29 October 2011

"And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that. why do you worry about the rest?" (vv. 25-26)


The Church does not always remember that Jesus uses humour in his teaching. Sometimes his irony comes at moments of deepest poignancy. Such is the case in the verse above: very few would consider extending life to be "so small a thing"! It is a reminder of Jesus' earthy humanity. He seeks to lighten the worldly anxiety of those around him, while deepening their urgency for God.

Jesus addresses the disciples here. He has been teaching the crowd about the necessity of immediate response to signs of the kingdom and faithfulness. He tells them that they are not to set store in worldly things, but to remember that life may end in an instant.

Jesus does not intend that his disciples should detach themselves from the world, or ignore people's basic needs. He simply means they should not treat material things as a goal of life, or source of safety. Rather, they are to have a proper perspective. Jesus' spirituality here is very earthy, but not about the getting of more and more.

Jesus reassures the "little flock" (v. 32) that it is God's intention to give them everything they require, as part of the kingdom. They must work to seek the kingdom. However, there is a paradox: only in seeking first God's kingdom will they find the material things they need. Jesus therefore tells them to give generously, and to put their faith in eternal things.

Correct vigilance is a large theme in Luke's Gospel: his Jesus does not want people to relax, but neither does he want them to waste anxiety on things that do not matter. Immediately following today's passage (Luke 12:35-40), Jesus counsels the disciples to be like watchful servants waiting for their master to return. A delay in the coming kingdom should never give them an excuse to leave their posts or be less alert.

To Ponder

How would you explain this passage to the mother of school children who struggles to pay for their school clothes?

What gift have you made recently, that has given you the greatest pleasure?

Bible notes author: The Revd Dr Jennifer Smith

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