So, here we are in Luke 12. The popularity of Jesus is soaring and the Scribes and Pharisees are looking a bit lost. And, while Jesus has not come to extinguish them just yet, and urges crowds not to rally against them, He has just dished out judgement for their hypocrisy. And they are hating Jesus and the disciples for it.
Because of this, Jesus turns His attention to His disciples in order to comfort and encourage them. The disciples will be hunted and persecuted. But they will also have a friend.
He then goes on to tell the disciples to be ready for action (Luke 12:35) and to continue the work of caring for His flock until He returns.
But His message goes beyond the disciples and includes all of those who are servants in His household
Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. (Luke 12:43)
Despite the circumstances of life, we are to be serving the Lord in all that we do and we are to avoid all kinds of distractions so that when Jesus comes we will not be found with our skirts in the mud.
In the middle of the Lord’s comforting words, Jesus says,
Fear not little flock, for it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32)
Sell up, and get ready to run, says Jesus. Something that we see the early church doing in the time of the Apostles (Acts 2:44-45), but which also stands for a principle for all believers at all times.
Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. (Luke 12:33)
Notice here that Jesus commands us to come to Him on the basis of the benefits. Give up earthly treasure by giving it to those in need, and so reap the rewards of an eternal possession.
Isn’t that a bit self-serving? Yep. But it does not exclude love. Instead, it directs love to its proper object.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:34)
This idea of coming to Jesus for the benefits, or obeying Jesus for the benefits, seems to shake our rattle. But Jesus says this in more than one place. Ever notice how Paul motivated the church in Ephesus to help the needy? By dangling a blessing before their eyes.
…and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35)
The gospel doesn’t call you to some kind of weird super-spiritual self-denial where you come to Jesus or serve Jesus, “just because.” There is self-denial and there is sacrifice. But it isn’t ultimate.
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I chose my wife on the basis of the benefits. She made me feel good. She seemed like a reliable woman. Both things that would benefit me and my desire for joy, comfort and purpose.
To be sure, it involved a sacrifice. For starters, it meant that all other female prospects were now off-limits.
But that sacrifice was not ultimate. As someone once said, when it comes to a man’s relationship with other women,
You can have a new violin every day of the week for the rest of your life, but only ever be able to play one tune, or you can have one violin for life upon which you can play and enjoy a thousand tunes.
One of the ways we can honour God is by loving the gifts and rewards He promises to give to us by pursuing them. We don’t honour Him by saying, “Oh, I don’t care about the reward, I am just doing it as an act of self-denial.”
Such self-denial and self-flagellation is a rubbish attempt to win the applause of men, no matter how much we smother it in spiritual platitudes.
The other thought in this passage is the idea of keeping the decks clear. It’s easy to become bombarded with distractions. Most of them are small until you add them all together and find they are one great mountain of misery.
The remedy that overcomes these endless distractions is to be about our Father’s business, as Jesus was.
What is that business for you? Perhaps it’s table service (Luke 12:42). Perhaps it’s farming the land (Luke 12:44). Whatever it is, everything we do is to have behind it a knowledge that we are serving Jesus (Colossians 3:23).
In short, if you have to stop what you are doing to accommodate His return or if you have to stop what you’re doing in order to serve the Lord, then whatever it is you are doing, you probably ought not be doing it.