lord to play

the part of a small attorney and get conveyed to him some share. This our

Lord deliberately declines to do, indicating that He has come into the world

for higher work than worldly arbitration.   But our Lord does far better for the poor

brother than if He had become arbitrator for him. He warns him against covetousness,

and indicates that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things

which he possesseth.” To back up the lesson, He relates a parable about a

certain rich man whose whole concern was to multiply his possessions, but

who is surprised by death while doing so. He leaves his wealth behind him,

and enters the other world utterly poor. If by this timely warning our Lord

succeeds in leading the claimant to the possession of better riches, then all

will be well. And here we notice:

 

·         A MAN CAN NEVER BE SATISFIED WITH THINGS. (v. 15.)

This is the great mistake men are making. They imagine that things can

satisfy their hearts; whereas we are so constituted, with our affections and

emotions, that fellowship with persons is indispensable to any measure of

satisfaction, and to full satisfaction with no less a Being than God himself.

All the effort, consequently, to be satisfied with things, with gifts, when the

Giver is left out, proves vain.f3 No abundance can satisfy the craving of the

heart. And the feverish desire for more and more wealth on the part of

worldly men demonstrates simply that they are on the wrong track

altogether, and that satisfaction can never be found in things.

Covetousness, consequently, as the idolatry of things, is a total mistake. It

misinterprets human nature, and is doomed to terrible disappointment.

 

·         SUCCESS MAY DOOM MEN TO LIFELONG WRONG. (vs. 16-18.)

      The rich fool, as the man in the parable has been generally called, is

overwhelmed by success. It outgrows his calculations. His barns are too

small; they must be pulled down to allow of bigger barns being built, so

that years of anxious labor are provided out of his inordinate success. He

gets steeped to the lips in care. His life becomes a ceaseless worry. His

grasping only secures his misery. It is truly lamentable to witness the self-

inflicted wrong which worldly minds experience as they try to garner more

and more of this world’s goods to the neglect of better things. How well

our great dramatist understood this! In his poems Shakespeare says:

 

                                    “The profit of excess

Is but to surfeit, and such griefs sustain,

That they prove bankrupt in this poor-rich gain.

The aim of all is but to nurse the life

With honor, wealth, and ease, in waning age;

And in this aim there is such thwarting strife,

That one for all, or all for one, we gage,

As life for honor in fell battle’s rage,

Honor for wealth; and oft that wealth doth cost

The death of all, and altogether lost.”

 

·         IN THE CAREER OF SUCCESS THERE IS ONLY A VAIN

DESIRE FOR REST. (v. 19.) The soliloquy betrays the utter weariness

of the man. After his bigger barns are built, away down the fretful years he

will reach, he hopes, a time when he will be in a position to say to his soul,

“Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat,

drink, and be merry.” He longs for rest, but it will be years yet before he

can think of it. All the worry and the fret of the interval must be passed

before rest can come. His idea is to win rest by wealth; to buy it up by a

certain measure of success. And the experience of all men is that rest is

never got on this line at all. It is something that cannot be purchased, but

must be GOD GIVEN!    How often do we see men who have retired with a

competency at a loss how to kill time, and as weary and restless as ever!

 

·         DEATH CUTS THE SOUL OFF AT ONCE FROM HIS WORLDLY

POSSESSIONS. (vs. 20-21.) We never hear of millionaires carrying

their money-bags with them. A moment after death Croesus is no richer

than the beggar. The things which were so anxiously amassed remain to be

divided among the heirs, while the owner goes out into another world

absolutely penniless. The state to which death reduces him is pitiful indeed.

Having forgotten God the Giver through occupation with His gifts, he faces

his Judge without a single feeling or aspiration which, in God’s sight, is

valuable at all. A miserable and wretched soul receives dismissal from the

gracious God whose bounty was ignored and whose Being was despised.

 

·         HOW ALL-IMPORTANT IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES TO

ACCEPT OF CONTENTMENT AND REST AS THE SAVIOUR’S

OFFERED GIFT. If the young man had accepted of contentment in place

of cherishing covetousness, he would have been at ease at once. Rest of

spirit and growth of spirit would thus have been secured, and he would

have been on not only equal terms with, but most probably superior terms

to, his more grasping brother. It is thus that Jesus deals with us. He can

give us a present rest from sin, from worry, from care of all kinds, and

make us rich in the sight of God. With the riches of the soul in graces and

gifts, we may hope to pass into the Divine presence and enjoy the Divine

society and escape being castaways.

 

At heart  the heathen are secular. There is no better way of seeing this than by

looking into their prayers. As one has said, “Idolatrous nations have in all

places and in all ages prayed with unanimous voice that their god would

give them health and physical force, riches, honor, pleasure, success; for it

is indeed for these the pagans pray.”  This is what composed the life of

paganism for the most part, and (does so still in secular America! – CY –

2012).  Take almsgiving as in vs. 33-34.  Charity is the investment of love, the

expenditure of money for God’s sake and His kingdom.  Is this not proof positive

that God is a bountiful Provider? How is it that there is hardly one in this hard

world but could give if he only tried? And what a transference of the heart’s

affections this will secure!  The heart no longer grovels amid the secular and temporal,

but passes outward to the spiritual and eternal. Then the people whom we have tried

to help will form for us a bright and wholesome field for thought and hope, and the

building up of God’s kingdom shall be the result.  (Think of the generosity of the

people of the United States over its past existence.  Now, with secularism on the

rise, just watch the selfishness of the people and they gradually think only of self!

ME, MYSELF AND I!  - CY – 2012)

 

32  Fear not, little flock;” - Another term of tender endearment addressed to

His own who were grouped near Him. In the earlier part of this discourse (v. 4)

He had called them “my friends.” He had told them of the troublous life which

awaited them, but at the same time wished to show them how dear they were to

Him. It was as though He said, “Endure the thought of these necessary trials for

my sake; are you not my chosen friends, for whom so glorious a future, if ye endure

to the end, is reserved?” - “for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give

you the kingdom.”

 

33 “Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax

not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth,

neither moth corrupteth.”  “Those of you who have riches, see, this is what I

counsel you to do with them.”  In considering these much-disputed words of the

Master, we must remember

 

  • to whom they were spoken: they were addressed to men and women

who, if they would follow Him, must set themselves free from all worldly

possessions; they must literally forsake all to follow Him.

 

  • We must bear in mind:

 

Ø      that the only community which attempted, as a community, to obey this

charge literally was the Church of Jerusalem, and the result was that for

long years this Church was plunged into the deepest poverty, so that

assistance had to be sent even from far-distant Churches to this deeply

impoverished Jerusalem community. This we learn from Paul, the real

compiler of this very Gospel, where the charge is reported. See many

passages in his letters, notably the Second Epistle to the Corinthians.]

 

Ø      The mendicant orders in the Middle Ages, with no little bravery and

constancy, likewise attempted to carry out to the letter this direction.

The impartial student of mediaeval history, while doing all justice to

the aims and work of these often devoted men, can judge whether

or no these mendicant orders can be reckoned among the permanently

successful agencies of the cross. We conclude, then, that these words

had a literal meaning only for those to whom they were specially

addressed, viz. the disciples. While to the Church generally they convey

this deep, far-reaching lesson, a lesson all would-be servants of Christ

would do well to take to heart — it is the Master’s will that his followers

should sit loose to all earthly possessions, possessing them as though

they possessed not. (I Corinthians 7:30).  Thus living, the heart will be

free from all inordinate care for earthly treasure, and will, in real earnest,

turn to that serene region where its real and abiding riches indeed are —

even to HEAVEN!

 

34 “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  35  Let your loins

be girded about, and your lights burning;  36 And ye yourselves like unto men

that wait for their Lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he

cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.”  The Master goes

on with His teaching on the subject of covetousness, still addressing Himself

primarily to the disciples. “There is another reason why my chosen followers should

treat the amassing of earthly goods with indifference; no man knows when the

end of this state of things may come; their hearts must be fixed on something else

than perishable things. They must act as servants on the watch for the return of

their lord. “See now, my own,” Jesus proceeds to say; “your attitude in life must

be that of servants, at once loyal and devoted, whom their employer has left in his

house while he is absent at a great wedding-feast. The day of his absence passes into

evening, and evening shades into night; and even the night wears slowly

and tediously away, and still the master of the house comes not back from

his festival.” But the faithful servants all this while never slumber, or even

lie down to rest. All the time of his absence, with their loose flowing

Eastern robes taken up, and the skirt fastened under the girdle, with their

lamps all trimmed and burning, these watchers wait the coming of their

lord, though he tarry long, that they may be ready to receive him and serve

him the moment he arrives. All kinds of busy house service, too, carried on

during the long night of watching, is implied by the girt-up robes and the lit

lamps of the tireless watchers.

 

37 “Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh

shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself,

and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve

them.”  The title “blessed,” when used by our Lord, is ever a very lofty one,

and implies some rare and precious virtue in the one to whom this title to

honor is given. It seems as though the house-master of the parable scarcely

expected such true devotion from his servants; so he hastens to reward a

rare virtue with equally rare blessedness and honor. He raises the slaves to

a position of equality with their master. These true faithful ones are no

longer his servants; they are his friends. He even deigns himself to minister

to their wants. A similar lofty promise is made in less homely language.

The final glorious gift to the faithful conqueror in the world’s hard battle

appears in the last of the epistles to the seven Churches: “To him that

overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne” (Revelation 3:21).

 

38 “And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch,

and find them so, blessed are those servants.”  Among the Jews at the

time of our Lord, the old division of the night into three watches had given place

to the ordinary Roman division into four. They were reckoned thus: from six to

nine, from nine to midnight, from midnight to three, and from three to six.

In this parable the second and third watches are mentioned as necessary for

the completeness of the picture; for the banquet would certainly not be

over before the end of the first watch, and in the fourth the day would be

breaking. The second and third watches, then, represent the still and weary

hours of the night, when to watch is indeed a task of difficulty and

painfulness; and here again the Lord repeats His high encomium on such

devoted conduct in His second “blessed are those servants.” It is perfectly

clear that in this parable the master’s return signifies the coming of Christ.

The whole tone, then, is a grave reminder to us, to all impatient ones, that

the great event may be long delayed, much longer than most Christian

thinkers dream; but it tells us, too. that this long delay involves a test of

their loyalty.  The parousia does not come so quickly as impatience, nor

yet so late as carelessness, supposes.

 

39 “And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour

the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his

house to be broken through.   40 Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son

of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.”  The Lord abruptly changes

the scene of His parable imagery, and with another striking and vivid example

enforces His teaching on the subject of the urgent necessity of His servants

keeping a sleepless and diligent watch and ward against His coming again in

judgment. Very deeply must this image of the Lord’s sudden return, as a thief

breaks into the house in the still hours of the night, have impressed itself on

the hearts of the awestruck, listening disciples, for we find in the case of Paul and

Peter the very words and imagery, and in the ease of John the imagery again

made use of (see I Thessalonians 5:1-2; II Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3; 16:15).

The meaning of the simile is obvious. The disciples and all followers of Jesus

would do well to remain always on the watch for the second advent of

 the Lord. The time of that awful return was unknown, never could be known;

men, however, must not be deceived by the long tarrying; the Day of the Lord

would surely come on the world as a thief in the night.

 

 

 

                        Lessons from the Fowls and Lilies (vs. 22-40)

 

Our Lord, having related the parable against covetousness, or the selfish

use of money, proceeds in the present section to show how foolish the

anxious thought is about these temporal things. And here we have to:

 

·         CONSIDER HOW POOR THE LIFE IS. WHICH LAKES EATING

AND DRESSING THE CHIEF THOUGHT. (vs. 22-23.) A man’s life

is intended to be much more assuredly than this; and yet are there not some

who have no thought beyond this? The weight of anxiety is purely secular

and physical. The devotees of the table and of the fashions make eating and

dressing all. Now, the idea of the passage is that no one is so

circumstanced as to be compelled to think only or chiefly of food and

raiment. There is not a poor man but may feel that he was born for higher

thoughts and things than to “keep the pot boiling” and to have something

seemly to wear! He can think of the government of the world, and gain

insight into it. He can rise into the thought of the government of God’s

kingdom, and the noble ideas it embodies. He can make ends meet without

being the slave of circumstances and the creature of a day. He can walk

among the eternities like others of his kind· Hence we must be on our

guard against such a low view of life as this purely secular and temporal

one.  “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things

which are not seen:  for the things which are seen are temporal; but the

things which are not seen are eternal!”  (II Corinthians 4:18)

 

·         CONSIDER THE LESSON ABOUT FOOD FURNISHED BY THE

FOWLS.  (vs. 24-26.) The fowls of the air are not “gentlemen at large,”

but most patient gatherers of their food. Life is not a sinecure (a position

requiring little or no work but giving the holder status or financial benefit)

with them, but a season of continual work. True, they do not become anxious

farmers, sowing seed or reaping harvests, or building and stocking barns. They are

spared a world of anxiety, but they accept the world of provision as God

gives it to them· That which He gives they on unwearied wing gather. “God

feedeth them” in the wisest way, and they accept it as He sends it.

Moreover, the feeding of themselves is not their whole labor. There is

much more in the bird’s day than the quest of food. Whether they

appreciate the beauty about them or no; whether their thoughts are like

ours as from dizzy heights we see magnificent landscapes or stretches of

sea, we cannot of course tell; but one thing seems certain, that the birds

realize something more in the make-up of life than the mere satisfaction of

their appetites. Their lesson is, therefore, one about a busy life, a

thoughtful life, not always occupied with the satisfaction of the flesh. Let

us trust God more in temporal matters, and think more of eternal things;

and then life will be more thoughtful and more happy. No amount of

thinking will add a cubit to our stature; and no amount of anxiety will

deliver us from life’s burdens. It is better to let God reign, and accept the

conditions which in His wisdom He assigns.

 

·         CONSIDER THE LESSON ABOUT RAIMENT FROM THE

LILIES. (vs. 27-28 Here again we are face to face with nature The

purple lilies which deck the spring field are gorgeously appareled. Even

Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of them. So that when

God is allowed to work, he weaves a more splendid texture in his loom

than ever was produced by man. The lilies are evidences of his microscopic

care of the flower of the grass, how worthy He regards it of beautiful

raiment. But then He values His children more than His plants. Men may go

the length of lavishing more attention upon their exotics and their flowers

than upon their children. But this is not God’s order. He has taken more

thought for His human children than for all His gardens and their

magnificent contents. He loves a family more than a conservatory; a school

more than a forest; a population more than a deer-park or prairie. Hence

we may trust him about raiment; it will come in due season and order. He

will not give it to us like paupersclothing, for we should hardly like it in

that way; but to honest work there will come substantial reward.

 

·         CONSIDER THE NOTORIOUS SECULARITY OF THE

NATIONS. (vs. 29-32.) Now, the analysis of heathenism will show that

at heart heathen are secular. There is no better way of seeing this than by

looking into their prayers. As one has said, “Idolatrous nations have in all

places and in all ages prayed with unanimous voice that their god would

give them health and physical force, riches, honor, pleasure, success; for it

is indeed for these the pagans pray.” This is what composed the life of

paganism for the most part, and does so still. There is all the more reason

why the Lord’s little flock should trust Him about the kingdom He has

promised, and give themselves fearlessly to the bringing in of the kingdom

from above. If we seek God’s kingdom and glory first, we shall find a

sufficient amount of food and raiment stored for us by no niggard (a meanly

and stingy covetous person) and no pauperizing hand.

 

·         CONSIDER THE BENEFIT OF ALMSGIVING. (v. 33-34.) Now,

by almsgiving we are to understand enlightened and not lackadaisical

charity. It is the investment of love, the expenditure of money for God’s

sake and for His kingdom. It is truly wonderful how all may become

almsgivers. Is this not proof positive that God is a bountiful Provider? How

is it that there is hardly one in this hard world but could give if he only

tried? And what a transference of the heart’s affections this will secure!

The heart no longer grovels amid the secular and temporal, but passes

outward to the spiritual and eternal. Then the people whom we have tried

to help, on the principle of giving “the greatest amount of needful help with

the smallest encouragement to undue reliance on it,” will form for us a

bright and wholesome field for thought and hope, and the building up of

God’s kingdom shall be the result.

 

·         CONSIDER THE DUTY OF WAITING FOR THE ADVENT.

(vs.. 35-40.) From almsgiving our Lord proceeds to the duty of

diligence in expectation of His advent. He has gone to attend a wedding,

and will return when the marriage is complete, This has surely an

instructive bearing upon the advent as subsequent to the completed plan

about the bride, the Church. But what we have to notice is His readiness to

serve the servants who are found faithful and diligent in His work. He has

had a sufficiency at the wedding-feast; He can consequently wait at the

supper-table of the servants. And what an honor it will be to receive such

attention from THE LORD HIMSELF! Let us, then, be semper paratus,

(always prepared) and then, whether His advent be soon or late, we shall

be overtaken by no surprise!

 

 

 

                                    Death a Divine Visitation (vs. 35-40)

 

To us the coming of the Son of mart means the hour of death; that is the

practical view and therefore the wise view of the subject· And we may well

regard our departure from this world as a coming of God to us.

 

·         DEATH AS A DIVINE VISITATION.

 

Ø      At death God comes to us all in judgment. Death is the appointed

penalty of sin. It is true that the burden of that penalty is spiritual rather

than material, and that God grants us a kind reprieve before He executes

it; but still, in conformity with it, the accidents of death have to occur

to us; that ancient sentence has to be fulfilled; the shadows of the last

hour must fall around us; and whenever and however that may happen,

with whatever mitigations, God will come to us then in solemn penalty,

saying, “My child, thou hast sinned, and thou must die.”

 

Ø      At death God comes to us in providence.

 

o       God has given to us a perishable frame, one that is only

     constructed to last for a term of years, that after a certain point

     begins to waste and wane

 

o       He suffers, if He does not send, the special circumstances which

     lead up to death; at the least, He withholds the interposing act

or suggestion which would prolong the life that is taken· Man

never “goes to his long home” (Ecclesiastes 12:5 but we may

say, “Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye

children of men.” (Psalm 90:3)  On each such occasion the

Son of man comes and says, “Put off thy tabernacle, and come

within the veil.”

 

Ø      At death Christ comes to us in sacred summons· In life God’s voice

should be daily heard saying, “Put out those powers; use those

opportunities; cultivate that spiritual nature I have entrusted to thee;

serve thy brethren; glorify my Name.” But at death Christ comes to

us and summons us to His presence; then we hear Him say, “Give

account of thy stewardship;” (ch. 16:2-3) “Reap what thou hast sown.”

(Galatians 6:7)

 

·         READINESS FOR DEATH A PART OF HUMAN WISDOM. “Let

your loins be girded about… be like men that wait for their Lord… the Son

of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.”

 

Ø      It is true that there is usually less suddenness than there seems in cases

of sudden death; on inquiry, it is nearly always found that there were

premonitory signs of danger, kindly warnings from the Author of our

nature, that the end was not far off it. But it is also and equally true that

death is unexpected when it does arrive·

 

o       So do we cling to life, that we are not willing to acknowledge

concerning ourselves the fact which is obvious to every one

else respecting us.

 

Ø      It is our mental habit to expect continuance where we ought to look for

severance and cessation. The oftener we have crossed the decaying and

breaking bridge, the more confidently we do cross it, though we know

well that it is nearer than ever to its fall. We may be almost sure that, in

whatever form and at whatever hour the Son of man comes to us,

we shall be surprised at His appearance.

 

Ø      It will be a terrible thing to be unready; to have to do, if we can, in

      a few brief hours that for which a long life is not a day too long.

 

Ø      It will be a blessed thing to be ready for this vision of our Lord; not

merely, nor chiefly, because we shall thus be enabled to cross, with calm

hopefulness, into the other country, but because we shall then be ready

for those high services and celestial honors which our gracious and

generous Master intends to confer upon us (v. 37).

 

41 “Then Peter said unto Him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or

even to all?” Peter’s question here referred evidently to the longer and more

important parable-story, where the reward which the faithful watchers were to

receive is mentioned (v. 37). The grandeur of that reward seems deeply to have

impressed the impulsive apostle. Some true conception of the heaven-life had

entered into Peter’s mind; we know, too, that now and again dimly Peter seemed

to grasp the secret of his Master’s awful Divinity. What meant, then, thought

the faithful, loving man, the figure in the parable of the lord? Who was that lord —

Himself serving His faithful followers? The same curious perplexity evidently

passed through Peter’s mind when, on the evening before the death, in a symbolic

act the Master repeated the words of the great promise made here, and

washed His disciples’ feet. Then we read how Peter said to him, “Lord,

dost thou wash my feet?” (John 13:6)  Were all who followed Jesus to share

in that strange, mighty promise; or only a few, such as Peter and his companions,

called for a special purpose?

 

42 “And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom

his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of

meat in due season?   43 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he

cometh shall find so doing.  44 Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make

him ruler over all that he hath.”   Jesus goes on with His discourse. Apparently

He pays no heed to Peter’s question, but really He answers it fully, giving in fact

 more details on the subject of rewards to the faithful in the life to come than even

Peter’s question required. “Who then,” asks the Lord, “is that faithful and wise

steward, whom his lord shall make ruler ever his household?” Who? Peter

must answer the question. This steward should be Peter himself and each of

Peter’s chosen companions. This high position of steward in the household

of the Lord should be filled by those whom Jesus had specially chosen. If,

when He came again, the Lord found these faithful to their solemn trust,

then these should receive a still higher and grander recompense even than

that inconceivably splendid reward (mentioned in v.37) which had so

struck Peter; and the higher recompense which these, the faithful and wise

stewards, should then receive would be the being made rulers over all that

the Lord hath. The answer of the Master then told Peter that all His

followers, if found true and loyal, should receive the reward promised (in

v.37) to the watching servants, who in the world to come would be not

the servants but the friends of God. While the few, the chosen apostles of

the Lord, if they endured to the end, if they were found wise and faithful,

to them would be given in the new life a yet more glorious recompense;

they would be set in some special position of government and dominion in

the glorious city of God. This teaches, too, indirectly, but with great

clearness, that in the heaven-life ALL CHRIST’S REDEEMED  will

enjoy in the friendship of God a perfect blessedness. Still, in that perfect

blessedness which will be the heritage of all the redeemed, there will still be

degrees in glory.

 

45 “But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;

and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink,

and to be drunken; 46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he

looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware,” -  “But,” continued

the Master, “although certain of my servants have onlooks to higher degrees of glory

than the great mass of their fellows, these seemingly favored ones have at the same

time more perilous responsibilities; and only if in these graver responsibilities they

are faithful to the end, will they receive their high and peculiar reward.” If, on the

other hand, they fail in their perpetual watch for the coming of their Lord, and

instead of the restless toil which the Master has assigned to these stewards, these

servants, weighted with higher responsibilities, give themselves up to worldly

pleasures and passions, terrible will be their doom. Again the excesses of

the table are specially mentioned. If, instead of spending themselves in the

cares of their high office, they make a profit out of that office, if they live as

oppressors of the flock rather than as shepherds, then to these unfaithful stewards

will the Lord suddenly come, as pictured in the parable imagery, a thief in the

night – “and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion

with the unbelievers.”  The terrible punishment here specified was not

unknown among the ancients (see Herodotus, 7:39; and Hebrews 11:37).

Isaiah was said to have been sawn asunder. It has been suggested, to bring

the punishment into harmony with the statement immediately following,

which speaks of a definite and, perhaps, of an enduring position for the

guilty one, a “portion with the unbelievers,” to understand the word as an

equivalent for scourging; so in the Latin we find flagellis discindere, to

scourge the back with the rod. There is, however, no known instance of

the Greek word διχοτομεῖν dichotomaesei cut in two parts - being

used in this sense. The expression is, however, used as simply implying that

a terrible doom is surely reserved in the life to come for those who have so

sadly misused their high opportunities and neglected their great responsibilities.

The image of the parable itself is blended with the reality which the parable

signifies; this thought of the human master who can punish his slaves with

temporal death passes into that of the Divine Judge who can punish

 with spiritual death.

 

47 “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself,

neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he

that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with

few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much

required.” These verses are easy to understand. They explain the broad principles

upon which the foregoing statements, in parable and in direct teaching, are

based. Rewards and punishments will be allotted in the coming world with

strict justice. To some, great knowledge of the Divine will is given and

splendid opportunities of work are afforded; to such, if only they are

faithful and true, will indeed a high place in the city of God be allotted; but

alas for them in the life to come if they fail, if they miss the splendid chance

of being true toilers with and for God! Their portion will be the many

stripes. To others a knowledge of the Divine will, scanty compared with

these just spoken of, is given, and opportunities of doing high and noble

work are here comparatively few; if these use the little knowledge and

seize the few opportunities, they will, while occupying a lower grade in the

hierarchy of heaven, still enjoy the perfect bliss of friendship with God. The

punishment for failure here is designated by the few stripes. In this solemn

passage it is notable that degrees or grades in punishment as well as

degrees or grades in glory are distinctly spoken of.

 

49  “I am come to send fire on the earth;” -  It is still the same train

of thought that the Master pursues — a train which had been only slightly

diverted by Peter’s question. The text, so to speak, of the whole discourse

was “the strange attraction which riches possess for men, and the palsying

effect which this attraction, when yielded to, exercises over the whole life.”

The Master’s argument was as follows: “Beware of covetousness; let your

attachment to earthly possessions sit very lightly on you all; and as for you,

my disciples, do you have nothing to do with these perishable goods.” And

here, with an abrupt solemnity, probably the voice changing here, and

ringing with an awful emotion, He enforces His charge to the disciples with

the words, “I am come to send fire on the earth.” “My stern, sad work is to

inaugurate a mighty struggle, to cast a firebrand on the earth. Lo, my

presence will stir up men — you will see this in a way none now dream of;

a vast convulsion will rend this people asunder. In the coming days of war

and tumult, what have you, my disciples, who will be in the forefront of

this movement, — what have you to do with earthly goods? Toss them

away from you as useless baggage. “No man that warreth entangleth

himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who

hath chosen him to be a soldier.”  (II Timothy 2:4) - The pioneers of the

army of the future, surely they must be unencumbered in the war, which is about

to break out; for remember, ‘I am come to send fire on the earth.”-  “and what

will I, if it be already kindled?” better rendered, how I would that it had been

already kindled! That is to say, “How I wish that this fire were already

burning!”  Through all the woe, however, the Redeemer could see, shining as it

were through a dark cloud, the unspeakable glory and blessedness of His work.

But this fire could not be kindled into a flame until something had happened. The

cross must be endured by Him; till then His work was not finished; and in His pure

human nature — it is with stammering tongue and trembling pen we speak

or write here — He felt, we believe, the bitter stinging pain of dread

expectation of what was coming. With this outlook He was weighed down,

we know, at times; witness especially the Gethsemane agony. He goes on to say:

 

50 “But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it

be accomplished!”  The baptism He here speaks of was the baptism of pain and

suffering and death — what we call the Passion of the Lord. He knew it must all

be gone through, to bring about the blessed result for which He left His home in

heaven; (this plan had been worked out between Christ and the Father,

before the creation of the world!  – Revelation 13:8 – CY – 2012) but He

looked on to it, nevertheless, with terror and shrinking.  He is under pressure

to enter into this suffering because He is in haste to get out of it, mournfully

impatient to have done with a painful task.” This passage of the discourse of

Jesus here has been called “a prelude of Gethsemane.”

 

 

                        Spiritual Strenuousness (vs. 49-50)

 

Our Lord’s life deepened and enlarged as it proceeded, like a great and

fertilizing river. And as conflict became more frequent and severe, and as

the last scenes drew on, his own feeling was quickened, His spirit was

aflame with a more ardent and intense emotion. We look at the subject of

spiritual strenuousness:

 

·         IN VIEW OF OUR LORD’S PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. In these two

verses we find Him passing through some moments of very intense feeling;

He was powerfully affected by two considerations.

 

Ø      A compassionate desire on behalf of the world. He came to the world to

kindle a great fire which should be:

 

o       a light to illumine,

o       a heat to cleanse,

o       a flame to consume.

 

Such would be the Divine truth of which He came to be the Author,

especially as it was made operative by the Divine Spirit whose

coming should be so intimately associated with and should immediately

follow His life work (see ch.  3:16; Acts 2:3). As He looked upon

the gross and sad darkness which that light was so much needed to

dissipate, upon the errors that heat was so much required to purify, upon

the corruption that flame was so essential to extinguish, His holy and

loving spirit yearned with a profound and vehement desire for the hour

to come when these heavenly forces should be prepared and be freed

to do their sacred and blessed work.

 

Ø      A human longing to pass through the trial that awaited him. “But” —

there was not only an interval of time to elapse, there was a period of

solemn struggle to be gone through, before that fire would be kindled.

There was a baptism of sorrow and of conflict for Himself to undergo,

and how was He “straitened” in spirit until that was accomplished!

Here was the feeling of a son of man, but it was the feeling of the

noblest of the children of men. He did not desire that it should be

postponed; He longed for it to come that it might be passed through,

that the battle might be fought, that the anguish might be borne.

Truly  this is none other than a holy human spirit with whom we have

to do; one like unto ourselves, in the depth of whose nature were these

very hopes and fears, these same longings and yearnings which, in the

face of a dread future, stir our own souls with strongest agitations.

How solemn, how great, how fearful, must that future have been

which so profoundly and powerfully affected His calm and

reverent spirit!

 

·         IN VIEW OF OUR OWN SPIRITUAL STRUGGLES. We cannot do

anything of very great account unless we know something of that spiritual

strenuousness of which our Lord knew so much.

 

Ø      We should show this in our concern for the condition of the world. How

much are we affected by the savagery, by the barbarism, by the idolatry,

by the vice, by the godlessness, by the selfishness, which prevail on the

right hand and on the left? How eagerly and earnestly do we desire

that the enlightenment and the purification of Christian truth should

be carried into the midst of it? Does our desire rise to a holy, Christ-like

ardor? Does it manifest itself in becoming generosity, in appropriate

service and sacrifice?

 

Ø      We may show this in our anxiety to pass through the trial-hour that

awaits us. Whether it be the hour of approaching service, or sorrow, or

persecution, or death, we may, like our Master, be straitened until it

be come and gone. Let us see that, like him, we:

 

o       await it in calm trustfulness of spirit; and

o       prepare for it by faithful witness and close communion

     with God in the hours that lead up to it.

 

51 “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you,

Nay; but rather division. 52  For from henceforth there shall be five in

one house divided, three against two, and two against three.  53  The father

shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother

against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in

law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother

in law.” But the Master quickly leaves Himself and His own sad forebodings.

He puts by for a season His own holy impatience and continues His warnings.

“I have been dwelling on the troublous times quickly coming on. (And

should we not understand the times in which we are living!  The very possibility,

yea, probability, that Christ is returning soon, the Bible calls the times “perilous!”

II Timothy 3:1 - CY – 2012)  Do not deceive yourselves, my disciples; the great

change about to be inaugurated will only be carried out in war and by divisions in

the individual house as in the nation. I bring not peace, but a sword, remember.”

And then follows a curious picture of a home torn asunder by the conflict

of thought which would spring up as the result of the cross and of the

preaching of the cross. (In our day and time it is disguised as “separation of

church and state;” the religious and the secular!” – “ANY AND ALL

THINGS “ANTI-CHRIST! – CY – 2012)

 

54 “And He said also to the people,” -  A note of the compilers, Luke and Paul,

which seems to say, “Besides all the important sayings we have just written down,

which were spoken on this occasion, the Master added as a conclusion the

following words.” It is probable that the expressions used in the next seven verses

were called out by the general apathy with which His announcement of the coming

woes was received by the listening multitude.  Possibly he had noticed a smile of

incredulity on the faces of some of the nearer by-standers. The words had already

been used on other occasions in a different connection. Here He used them as

a last appeal, or rather as a remonstrance. He seems to say to the people, “O blind,

blind to the awful sins of the times! You are weather-wise enough, and can tell

from the appearance of the sky and the sighing of the wind whether a storm is

brewing or no: why not use the same faculty of discernment in higher and

more important matters? Ah! be wise; make your peace with God without

delay; it will soon be too late; there is an awful judgment close at hand!” -

 “When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There

cometh a shower; and so it is.” To the west of Palestine lay the great

Mediterranean Sea, from which, of course, came all the rains which fell on

that country.

 

55 “And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it

cometh to pass.”  To the south of Palestine lay the desert; when the wind blew

from that direction, it was usually a time of heat and drought.

 

56 “Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but

how is it that ye do not discern this time?  57  Yea, and why even of yourselves

judge ye not what is right?”  These things had an interest for them. Heat and drought,

wind and rain, affected materially the prospect of their wheat-harvest and vintage, the

fruitfulness of their orchards and oliveyards, therefore they gave their whole mind to

the watching of the weather; but to the awful signs of the time in which they were living

they were blind and deaf. (In other words, they paid more attention to their

material needs without any concern for their spiritual welfare! – CY – 2012)

What were these signs?

 

  • The low state of morality among public men. Did none of them notice

how utterly corrupt were priests and scribes and people, how hollow and

meaningless their boasted religious rites, how far removed from them was

the presence of the God of their fathers?

 

  • Political situation. Did none of them notice the terribly strained

relations between the Roman or Herodian, and the great national party?

Were they blind to the bitter, irreconcilable hatred to mighty Rome which

was seething scarcely beneath the surface of Jewish society? Were they

deaf to the rumbling noises which too surely heralded a fierce and bloody

war between little Palestine, split up into parties and sects, and the mighty

world of Rome which had seized them in its own grip? What could be the

result of such a war? Were they devoid of reason as well as blind and deaf?

 

  • Heavenly warnings. What had they done with John the Baptist? Many

in Israel knew that man was indeed a great prophet of the Lord. His

burning words had penetrated far and wide; vast crowds had heard the

awful sounds with breathless awe; but no one heeded, and the people

watched him die. And now — they had listened to Him who was speaking

to them. He had told them all; no sign of power was wanting to His

ministry, and it was just over, and the people had not repented.

 

           

 

                                    Individual Responsibility (v. 57)

 

“Why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?” Those to whom our

Lord was speaking were men of intelligence, education, religious privilege.

They exercised their mental faculties with great keenness on some subjects

(vs. 54, 55): why could they not recognize the supreme fact of their time,

viz. that THE MESSIAH WAS BEFORE THEM? (v. 56) Why did they

not employ their powers to discern between the false and the true,

between  the evil and the good?

 

·         THAT WE MAY NOT DEVOLVE (TRANSFER) OUR ACCOUNT-

      ABILITY FOR HOLDING THE TRUTH ON ANY ONE OR ANY BODY

OF MEN.  It has not been merely “the right of private judgment” which has

been in question, which some have striven so hard to withhold, and which

others have suffered so much to obtain or to preserve. It has been the sacred

duty of  determining for ourselves what is the mind and the will of God, the

solemn obligation to put into use the talents He has committed to our care.

We are to discharge this duty under all circumstances and whoever may

propose to relieve us of it. We may not delegate it:

 

Ø      To the State. The State may prescribe Islamism in one region,

Confucianism in another, Catholicism in a third; but we are not at liberty

to make our religious creed depend on the latitude and longitude where

we reside.

 

Ø      To the Church; or Jesus Christ Himself would have been criminal, for

He entirely disregarded the decision of the “council,” and the Christian

Church has, in its collective capacity, spoken differently in different

times and places.

 

Ø      To society; that is frequently at fault.

 

Ø      To the parent. For a time this is necessary, right, becoming,

praiseworthy; but the time comes when the son must no longer shield

himself behind his filial obedience, he must think and must decide for

himself. If we are possessed of ordinary human powers and privileges we

must “of ourselves judge what is fight.” It is a solemn burden, a sacred

duty, which our Creator has laid on each human spirit He has called

into being.  (Thank you God for that call!   - 2021)

 

·         THAT GOD HAS GIFTED US WITH A SPIRITUAL NATURE for

this very purpose.  He has endowed us:

 

Ø      with reason, or with that faculty which intuitively

      perceives the great and deep truths which are presented to it;

 

Ø      with conscience, the faculty which commends and condemns, filling

      with inward joy or inward pain;

 

Ø      with judgment, the faculty that compares and concludes, and arrives

      at just decisions as to THE THING THAT SHOULD BE DONE!

            the way that should be taken.

 

It is, indeed, only too true that a long course of sin will warp and degrade

this spiritual nature of ours; but where there is as much enlightenment

as the Jews of our Lord’s time had, and as we ourselves possess, we ought

to be able by its means “to judge what is right.”

 

·         THAT THE HEALTHFUL ACTION OF OUR SPIRITUAL

NATURE IS ONE LARGE PART OF OUR PROBATION. If “the light

that is in us be darkness,” if our conscience is misdirecting us, it is because

we have been wrong, it is because we have not been true to ourselves. Sin

has weakened or even distorted our faculty of spiritual discernment. But if

we are true to ourselves, if we:

 

Ø      honestly seek to know what the will of God is concerning ourselves

      and others;

 

Ø      faithfully endeavor to do what we believe to be His will;

 

Ø      earnestly ask for Divine guidance in our pursuit of wisdom; we shall

be “led into the truth.” We may not see everything in the light in which

other truehearted people see it, but we shall recognize those great

leading truths which bring us into right relation to God, which

constrain us to take a right attitude toward our brethren, which light

up our earthly path and conduct us to our home.

 

We may not refuse our responsibility under any plea, not even that of

humility. It would be pleasant to say, “We will leave to others who can do

it better the work of deciding what is true, which message is from God,

which path leads heavenwards.” But we may not say this without declining

the sacred duty our heavenly Father devolves on each one of His children.

 

Accepting our post as truth-seekers, we must do our work conscientiously,

thoroughly, without prejudice.

 

We may be sure that Christ will grant us all the Divine aid we need if we

honestly endeavor and devoutly pray.

 

58 “When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in

the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale

thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer

cast thee into prison.   59 I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou

hast paid the very last mite.”  And then the Master passed into one of those

parable illustrations with which His hearers were now familiar, and which in a homely

way taught the crowd the same grave truth which He had been dwelling upon —

the impending terrible judgment which was coming on the people. The

lesson, “be reconciled to God while it is yet time,” is, of course, applicable

to all lives, precarious and hanging seemingly on a thread as they all are,

but it was especially spoken to that generation in view of the awful ruin

which He knew was so soon to fall on every Jewish home. The genera]

meaning of the parable illustration was obvious; no hearer could fail to

understand the Lord’s meaning. It is before arriving at the judgment-seat

that you must be reconciled, with the one who accuses you, otherwise it

will be too late, and nothing would remain for the guilty accused but the

eternal prison-house. At that moment, when the Master was speaking,

individual or nation might have turned to the Lord and lived. There was

no time, however, for hesitation. The sands in the hour-glass, which marked

the duration of God’s longsuffering with Israel, were just running out.

Theologians in different ages and of varied schools have made much of the

concluding sentence (v. 59). Roman Catholic divines see in it a strong

argument in favor of the doctrine of purgatory, arguing that after death

condemnation would be followed by liberation, when a certain payment

had been made by the guilty soul; strange ways of paying this debt by

means of others we know have been devised by the school of divines who

teach this doctrine of purgatory. But THE LORD’S WORDS HERE ARE

TERRIBLY PLAIN AND EXCLUDE ANY PAYMENT OF THE

DEBT OF THE SOUL BY  OTHERS!  The Master emphatically says,

“till thou hast paid the very last mite.” The advocate who pleads for

universal redemption, and shrinks from a punishment to the duration of which

he can see no term, thinks that in the words, “till thou hast paid,” he can

discern the germ at least of eternal hope. But the impenetrable veil which

hangs between us and THE ENDLESS HEREAFTER  prevents us, surely,

from even suggesting that any suffering which the soul may endure in the

 unseen world will ever pay “the very last mite,” and so lead to pardon

 and peace.

 

 

 

            The Glories and Responsibilities of the Christian Ministry

                                                (vs. 41-59)

 

The previous parable attracts Peter by reason of its glorious promise, and

he accordingly wonders if it can apply to all believers or to the apostles

only. Having asked our Lord, he receives light upon the responsibilities and

glories of the ministerial office. From our Lord’s words we learn:

 

·         IT IS CHRIST’S WILL THERE SHOULD BE STEWARDS IN HIS

CHURCH, WHOSE DUTY IT IS TO GIVE HIS PEOPLE MEAT IN

DUE SEASON. (vs. 42-44.) This is the great design of the ministry — to

feed the flock of God. All other duties are subsidiary to this.. For souls

need to be as regularly fed with truth as the body with food. To this end

the Christian ministry should, therefore, direct all its effects, that the people

may be fed. And need it be said that the truth which nourishes men’s souls

is the truth as it is in Jesus? When Jesus is presented in the glory of his

Person and offices, then the famished souls are saved and satisfied. Now,

our Lord declares that the ministry will continue for such a purpose until

His advent. The household of God will always need the food furnished by

the ministry. No time will come when the ministry shall be superseded. And

the ministers who are diligently employed at their teaching and feeding of

souls when our Lord comes will find themselves blessed:

 

Ø      in their own experience, and

Ø      in the magnificent promotion awaiting them,

 

Christ promises the faithful minister no less than universal influence. He is

to be ruler over all he has. Others may have some influence, but a faithful

minister will, in the world made new, have universal sovereignty.

Ministerial influence is often incomparably the grandest and widest

exercised among men in this life: how much more in the life and order

which will be ushered in by the advent!

 

·         OUR LORD AT HIS ADVENT WILL MAKE SHORT WORK OF

SPIRITUAL DESPOTS. (vs. 45-46.) Some in the ministry, it would

seem, instead of living in expectation of the advent, will live as if the

long delayed advent would never come. In such a case selfish tyranny over

the people committed to them will soon manifest itself; and upon the self-

indulgent despot our Lord shall come suddenly, to appoint him his portion

with the unbelievers. A ministry that is not earnest, but self indulgent and

tyrannical, has before it a terrible doom.

 

·         HE ALSO SHOWS THAT JUDGMENT IN THE WORLD TO COME

      SHALT, BE GRADUATED ACCORDING TO DESERT (vs. 47, 48.)

The difficulties about the Divine judgment have been partly owing

to the forgetfulness of the fact that sinners are not to be cast

indiscriminately into some common receptacle, but subjected to a series of

graduated punishments of the most carefully adjusted character. The

rhapsodies which are so plentiful against any thoroughness in punishing the

impenitent are based mainly upon the false assumption of indiscriminating

punishment. According to a person’s opportunities will be his doom.

 

·         OUR LORD DECLARES THAT HIS PRESENT ADVENT MUST

GENERATE OPPOSITION. (vs. 49-53.) The fire which our Lord came

to kindle is that of spiritual enthusiasm; such a fire as burned in the

disciples’ hearts as He spoke to them on the way to Emmaus (ch. 24:32);

such a fire as was promised in the baptism with the Holy Ghost.  (Matthew

3:11)  Such incendiarism is just the blessed commotion the world needs.

 But in the kindling of the holy flame our Lord will have to pass through

a bloody baptism. He sees how inevitable this dread experience is, and yet

He pants for the cross which is to crown His work and revolutionize the world.

The cross of Christ is really the great divider of mankind; by its instrumentality

families are divided into different camps, and the battle of the truth begun.

(Nations are divided, i.e. The United States in 2020 - CY - 2021)  But the

division Christ creates is infinitely better than the unity without Him. Better

far that we should have to fight for truth than that we should live, like

lotus-eaters,* through indifference towards or ignorance of it. The battle for

Christ is wholesome exercise, and the victory at last is assured.

 

*In Greek mythology the lotus-eaters (Greek: λωτοφάγοι - lotophagoi), were

a race of people living on an island dominated by the lotus tree, a plant whose

botanical identity (if based on a real plant at all) is uncertain. The lotus fruits

and flowers were the primary food of the island and were a narcotic, causing

the inhabitants to sleep in peaceful apathy.

 

·         HE CHARGES THEM WITH MISUNDERSTANDING THE SIGNS

OF THE TIMES, WHILE THEY CAN APPRECIATE THE SIGNS OF

THE WEATHER. (vs. 54-56.) He is now speaking to the people, and

not to the apostles. He points out how they can anticipate shower and heat

by certain signs on the face of nature. People become “weather-wise,” and

can often show wonderful predictive power. And yet THE TIMES were

providentially more significant than the weather. And before their eyes

were hung the signs of a great contest between good and evil, between

Christ and the world; and yet their hypocritical hearts would not allow

them to appreciate the signs or take the proper side. It is a curious fact that

many will study the laws of physical nature with intense interest and

success, and yet neglect utterly those laws of the Divine government which

involve the mightiest of revolutions. The hypocrisy of the heart is, our

Savior here says, the secret of such inconsistent apathy.

 

·         HE DECLARES THE URGENCY OF RECONCILIATION WITH

GOD. (vs. 57-59.) The adversary, magistrate, and officer, are three

individuals needful for the initiation and execution of human judgment. But

the context shows that Jesus here refers to the Divine judgment which

these hypocrites are courting. In this case — as Godet, in loco, observes

the adversary, judge, and officer are united in the Person of God. He is

the Adversary to charge us with our defaults; He is the Judge to decide our

guilt; He is the Officer to execute due vengeance on us in case we incur it.

Christ consequently urges reconciliation with God without delay upon

these hypocrites. To secure this He appeals to their conscience. They can

surely come to this conclusion themselves, that, in opposing and

persecuting Him, they are not doing right. Their own inward monitor must

witness to the guilt of their present course. Let them see to it, then, that

they are delivered from their doom. Only one way is open, and that is by

throwing themselves upon His mercy manifested in Christ. In this appointed

way our Lord leaves them without excuse. There is surely a hopeless air

about the terms of this judgment. The payment of the last mite is surely

impossible in the prison-house of eternity, and current remedial

programs about the future life are but “will-o’-the-wisps” to lure

thoughtless minds onwards towards DOOM!  May we calculate upon no

post-mortem (an examination of a dead body to determine the cause of death)

reformation but enter upon the pardon and spiritual progress God offers to us

now!

 

 

                                    The Inexorable (vs. 58-59)

 

From the lips of such a parabolic teacher as Jesus Christ we expect to have

some striking illustration of a general principle, our duty being to detect

that principle and to make our own practical applications of it. Here the

great Teacher adduces an illustration drawn from the legal practice of His

time; the general truth underlying it is evidently this — that law is a

rigorous thing, a broken law a terribly exacting thing; that, if we are in any

danger of coming under its power, we should refrain from so doing with

the greatest carefulness; that, if we do not act thus prudently, we must be

prepared to pay a very heavy penalty a little way on. The principle applies to:

 

·         A BREACH OF THE LAW OF PEACE. We are here in this world to

sustain toward one another interesting and important relationships. It is the

will of God that, in all of these, we should be actuated by the spirit and be

ruled by the law of love, of kindness, of charity, of peace. But in this world

of sin the Divine Law is continually broken, and the broken Law exacts a

terrible penalty.

 

Ø      What wretched homes it makes!

Ø      what lamentable feuds in families!

Ø      what miserable ruptures of friendship!

Ø      what deplorable contentions even in Christian Churches!

Ø      what social dissensions!

Ø      what national and international strife!

 

The violated law of love exacts “the uttermost farthing” from those who

break it. (Matthew 5:26)  The Greek word is derived from the Latin quadrans,

the fourth part of the  Roman as, a small copper or bronze coin which had

become common in  Palestine. The "mite," half the quadrans (Mark 12:42),

was the smallest  coin in circulation. Christ’s word of wisdom is this — Look

to it at once; do not lose a day; fill up that little crack; tear up that small root;

let everything, even devotion itself (Matthew 5:24), give place to the sacred

work of reconciliation; do your best, your quickest, your utmost, to heal the

breach before it widens into a gulf, or the slight difference, the small suspicion,

the trivial offense will grow and deepen, and hearts that once were the home

of trust and love will become the haunts of doubt and enmity. Therefore agree

with thine adversary quickly. The same principle applies to:

 

·         A BREACH OF THE LAW OF VIRTUE. We owe it to ourselves to

be temperate, truthful, pure, industrious; we owe it to others to be just,

fair, kind, considerate; we are under law to be all this — the sacred Law of

God. This Law we break, and it becomes our “adversary;” it arraigns us as

its debtors, and it makes us pay the penalty that is due. And what a

penalty!

 

Ø      In the body disease, pain, weakness, shattered nerves, death;

Ø      in circumstances loss, poverty, beggary;

Ø      in reputation humiliation and disgrace;

Ø      in heart compunction, agony of soul;

Ø      in character deterioration, baseness, ruin.

 

Christ says, “Beware of the first step; if tempted to violate any law of virtue

of any kind, consider what you will have to pay a little further on; think

how that broken law will rise against you and condemn you, and you will

not escape until the last farthing has been paid.” If there should be any breach,

 however minute it may be, hasten to repair it.

 

·         A BREACH OF THE LAW OF PRIVILEGE. Privilege and peril,

opportunity and obligation go together, like substance and shadow; they

cannot be dissociated. From those to whom much is given will much be

required (see vs. 47-48). It is a constant law, and its violation will be

rigorously attended with penalty. If we neglect our privilege, if we abuse

our opportunity, we must expect “many stripes,” the uttermost farthing of

condemnation and retribution. We are the firstborn children of privilege;

ours is the dispensation, the period, the land, the home of privilege. Ill will

it fare with us if we pass on to the last tribunal and stand before the great

Judge, not having repaired this breach, not having sought and found

forgiveness for this great transgression.

 

 

 

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