ILLUSTRATION OF THE RICH MAN
JESUS SPEAKS OF RAVENS AND LILIES
A “LITTLE FLOCK” TO BE IN THE KINGDOM
As Jesus dines at the Pharisee’s house, thousands gather outside awaiting him. He has had similar experiences with the crowds in Galilee. (Mark 1:33; 2:2; 3:9) Here in Judea, many want to see and hear him, showing an attitude quite different from that of the Pharisees at the meal.
What Jesus says first has special meaning for his disciples: “Watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Jesus has given this warning before, but what he saw at the meal shows how urgent this counsel is. (Luke 12:1; Mark 8:15) The Pharisees may try to conceal their wickedness with a show of piety, but they are a danger that needs to be exposed. Jesus explains: “There is nothing carefully concealed that will not be revealed, and nothing secret that will not become known.”
Perhaps many of the people crowding around Jesus are Judeans who had not heard him teach in Galilee. Thus, he repeats key thoughts that he expressed earlier. He urges all who are listening: “Do not fear those who kill the body and after this are not able to do anything more.” (Luke 12:4) As he has done before, he stresses the need for his followers to trust that God will care for them. They also need to acknowledge the Son of man and realize that God can help them.
Then a man in the crowd brings up his immediate concern: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” (Luke 12:13) The Law says that the firstborn son receives two parts of the inheritance, so there should be no dispute. (Deuteronomy 21:17) It seems, though, that this man wants more than his legal share. Jesus wisely refuses to take sides. “Man, who appointed me judge or arbitrator between you two?” he asks.
Jesus then gives this admonition to all: “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.” (Luke 12:15) No matter how much wealth a man may have, will he not at some point die and leave everything behind? Jesus emphasizes that point with a memorable illustration that also shows the value of having a good name with God:
“The land of a rich man produced well. So he began reasoning within himself, ‘What should I do now that I have nowhere to gather my crops?’ 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, and I will say to myself: “You have many good things stored up for many years; take it easy, eat, drink, enjoy yourself.”’ 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?’ So it goes with the man who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.”
Both Jesus’ disciples and the others hearing him could become ensnared by seeking or piling up wealth. Or the cares of life could distract them from serving Jehovah. So Jesus repeats the fine counsel he gave about a year and a half earlier in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Stop being anxious about your lives as to what you will eat or about your bodies as to what you will wear. . . . 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? . . . Consider how the lilies grow: They neither toil nor spin; but I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. . . . So stop seeking what you will eat and what you will drink, and stop being in anxious suspense . . . Your Father knows you need these things. . . . Keep seeking his Kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”
Who will be seeking God’s Kingdom? Jesus reveals that a relatively small number, a “little flock,” of faithful humans will be doing so. Later it will be revealed that their number is just 144,000. What is in store for them? They have Jesus’ assurance: “Your Father has approved of giving you the Kingdom.” These will not concentrate on gaining treasures on earth, which thieves could steal. Rather, their heart will be on “never-failing treasure in the heavens,” where they will reign with Christ.