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Life of Christ (2007-2009)

Wealth and Worry

Luke 12:1-34

Lesson audio

There is a curious succession of events given here. Christ’s teaching on hypocrisy precedes his teaching on wealth. Is it possible that our Lord noted the behavior in which one wants to be seen as a generous giver, yet in actuality be stingy, as being hypocrisy?

Be on your guard

Luk 12:1-12 NIV

Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. (2) There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. (3) What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. (4) "I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. (5) But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (6) Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies[1]? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. (7) Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (8) "I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. (9) But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. (10) And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. (11) "When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, (12) for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say."


There is a connection in here which most people do not keep in mind: hypocrisy is often rooted in fear. That the evil man does not want his evil discovered, and therefore becomes a hypocrite, is clear to us. But it is also true that the good man may not want his charity to be discovered, for this would mark him as a fool in the eyes of the world. This brings us to the twin difficulties with hypocrisy:

  • Such concealment is, ultimately, of no use whatsoever. Even if it doesn’t come out in this world – which happens most frequently – there is the Day of Judgment.
  • Such concealment is unnecessary for the Christian. God has promised to provide for you.

The worst of hypocrisy is to deny your Lord. His teaching on this is simple: God will care for you if you proclaim him, and condemn you to hell if you don’t.

Whom should you fear?

Christ quite understands that we are fearful creatures. Indeed, being afraid of something is often necessary; we are well advised not to play basketball in the middle of a freeway. But let’s have a little sense of perspective, shall we?

In our area it is a common problem for those who have no legal right to work in this country to be defrauded of wages or even robbed. The police department then has a problem: if they receive such a complaint and do nothing, they are failing to do their job, and encouraging such illegal behavior. Therefore, the police usually state an open policy of not inquiring about immigration status from those who are making such complaints. Why? Robbery and fraud take some of your money; but if the police turn you over to Immigration, you’re on your way out of the land of milk and honey. We have a similar choice. Should we fear those in this world who can kill the body, or the One who can kill both body and soul?

Indeed, the actions of Christ force such a decision upon us. He claims to be the Son of God; to violate his commands is to place yourself on the wrong side of God. There is no sense in Scripture that you can “bow down in the house of Rimmon.” There is no fence to sit.

Which brings us, then, to the “sin against the Holy Spirit.” Many find this rather mysterious, but I think the matter relatively simple. If, before you become a Christian, you blaspheme the name of Christ, it will be forgiven, as will anything else. But the function of the Holy Spirit is, among other things, to convict the world of sin and judgment to come. If you deny this conviction, you cannot be saved. If you cannot be saved, you will not be forgiven.

Public speaking

For most of us, public speaking is something dreadful. It is certainly not something that “just comes naturally” to most of us. But it is something that can be practiced – if we can overcome that first fear. Its benefits are likewise clear: in so doing we can convince others of the truth of Christ, or even edge them closer to that conclusion.

So it is surprising, perhaps, that Christ tells us that we shouldn’t worry about it. It’s the function of the Holy Spirit again; the Holy Spirit who indwells you.

The Rich Fool

Luk 12:13-21 NIV Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." (14) Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" (15) Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (16) And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. (17) He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' (18) "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. (19) And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." ' (20) "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' (21) "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

Greed – a barrier to God

The word for greed is pleonexia – from two root words. Pleo means “to have the majority of” and nexia comes from “to grasp”. I submit for your consideration three senses in which we can interpret this word today:

  • First, there is the simple desire for more than we have. There is never “enough.”
  • Second, there is the desire for “the most” – a competitive spirit often expressed in “he who dies with the most toys, wins.”
  • Third, there is the refusal to be content. We have a car, but it’s not a Mercedes.
Planning the world’s way

There is no shortage of financial advisors in this world. Note that this man “thought to himself” – this is premeditated greed, sometimes known as financial planning. You can see the folly of it in this: what did this man want to do with all that wealth? Despite the frequent commands in the Old Testament he wants to hoard all he can and use the rest to “eat, drink and be merry.” (Some things never change.)

The problem with this? Just how many of us know the hour of our death?

Rich towards God

John Wesley addressed this problem by proclaiming we need to be “rich towards God.” He gave three facets of this richness:

  • We must live in faith – we will need it, otherwise we will begin to wonder just where the next million dollars would come from.
  • Having done that, we must abound in good works.
  • In all things, be filled with love. (The Lord loves the cheerful giver, and such cheer starts with love, not judgment).


Luk 12:22-34 NIV Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. (23) Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. (24) Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! (25) Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[2]? (26) Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? (27) "Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. (28) If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! (29) And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. (30) For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. (31) But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. (32) "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. (33) Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. (34) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

To the disciples

Please note that this section is spoken to the disciples only. Why?

  • Without the power of the Holy Spirit the world simply cannot handle this.
  • The disciples, indwelt with the Holy Spirit, must handle this.
  • There is also a most practical purpose. The world won’t do this; only the disciple. But it is by this that the world knows who is a disciple.
Give the money away?

That’s what he’s talking about:

Pro 19:17 NIV He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD,

and he will reward him for what he has done.

May I point out some advantages of this technique?

  • It deals directly with the problem of the poor – in a much more efficient way, with much more accountability, than government welfare.
  • It makes you a witness for God – at least to the poor you help.
  • Most important – it is the tool which allows you to triumph over your own greed.
Shoot the camel

May I offer a small illustration of what this all means?

T. E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”) relates that the camel sometimes causes problems for the traveler. A horse will go on until it drops. But a camel will reach a point where it decides that it’s through carrying things for the day. What to do?

Lawrence said that the method is”

  • Gather all the other camels around so that they may see what’s happening.
  • Shoot the camel.
  • Divide the load between the other camels.
  • Cook and eat the camel.

So I must ask: is your wealth your camel in the road? Is it saying, “thus far, no more?” Does it prevent you from whole-hearted service?

If so, shoot the camel. Get rid of it. Give that which keeps you back to the poor, willingly, no strings attached. Then follow Him.

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