Saturday 23 June 2018

Bible Book:

“Do not worry about your life” (v. 22)

Luke 12:22-31 Saturday 23 June 2018

Psalm: Psalm 90


Jesus is making his way slowly to Jerusalem, in the long central section of Luke’s Gospel. As he travelled, he engaged with the crowds who flocked to meet him. Here, Jesus continued to reflect on the proper attitude to wealth and money. This follows the parable he told about a rich fool (Luke 12:16-20). It seems that the teaching was primarily for his disciples, though, rather than just anyone in the crowd (verse 22).

How to understand the opening phrase “do not worry” (v. 22) is crucial to interpreting the passage correctly. It could be understood as ‘do not care’, ‘do not be concerned about’ or ‘do not be anxious about’. One commentator suggests that the warning here is about when “a proper concern has become an improper anxiety” (Evans). In verse 25, there is an intriguing alternative translation of the original Greek, which reads, “can any of you by worrying add a cubit [about 45 cm] to your stature?”. This seems to underline the futility of worry.

There are a number of Old Testament allusions in the passage. Both Job (Job 38:41) and the psalmist (Psalm 147:9) refer to God’s providential care of the ravens, even though they are technically unclean animals according to the Jewish law (Leviticus 11:15). The reference to Solomon “in all his glory” reminds listeners that the famous king only received wealth and power because he did not seek them first, instead choosing wisdom (1 Kings 3:10-14). The “grass of the field” (v. 28) is frequently used in as a metaphor for all that is transitory, and especially the relative brevity of human life. For example, the prophet Isaiah states that “All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field” (Isaiah 40:6).

The final verse of the passage is perhaps the most important, though, connecting what Jesus says here to his wider teachings about the “kingdom of God” (v. 31). It is the values and priorities of the kingdom, which Jesus has demonstrated through his teaching and personal example, that should seemingly be his disciples’ greatest priority.

To Ponder

  • How can we lead a life free from worry?
  • Does it make any difference to our interpretation of this passage that it was seemingly aimed at the disciples of Jesus (verse 22), rather than just anyone in the larger crowd? Why?
  • We know that the Gospel’s original audience would have included both the wealthy and the poor. How might they have heard this message differently?
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