Luke 12:22–34 . . . Bible Study Summary with Photos
Worry Not, My Disciples!
The kingdom of God is the most wonderful gift of all! Food, clothing, fortune, and fame all pale before it; nothing compares with his kingdom. God's children are free to rejoice and exalt in his kingdom, but we must first put our concerns for food and clothing and our donating to the poor in proper perspective. Otherwise, we'll miss the point entirely.
In today's text, Jesus spells out a few reasons why our worrying about material needs is wrong. Then, after proving that worrying is both foolish and evil, he'll provide us with a very simple solution, one that many might not want to hear. But this solution is what sets the true disciple of Jesus apart from others.
Jesus has been in the midst of a large crowd, teaching to various segments from time to time. In vv. 1–12 (see our summary titled "Warnings and Encouragements"), Jesus addressed only his disciples, speaking to them about "the danger of hypocrisy." In vv. 13–21 (see last week's summary "The Problem and Remedy of Greed"), his teaching subject changed to "greed." While the disciples would be tempted to shy away from boldness in the proclamation of the gospel, they might also be tempted to pursue material things. He taught that even those who are able to attain an abundance of possessions will find that life doesn't consist of them. But today, we see in v. 22, Jesus pressing this same principle even further, speaking directly to his disciples, telling them how the principle should govern their own lives. (Be sure to watch this video clip from The JESUS Film, which highlights Jesus' teaching about today's passage.)
Don't Worry about Food and Clothing (12:22–23)
In both opening verses, Jesus uses two word couplets: life/eat and body/clothing. Both couplets refer to physical life, one relating to food, the other to clothing. Jesus point: "For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes" (v. 23). What a simple yet profound thought! There is "more" to our lives, he assures us. The key word he uses is "worry," Greek merimnao, "1. 'have anxiety, be anxious, be (unduly) concerned,' 2. 'care for, be concerned about something.'"
“Consider the Ravens" (v. 24)
The word translated "consider" is Greek katanoeo, "'notice, observe' something carefully ... 'look at (with reflection), consider, contemplate something.'" We're invited, with Jesus' other hearers, to contemplate what we see around us. Presumably, farmers, and those who spend lots of time outdoors, observe and reflect upon birds, animals, and plants that they see around them. Jesus has done that, now turning his hearers' attention to the raven. He's just told the Parable of the Rich Fool who was ready to tear down his barns and storehouses and build bigger ones. Now he singles out the raven for [our] consideration of who doesn't sow or reap and doesn't have any barns or storerooms.
That rich man had every advantage. Yet the raven has a greater advantage — God — the One who provides food for the raven. When we worry about food, we forget this: "Yet God feeds them." Then Jesus reminds his disciples that they are of much greater value than birds; if God feeds even birds, how much much more will he provide for humans? Of course, this doesn't mean that God fills a bird feeder every morning for the ravens. They must instead spend their day finding food to eat. It's not a "cake walk" for ravens; neither are we disciples to expect God to put us on "Easy Street." But we should expect him to provide for our needs. Jesus tells us to expect that!
Worrying Is a Sign of Weakness, So Consider the Wild Flowers (vv. 25–30)
Worrying can't accomplish anything — anything at all, Jesus tells us. So why do it? Two verses (vv. 25–26) separate the illustrations of the ravens and the wild flowers (a.k.a. lilies). They give another good reason why worrying about food and clothing is foolish: Anxiety is foolish because it is fruitless and futile. Worry, Jesus reminds us, doesn't produce anything or extend one's life; it'll never produce a single meal or bite or a stitch of clothing. However, there's an even more important reason not to worry: Worry disregards God's care of and concern for his creation; it demonstrates disbelief of his love and care, as expressed in his promises.
Jesus gets to the bottom line in v. 28. To worry is to fear; worry's ultimate cause is a lack of faith in God. Faith isn't rooted in what's seen but in what's unseen. When we seek (a.k.a. prioritize and idolize) material things, such as food and clothing, we want that which we see, thereby living according to sight, rather than faith (2 Corinthians 4:18 and Hebrews 11:1). Faith is rooted in the Word of God, which is both certain and eternal; it's not rooted in things we see.
So far, Jesus has had his hearers consider how God feeds ravens so he can assure them that God will definitely provide their needed food. Now, to illustrate that God will provide the clothes they need, he turns their minds to the wild flowers of the field. Why are we so concerned about clothing, when God so elegantly clothes the wild flowers? (vv. 27–28)
What's more, Jesus says, "Your Father knows that you need them." The implication: How could a good and wealthy Father look on and allow his children to lack food and clothing? We don't have to convince our Father of the need. He knows it well.
Our problem, according to Jesus, is seeking the wrong thing. In v. 30, Jesus notes that unbelievers (Greek ethne) "run after" such things. We believers sometimes "set our heart on" or "fixate" on getting enough food to eat and clothes to wear; we fixate on obtaining money for various needs. When bills pile up, we fixate on them. But Jesus says that such fixation is wrongly placed. Instead, we must become fixed on the kingdom of God.
“But Seek His Kingdom; Don't Fear, Little Flock" (vv. 31–32)
Jesus wants his disciples to seek after (be fixated on) the Father's kingdom with all the energy they've previously spent struggling for food, clothing, and shelter. Instead of focusing on obtaining everyday necessities, our minds and hearts ought to focus on and surrender to his kingdom and his glory. When we do that, Jesus promises, he'll "give" us what we need for sustenance (v. 31). When our thoughts, mind, and prayers focus on Jesus and his kingdom, he promises that "he'll supply every need that we have" in relation to the abundance of his riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). When we focus on the problems and struggles of life, anxiety rears its ugly head. Instead, we're to focus on God and his provisions. We'll then be flooded with the peace of God.
The Word of God is the basis for our faith and our life. It's at this very point that Jesus gives us, his disciples, a sure and certain warning: "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom" (v. 32). Jesus addresses his disciples — then and today — as his "little flock." As one of his sheep, we want to walk with him, listen to him, emulate him, and absorb his thoughts, attitudes, and philosophy of life. Our worrying and fretting are sinful; both represent unbelief (or perhaps a tiny bit of belief mixed with a whole lot of unbelief). In the midst of our worry and fear, Jesus speaks directly to us: "Fear not, little flock." (He who has ears let him hear.) The reason you don't have to be afraid is because the Father gives you the kingdom.
We're not finished yet; there's one more word in v. 32 to consider. The word translated "pleased" is Greek eudokeo "be well pleased, take delight." God doesn't grudgingly share his kingdom with us sinners. Jesus says that God is delighted to give us his kingdom; it's the Father's joy, his abundant pleasure, to bestow his kingdom upon his flock. Likely, the Father is more overjoyed to bestow upon you his entire kingdom than you are to receive it. So, what are you to do next?
“Sell Your Possessions, Give to the Poor" (vv. 33–34)
Alas, we're so focused on this world and ensuring ourselves a good life here. But when all our needs are met by God, in bestowing upon us his kingdom, we can afford to be generous. We'll no longer hold onto our possessions for dear life. We'll look around and become genuinely concerned about others' needs. If we have extra possessions, we ought to sell them and donate money to the poor. Doing so might not make earthly sense, but it'll make heavenly sense.
Jesus concludes this passage by leaving us, his disciples, with clear questions: What is your real treasure? What absorbs your attention and time? In which world do you live? Jesus calls you to another plane of existence: an unseen but very real kingdom in which he'll meet every need of your body, mind, soul, and spirit. The gift of the kingdom is intended to encompass your heart. So, what and where is your treasure?
It Makes You Wonder . . . .
- Q. 1 Jesus gives five reasons in vv. 22–30 why we shouldn't worry about material needs. How many can you find?
- Q. 2 Jesus refers to our focus on material possessions in three negative ways. The first is "worry." What are the other two? (See vv. 28b and 32.)
- Q. 3 Where is your treasure? Where is your heart? (v. 34) How do you know?
This Week's Passage
Do Not Worry
22Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
27"Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you — you of little faith! 29And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
32"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33Sell 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. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.