Luke 12 Study Notes


12:1-3 In the NT, leaven is normally a symbol of corruption or evil (Mt 16:6,11; 1Co 5:6-8; Gl 5:9). Here the symbol is defined as the evil of hypocrisy. Hypocritical behavior fools many people, but it will eventually be uncovered and made known by God, who is never fooled. Everything said in private will become public knowledge.

12:4-5 There are many people who can kill you physically, but that is the limit of the harm they can do. As natural as it is to fear such people, it makes more sense to fear God, for he presides over not just life and death but eternity. Those who remain opposed to him by their unbelief and unrepentant sins will be punished in hell.

12:6-7 If God does not overlook even the most insignificant birds (sparrows), he is aware of all the details of life (the hairs of your head) of every human being.

12:8-9 These verses add a positive element to Jesus’s statement in 9:26. There, if a person is “ashamed” of Jesus (here it is denies me before others), he will face shame when Christ comes in judgment. Here, it is also stated that if a person acknowledges Christ, he will do likewise in heaven (in the presence of the angels of God).

12:10 Apparently, speaking against Jesus could be forgiven because of his human appearance (one aspect of the meaning of Son of Man). According to the parallel passage in Mk 3:28-30, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to attribute to Satan the works of the Spirit. That is the unforgivable sin.

12:11-12 These verses speak of the persecution the apostles would face at the hands of rulers and authorities. Classic examples where the Holy Spirit did teach them what must be said are in Ac 4:8-12; 5:29-32.

12:13-15 Disputes over family inheritance were normally handled by rabbis (teachers) in Jewish society, and Jesus was recognized as such. The person who approached Jesus was probably a younger brother who was upset because his older brother received twice the inheritance, the Jewish tradition. Jesus refused to be drawn into the matter, realizing that the man’s motivation was greed.


Greek pronunciation [GEH ehn nah]
CSB translation hell
Uses in Luke’s Gospel 1
Uses in the NT 12
Focus passage Luke 12:5

Geenna (hell) is the Greek form of Hb gey’-hinnom (Valley of Hinnom) via Aramaic geyhinnam, a valley located just south/southwest of Jerusalem’s Old City. In the days of Ahaz and Manasseh, it was the location where children were dedicated and/or sacrificed to Molech (2Kg 23:10; 2Ch 28:3; 33:6; Jr 7:31). Because of its sordid history, the Hinnom Valley became associated in Jewish thought with hell, the place of final punishment. Geenna is described primarily with images of fire (Mt 5:22; 18:9; Mk 9:43,45,48), and though the term does not occur in Revelation, it is a prominent theme there (cp. the lake of fire; Rv 19:20; 20:10,14-15; 21:8). At the final resurrection, the souls of the ungodly (in Hades) will be reunited with their resurrected bodies, and thrown into Geenna (Mt 10:28).

12:16-20 This parable is about the danger of greed, measured by the abundance of possessions (v. 15). The rich man was infatuated with hoarding his goods. In his self-centered perspective (there are at least ten self-references in vv. 17-19), he thought this was an effective strategy for a long life of leisure and pleasure. But God views such an outlook as foolish and shortsighted. When a person dies—which could be at any time—“you can’t take it with you.”

12:21 Rich toward God is what v. 33 and Mt 6:20 refer to as “treasures in heaven.” Being “rich toward God” means living to glorify God and investing our earthly assets to make an eternal difference.

12:22-26 Jesus’s advice to his disciples was not to be overcome with anxiety over the basic needs of life. Worrying won’t change even a little thing. Since God feeds the ravens, who have no storeroom, will he not care for humans, his most valuable and beloved creatures?

12:27-32 If God “dresses” (clothes) nature so beautifully, he will certainly meet a disciple’s basic needs. Unbelievers (the unsaved Gentile world) pursue provision and wealth as if life were all about these things and as if God is unconcerned about their needs, but this is not to be the focus of the Christian. In the parallel passage in Mt 6:33, Jesus declared, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” Thus at least a key part of seeking God’s kingdom for the believer is to strive to live by his standards. In regard to other benefits of the kingdom, believers can rest assured that the Father will give them to his children with joy.

12:33-34 When disciples are living for God’s glory and his kingdom (v. 31), they will choose priorities for this life that are designed to reap inexhaustible heavenly dividends. These become the treasure of one’s heart. Wealth on this earth can be stolen or destroyed, but heavenly treasures are eternally secure.

12:35-40 The point of this story is that we must practice constant readiness. Waiting for the master to return means waiting for Christ’s second coming. It is not known when the return will take place, so it is necessary to be constantly vigilant. If a thief can come unexpectedly, how much more can the coming of Christ catch his servants by surprise?

12:41-44 Jesus previously told his disciples that his parables held secrets that were only for his followers (see note at 8:9-10). Jesus did not answer Peter’s question directly. Instead, he told another story about a master and his manager. The story in vv. 35-40 emphasized that the master’s servant should be watching, but this story made it clear that the servant must also be working. Disciples who persevere in faithfulness will be rewarded by the master.

12:45-48 If a servant of the master does not faithfully watch and work, there will be severe consequences when the master comes. The reason for the difference in punishments is the principle of accountable stewardship. More is expected of those who have been given much.

12:49-50 Fire in these verses symbolizes judgment on the earth at the second coming of Christ. A baptism to undergo refers to the suffering of Christ, specifically his agony on the cross (Mk 10:38). Consumes expresses how focused Jesus was on completing his mission. It is finished are the words Jesus used on the cross to signal that redemption was accomplished (Jn 19:30).

12:51-53 Jesus Christ made peace with God possible for anyone who will choose to follow as his disciple (Rm 5:1). Unbelievers, however, remain at odds with God and his requirements for holiness. There will be such division over the gospel of Christ that some families will be split down the middle. The spiritual family of God is more important than family bloodlines.

12:54-56 Storms in Palestine usually blow in from the west, off the Mediterranean Sea, or from the deserts to the south. A cloud coming from the west usually brought rain or a storm, while a south wind was dry and hot. In this context, interpret means “to discern.” Time refers to “the opportune moment,” in this case the presence of Messiah in their midst.

12:57-59 The need to settle accounts before undergoing judicial punishment pictures the need to be reconciled to God (Rm 5:10) before facing his judgment. At that point, it will be too late to seek reconciliation.