By Tyson Thorne

October 12, 2016

The Samarian Ministry at Various Cities (9.51-18.34), 12.13-48

Jesus continues his lesson on authority with a little help from the crowd. A man approached Jesus, perhaps with his brother in tow (we’re not told, but it would make sense given the context), and asks Jesus to command his brother to share their father’s inheritance with him. Some may take this as an acknowledgement of Jesus’s authority. Yet Jesus refuses to judge such matters not because he doesn’t have the authority to do so, but because he see’s such judgments as trivial distractions. Instead of issuing a verdict, he issues an edict through the form of a parable.

The point of the parable is that while we may work hard for a good retirement, no one knows when God will call them before the judgment seat. Before the hard working harmer had a chance to enjoy all that he had saved, he died and everything he worked for became worthless. No amount of grain, or money or land or livestock is currency in God’s Kingdom. The only currency in the Kingdom is the love one has shown toward God and others. Once more Jesus tells us to invert our understanding of the world and to make our spiritual life the priority.

Jesus then turns to his disciples to press the point. He provides examples from nature to prove his point, God cares for birds and even grass and flowers by taking care of their needs; God cares for us so much more that we can trust him to care for our needs as well. Jesus cites many concerns that people have even to this day, things like what we are going to wear, concern for our health, and where our next meal is going to come from. All these things are provided for a people of faith. This is not to be mistaken for a health and wealth gospel; Jesus never promises us these things in abundance. He promises we will have what we need, not what we want.

This is a common sense theology. God created the world for us. If he created and cares for the world, sustaining it, then surely he would do no less for us. If we believe this, and that God has the authority to sustain us, then we should not be overly concerned (worry) about our needs. Everyone else the world over might concern themselves with this matter, but the people of God and of his Kingdom should not. This thinking carries over to other concerns of modern man. Worried about climate change? Don’t be, God has authority over the weather, the temperature, and the seas we hear are rising. Worried about a failing economy? It might fail, but God does not fail his people. His greatest provision, of course, was for our sins and made by Jesus on the cross.

While God will provide for his people, that does not mean we can be lazy. The person who wants to stay home all day playing Xbox should not expect God to provide manna from heaven. Jesus balances his teaching with a lesson about faithful stewardship, but it might not be what we expect. We’ve grown accustomed to linking the word “stewardship” in our culture to “environment”, but Jesus says nothing here about the need to care for the planet, protect animals, or instructions regarding fracking. Instead, Jesus tells us to be concerned about the Kingdom of God and its responsibilities like loving God and loving others.

Peter asks if this is normative for all believer’s or just for the disciples, and while Jesus does not answer the question it is clear from the parable that he isn’t talking about either group. Jesus is referring to the leadership of the nation Israel, who have been given the task of managing God’s people until he establishes his kingdom on earth. He makes a special point of singling out the religious leadership, stating that those who know about the Messiah’s coming will be held more accountable than those who do not and still do evil. By contrast, those who do what is right will be rewarded well.