#1 – “Life is more than food.” And more than bills and accumulation of goods too. This saying from Luke 12:23 could be retranslated for our times, “Life is more than money.” The way peasants strove for cheap barley bread or any food in Yeshua’s time so they could be healthy and comfortable should make us moderns think, since we usually struggle for less worthy goals (like more room for “discretionary spending”).
#2 – “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Of course, in some sense, this saying in Luke 12:32 is about our willingness to postpone our reward until the afterlife. But that is not all. As some other sayings in this section show, there is a present sense to the reward of the kingdom too. What Yeshua meant by “kingdom” is not merely some future reality, but a present one too. If we all had faith communities that were like extended families (which is what we’e supposed to have) and if all of us saw ourselves as servants of the King in the present kingdom, we’d base our self-worth on the kingdom and not on accumulation. Even poverty could not take that away.
#3 – “Sell your possessions and give to the needy.” Two words: e and bay. As Luke 12:33 reminds us, there are always people worse off than we are. Even in lean times. Periodically sacrificing for someone else, even if we have little to sacrifice, makes us proactive servants of the kingdom instead of reluctant victims of the world. And selling that PS3 on eBay and giving the proceeds to someone who got laid off from their job would improve the world.
#4 – “How much more will he clothe you, o you of little faith!” I struggle with Luke 12:28 because I know some people, but usually not Americans, don’t even have clothing or food. Does Yeshua’s statement equal some absolute principle: people who have faith in God will always have adequate food and clothing? I would not take this as an absolute principle. But the truth is, few of us actually face starvation or naked exposure. Yeshua’s words should cause us to appreciate the simple necessities more.
#5 – “Do not be anxious about your life.” Luke 12:22 asks us to re-orient our thinking about desire, anxiety, and life. The way to follow Yeshua’s wisdom here is to give up or be willing to lay aside certain desires when they become a source of anxiety or jealousy or anger. It is not wrong to desire a feast and the world to come will be a messianic banquet. But there are all around us things more important than accumulation and feasting. We should trust God to have more important things and live as Yeshua teaches us so we will be rich in friends and family and hope.
#6 – “Seek his kingdom and these things will be added to you.” Again, I don’t take Luke 12:31 as an absolute principle, nor do I ignore the fact that some lovers of God are without bread, but still I believe. I believe that living the kingdom way, the way Yeshua showed us by his own example with his brothers and sisters, will make things like a few bread and fish no problem at all to obtain. Happiness is not accumulation, but purpose, relationship, and knowledge.
#7 – “This night your soul is required of you!” Luke 12:20 chastises us for our excessive fascination with net worth. The famous preacher’s line (“I’ve never seen a hearse towing a Uhaul trailer!”) applies here. You have life insurance? Good. You have retirement investments? Good. What about faith and deeds that will be rewarded by our Father? What is it all for? It’s easier to watch investments disappear and budgets shrink when we remember death happens to us all and when we least expect it the end may come. Tomorrow may not arrive, so what are we doing today for those we love?
#8 – “Stay dressed for action!” Our real employer is not IBM or ATT and whomever it is that sends us a paycheck. The master is watching and will come suddenly. But most of his servants (slaves, actually) don’t remember what the task is. Look at Yeshua and what he sent his disciples to do and what he did in the towns of Galilee, Judea, Samaria, and Perea. Learn from what they did. Apply it to your context.
#9 – “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” If one of the benefits of the bad economy is that hundreds of thousands of Jesus-followers will get a new appreciation for Luke 12:34, then it will all be worth it. Suffering is always bad and in the world to come there will not be any. But in this age, because of our stubbornness, we often respond only to suffering. I pray you do not suffer in this bad economy. Yet if you do, at least let this change your outlook, giving you a new desire for a better treasure. Provide yourselves moneybags that do not grow old.