The purpose of this lesson is to help you think about decisions from the perspective of what would please God.
Have you ever given a friend a gift that you knew was exactly right? Remember how good it felt to see the joy in your friend as he or she opened the gift. Wouldn’t it feel good to experience God’s pleasure over a decision you have made, never having to worry whether you have done the right thing?
Describe something you did that brought real pleasure to another person. What has someone done for you that pleased you?
Who have you been attempting to please? How have you been going about it?
When a man came to Jesus upset about an inheritance, Jesus took the opportunity to talk with his disciples about pleasing God instead of worrying about self. Read Luke 12:13-34.
1. Describe the man in Luke 12:13. What were his worries?
Selfish and materialistic: This is especially evident if you consider what Jesus has just been talking to the crowd about in Luke 12:1-11 (concerning hypocrisy, and confessing Christ before men). How would you feel about an uneven distribution of an inheritance? You likely share many of this man’s worries.
Luke 12:13 Tell my brother: Jesus is asked to intervene in a family dispute, as an ancient rabbi would be. The dispute centers around a point of Mosaic law, divide the inheritance with me is likely in reference to the double-portion allotted to the firstborn son (see Deuteronomy 21:17).
2. What do the people of our society worry about?
3. What impact do our worries have on our decisions?
Think about specific worries you have had and what those worries cause you to do. For example, worries about money may cause some people to seek a higher paying job and others to take out a loan.
4. Why wouldn’t Jesus help the man in this story?
“The Lord refuses to fill the traditional role of judge because his mission concerns a more important question, the question of life itself. Jesus points his hearers to the importance of priorities in the quest for ‘life'”
Luke 12:14 Who made Me a Judge: Jesus refuses to enter into a dispute over money, which is clearly dividing a family. Such disputes over money destroy relationships, so Jesus tells a parable that explains the danger of focusing on wealth. Interestingly, the unnamed man mentions dividing the family inheritance, but Jesus states that He only came to divide the family (Luke 12:51–53). Whatever answer Jesus would give would not solve the problem. BOTH brothers had a covetous heart; the YOU is plural (Luke 12:14). BOTH men were greedy. They had an unquenchable thirst for more.
5. To what extent has “the abundance of possessions” been an ingredient in your decision-making process?
“In this parable and these pronouncements the Savior does not condemn the possession of worldly goods as such, but what He disapproves of is the covetous and carnal attitude with regard to earthly wealth, the trust in worldly things instead of in God, and the fault of not regarding one’s possessions gratefully as God’s gracious gifts and using them in His service and according to His will to the glory of His name. It is not only a terrible sin to make earthly riches and worldly pleasures the main purpose in life, but also a fatal act of folly, a deadly error.”
Luke 12:16 And he told a parable to them: Jesus uses this opportunity to move from His discourse about allegiance to Himself (see Luke 12:8–12) to allegiance to material possessions. The parable is meant to illustrate the truth that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (see Luke 12:15).
6. The rich man thought he had made a worry-free decision (Luke 12:19). Why was he called a fool (Luke 12:20)?
Luke 12:19 Relax, eat, drink, celebrate: Recalling Ecclesiastes 8:15; Isaiah 22:13.
Luke 12:20 God’s judgment on selfishness is clear. What did the rich fool have for the next life? He could not take his grain with him. What he owned was no longer of any value after death. In a single day, the rich man became poor. All earthly wealth is temporary and ultimately worthless (Matthew 6:19–21; 1 Timothy 6:6–10, 17-19; James 5:1–6). This night your life is demanded from you: Translated literally, the Greek says, “This night your soul they demand from you.” The plural “they” may be a reference to the rich man’s possessions, which have become his gods—rather than owning them, they own him. Such an allegiance to possessions leads to death.
How do YOU respond to the death of this farmer? Did he get what was coming to him? Right about the time he could REALLY live? The greatest tragedy is not what he left behind, but what lay before him, an eternity without God.
Wealth can be enjoyed and employed at the same time, if our purpose is to honor God (1 Timothy 6:10). Don’t be rich for this world and poor for the next.
7. The rich man did have a problem that needed to be solved (Luke 12:17). What decisions could he have made that Jesus would have found pleasing?
“Notice the repeated MY which points to an ingrained selfishness. The man is not concerned to use his wealth wisely. He is not trying to help other people. He is not even concerned to have a richer and fuller life for himself. He is concerned only with self-indulgence.”
Luke 12:18, 19 Including Luke 12:17, the word “I” appears six times, showing the selfish focus this man has as a result of his fortune. His plan is to store his abundant resources for himself, as though the assets were his alone and should be hoarded. This focus on the self is what Jesus is condemning. The attitude here is to take care of number one.
People should save for the future, and run a business successfully (1 Timothy 5:8), and Jesus does not encourage waste (John 6:12). Life does not come from an abundance of things, so he had a false view of life and death.
8. Why are ravens and lilies so carefree? (Luke 12:24, 27)
Luke 12:24 Jesus describes God’s care of ravens, unclean creatures according to Jewish law and among the least respected of birds (Leviticus 11:15; Deuteronomy 14:14). Yet God even cares for them. How much more are you worth: A point Jesus made earlier in Luke 12:7. Here, He conveys that if God takes care of the birds, how much more will He provide for His people?
Luke 12:25 It is uncertain whether Jesus is saying through His rhetorical question that worry cannot add to one’s physical height or that worry cannot add to one’s life span. In fact, worry can sometimes shorten life. What is clear is that worry is utterly useless and shows a lack of faith in God’s plan for our lives.
Luke 12:27–29 Even the wealthy King Solomon did not clothe himself as God has clothed the lilies: The illustration of grass indicates that God cares enough to provide beauty for the parts of His creation that have a short life. Why should we worry if God takes such care of even the smallest blade of grass? The Lord knows our problems and will provide us with what we need. Do not seek … nor have an anxious mind: Since God will provide, there is no need for us to concentrate on mundane things such as food. This should not be our chief concern, but instead our first priority should be doing the will of God (Luke 12:31).
9. What would be different about making a decision from a raven or lily’s point of view?
“They should not make their chief aim or the passion of their lives the hoarding of material things. By this the Savior does not in any way mean that they must be lazy and neglect their ordinary work and duties, but that they must not allow their hearts to become so attached to material things that their inner lives are controlled by these, and they are not to be vexed and anxious about these things. Everyone must perform his daily task, which God gives him, whole-heartedly and to the best of his ability, but the inner life of the believer must not be caught in the clutches of materialism and of anxiety with regard to worldly things.”
10. How does our worry dishonor God?
Worry shows a lack of trust. When we worry about something, it is a statement that we don’t believe God can or will take care of it.
11. What does it mean to seek the kingdom of God (Luke 12:31) and provide a treasure in heaven (Luke 12:33)?
“They are to seek his kingdom, which points to a concentration on all that the kingdom involves. Disciples have pledged themselves to their Master. They must accordingly spend their time in doing His work and seeking His kingdom. This will mean trying to produce in their own lives conduct appropriate to those who have accepted the rule of God. It will also mean trying to bring others into a like way of living, for it is in this way that the kingdom grows. Jesus adds the information that when His followers concentrate on the kingdom, these things shall be yours as well. When men truly honor God, God honors their faith. His servants may not grow wealthy as the world understands riches, but they will not lack.”
12. How have you sought God’s kingdom as you have been making decisions?
Pray about everything that worries you, putting it into God’s hands again.
Now or Later
Doubt can often be the same as worry. Read what James has to say about this in James 1:2-8.
- According to these verses, why are some people confused?
- Why is a wave an apt description of a doubter?
- What advice does James give us for dealing with doubt and worry?
- What did you like to collect as a child? How about now?
- Which situation is more worrisome to you? Overdraft? Gaining 10 pounds? Child expelled from school? Nobody called this week? Mother-in-law stays for two weeks?
- What is Jesus saying for the disciples NOT to do? What are they to do instead (Luke 12:22, 33)?
- Over what are you worrying? Why?
- How can you transfer your treasure from Wall Street to Heaven’s Gate?
- How would your life be different if you lived the way Jesus says?
- Jesus wants us to be on our guard: Luke 12:15 Guard yourselves from all greediness: Jesus previously warned His disciples about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (see preceding section), but now He warns them of the deceitfulness of riches. Does his life consist of his possessions? For Jesus, life consists of listening to and obeying the word of God (Luke 12:8:21; 10:42). It is interesting that this man’s problem was that he had too much wealth!
- What are the perils of prosperity (Proverbs 30:7-9)?
- Wealth can choke the Word (Matthew 13:22).
- It can set a trap of temptation (1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19) and a false sense of security.
BEWARE of WORRY
Luke 12:22–34 Luke appropriately ties in Jesus’ teaching on anxiety over material provisions with the preceding section. The above parable, then, is directed at the rich (the brother who had many possessions, Luke 12:13), whereas this section is addressed to the poor. (See also Matthew 6:19–21, 25-34).
Destructive: The word “anxious” (Luke 12:22) really means “to be torn apart” and the phrase “doubtful mind” means to be held in suspense” (Luke 12:29). Our English word comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “to strangle.”
Deceptive: Worry causes us to focus too much on the means and not the end, which is to glorify God (Matthew 6:33). Worry blinds us to the world around us, how God cares for the world and its beauty. Worry blinds us to itself, thinking that by worrying we can make a difference (Luke 12:25).
Deformative: Worry keeps us from growing properly, and makes us like the lost world (Luke 12:30). Worry is unchristian and is a sin.
Luke 12:33 Sell what you have: In contrast to the world’s hoarding of possessions, the disciple must be generous with what God gives. Money bags which do not grow old: By serving God and others, you can invest in your eternal future. You cannot take possessions with you in the next life, but you can store up an eternal treasure by giving to others (see Paul’s statement in Philippians 4:17).
Luke 12:34 What people consider valuable is where their energy will be spent. Knowing God and investing in His purposes should be the treasure we seek.
A Fearful Heart (Luke 12:1–12). When you fear people, you start to hide things, and this leads to hypocrisy. You fail to confess Christ openly and depend on the Holy Spirit (Luke 12:8–12), and this silences your witness. When you fear God alone, you need fear no one else; and you can boldly witness for Christ. You are important to God and precious in His sight, so never fear what people can say or do.
A Greedy Heart (Luke 12:13–21). Imagine being so greedy that you would interrupt a sermon to ask for help to get more money! The weeds were certainly growing in that man’s heart (Matthew 13:22). We all need a certain amount of money to live, but money is not a guarantee of security. If anything, it creates a false confidence that leads to foolishness.
A Divided Heart (Luke 12:22–34). The word translated “worry” (Luke 12:22) means “to be pulled apart,” and that is what worry does to you. If your heart is centered on Christ and trusting wholly in Him (Luke 12:31), you will have a united heart that fears God alone (Psalm 86:11). If your treasures are heavenly, you need not worry; no enemy can take them!
A Cold Heart (Luke 12:35–59). We are God’s servants, and He expects us to be faithfully doing our work when Jesus Christ returns. But when we stop looking for His coming, loving it (2 Timothy 4:8), and longing for it (Revelation 22:20), our hearts get cold, and we get worldly. The Lord will deal with careless servants when He returns, so we had better be ready.