According to Luke 12:1-59

12  In the meantime, when a crowd of so many thousands had gathered together that they were stepping on one another, he started by saying first to his disciples: “Watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.+  But there is nothing carefully concealed that will not be revealed, and nothing secret that will not become known.+  Therefore, whatever you say in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you whisper* in private rooms will be preached from the housetops.  Moreover, I say to you, my friends,+ do not fear those who kill the body and after this are not able to do anything more.+  But I will show you whom to fear: Fear the One who after killing has authority to throw into Ge·henʹna.+ Yes, I tell you, fear this One.+  Five sparrows sell for two coins of small value, do they not? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.*+  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.+ Have no fear; you are worth more than many sparrows.+  “I say to you, everyone who acknowledges me before men,+ the Son of man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.+  But whoever disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.+ 10  And everyone who says a word against the Son of man, it will be forgiven him, but whoever blasphemes against the holy spirit will not be forgiven.+ 11  When they bring you in before public assemblies, government officials, and authorities, do not become anxious about how or what you will speak in defense or what you will say,+ 12  for the holy spirit will teach you in that very hour the things you should say.”+ 13  Then someone in the crowd said to him: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14  He said to him: “Man, who appointed me judge or arbitrator between you two?” 15  Then he said to them: “Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of greed,+ because even when a person has an abundance, his life does not result from the things he possesses.”+ 16  With that he told them an illustration, saying: “The land of a rich man produced well. 17  So he began reasoning within himself, ‘What should I do now that I have nowhere to gather my crops?’ 18  Then he said, ‘I will do this:+ I will tear down my storehouses and build bigger ones, and there I will gather all my grain and all my goods, 19  and I will say to myself: “You have many good things stored up for many years; take it easy, eat, drink, enjoy yourself.”’ 20  But God said to him, ‘Unreasonable one, this night they are demanding your life from you. Who, then, is to have the things you stored up?’+ 21  So it goes with the man who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.”+ 22  Then he said to his disciples: “That is why I say to you, stop being anxious about your lives as to what you will eat or about your bodies as to what you will wear.+ 23  For the life is worth more than food and the body more than clothing. 24  Consider the ravens: They neither sow seed nor reap; they have neither barn nor storehouse; yet God feeds them.+ Are you not worth much more than birds?+ 25  Who of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his life span? 26  If, therefore, you cannot do such a small thing, why be anxious about the remaining things?+ 27  Consider how the lilies grow: They neither toil nor spin; but I tell you that not even Solʹo·mon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these.+ 28  Now if this is how God clothes the vegetation in the field that today exists and tomorrow is cast into an oven, how much more will he clothe you, you with little faith! 29  So stop seeking what you will eat and what you will drink, and stop being in anxious suspense;+ 30  for all these are the things the nations of the world are eagerly pursuing, but your Father knows you need these things.+ 31  Instead, keep seeking his Kingdom, and these things will be added to you.+ 32  “Have no fear, little flock,+ for your Father has approved of giving you the Kingdom.+ 33  Sell your belongings and give gifts of mercy.+ Make money pouches that do not wear out, a never-failing treasure in the heavens,+ where no thief gets near and no moth consumes. 34  For where your treasure is, there your hearts will be also. 35  “Be dressed and ready+ and have your lamps burning,+ 36  and you should be like men waiting for their master to return*+ from the marriage,*+ so when he comes and knocks, they may at once open to him. 37  Happy are those slaves whom the master on coming finds watching! Truly I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at the table and will come alongside and minister to them. 38  And if he comes in the second watch, even if in the third, and finds them ready, happy are they! 39  But know this, if the householder had known at what hour the thief would come, he would not have let his house be broken into.+ 40  You also, keep ready, because at an hour that you do not think likely, the Son of man is coming.”+ 41  Then Peter said: “Lord, are you telling this illustration just to us or also to everyone?” 42  And the Lord said: “Who really is the faithful steward, the discreet one, whom his master will appoint over his body of attendants to keep giving them their measure of food supplies at the proper time?+ 43  Happy is that slave if his master on coming finds him doing so! 44  I tell you truthfully, he will appoint him over all his belongings. 45  But if ever that slave should say in his heart, ‘My master delays coming,’+ and starts to beat the male and female servants and to eat and drink and get drunk,+ 46  the master of that slave will come on a day that he is not expecting him and at an hour that he does not know, and he will punish him with the greatest severity and assign him a part with the unfaithful ones. 47  Then that slave who understood the will of his master but did not get ready or do what he asked* will be beaten with many strokes.+ 48  But the one who did not understand and yet did things deserving of strokes will be beaten with few. Indeed, everyone to whom much was given, much will be demanded of him, and the one who was put in charge of much will have more than usual demanded of him.+ 49  “I came to start a fire on the earth, and what more is there for me to wish if it has already been lit? 50  Indeed, I have a baptism+ with which to be baptized, and how I am distressed until it is finished!+ 51  Do you think I came to give peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.+ 52  For from now on there will be five in one house divided, three against two and two against three. 53  They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”+ 54  Then he also said to the crowds: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, at once you say, ‘A storm* is coming,’ and it happens. 55  And when you see that a south wind is blowing, you say, ‘There will be a heat wave,’ and it occurs. 56  Hypocrites, you know how to examine the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to examine this particular time?+ 57  Why do you not judge also for yourselves what is righteous? 58  For example, when you are going with your legal opponent to a ruler, while on the way, get to work to settle the dispute with him so that he may not summon you before the judge, and the judge deliver you to the court officer, and the court officer throw you into prison.+ 59  I tell you, you will certainly not get out of there until you pay over your last small coin.”


Lit., “spoke toward the ear.”
Or “is neglected by God; has escaped God’s notice.”
Or “depart; break away.”
Or “wedding feast.”
Or “do according to his will.”
Or “rainstorm.”

Study Notes

of so many thousands: Lit., “of the myriads.” The Greek word literally refers to a group of 10,000, a myriad, but it can also be used of a very large, unspecified number.

leaven: Or “yeast.” Often used in the Bible to denote corruption and sin, “leaven” here refers to corrupt teaching and influence.​—Mt 16:6, 11, 12; 1Co 5:6-8.

in the light: That is, in public; openly.

preached from the housetops: See study note on Mt 10:27.

Gehenna: See study note on Mt 5:22.

sparrows: See study note on Mt 10:29.

for two coins of small value: Lit., “for two assarions.” Earlier, during his third Galilean tour, Jesus said that two sparrows could be bought for one assarion. (Mt 10:29) An assarion was the wage a man earned for 45 minutes’ work. (See App. B14.) Now, likely about a year later during his ministry in Judea, Jesus makes the statement that Luke records, saying that five sparrows could be obtained for two assarions. Comparing these accounts, we learn that sparrows were of such little value that merchants would include the fifth one free of charge.

even the hairs of your head are all numbered: See study note on Mt 10:30.

public assemblies: Or possibly, “synagogues.” The Greek noun sy·na·go·geʹ used here literally means “a bringing together; an assembly.” In most occurrences in the Christian Greek Scriptures, it refers to the building or place where Jews assembled for Scripture reading, instruction, preaching, and prayer. (See Glossary, “Synagogue.”) The word in this context could refer to “synagogues,” to which local Jewish courts were attached (see study note on Mt 10:17), but it seems to be used here in a broader sense to refer to the type of gatherings that were accessible to the public, Jewish or non-Jewish. These assemblies were organized for the purpose of legally prosecuting a Christian and perhaps even rendering some kind of judicial decision against him because of his faith.

divide the inheritance with me: The Mosaic Law was quite clear on the matter of dividing an inheritance between siblings. The eldest son received a double portion, for he was to inherit the responsibilities of the family head. (De 21:17) The remainder of the inheritance was to be divided among the other heirs. It seems likely that the man referred to in this verse greedily wanted more than his legal share. This might explain his inappropriate behavior in interrupting Jesus’ spiritual discussion with a demand about this secular matter. Jesus wisely refused to get involved in the dispute, but he went on to warn against greed.

arbitrator: Or “divider; apportioner.” Jesus here acknowledges that there was no need for him to get involved in a matter that was clearly defined in the Mosaic Law. Further, that Law designated elders to arbitrate any monetary disputes. Jesus also understood that he was sent to the earth, not to get involved in secular matters, but to preach the good news of God’s Kingdom.

greed: Or “covetousness.” The Greek word ple·o·ne·xiʹa literally means “having more” and denotes an insatiable desire to have more. This Greek term is also used at Eph 4:19; 5:3. After mentioning “greediness” at Col 3:5, Paul adds, “which is idolatry.”

an illustration: See study note on Mt 13:3.

myself: Or “my soul.” The Greek word psy·kheʹ, traditionally rendered “soul,” occurs three times in verses 19 and 20. The meaning of this term has to be determined by the context. (See Glossary, “Soul.”) Here it refers to the person himself​—the material, visible, tangible person​—and not to an invisible, untouchable substance inside the human body. Therefore, the expressions “my soul” and “myself” basically mean the same thing.​—See study note on You have in this verse and study note on Lu 12:20.

You have: Or “Soul, you have.” The foolish man is here addressing himself. As explained in the note on myself in this verse, the Greek word psy·kheʹ, traditionally rendered “soul,” here refers to the person himself.​—See Glossary, “Soul.”

Unreasonable one: Or “You fool.” Rather than denote a person who is lacking in mental ability, such terms as “unreasonable” or “fool” as used in the Bible generally refer to an individual who rejects reason and follows a morally insensible course, one that is out of harmony with God’s righteous standards.

they are demanding your life from you: In this illustration, reference is not made to any group of humans or angels. The Greek verb for “to demand” is in the third person plural (“they”), simply indicating what was going to happen to the man. Jesus did not specify how the rich man in the illustration would die or who would take his life. The point was that by some means, the man was going to die that night. Therefore, the phrase could also be rendered “your life will be demanded from you.”

your life: Or “your soul.” As mentioned in the study note on Lu 12:19, the meaning of the Greek word psy·kheʹ, traditionally rendered “soul,” has to be determined by the context. Here it refers to the life that a person has.​—See Glossary, “Soul.”

rich toward God: Or “rich in the eyes of God,” that is, rich in the things that are important from God’s perspective.

stop being anxious: Or “stop worrying.” The tense of the Greek verb me·ri·mnaʹo in this prohibition indicates to stop doing an action already in progress. The Greek term for “being anxious” can refer to worry that divides a person’s mind and distracts him, robbing him of joy. Luke uses the same Greek word at Lu 12:11, 25, 26. This verb is used by Paul at 1Co 7:32-34 and Php 4:6.​—See study note on Mt 6:25.

your lives: Or “your souls.” The Greek word psy·kheʹ, traditionally rendered “soul,” here refers to a person’s life.​—See Glossary, “Soul.”

the life: Or “the soul.” As in the preceding verse, the Greek word psy·kheʹ here refers to the life that a person has. In this context, the combination life (soul) and body represents the entire person.

ravens: In the Christian Greek Scriptures, this bird is mentioned only here. When Jesus gave similar admonition in the Sermon on the Mount, he did not refer to a specific bird. (Mt 6:26) Luke’s account has its setting during Jesus’ ministry in Judea, about 18 months after he delivered the Sermon on the Mount in Galilee. Here Jesus emphasizes the admonition by pointing to the raven, a bird that was unclean according to the Law covenant. (Le 11:13, 15) Evidently, the lesson is that since God provides for unclean ravens, we can be certain that he will never forsake people who trust in him.

a cubit: See study note on Mt 6:27.

his life span: See study note on Mt 6:27.

such a small thing: Or “such a very little thing.” Lit., “the smallest thing.” This apparently refers to what is stated in the preceding verse about adding a cubit to one’s life span. If humans cannot extend their life just a little, not even a cubit, why should they be so anxious and concerned about storing a great amount of wealth, food, and clothing and about having many homes and properties?

the lilies: Some identify this flower with the anemone, but it may have included a variety of lilylike flowers, such as tulips, hyacinths, irises, and gladiolus. Some suggest that Jesus referred simply to the many wildflowers growing in the area and therefore translate the Greek word using more general terms, such as “flowers” or “wildflowers.” This may be inferred, since this phrase is used in parallel with “vegetation in the field.”​—Lu 12:28; Mt 6:28-30.

vegetation . . . oven: See study note on Mt 6:30.

you with little faith: See study note on Mt 6:30.

stop being in anxious suspense: Or “stop worrying.” The Greek word me·te·o·riʹzo·mai occurs only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures. In classical Greek, it had the meaning “to raise on high; to suspend”; it is even used in this sense with reference to ships being tossed at sea. In this context, however, it is used figuratively for being anxious or unsettled, as if tossed about or wavering because of doubt and anxiety.

keep seeking: The form of the Greek verb used here indicates continuous action and could be rendered “seek continually.” Jesus’ true followers would not seek the Kingdom for a time and then go on to other things. Rather, they would always make it their chief concern in life. The same counsel by Jesus is recorded at Mt 6:33 as part of his Sermon on the Mount in Galilee. Luke’s account here records events about a year and a half later, during the concluding part of Jesus’ ministry, likely in Judea. Jesus apparently saw fit to repeat his previous admonition.

gifts of mercy: See study note on Mt 6:2.

Be dressed and ready: Lit., “having your loins girded around.” This idiom refers to binding up the ends of a loose inner garment with a belt to facilitate physical work, running, and so forth. It came to denote a state of readiness for any activity. Similar expressions occur many times in the Hebrew Scriptures. (For example: Ex 12:11, ftn.; 1Ki 18:46, ftn.; 2Ki 3:21, ftn.; 4:29; Pr 31:17, ftn.; Jer 1:17, ftn.) In this context, the form of the verb indicates a continuous state of readiness for spiritual activity on the part of God’s servants. At Lu 12:37, the same Greek verb is rendered “dress himself for service.” At 1Pe 1:13, the expression “brace up your minds for activity” literally means “gird up the loins of your mind.”

he will dress himself for service: Lit., “he will gird himself.”​—See study notes on Lu 12:35; 17:8.

second watch: That is, from about 9:00 p.m. until midnight. This division is according to the Greek and Roman system of four night watches. The Hebrews formerly divided the night into three watches of about four hours each (Ex 14:24; Jg 7:19), but by the first century C.E., they had adopted the Roman system.​—See study notes on Mt 14:25; Mr 13:35.

the third: That is, from midnight to about 3:00 a.m.​—See study note on Mr 13:35.

steward: Or “house manager; house administrator.” The Greek word oi·ko·noʹmos refers to a person placed over servants, though he himself is a servant. In ancient times, such a position was often filled by a faithful slave who was placed in charge of his master’s affairs. Therefore, it was a position of great trust. Abraham’s servant “who was managing all [Abraham] had” was such a steward, or household manager. (Ge 24:2) This was also true of Joseph, as described at Ge 39:4. The “steward” in Jesus’ illustration is referred to in the singular, but this does not necessarily mean that the steward represented only one particular person. The Scriptures contain examples of a singular noun referring to a collective group, such as when Jehovah addressed the collective group of the Israelite nation and told them: “You are my witnesses [plural], . . . yes, my servant [singular] whom I have chosen.” (Isa 43:10) Similarly, this illustration refers to a composite steward. In the parallel illustration at Mt 24:45, this steward is called “the faithful and discreet slave.”

the discreet one: Or “the wise one.” The Greek adjective phroʹni·mos used here conveys the idea of understanding associated with insight, forethought, discernment, prudence, and wisdom in a practical sense. Luke uses a form of the same Greek word at Lu 16:8, where it is rendered “wiser in a practical way.” The same Greek word is used at Mt 7:24; 25:2, 4, 8, 9. The Septuagint uses this word at Ge 41:33, 39 regarding Joseph.

his body of attendants: Or “his household servants; his household staff.” Like the term “domestics” (Greek, oi·ke·teiʹa), used at Mt 24:45, this term (Greek, the·ra·peiʹa) refers to all individuals who serve in the master’s household. Luke uses a term common in classical Greek with the same general meaning as the term used by Matthew. Luke’s use of the term may reflect his education and background.

that slave: The steward mentioned in verse 42 is here referred to as a “slave.” (See study note on Lu 12:42.) If “that slave” is faithful, he will be rewarded. (Lu 12:44) In the parallel illustration at Mt 24:45-47, this steward is called “the faithful and discreet slave.”​—See study note on Lu 12:45.

that slave: The slave mentioned here refers to the steward described at Lu 12:42. If “that slave” is faithful, he will be rewarded. (Lu 12:43, 44) On the other hand, if “that slave” is disloyal, he will be punished “with the greatest severity.” (Lu 12:46) Jesus’ words here are actually a warning directed to the faithful steward. Similarly, in the parallel illustration at Mt 24:45-51, when saying, “If ever that evil slave says in his heart,” Jesus is neither foretelling nor appointing an “evil slave” but is warning the faithful slave about what would happen if he were to start displaying the characteristics of an evil slave.

punish him with the greatest severity: See study note on Mt 24:51.

to start a fire: Symbolically speaking, the coming of Jesus brought a fiery time to the Jews. Jesus started the fire by raising issues that caused heated controversy and resulted in the consuming of many false teachings and traditions. For example, contrary to the nationalistic expectations of the Jews, while the Messiah was on earth, he did not liberate literal Israel from Roman rule but he suffered a shameful death. By his zealous preaching, Jesus made God’s Kingdom the paramount issue before the people, thus sparking a heated controversy throughout the nation.​—1Co 1:23.

your last small coin: Lit., “the last lepton.” The Greek word le·ptonʹ means something small and thin. A lepton was a coin that equaled 1/128 of a denarius and was apparently the smallest copper or bronze coin used in Israel.​—See Glossary, “Lepton,” and App. B14.


Modern-Day Valley of Hinnom
Modern-Day Valley of Hinnom

The Valley of Hinnom (1), called Gehenna in the Christian Greek Scriptures. The Temple Mount (2). The first-century Jewish temple complex was located here. The most prominent present-day structure on the temple mount is the Muslim shrine known as the Dome of the Rock.​—See map in Appendix B12.


The raven is the first bird specifically named in the Bible. (Ge 8:7) It is a powerful flier and is considered to be one of the most adaptable and resourceful of all birds. When teaching Job a lesson regarding the wisdom reflected in creation, Jehovah said that He “prepares food for the raven.” (Job 38:41) The psalmist indicated that Jehovah kindly provides the food brought by parent ravens to quiet the cries of their hungry young. (Ps 147:9) Jesus referred to the ravens in a similar way to assure his followers that the One caring for such birds would surely provide for the needs of His human servants. According to the Law covenant, ravens were unclean, not fit to be eaten. (Le 11:13, 15) Since God provides for unclean ravens, we can be certain that he will never forsake people who trust in him.

Lilies of the Field
Lilies of the Field

Jesus encouraged his disciples to “consider how the lilies grow” and to “take a lesson” from them. The original-language word often rendered “lilies” in Bible translations may have embraced a great variety of flowers, such as tulips, anemones, hyacinths, irises, and gladiolus. Some scholars suggest that Jesus probably had the anemone in mind. However, Jesus may simply have been referring to lilylike flowers in general. Shown here are scarlet crown anemones (Anemone coronaria). These flowers are common in Israel and can also be found in blue, pink, purple, or white.

“Your Clothing Has Become Moth-Eaten”
“Your Clothing Has Become Moth-Eaten”

This photo shows the damage that moths can do to a piece of clothing. (The photo shows a webbing clothes moth [Tineola bisselliella] and its larvae.) The Bible writer James mentions moth damage to illustrate how foolish it is to place one’s hope in riches. (Jas 5:2) In the first century C.E., wealth was often measured in terms of such things as grain, olive oil, or clothing. However, even costly garments could easily become useless because of moth larvae, or caterpillars. It is the larvae, rather than the adult moths, that feed on clothing. The larvae have a voracious appetite and could consume all types of material from which clothing was made in Bible times​—such as wool, linen, goat hair or camel’s hair, and even leather. The destructiveness of moths was mentioned by writers of the Hebrew Scriptures. (Job 13:28; Isa 51:8) In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus used the damage caused by moths to illustrate that trusting in material riches rather than storing up “treasures in heaven” is unwise.​—Mt 6:19, 20.