The Author of Life
The Author of Life
Main Idea: The Lord Jesus himself is the answer to all of these questions, and it is Jesus who gets us through this life and into the next life.
- What Is Life (12:13-34)?
- Life is not defined by a lot of stuff (12:15-21).
- Life is more than food and clothes (12:22-24).
- Life is wasted by worry (12:25-28).
- Life is for seeking God and his kingdom (12:29-31).
- Life follows treasure (12:32-34).
- How Should We Live Life (12:35-48)?
- Stay woke (12:35-40).
- Stay on the grind (12:41-48).
- What Will We Face in Life (12:49–13:9)?
- Distress (12:49-53)
- Hypocrisy (12:54-56)
- Strife (12:57-59)
- Disaster (13:1-5)
- Fruitlessness (13:6-9)
I am one of those people who was rocked when I heard Prince died. Prince was my dude growing up. He could rock high-heeled boots, a blousy shirt with lace, and a killer perm while still being the manliest dude in the coliseum. He was a musical genius—flat out. I know some of you liked Michael Jackson, but MJ was number two.
If you are under forty and you had good home training, you’ve probably never heard much of Prince’s music. I’m not recommending his music; it will hinder your sanctification. But if you’re over forty and you were in the world, like me, then there’s a good chance Prince was your sound track growing up. He had this way of making you both celebrate and rejoice in life, but also sometimes think about life. That’s what good artists do.
In the well-known opening words of one of his many hits, “Let’s Go Crazy,” he points out that we’re all trying to make it through life, and that there’s something beyond life: the afterworld. That’s not a bad start to a popular rock song. Forget the flamboyant outfits, the stunning guitar riffs, and the steady stream of women. Prince was like everybody else in the world: struggling to make his way through life while pondering eternity.
In a very real sense, that’s what our text is about: getting through life. It’s a section that starts with Jesus being asked a question. But the Lord’s answer is deeper than the question. What we learn is how Jesus views life and how we are to view it, too.
What Is Life?
A recurring word through the first half of the chapter is life. The second half of the chapter presses the question of whether we will be ready for eternal life when Jesus comes. So it’s appropriate that we begin with the question, “What is life?”
“Someone from the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me’” (v. 13). Now, that’s an interesting thing to just yell out in a crowd. That’s really something to work out inside the family. If there is an inheritance to be divided, that means there is a death to be mourned. One of your parents has died, probably this person’s father, and he doesn’t seem interested to find help with mourning or grief. The man is not at the funeral. He’s not talking with his brother. He’s trying to find someone with authority to tell his brother to split the money.
However, the Lord Jesus will not get entangled in petty family disputes. The Lord declines to stoop to petty conflict about material possessions (v. 14). His agenda focuses on life and the state of our hearts. Still, what the Lord does say reveals five important facts about life.
Life Is Not Defined by a Lot of Stuff (12:15-21)
Greed means wanting what doesn’t belong to you. The Ten Commandments forbid it. It’s a kind of possessive jealousy. It’s a sin of the heart that leads to many other sins like stealing and adultery. The Lord says to this man and he says to us, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed.” Here’s why: “because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions” (v. 15).
Think of how many scams are effective because people are greedy. If we watch against greed, we can protect ourselves from so many things—from get-rich-quick schemes, prosperity gospels, pyramid schemes, and coveting. The only reason prosperity preachers and Internet scam artists and everyday hustlers can run their game is because so many people are greedy and think life is defined by what they have. Storage businesses are one of the fastest growing businesses in the country because we covet and hoard, then we buy more space so we can continue coveting and hoarding.
But the Lord says that way of thinking is foolish. That’s why he tells the story of the man building a bigger barn to hold all his stuff. Some people think the good life is relaxing, eating, drinking, and being merry (v. 19). But before we know it, God will call us all to the judgment seat. He will require our souls of us, and we must give an account for how we lived. The people who defined life by what they possessed and enjoyed will be called fools! It is foolish to think our lives will not end. It is foolish to think our lives are defined by what we have. There is a way to be rich toward ourselves and stingy toward God (v. 21), and God calls that foolish.
Life Is More Than Food and Clothes (12:22-24)
Verse 22 says, “Don’t worry about your life”—what you will eat, your body, your wardrobe. Don’t worry about those needs because your needs are not your life. In fact, your life is more than those things. Life is not defined by the things we have; life is worth more than all our things.
The Lord gives an illustration. The reason you shouldn’t worry about your needs, and the reason your life is worth more than your needs, is that you and I are worth far more to God than ravens. If God cares and provides for ravens then he will care and provide for us!
Do you believe that? Do you believe you’re worth more to God than birds? Do you believe that God will provide for you because you’re worth so much to him?
It’s wrong to think that if you don’t have anything then you are worth nothing. When the Lord says, “Aren’t you worth much more than the birds?” (v. 24), he is asking a rhetorical question with an obvious answer: Of course you’re worth more than birds! This is a fact! Never judge your life or God’s care for you by your possessions. You are worth far more than your needs, and your life is not determined by your possessions.
Life Is Wasted by Worry (12:25-28)
Perhaps the people were saying to themselves, “Jesus, that’s fine, but I still have to eat. How am I going to get through this thing called ‘life’?” So the Lord says, “Can any of you add one moment to his life-span by worrying? If then you’re not able to do even a little thing, why worry about the rest?” (v. 25).
The world is full of worry. We’re tempted to think that worrying is the same thing as thinking or planning or even protecting ourselves. But worry is completely useless and ineffective when it comes to adding to our life. We can’t even add one minute by worrying. The Lord calls adding a minute to our lives a little thing! So if we can’t add a minute to our lives by worry, why do we think things like protecting our children, getting good jobs, ending war, or making our neighborhoods safe will be done by worry? These are all good things, but not things that can be addressed by worry.
We’re not to worry. We are to trust God. In fact, every place where we experience worry, God is inviting us to depend on him. Look at verses 27-28 again. God dresses grass better than kings! “If that’s how God clothes the grass, which is in the field today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will he do for you—you of little faith?”
The Lord is saying, “When it comes to life, God’s got you. He will supply your needs. You need evidence? Just look at the beauty he places on flowers and short-lived grass!” Does God not provide for all his creation? He will certainly provide for those who bear his image and likeness. It is for us to believe.
Life Is for Seeking God and His Kingdom (12:29-31)
I love following our church Google group sometimes. Sometimes a note goes out with a need or request. The need can be kind of “out there” sometimes. I read those emails and I think to myself, Not sure anybody’s gonna help with that. Then moments later the person making the request sends another email saying, “Need met!” It’s the most wonderful thing! People seek help, and needs get met.
That’s perhaps a small picture of verses 29-31. When people seek God’s kingdom, God meets their needs in life. In fact, life is meant to be lived seeking God and his kingdom. The natural consequence of doing that is God taking care of those seeking him.
There is something unchristian and worldly about seeking things and needs apart from God and with worry. All the unbelieving, sinful nations do that. Instead, we are to remember our “Father knows that you need them” (vv. 29-30). We are to “seek his kingdom, and these things will be provided for you” (v. 31). Our Father knows what we need.
My father left home when I was thirteen. He moved across town, but from time to time I would see him. We would have superficial conversations that usually ended with him asking, “Do you need anything?” On some level he wanted to supply my needs. But my father didn’t know my needs in advance. His asking always revealed a poverty in our relationship: he didn’t know me well, and my telling him what I needed only reminded me of that. It is not like that with God. Long before we pray and ask, even before we know what our needs are, our Father in heaven sees and knows. He never leaves us or forsakes us. He’s never caught off guard by our needs. And there’s no need our heavenly Father cannot supply.
The purpose of life is to seek God and his kingdom, not things and our needs. The mystery of life is that when we seek God and his kingdom he provides our needs. We receive a kingdom in exchange for worry.
Why does it work this way? Well, the neediest people in the world are those who do not have the kingdom of God. That’s our greatest need. When we seek God and his kingdom, we not only have our greatest need met, but we also have our lesser needs met. We must get this in our minds and in our souls because we can have everything in the world, but without the kingdom of God we are broke!
Are we using our lives to seek God and his kingdom or to seek the things we think we need? Life is not a lot of stuff. Yet life is more than food and clothes. Life is wasted by worrying. Instead, the reason we have been given life is to seek God and his kingdom.
Life Follows Treasure (12:32-34)
What an encouragement verse 32 is! The kingdom of God is not like an Easter egg hunt. You don’t search for it wondering if you will find it. It’s not hidden so that you miss it. “Your Father delights to give you the kingdom.” Hallelujah! It delights the Father to give his children his royal possession. He does not resent giving it to us. He need not apologize for lacking anything we need. Instead, it pleases God to give to his children. If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us and we have our request (John 14:14; 1 John 5:14).
When we realize this, then the world’s possessions and our needs lose their grip on us. That’s why the Lord gives us applications in verse 33. We can use this life’s possessions to bless the needy because we know the Father gives us a kingdom and a treasure that cannot be taken away, stolen, or decay.
Show me a person who cannot give to others, and I’ll show you a person who does not believe the Father gives to him. Show me a person who cannot lend, and I’ll show you’re a person who doubts she has greater riches in the kingdom of heaven. Show me a person who cannot part with his things, and I’ll show you a person who does not believe the treasures of heaven are better. It’s that simple. Our life follows our treasure (v. 34).
The key to life is to have “treasure in heaven” (v. 33) or to be “rich toward God” (v. 21). We do not live life for ourselves and what may be gained on this earthen ball. We have life to seek and know God.
I think Prince had it correct: We all struggle to make our way through life, and we all wonder about the afterworld. In Christian speak, the afterworld is the kingdom of God. That is the something else for which life was created: to find and enter the kingdom. How do you do that? Not by listening to Prince’s songs. We enter God’s kingdom by repenting of our sin and believing on his Son as our Lord and Savior. God’s giving to us begins with his giving us his Son. He sent his Son into the world to save us from the judgment to come by making atonement for our sins on the cross and rising from the grave for our justification. Christ Jesus takes our place in righteousness and in sin bearing. By his active and passive righteousness we are reconciled to God and we enter that life that really is life. This is the gift of God given to everyone who believes.
How Should We Live Life?
All of this brings us to a second question: How should we live life? Let’s assume that we are citizens in the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Now what? We’re not yet in heaven. How are we to live? The Lord provides us two lessons.
Stay Woke (12:35-40)
#StayWoke is a slogan and a hash tag. The phrase refers to what we used to call “consciousness.” It means to be aware of the cultural, racial, ethnic, and political realities of our time.
Our Lord teaches us to “stay woke” in a different, more important sense. Here, staying awake refers to being ready for the Master’s return (v. 35). Those who are awake when the Lord returns are the “blessed” or happy ones (v. 37). The master “will get ready, have them [the woke servants] recline at the table, then come and serve them” (v. 37). Isn’t that amazing? In the parable the master serves the servants!
This parable is really about “the Son of Man” coming back at an unexpected time (v. 40). The Lord Jesus will come again. He returns to get his servants and take them to his kingdom. He comes back to condemn those who do not trust and follow him. No man knows the day or the hour of his return, but when he comes the Lord of lords will in some indescribable sense serve the servants who have been awake and waiting for his return.
To “stay woke” in the Christian sense means to actively watch and wait for our Lord’s second coming. Titus 2:13 calls the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ “the blessed hope.” The promise of the Lord’s coming is our happy hope.
For those experiencing unhappiness right now, what are you hoping will make you happy? Where are you seeking happiness? Jesus just told us life does not consist in the abundance of possessions, life is worth more than our possessions, and worrying does not add to our life. Instead, God intends us to use our life to seek his kingdom. It’s there, in that kingdom, that God has stored our happiness. This is why the New Testament so often tells us that our joy is connected to Christ’s coming. If we only live for joy on this earth, then we find ourselves perpetually unhappy.
Why should we live this life in anticipation of that day? Second Timothy 4:8 tells us, “There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved his appearing.” If we love his appearing and look for that day, then when he comes he will reward us with the crown of righteousness, and joy will flood our souls. The happy ones are those who are waiting for Christ, watching for the Master’s arrival with diligence.
Stay on Our Grind (12:41-48)
When we say, “stay woke,” we don’t mean sit around daydreaming, looking in the stars and zoning out. While we watch and wait for the Lord’s coming, we must also “stay on our grind.” That means we must do the work the Lord has given us.
The key verses are 43-44. The Lord’s teaching just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it? When Jesus comes and finds us being faithful stewards doing his will, then he will set us over all his possessions. If we are found faithful with the little of this world and life, then he will make us faithful with the many things in the next world and life (Matt 25:21). But the unfaithful steward will be condemned (vv. 45-47). We can’t think we’re Christ’s servants while refusing to do Christ’s work. God’s condemnation of that servant will be severe.
There’s a difference between an unfaithful servant and an ignorant servant (v. 48). The ignorant still receives a beating, a “light beating” compared to what the unfaithful servant receives, but it’s still a beating.
Here’s the principle: The knowledge of God’s will is a trust, a stewardship. The more you know of God’s will, the more you are required to do (v. 48). This suggests we must listen to God’s word eagerly. We must listen actively and expectantly. We do not wish to be like the man James describes, the man who looks into the mirror of God’s word then turns away forgetting what he saw, failing to do what he heard (Jas 1:23). We wish to be hearers and doers of the word. We do not wish to be stony ground hearers or hearers from whom ravens snatch the word of God from our hearts. So we must obediently apply God’s word in our lives.
What has God taught you about his will for you? What has the Lord called you to do? Are you doing it? Are you doing it knowing that he is coming again and he is bringing his reward with him?
So in this life we must not only stay woke, we must also stay on our grind. We must pray, “Command what you will, Lord, and grant what you command.”
What Will We Face in Life?
We’ve considered two questions so far: What is life? How should we live life? This brings us to our final question: What will we face in life? That’s a critical question. Many people don’t live life as they ought because they’re overwhelmed, surprised, or preoccupied with the things they face in life. They get caught up, caught off guard, or caught sleeping.
The Lord turns his attention to describing the times. He was, of course, describing his own time, but not much has really changed since then. These words apply to our time as well. The Lord warns us about these trials so we are not overwhelmed, distracted, or discouraged by them.
The first trial we will face is distress. The Lord spoke of his own distress in verses 49-50. He’s referring to the fire and baptism of the cross and all the suffering that goes with it. That’s why he was distressed: death was closing in on him.
But he also warns of our distress (vv. 51-53). If we follow the Lord Jesus, we may find ourselves divided from loved ones who don’t follow him. In that sense the Lord brings a sword of division. Following Jesus may cost you your family. That is distressing, but it’s worth it.
The second trial we will face is hypocrisy. The Lord preached to religious people who could look at the sky and tell you the weather, but they could not look at their present times or at Jesus and tell you what God was doing. Jesus rebukes them as “hypocrites” (v. 56).
Why call them “hypocrites”? A hypocrite is someone who pretends to have religious belief and virtue but doesn’t. The fact they didn’t know the will and work of God proved they didn’t know God himself.
Right now there are many professing pastors who can tell you all kinds of things about business, psychology, politics, and so on, but they can’t tell you where to find John 3:16 even when you say, “John 3:16.” And there are a lot of professing Christians who claim to know God but can’t tell you much about Jesus or what he demands. Our challenge is to avoid being one of them. We must inspect our hearts for any measure of hypocrisy. We should ask the Lord to prevent us from praising him with our lips while our hearts are far from him. Let us ask him for grace to praise him with our hearts first and also with the fruit of our lips.
A third trial we will face is strife inside the church. That’s what we see with the lawsuits in verses 57-59. In our strife we’re tempted to appeal to secular and ungodly authority rather than judge righteously among ourselves. Paul addressed the same problem with the Corinthians (1 Cor 6:1-7).
Haven’t some people turned away from the local church and away from Christ because they’ve experienced strife in the church? They tell you of their hurts. They tell you of their difficulty trusting. My point isn’t to deny that such hurts take place. They do happen, and they really hurt. My point is that, by telling you of such strife, we won’t be surprised when it happens. And because you’re not surprised you won’t be so offended that you stop waiting and working with Christ’s return in mind. When strife comes, may we leave our gifts at the altar and pursue reconciliation (see Matt 5:23-24).
Then, fourth, we will face disasters. In Luke 13:1 some people asked Jesus about the Galileans who were killed by Pilate and had their blood mingled with their sacrifices. In verse 4 Jesus mentions the eighteen who were killed by a tower that fell in Siloam.
It’s easy to look at tragedy and doubt God’s goodness, to see tragedy as absurd. It doesn’t make sense to us. If we’re not watching, waiting, and working, we could be overwhelmed.
But in verses 3 and 5 the Lord gives us one purpose of disaster. It’s not the only purpose, but it’s an important one for survivors. The Lord allows these tragedies as a reminder to repent. The natural disaster communicates a spiritual demand: repent or perish. We could all die in an unexpected instant just as these people did. The only way to be prepared for that possibility is to be repentant before the Lord. Why think that only sufferers need to repent? Survivors need to as well. Martin Luther wrote that when Jesus said “Repent,” he meant repent and keep on repenting. We need to constantly turn from the brokenness of a sin-stricken world to our sin-atoning Lord. Suffering and tragedy invite us to come to the Lord.
Finally, while we stay woke and stay on our grind, we will face judgment. The parable of the fig tree symbolizes religious people in Jesus’s day. They were given opportunity to produce fruit. They were only worth something if they did produce fruit. A good tree produces good fruit, but if it doesn’t, it will be cut down.
The Lord is being patient. He gives more time. He waits for his servants to bear fruit. But he will not always wait. He will not always be patient. One day he will inspect us for fruit. The question is: Will we be fruit bearing, or will we be fruitless?
The life we have been given is not that long. It’s really a commercial spot for the life that is to come. The life we’ve been given is a stewardship entrusted to us. We should not use this life to store up treasure in this world, but instead we should send treasure ahead to glory. We are to be rich toward God in our service to him and to one another. That’s what life is for. That is how we get through this thing called life. It’s how we lay hold of that life that really is life.
Reflect and Discuss
- How would you define “life”?
- What would you say life is for? How does your answer compare to what Jesus teaches in this section of Luke’s Gospel?
- How can love for things ruin rather than enrich life?
- Of the trials we will likely face as we follow Jesus, which concerns you most? Does it worry you? How does Jesus expect you to respond to this worry?