8 Important Mini Lessons from Jesus in Luke 12
The whole world has been on guard against COVID-19. Face masks, social distancing, and empty shelves of Vitamin C show how seriously many are taking this threat. Unfortunately, not only are we on guard, many are dogged by fear and worry.
Worrying about our livelihood seems natural in light of mass pay cuts, lost jobs, and closed businesses. And with people still sick and dying, it’s expected that we should feel concern over our health.
Yet, when Jesus addresses these areas, He turns the issues upside down. He tells us not to worry about our lives and livelihoods and to be on guard against issues most of us don’t consider threats. By reframing the things of earth in light of heaven, He shows the remedy to worry lies in an eternal value system. Let’s learn to shed our worries by applying Jesus’ words in Luke 12:1-35.
Be on Your Guard!
Many years ago, my husband and I were traveling through Germany. Listening to people speaking German caused my husband to blurt out the only German word he remembered from “Hogan’s Heroes,” an old TV program set in a German prison camp. Only, he didn’t know what it meant.
“Achtung!” he said with flourish. When people stopped to look, I asked a young German girl what it meant.
“It means, ‘Attention!’”
When Jesus says, “Be on your guard,” it’s the equivalent of saying, “Attention!” He is alerting us to danger.
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1. Hypocrisy: More Contagious and Dangerous Than Any Virus
“Jesus turned first to his disciples and warned them, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—their hypocrisy’” (Luke 12:1 NLT).
The Pharisees were the religious leaders of that day. They “wanted to trap him [Jesus] into saying something they could use against him” (Luke 11:53-54). These rulers had the power to throw people out of the synagogue and have them stoned. When one of them internally criticized Jesus for not ritually cleansing Himself before a meal, Jesus pointed out their hypocrisy.
His boldness in exposing these religious leaders must have shaken the disciples. What might they do to Jesus—and to them?
Jesus, sensing their concerns, addresses them. But before soothing their fears, He warns them of a greater threat than personal harm—religious hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy has to do with playing a role, pretending to be something you’re not. Relating it to yeast or leaven refers to how it spreads and infects others. A pinch of fermented dough would leaven the whole loaf.
I met a young woman who earnestly wanted to follow Christ. Her faith was set back by a hypocritical pastor. She’d left a wild lifestyle to follow Jesus and thought dating a pastor would be safe. This man turned out to be just like the unsaved men she’d known before finding Christ. The experience shook her. Thankfully, she eventually met genuine believers who lived their faith.
The Pharisees pretended to love God with their outward show of religion. But inside they had no love for God or justice (Luke 11:37-44). Their hypocrisy turned people off who were seeking an authentic relationship with God and caused others to think it was ok to use faith to justify selfishness. Jesus said, “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
Among the twelve disciples stood Judas. I wonder if Jesus looked at him when He spoke. Judas wore the mask of a devoted disciple, but behind closed doors he was a thief (John 12:6).
Judas ignored Jesus’ warning. His hypocrisy contaminated his whole heart leading him to eventually betray Jesus for a few silver coins. This infection cost him the loss of his eternal soul.
Jesus warned that all hypocrisy will be exposed. True faith in God is revealed in how we live when no one is looking. Those who live to please God honor Him whether anyone else sees or not.
Even during hard times, guarding genuine faith is more important than guarding our physical lives.
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2. Guard Your Soul
“Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear” (Luke 12:4-5).
Jesus didn’t say their fears were unfounded. In contrast to Judas, the remaining eleven would pay dearly for their faithfulness to Him. According to tradition, ten of them were martyred and John was exiled and boiled in oil. But He reminds them to keep an eternal perspective.
Believers are multibillionaires. Our currency is eternal life. If we lose 30 years of comfort, ease, or even life here, from God’s view, it’s not a great loss. We have billions more in eternity. No virus, financial collapse, or political debacle can touch our eternal destinies. When we live for God, we never have to fear any force on earth.
How many of our fears relate to what might happen to us while on earth? When we live to please God, we gain an eternal mindset and worry over our temporal lives gives way to peace.
Don’t worry about the length of your life; guard the condition of your soul.
3. You Matter to God
Besides our eternal security, Jesus reminds us of our eternal value.
“What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7 NLT).
God never forgets a single sparrow. Do ever feel insignificant? God treasures you so much He counts the hairs on your head. You are worth more than a whole flock of sparrows!
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4. Don't Worry about What to Do in a Crisis
Many of our concerns deal with the what ifs of the future. How will we handle situations we’ve never faced before?
Jesus promised the Holy Spirit will equip us at the moment we need it.
“And when you are brought to trial in the synagogues and before rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how to defend yourself or what to say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what needs to be said” (Luke 12:11, 12).
Corrie ten Boom’s father illustrated how God’s grace shows up at the right time. In essence, he said, “When do I give you the ticket for the train?”
“When it’s time to board the train.”
“Such is God’s grace. He supplies what we need when we need it.”
We don’t need to worry about what to do in a crisis. The Holy Spirit will tell us when we need it.
5. Guard against Greed
One unusual aspect of this pandemic is the hoarding of toilet paper. I mean, this is a respiratory virus—not an intestinal one! Yet, having extra makes us feel more secure.
When a man in the crowd asked Jesus to make his brother divide his inheritance with him, Jesus responded with another warning, this time against greed.
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15).
With the economic impact of this pandemic, empty grocery shelves and dwindling savings accounts threaten our sense of security. Jesus used a parable of a rich man to challenge this logic.
The rich man’s full barn gave him a false sense of security. This man had no worries—and no need for God. The night he applauded himself on what he’d achieved, he died leaving all he’d hoarded.
There is nothing wrong with having a full pantry, bank account, and closet. But greed makes possessions a substitute for God. We trust things to provide the security and significance only God gives. Jesus says these don’t make us rich.
Again, Jesus underscores the value of the eternal over the temporal. Being rich toward God shows my true values. Security in life doesn’t come from how much I own but from Whom I know. Invest in your relationship with God, and material assets won’t possess you. Jesus is the source of true riches.
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6. Store Up Treasure That Lasts
Unlike the rich man, the disciples had left everything to follow Jesus. How would their legitimate needs be met? Jesus uses nature to show God’s ability to provide.
“Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, ‘That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds!’” (Luke 12:22-24).
Ravens are scavengers—dirty birds. If God cares for these unclean birds how much more will He care for you!
7. The Fruitlessness of Worry
Worry is no substitute for prayer. It won’t provide the things we need. It can’t even add a single moment to our lives, let alone bread on the table or clothes on our backs (Luke 12:27-30).
“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs” (Luke 12:27-30).
Unbelievers worry over what to eat and wear because they don’t know the heavenly Father. They live like their lives depend totally on themselves.
We aren’t orphans. Our Father takes care of His children. He supplied manna for the children of Israel in their wilderness journey. He kept their clothes from wearing out. He is able to keep our appliances working and provide good health when we can’t afford a doctor. He is not dependent on our resources. We are dependent on Him.
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8. Lasting Treasure
I heard of a rich man who died, and Peter met him in heaven. They passed by impressive mansions on the way to this man’s eternal home. “Who lives there?” he asked.
“That belongs to Widow Smith. She was quite an intercessor.”
The man couldn’t wait to see his home. But the houses began to be less impressive. Finally, Peter stopped in front of a shack.
“It’s your eternal home. We did the best we could with what you sent ahead.”
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need” (Luke 12:31).
Invest in treasure that will last for eternity and you won’t ever have to worry about temporal treasure.
Jesus isn’t against treasures. He just knows that real security is not found in things. Worldly treasures leave us through rot, rust, theft, moths, and wearing out. And what isn’t lost here is left behind when we die. But what we invest in heaven lasts forever.
“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Luke 12:34).
Jesus cares about your needs. He’ll provide for you. He wants to protect you from worry and spiritual infections that rob you of true riches and security. Practice genuine faith by seeking His kingdom and watch Him provide your daily need of food, wisdom, clothing, and shelter—even in the midst of COVID-19.
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Drawing from her walk with Christ, and decades as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God, Give Yourself a Break, and her latest book Little Faith, Big God. She and her husband Larry founded Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Connect with Debbie at debbieWwilson.com and refresh your faith with free resources at RefreshingFaith.com
Debbie W. Wilson is an award-winning author, Bible teacher, and former Christian counselor who speaks and writes to connect fellow sojourners to the heart of Christ. Her books include Give Yourself a Break, Little Women, Big God, and Little Faith, Big God.
She and her husband lead Lighthouse Ministries, a non-profit Christian counseling and Bible teaching ministry. Despite time in Boston, the Midwest, and Southern California, Debbie still says y’all. Her family, which includes two mischievous standard poodles, calls North Carolina home. Connect with Debbie, find free resources, and learn about her books at debbieWwilson.com.