Sunday

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (v. 34)

Luke 12:32-40 Sunday 7 August 2016

Psalm: Psalm 33


Background

Following the parable of the rich fool (Luke12:16-21) this passage continues to deal with the potentiallydevastating effects of our attitude to wealth. Our capacity forgreed is challenged, alongside any belief that possessions cancompletely secure the future. Words of comfort are offered: "Do notbe afraid" (v. 32). The phrase is used frequently by Jesus whenaddressing the human community, recognising how many of ourbehaviours are rooted in fear of the past, present and future. Thetext orientates us to the reign of God in our world. In typicalLukan fashion, the instruction is direct and specific: "Sell yourpossessions, and give alms" (v. 33). This is accompanied by apromise of being given purses that will not wear out and unfailingtreasures. A contrast is offered between what is permanent and whatis transient.

Often those with an abundance of wealth have used this passage(and its preceding verses) to suggest we should ignore food andclothing, but Jesus recognises we cannot live without the basicessentials of life. The invitation to sell your possessions is notto plunge yourself into poverty, but about being released frompossessiveness by living gratefully and generously with what Godhas given you. The giving of alms (charitable donations) is assumedto be a normative part of discipleship. Luke delivers his messagewith clarity and persistence: discipleship means serving the poor.In many ways this text echoes the words of John Wesley's famousadvice, 'make all you can, save all you can, give all you can'. Weneed to remember when reading this that 'saving' was not areference to putting things aside but a refraining from spending,so that you could give more.

The final section (verses 35-40) offers an incredible note ofreversal. The servants are prepared for their master. In thisscenario, the master may well have been a slave himself acting onthe master's wishes. Lamps in antiquity needed constant attentionand watchfulness, replenishing the oil and adjusting the wick, toremain lit. Not only are the lamps lit, the servants are alsodressed and 'ready for action'. The master is so delighted todiscover his servants are alert and ready for him, that the rolesare reversed; slaves are seated and served by their master. This isanother reminder of Jesus challenging the cultural norms of powerand status by being among us as one who serves, that we mightfollow his example. To be a disciple of Christ is to know andanticipate his wishes. Life is to be lived in expectation andreadiness (eschatological anticipation) for the Son of Man'sreturn. This places our relationship to our possessions in a newcontext. People in poverty often live lives concerned about theirimmediate needs, in contrast to people with wealth who areconcerned about future security. God's economy is clearly expressedin Luke, living as disciples of Christ means living with acommitment to respond to those in need. Living in Britain after theEU Referendum, this text offers a reminder of our long-term hope inGod. Our commitment is to live, work and serve all and particularlythose who feel alienated and distanced as a result of poverty.


To Ponder

  • What dangers do you recognise in the accumulation ofwealth?
  • How can we live generously with our material possessions?
  • What does it mean for you to live well 'now' in anticipation ofthe future?
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