Luke 12:22-34: Do Not Be Anxious
There are two hands with which we hold onto the things of this life, there is the hand of greed and the hand of worry. The hand of greed holds onto things out of a desire for them believing the lie that they need them in order to be happy; the hand of worry holds onto things out of a desire to survive thinking that it needs these things for life. Some of us pursue the things of this life because of our insatiable desires; some of us pursue things because of our illogical fear. The iron grip of the hand of desire is loosened by finding our greater treasure in God as we are wooed by a greater affection for Him than the things of this life; the iron grip of anxiety is loosened by the knowledge of His fatherly care for us and the rich provisions laid up for us in eternity.
We are in a section where Jesus is addressing our attitudes towards the things of this life. He has given us the parable of the rich fool to warn us off the desire for things that lead us away from God. He has addressed our greed, and now Jesus will address the other instinct that drives us to obsess over the things of this life, our worry, our anxiety, our fear, 12:22-34. Jesus has told us to be rich towards God v21, not only does our greed tremble at the thought of not having what it wants, our worry under the disguise of legitimate concern for security rushes in to talk us off the ledge of radical generosity. Jesus is training His disciples for a life of seeking God’s kingdom, a life of joyful and faith-filled generosity that is able to spend itself in the assurance of God’s love and provision for His own. Jesus is going to address our anxiety with a perspective that the command of v33 will make good spiritual and physical sense, ‘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.’ In contrast to a life of hoarding, Jesus gives us a theology that enables a life of giving, a life of holding loosely to the things of this life, a life of prioritizing God’s will not our own.
As we come to a portion like this there are two extremes we have to avoid, on the one hand we dare not weaken Christ’s words and explain them away so that there is no call for radical obedience and sacrifice. I am warning you now this message is going to hurt us all, Christ’s view of this world’s good is very different to our own; and seeing things as He does will liberate us to have a new radical relationship to the things of this life. But on the other hand there have also been those who have misread Jesus words so as to encourage monasticism, communism, communalism, the renunciation of ownership, and vows of poverty. We want to know what Jesus actually teaches without imposing these man-made notions that ‘have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh,’ Col. 2:23. We must avoid both the antinomian and the legalistic views of these hard words.
Our examination of the text will follow three headings, these three headings follow the three commands in the text: do not worry, seek the kingdom, and give to the needy. Or more positively, trust the Father, seek the kingdom, benefit the needy.