Luke 12:13–48. Keep Your Mind On the Job.
Key Notes: Parable of the big barns. Seek first the Kingdom. We are servants on duty.
This lesson consists of four of Jesus' brief discourses which follow a logical thought process: wanting money->seeking the Kingdom instead->being on duty for the Master->understanding our servant obligations.
In CS.Lewis' first chapter of the "Screwtape Letters", he shows how easy it is for us to be preoccupied with the "everydayness" of life. In his satire, he evoked the image of a scholar who began to think about God, but was totally distracted by going off to lunch. If Satan can keep us thinking about our stomachs (and our tax bills), we will not have much time to think about God and His Kingdom.
12:13–21 A man asked Jesus to settle an inheritance dispute, a normal rabbinical function, but Jesus refused, telling the man not to be covetous. [But what about fair play and justice?] Repeatedly Jesus does the opposite of what we expect--being baptized, detaching from family, healing on Sabbath, eating with prostitutes and tax-collectors, not washing before dinner, not resolving a dispute--in order to teach powerful lessons.
He told the story of a rich man who prospered to the point where he did not have to work any more and could enjoy himself at leisure: "soul, take your ease; eat, drink and be merry..." ("...for tomorrow we die", said the Epicureans). But God said "tonight we die". So everyone who hoards treasure and ignores God is lost.
12:22–34 Then Jesus turned His teaching to His disciples:
•Don't be anxious about your life, for food, clothing and drink.
a. God cares for the ravens.
b. Anxiety will not extend your life.
c. Lilies are more beautiful than any human garment.
d. God will clothe you too.
e. Since the Father knows your needs, pursue the Kingdom.
•God is pleased, little flock, to give you the Kingdom.
•Store up imperishable treasure in Heaven, where your heart is.
12:35–50 They should think of themselves as servants waiting for the master to come back after the wedding feast. They will be rewarded if awake and on the job. The Master will reward them by Himself putting on the apron and serving them a banquet. He may come after midnight or at 3AM, like a thief in the night.
12:41–48 Peter wanted to know if the parable applied to everyone or only the disciples. Jesus did not answer him directly but went on to a parable of a steward who was caring for His Master's servants and was blessed when he was found at work. Then He told of another steward who decided that the Master was not coming soon and was drunk and abusive to the servants. That servant would be executed. Further, a servant who knew the Master's will and did not act accordingly, would be severely beaten. A servant who did not know, would receive light punishment. The more one is given, the more is required.
Does this answer Peter's question? Plainly, Peter and the Twelve would be considered the ones with greatest responsibility and therefore the teaching applies primarily to them, but other servants who might have much less knowledge were not exempt if they failed in their duties.
The thought process of these four teachings is interesting. Jesus first challenged the covetousness of the masses (Tenth commandment), especially when material wealth led to neglect of God. Then he taught the disciples the radical view of materialism vs. the Kingdom. And He did not leave the Kingdom as a nebulous concept, but taught the Disciples to think of themselves as servants on duty for an absent Master. They might have had trouble understanding "the Son of Man is coming" with any degree of certainty, but the idea of being on duty would be an easy idea to hang onto. He went on to teach them that they were not only on duty, but would be rewarded or punished for their performance. This turns the question of materialism around.
It is hard to avoid covetousness. As one student observed, the Tenth Commandment is the only commandment where the thought is the action. Providentially, God does not require us to dwell on the commandment, but turns our head away from wanting the "stuff" of everyday life to a job assignment. We have work to do. We have a piece of the House to keep up. And we had better do it well. It God was your employer, would you keep your job?
The idea that Christians are on duty is not strange, but the further suggestion that there will be an evaluation of our performance is almost never mentioned in our circles. It seems to contradict the "No Condemnation" promise of Rom.8:1. If the servant does well, the Master will make a banquet and personally serve him. If the servant is derelict, the Master will punish him severely. (how severely?)
Another text on the day of reckoning comes from Paul, using a different metaphor.
"...if anyone builds on the foundation (Jesus Christ) with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw--each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work everyone has done. If the work which anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." (ICor.3:12–15. See also ICor.4:1–5.)
There is no condemnation (damnation), but there are rewards and punishments for servants.
The first duty that is outlined in this passage is to be occupying a space and watching for the Master's return. Watching involves awareness of what is going on in the World--Christian and secular circles--history, current events, and trends in thought, as well as our personal lives.
The second duty of caring for God's servants may apply primarily to pastors. But we are also to provide for other Christians under our care, children, parents, care group members, and missionaries. May we be watchful, and caring.