After Jesus teaches about not worrying (and what to do instead) in Luke 12:22-31, we find the following verses:
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Luke 12:32-34 NIV
Wait a minute: weren’t we talking about worry? Here, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid”. Well, I guess that there isn’t much difference between worry and fear, is there? Worry is kind of like the state of being afraid about what might happen.
Related to this, I have found it helpful to think about the definition of worry that I’ve heard from other pastors and teachers: in my own words, worry is spending undue time thinking about what might happen in the future.
When I remember this, I can be more clear-headed about the reality that most (in fact, the vast majority) of the things that I worry about – especially the “worst-case scenarios” – will never happen. I’ve worried about medical test results. I’ve worried about what someone thinks about me. I’ve worried about what will happen in our country. I’ve worried about what might be happening with my kids. And, you know what? Most of those things that I worried about never happened.
Why do we fear when we let worry get a foothold in our lives? Probably because we don’t trust God to take care of things (which is what this chapter just established that He does, per Luke 12:22-31). Yet, Jesus says to his listeners that God “has been pleased to give you the kingdom”. If God has promised to do that, I’m pretty sure that no amount of God-directed generosity (as the passage above directs us to have) will invalidate His promise. No matter how much we give away (especially when God calls us to do so), we still know that He will keep His promises.
And, what we give away here on this earth (in the right manner) isn’t necessarily just “gone”. Instead, it sounds to me like some sort of exchange (like a currency exchange, where the rate of exchange actually benefits us), in which we trade stuff that will perish with this world, for something that will last for eternity.
Some teachers have described the things of this earth – i.e., our possessions that we don’t need – as being like “Confederate money”, which became worthless (except to collectors and museums) after the end of the United States Civil War. Near the end of the war, if you lived in that region, if you could have traded something (currency that would become worthless in a little while) for another currency (or goods) that would have long-term value, would it have made sense to keep any more Confederate currency than you needed?
Using this analogy, I don’t think that we would condemn those in the Confederate states who kept a little bit of local currency around to buy groceries until the war was officially over. If the corner store only took that kind of money until the proprietor heard – for sure – that the final surrender had been signed, it would be OK to keep some on hand. In the same way, I don’t think that it’s sinful for us to maintain enough worldly possessions in order to take care of ourselves and our family.
However, it appears that the rich man in Luke 12:16-21 (reviewed in a previous article) didn’t need a huge surplus of goods in order to live out the rest of his days, especially if he had chosen to keep working his fields rather than quitting. Said another way, why bother keeping around a bunch of extra money and earthly possessions that we don’t use, that we don’t need, and which are are causing us to rely on them (rather than on God), when we know that they will be of no use to us in Heaven?
So, let us consider unloading all of our surplus “Confederate money” while we walk this earth. There’s honor in leaving an inheritance (whether to family or to a ministry, or both), and I think that it’s OK to prepare wisely for our own needs. However, whatever we could be investing in God’s kingdom can – and should – be exchanged for something that will last forever. When God calls us to do so (and, in fact, Jesus seems to be calling us to do so, here), sometimes that will even mean giving away what we have saved for the future, trusting God to provide for us each day.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for May 8, 2022
- The Lookout, May 8, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Luke, by Mark C. Black. College Press Publishing Company, © 1996.