“What Are You Worried About?”
September 22, 2019
The believer worries - about the right things.
I. Worry about fearing God not man (Luke 12:1-12)
II. Worry about foolish priorities (Luke 12:13-21)
III. Worry about needless worry (Luke 12: 22-34)
What are you worried about this morning? What’s on your heart, pre-occupying your thoughts? One of the sad realities of life is that there are many things to worry about. Are you worried about your health, the health of your loved ones? Maybe you’re worried about safety, accidents, crime you can't control? Are you worried about finances, paying the bills? Worried about relationships with your spouse, friend, parent, child? Maybe you are worried about others, loved ones all around you in difficult situations? Maybe you’re worried about your own abilities, to do your job, to raise your kids. to control your emotions?
Whatever it is, each of us has worries, or potential worries, and most of Luke 12 is about worry and fear. But the way Jesus approaches the topic is to not only tell us what we shouldn’t be worried about, but what we should worry about and should fear. As a believer you should worry, but about the right things.
Verses 1-12, contain comments by Jesus about things you should fear, or worry about. We’ll take this section a bit at a time. Luke 12:1-3 In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.
The first ‘worry’ word in this section is “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,” which is hypocrisy. This passage is tied to what we studied last week. Jesus accused the Pharisees and teachers of the law of having external pretense, but no inward reality of devotion. Luke doesn’t record Jesus using the word hypocrisy to this point, but in the parallel passage in Matthew Jesus says “hypocrites,” in each of the woes. Luke saves that word for the passage we’re looking at. Surrounded by a huge crowd, Jesus turns to his disciples and says “be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees,” their infectious sin, which he sums up in the word: hypocrisy. You’re supposed to worry about this. Pay attention, be careful about hypocrisy, fraud or pretension in your life.
He calls hypocrisy the leaven of the Pharisees. leaven being a metaphor for sin which grows in someone's life just as yeast multiples and the dough rises. Or, as I’ve seen in my kitchen, the leaven gets out of control and the dough overflows. Hypocrisy is that kind of leaven. First it rises inside you, then it oozes out.
Jesus gives us a practical reason to be on guard against this: it cannot ultimately be hidden from God or man. “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” You think you can hide your inner attitudes, your secret thoughts, the sins no one sees. But all hypocrisy will be revealed. Think of that video tape we talked about, your thoughts for the last 24 hours. If I brought that file and played it, would you regret the thoughts that you've had? So I say to each of us, watch your thought life and your emotions. What am I thinking about, how am I reacting? Do these things honor Jesus?
So, worry about hypocrisy Second, worry about your ultimate destiny. Have the right kind of fear. Verses 4-7 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Interesting progression: don't fear, verse 4; fear, verse 5; don't fear, verse 7. Jesus starts by saying we are not to fear those who can kill the body. It’s not realistic to fear only death, even persecution and death. All people die. But those who can only cause earthly death, the first death, are not really the ones to fear. Jesus says “I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.” Who is Jesus talking about? Can Satan cast you into hell? No. Revelation teaches us that he will be cast into that fire.
Who is it then? God. It’s God you are to fear. He alone has the power to save or to condemn. One of the hardest but most important Biblical facts is that sinners who do not come to faith in Jesus will be condemned to hell. The word Jesus uses is Gehenna, which gives us a picture of hell. Gehenna was a valley that ran along two sides of Jerusalem, the Valley of Hinnom. It was a truly awful place During the last years of the Judean kings it contained an altar to Molech, an awful idol. On this altar, where fire burned continually, at least two Hebrew kings, Ahaz and Manasseh, sacrificed their sons. Josiah, the last good king of Judah, tore down that altar and ended the sacrifices. During the days of Jeremiah it was the pottery district, so that kilns burned there continually. And in Jesus’ day it was the city dump, the burning place for garbage, the refuse from the temple, and the bodies of executed criminals. Fire burned there continually. This is the place Jesus uses to picture Hell. I was reading about this in a Bible dictionary, which said “Because this may be symbolic language, some people question whether hell consists of actual fire. Such reasoning should bring no comfort to the lost. The reality is greater than the symbol.”
The Bible exhausts human language in describing heaven and hell. The former is more glorious and the latter more terrible than we can express. Hell is real. Hell is awful. So, Jesus says “fear God.” This is the terror and respect we saw last week. God alone can save you and those around you, from hell. Imagine that you have been found guilty for a crime you did commit. You deserve death, and the judge can sentence you. What is your attitude toward the judge? You fear him. You ask around the cell block “what reputation does this judge have? Is he merciful? Is he harsh?” You fear the one who has the power of life and death. Jesus says fear God, the righteous judge, who has the power to give you the hell you deserve. Fearing God is the wisest thing you can do, because it leads you to turn from your sins, and cry out to Him.
But notice that Jesus immediately says you can trust in his character. The same God who has the right to punish you for your sins, is the God who cares for you. Verse 6 “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Five sparrows were sold, probably for food for the poor, for two pennies. But even sparrows are cared for by God. The hairs of your head are known to God, and he cares when one falls out. How much more does he care for you? You’re more precious to him than many sparrows. You’re so valuable to God that he sent his son to die for you. You were as valuable to God as his own life, and if you trust in him he will rescue you from the sentence of death and hell.
Therefore, be concerned about your allegiance. Put yourself on His side. Verses 8-12 “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, 9but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
Those who are on the Lord's side are forgiven and blessed. Those who oppose the Lord are opposed by the Lord. We are rescued from wrath by faith in Jesus Christ, trusting him, and receiving his Holy Spirit. We live out that trust by being on His side. As we saw last week, a hypocrite can fake religious speech and behavior. But it’s very rare to fake Christianity if it would do you harm. If you are inclined to live for Jesus, willing to speak for him, that’s evidence of his work. If you consistently find it impossible to stand up for Jesus Christ, it’s okay to worry. Denying Jesus may mean that God will have to deny you.
But the key is consistently. You can fail that test of allegiance and still be forgiven. Look at verse 10: “everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” You can, like Peter, fail, deny the Son of Man, and still be forgiven. But blasphemy, vilifying or cursing the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. The difference, I believe, is in the consistent rejection of the Spirit’s prompting.
Consider two things. First, there is strong evidence in these verses that the Holy Spirit is a person of the Trinity. He can be blasphemed, and blasphemy is always, by definition, a denial or cursing of God. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is God. Jesus portrays the Holy Spirit as at least as important as himself, the Son of Man. Second, notice that one role of the Spirit is to teach believers what to say. Verses 11-12: “When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” When you place your allegiance with him, and you suffer for it, the God the Holy Spirit teaches you what to do and say.
But what if you don’t say it? Instead of defending the faith you deny and curse God, and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. He’s prompting you to say one thing, and you say something that denies the prompting. Then he prompts you to repentance and forgiveness and you refuse to turn. That’s blaspheming the Holy Spirit. And because you have refused to seek forgiveness, you will not be forgiven.
So, is this something to be worried about? May be. If you’ve been offered the way of salvation, by faith and trust in Jesus Christ, and if you’ve felt the Spirit’s prompting toward repentance, yet you’re angry at God and hardened in sin, then you can’t be forgiven. You can’t receive what you won’t accept. Let your heart be broken. Cry to the Spirit. Express faith in the Son. It’s not for no reason that Romans 10 says “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
The first section is about fearing God, not man. Beware the yeast of the Pharisees, hypocrisy, fear the one who holds your eternity and respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The second section is a bit easier: worry about greed and materialism. Luke 12:13-21 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’
18And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
In 1890 a study was made to find the 100 most influential families in the U.S. It was predicted that a hundred years later they would be an elite class of leaders in government, education, and industry. But over 100 years later we haven’t even heard of most of these people. A few we have: the Roosevelts, J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie. But many we’ve never heard of. What happened to these families? Most suffered financial reversals. Many influential family members had succumbed to suicides. Others had become alcoholics, pleasure seekers, or had died early squandering their fortunes. The point I took from the article was that wealth, influence and power weren’t the best thing that could happen to a family. What the world calls having it all is not so great.
That’s the message of the middle section. In verse 13 a man comes to Jesus and tries to get him to make a ruling. “Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus refuses to settle this dispute but uses the situation to speak against greed and materialism, which he must have seen behind the request. He says to the crowd “take care, and be on your guard against all covetous-ness, for one’s life doesn’t consist in the abundance of his possessions.” “Take care,” is a worry word. Worry about this. “Be on your guard", is a military word, keep watch. Don’t be ambushed by greed. For, as the New American Standard says, “not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” Isn't that great? “Not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” He who dies with the most toys does not win.
But our culture makes possessions and consumerism the main activity of life. For example, there is one car on the road for every 1.2 Americans, including old people, babies and children. Another example: the average American eats over 200 meals prepared outside the home each year, for an average total of $3000. Finally, closely related to Jesus’ story, single family home size in America has almost doubled in the last 100 years, while average occupancy has gone way down. Despite this, we’ve also seen an amazing boom in self-storage, a 38 billion dollar industry with 16 billion cubit feet of bigger barns.
So Jesus tells us the parable of the rich fool. Here was a man who was already rich, and his ground produced a bumper crop. So, he had a debate with his soul. “What am I going to do with all this. I don't have any place to keep all this.”
He doesn't think "I don't really need all this, I already have enough" or “God has given the increase." He’s self-focused. “I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones and store my crops.” He seeks security. He plans to keep even the excess. Financial guru Larry Burkett used to say that Christians should establish a standard of living and, when excess comes, like a raise, you stay at that standard and use the excess for giving and good works. But this man keeps it for himself. He stores none of it in the mouths of the poor. In fact, he says to his own soul, “you have great stuff stored up for many years take it easy. Eat and drink and be merry. Enjoy yourself.” We call it consumerism, like the Mazda Miata ad that said “There's something you should do before life hits you in the knees with ten bags of groceries and the need for a garden hose. You should know how it feels to have the sun on your head and a growl at your back, as you flick through five gears with no more baggage than a friend.” Hey, real life is the right car and desertion of responsibility.
But there is a pitiful note here. In verse 17 the man debates with himself and in verse 19 he says to his own soul, enjoy yourself. Could it be that he has no one to enjoy with, no family or friends? Do you know anyone whose single-minded pursuit of wealth or success has cut them off from loved ones? Sure you do. Many divorces in our culture, come from just this kind of self-centeredness. Looking out for number one cuts you off from numbers two through infinity. This man is pitiable. He’s probably deeply lonely. And God says to him “you are a fool.” You are an aphron, perhaps the strongest Greek word for a stupid fool. “This very night your life will be demanded of you.” This is a banking term. We are going to call in your loan. Your life is on loan from God, it belongs to him and he can claim it any time. Anyone can leave here and be broadsided at 518 and 528 and stand within the hour in the presence of God.
“This is how it will be if you are storing up things for yourself but are not rich toward God.” This is how it will be if you and I don’t embrace the truth we talked about all summer, that we are stewards, not owners. But as you recognize that God truly owns all that he has given you to manage, recognize also that God provides for his people So don’t worry about his provision. Verses 22-30 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
28But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Jesus recognizes that we have a problem with security If we don’t have possessions to keep us safe, where will security come from? Jesus’ answer is that if we choose to make God our priority, he does not abandon us. God will provide all we truly need, though not necessarily all that Madison Avenue wants us to want. Implicit in this is what I call the principle of true sufficiency. It’s found throughout Scripture but most aptly in Psalm 73: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
So Jesus can say “don't worry about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on, for life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” You know that's true. Your food and clothes have always been provided and yet you have found that there is more to happiness than just this. Look at the ravens. They are not like this rich man, they don't have storerooms or barns they don't tear them down and build bigger, yet God provides for them. How much more valuable you are than birds. You are God’s treasured possession. Anyway, what good does it do to worry? Being anxious, being concerned, fretful, will not change the future or extend your life a single hour. If worry would do it, there ought to be a lot of old worried people among us.
Look at the lilies. They are transient, here today and gone tomorrow, yet God takes care of them and clothes them in beauty. But God is making you eternally beautiful. So, Jesus says “do not seek what you are to eat, what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations seek these things, but God knows what you need.” I believe this promise is true for everything we need. Is your need for more time? Are you exhausted by your activity? Consider the snail. It doesn't hurry, yet God feeds it. Consider the lion. It works hard to catch its food, but then it rests. God knows your need. You have time to do what you really need to do, and get rest. Do you suffer depression, mood swings, anxiety? Consider David. More than half his Psalms are lament: questioning, depressed, opposed or deserted. Yet David consistently finds comfort in God.
Do you struggle with persistent sin, some behavior or attitude that has bound you for years? Consider my favorite illustration of the test pilot, falling out-of-control in a jet. He does not panic or despair but tries one thing after another until he finds something that works, to regain control. Try again. Struggle against sin. Get help. Do you lack purpose? Purpose in life is as much a need as any other. Many make it their purpose to gain wealth, security influence or happiness. But true fulfillment comes as we pursue God's purposes. Verse 31, we “seek his kingdom.” Verse 32 “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The thing we seek is the very thing God is most pleased to give. And it’s the kingdom. We have long said that this “now and not yet” kingdom is any situation where the authority of Jesus is recognized, and the desires of Jesus are carried out. We seek the kingdom by seeking to be more and more under the authority of the king, doing the will of the king. Obedient.
Jesus closes with a two-part application. First, sell your possessions and give to the poor. This doesn’t mean sell yourself into poverty, but take action, put your money where your mouth is, in king’s work rather than earthly gain. Give sacrificially, forego the promotion, buy the less expensive house. Second, provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” Everything on earth is rotting, burning or dying. But investing your time, energy and money in the work of the kingdom, being the hands and feet and heart and voice of Jesus, pays eternal dividends. You may not see or even feel the reward now, but in the not yet, when you see the kingdom in its full splendor, all the king’s people gathered around the glorious king, you will know that this was the best thing you could work for.
Jesus ends by saying “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Where you put your treasure, the thoughts and attentions and devotions of your heart will follow. This is a universal principle. I had a boss at Exxon who played the stock market, and he was always calling to get current prices, and evaluating companies, and trying to decide whether to buy or sell. His heart was with his treasure. In the same way, if you give to the life of the church, if you pursue the work of missons, if you spend time helping others, rebuilding houses, providing for needs, sharing the gospel or discipling others, then your heart will be in that, your prayers will be fervent, your energy will be focused.
What is Jesus teaching us? That we are to worry about hypocrisy, and to fear God alone. That we are to worry about greed and materialism, but that we are not to worry about provision. Instead we are to trust the God who cares for us and seek his kingdom’s success in the lives of those around us. We are to seek the kingdom and put our treasure where we want our hearts to be.