Commentary on Luke 12:13-34
Preaching Series on Stewardship/Generosity (Week 3 of 3)
Week 3: September 2, 2018
Preaching text: Luke 12:13-34, emphasis on fear, treasure for oneself
Accompanying text: Psalm 51:15-17
“My philosophy is if you worry, you suffer twice.” Newt Scamander.
Luke’s context for the language of “treasure in heaven” is, again, different. In Matthew, Jesus was preaching. In Mark, a man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. In Luke, two brothers are in disagreement over their inheritance, and one of them asks Jesus for help.
Jesus then tells them a parable. The parable shows us a man who “has” in abundance, but who keeps building bigger storage for the more that he feels he needs. And then, when he has all he needs, he can “eat, drink, and be merry.” This attitude, which echoes that pessimistic attitude of Ecclesiastes (9:7, “Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do”), Jesus challenges. God is not approving of this sort of disinterested hoarding. Life is “more than food, and the body more than clothing.” As with the rich man in Mark, Luke’s Jesus also tells these brothers to sell their possessions and give alms. This is, apparently, the answer to the dilemma in verse 20, “This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” The way out of this fearful question is to sell them now, in this life, and to know, with intentionality, whose they will be — the poor ones, and the needy.
Like Matthew, the Gospel of Luke emphasizes worry about our own wellbeing as an enemy of generous stewardship. Luke adds to that idea of worry with an exhortation at the culmination of the story for the little flock to, “Do not be afraid.” Fear, which here seems to be connected to greed — fear that I won’t get mine, that I won’t have enough — prevents us from seeing what it is that God has done and will do for us.
Luke also takes the idea of generosity in a slightly different direction than Matthew or Mark. In Matthew, generosity is about service — serving God, not one’s own wealth. In Mark, generosity is about “the other,” about right relationship with one’s neighbor. In Luke, generosity starts with being “rich toward God,” i.e., orienting ourselves outside of our self, outside of our fears about insecurity, and toward God.
Psalm 51:15 puts it this way, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” Being rich toward God is returning to God the first fruits that are our praise, what Hebrews 13:15 calls the “fruit of lips” that confess God’s name.
Fear separates us from God and is an enemy to generous stewardship.
Praise puts God first, and ourselves at God’s service, to the benefit of our neighbors.
Praise, being rich toward God, is the key to a free and generous stewardship — where we serve God, and our money is properly an agent of that service.