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Bible Commentaries
Luke 12

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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Luke 12:0


A Warning Against HypocrisyBeware of HypocrisyEncouragement of DisciplesA Warning Against HypocrisyOpen and Fearless Speech
Luke 12:1-3Luke 12:1-3Luke 12:1-3Luke 12:1-3Luke 12:1-3
Whom to FearJesus Teaches the Fear of God Whom to Fear
Luke 12:4-7Luke 12:4-7Luke 12:4-7Luke 12:4-5Luke 12:4-7
Luke 12:6-7
Confessing Christ Before MenConfess Christ Before Men Confessing and Rejecting Christ
Luke 12:8-12Luke 12:8-12Luke 12:8-12Luke 12:8-9Luke 12:8-9
Luke 12:10Luke 12:10
Luke 12:11-12Luke 12:11-12
The Parable of the Rich FoolThe Parable of the Rich FoolParable of the Rich FoolThe Parable of the Rich FoolOn Hoarding Possessions
Luke 12:13-21Luke 12:13-21Luke 12:13-21Luke 12:13Luke 12:13-15
Luke 12:14-15
Luke 12:16-20Luke 12:16-21
Luke 12:21
Care and AnxietyDo Not WorryOn AnxietyTrust in GodTrust in Providence
Luke 12:22-34Luke 12:22-34Luke 12:22-31Luke 12:22-28Luke 12:22-31
Luke 12:29-31
Riches in Heaven
Luke 12:32-34Luke 12:32-34Luke 12:32
On Almsgiving
Luke 12:33-34
Watchful ServantThe Faithful Servant and the Evil ServantOn WatchfulnessWatchful ServantsOn Being Ready for the Master's Return
Luke 12:35-40Luke 12:35-48Luke 12:35-38Luke 12:35-40Luke 12:35-40
Luke 12:39-40The Faithful or the Unfaithful Servant
Luke 12:41-48 Luke 12:41-48Luke 12:41Luke 12:41-46
Luke 12:42-46
Luke 12:47-48Luke 12:47-48
Jesus the Cause of DivisionChrist Brings DivisionOn the End of the AgeJesus the Cause of DivisionJesus and His Passion
Luke 12:51-53
Discern the Time Understanding the TimeOn Reading the Signs of the Times
Luke 12:54-56Luke 12:54-56Luke 12:54-56Luke 12:54-56Luke 12:54-56
Settling With Your AccuserMake Peace with Your Adversary Settle With Your Opponent
Luke 12:57-59Luke 12:57-59Luke 12:57-59Luke 12:57-59Luke 12:57-59

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


Luke 12:1-12 disciples

Luke 12:13-21 a person in the crowd

Luke 12:22-53 disciples

Luke 12:54-56 the crowd (also Luke 13:1-9)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the "leaven of the Pharisees"?

2. Describe the difference between the NT term "Hades" and "Gehenna."

3. How does one confess Jesus Christ publicly?

4. How does one explain Luke 12:33?

5. What is the central truth of Luke 12:35-41?

6. Are there degrees of heaven and hell?

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 12:1-3 1Under these circumstances, after so many thousands of people had gathered together that they were stepping on one another, He began saying to His disciples first of all, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. 3Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.

Luke 12:1 "after so many thousands of people had gathered together" The term "thousands" reflects an OT term "myriad" (cf. LXX Genesis 24:60; Leviticus 26:8; Numbers 10:36; Deuteronomy 32:30), which usually denotes tens of thousands. Here it seems to mean a very large number. This continues the Synoptic Gospels' emphasis on "the crowd." Huge numbers of people came to hear Jesus.

1. the common people

2. the sick

3. the curious

4. disciples

5. the religious elite

One reason it is hard to interpret Jesus' words is because modern interpreters are not sure to which group in the crowd Jesus is talking. Jesus' teachings are received only by those with open ears and receptive hearts (i.e., the parable of the soils, cf. Luke 8:4-15).

"Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees" This is a present active imperative ("be on your guard," NJB) of a word used often in the Septuagint (e.g., Genesis 24:6; Exodus 10:28; Exodus 34:12; Deuteronomy 4:9) and used only by Luke in the NT (cf. Luke 17:3; Luke 20:46; Luke 21:34; Acts 5:35; Acts 20:28). It seems to refer to an attitude of "nit-picking" legalism (cf. Luke 11:37-52) instead of the love and care for the poor and needy people in God's name (cf. Luke 11:41; Luke 12:33; Luke 18:22).

The term "leaven" (zumç) is used in two senses in both the OT and the NT:

1. a sense of corruption and, therefore, a symbol of evil

a. Exodus 12:15; Exodus 13:3, Exodus 13:7; Exodus 23:18; Exodus 34:25; Leviticus 2:11; Leviticus 6:17; Deuteronomy 16:3

b. Matthew 16:6, Matthew 16:11; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1; Galatians 5:9; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

2. a sense of permeation and, therefore, influence, not a symbol of evil

a. Leviticus 7:13; Leviticus 23:17; Amos 4:5

b. Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:20-21

Only context can determine the meaning of this word (which is true of all words!).

"hypocrisy" This comes from two Greek words, "to judge" and "under" (cf. Luke 6:42; Luke 12:56; Luke 13:15). This was a theatrical term that speaks of "actors playing a part behind a mask" (cf. LXX II Macc. 5:25; 6:21,24; IV Macc. Luke 6:15, Luke 6:17). The following context shows that the secrets of these religious leaders' hearts will one day be clearly revealed (cf. Luke 12:2-3).

In the Matthew parallel (cf. Matthew 16:12) the leaven refers to the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but here in Luke it is related to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Each inspired Gospel writer had the editorial right to select from Jesus' words, sayings, and miracles and choose those that best communicated the gospel to his readers. They also had the editorial right to arrange Jesus' sayings and miracles for theological (not chronological) purposes. They even had the limited right to modify or adapt His words and actions within certain boundaries. This accounts for the differences among the four Gospels. I do not believe they had the editorial right to invent words, actions, dialogs, or events! They all used various sources for their Gospel. These Gospels are not western histories or biographies, but evangelistic tracts targeting certain people-groups.

Luke 12:2 "covered up" This is a periphrastic perfect passive indicative. Sinful humans attempt to completely conceal their sins and bad attitudes, but they cannot.

The future passive indicative in Luke 12:2 ("will not be revealed. . .will not be known") point toward an eschatological judgment (cf. Luke 12:40, Luke 12:45-47). Jesus knew the true motives and thoughts of the human heart and mind, and one day all will know! The divine judgment will reveal the true intents and thoughts of the unbelieving heart.

Luke 12:3 In context this may refer to the scheming and plotting of the Pharisees (cf. Luke 11:53-54) and the Sadducees (cf. Matthew 16:6) against Jesus (and possibly also the Herodians, cf. Mark 8:15).

"proclaimed upon the housetop" In Palestine the houses had flat roofs that were used as places to eat, sleep, and socialize in hot weather. This then is a metaphor of people talking to their neighbors and the report spreading all over town.

Verses 4-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 12:4-7 4"I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. 5But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! 6Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. 7Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

Luke 12:4 "My friends" This is the only use of this phrase in the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus often talks about "a friend," but only here does He say "My friends." However, it occurs three times in John 15:14-15. What a tremendous affirmation of His disciples, not just Lord, but friend!

"do not be afraid" "Do not be afraid" is an aorist passive (deponent) subjunctive. "Fear" (Luke 12:5) is another aorist passive (deponent) subjunctive. The second and third "fear" in Luke 12:5 are aorist passive (deponent) imperatives.

There is obviously an intended word play in these two verses. The difference between these forms is only an accent mark. The subjunctive mood denotes a contingency. In light of human choices and their consequences the imperative gives God's inspired directive! Fear is not and should not characterize believers, but rather awe and respect toward God, which are always wise and appropriate. Circumstances and even evil people are temporary, but God and His judgments are permanent and affect the body (physical and temporal) and the soul (spiritual and eternal).

"kill the body" Earthly enemies can terminate our physical life, but only God can give eternal life (cf. Matthew 10:28)!

Luke 12:5 "who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell " This is referring to God the Father. In the OT monotheism was affirmed by attributing all causality to YHWH (cf. Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6; Job 5:18; Isaiah 30:26; Hosea 6:1). Further progressive revelation asserts that God allows evil to exist to serve His purposes (cf. A. B. Davidson, An Old Testament Theology, pp. 300-306).

However, sometimes we say that God sends no one to hell, that humans send themselves by their unbelief. This again, is the mystery of predestination and human free will. Humans are responsible for their choices and actions. God is the One who will make them responsible. The mystery is why some do not believe!



"hell’" The term Gehenna is an abbreviation of the OT phrase "the valley of Hinnom." It was the site of the worship of the Phoenician fire god, Molech (which is a corruption of the Hebrew term for king, MLK, BDB 572). This worship is mentioned often throughout the OT (cf. Leviticus 18:12; 1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 32:35; Ezekiel 16:20). This place was called Topeth (burning) and is described in 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 7:32; Jeremiah 19:4-6; Jeremiah 32:34-35. The Jews turned this area south of Jerusalem into the garbage dump for the city because they were so ashamed their ancestors used it for idolatry (offering their children as sacrifices for the fertility of crops, herds, and people). See SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead? at Luke 16:23.

"fear Him" This is an aorist passive (deponent) imperative (cf. Luke 12:5b, repeated for emphasis). It is used in the sense of reverence for God as being the high and holy Creator/Redeemer/Judge.

Luke 12:6 "Are not five sparrows sold for two cents" Sparrows were not used as sacrifices, but were eaten by the poor (cf. Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 594).

The "two cents" is the Greek term assarion, which comes from the Latin as. It was a small brass coin worth about one tenth of a denarius. These birds were very inexpensive. See the parallel in Matthew 10:24-33.


"Yet not one of them is forgotten before God" This is a periphrastic perfect passive indicative. Usually sparrows were sold four for two cents and they received one free. Even the free one is not forgotten by God (cf. Matthew 10:29-30). God truly loves human beings because they were created in His image (cf. Genesis 1:26-27).

God is not only the creator, but the provider and sustainer of all life (cf. Nehemiah 9:6; Matthew 5:45; Colossians 1:17). He is moving all creation toward His purposes.

For a good discussion of the doctrine of "Providence," see Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd edition, pp. 412-435.

God has a special relationship of care for those who trust His Son (i.e., Father). Believers can trust God's provision in every area of life (cf. 1 Peter 5:7).

Luke 12:7 "Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered" This is a perfect passive indicative. This does not mean that God literally keeps track of every hair on our heads, but is metaphorical (cf. OT idiom in 1 Samuel 14:45; 2 Samuel 14:11; and 1 Kings 1:52, see Archer Bible Commentary, vol. 28A, p. 960) of every problem, every need, every aspect, and every situation of believers' lives being a concern to Him.

"Do not fear" This is a perfect middle (deponent) imperative with the negative particle, which usually means stop an act already in process. Fear is a characteristic of fallen, guilty humanity, but should not be of believers!

Christians must be careful not to interpret this paragraph as a general promise that nothing bad will ever happen to them. This is untrue in history and in the first century. This is a promise that God will be for us at eschatological judgment! The next paragraph also speaks of eschatological judgment, as well as contemporary judgments. The thrust of them both is God is with us and for us, but we live in a fallen world. Bad things happen (see John William Wenham, The Goodness of God)! The world has rejected God's Son; it will reject, persecute, and kill His followers (cf. Matthew 10:21-22; John 16:2), but God will be with them in time and will set everything straight when time is no more! My favorite book on this subject is Hannah Whithall Smith's The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life. It has been a blessing.

Verses 8-12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 12:8-12 8"And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; 9but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him. 11When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; 12for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say."

Luke 12:8 "everyone" I love the inclusive pronouns used to describe the gospel invitation, like John 3:15-16 ("whoever") and Luke 1:12 ("as many as") as well as Romans 10:9-13 ("whosoever"). In this verse "everyone" shows the extent of the love of God (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4; Titus 2:11; and 2 Peter 3:9).

However, "everyone" is limited to those who truly believe and receive the gospel. Passages like Matthew 7:21-23 show that there are those who speak with their lips, but not their hearts (cf. Isaiah 29:13).

"who confesses Me before men" The term "confesses" (aorist active subjunctive) translates the Greek work homolegeo. It is used in 1 John 1:9 for believers confessing their sins to God. However, this same term is used in Matthew 10:32 and Mark 8:38 for believers' public affirmation of trust in Jesus. We cannot institutionalize this verse into a set liturgical form, but all humans who profess, share, and live their trust in and knowledge of Christ fulfill this verse. Mark 8:38 puts this same saying of Jesus into an eschatological context.


"Son of Man. . .Son of Man" I believe one of the problems dealing with the interpretation of the "unpardonable sin" in Luke 12:10 is that we mistakenly identify these two phrases. The term "Son of Man" in Luke 12:8 applies to Jesus, but the term "Son of Man" in Luke 12:10, because of the parallels in Matthew 12:31-32 (Son of Man) and Mark 3:28-29 (sons of men), is used generically to speak of mankind (cf. Luke 12:9; Matthew 12:31a). The "unpardonable sin" is the rejection of Jesus in the presence of great light. We know this because the other two contexts (i.e., Matthew and Mark) also follow the Beelzebul controversy. See extensive notes at Luke 11:33-36 and Special Topic at Luke 11:19.

"before the angels of God" This is a circumlocution for God's presence (cf. Luke 15:7, Luke 15:10). This verse is a theological affirmation of the power of Jesus' intercession to God on behalf of believers (cf. Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; Hebrews 9:24; 1 John 2:1).

Luke 12:9 "denies" The term (aorist middle [deponent] participle) means "to deny," "to disclaim," "to disown," "to renounce," or "to refuse." It is used in the same sense in the Septuagint (cf. Genesis 18:15; IV Macc. Luke 8:7; Luke 10:15; Wisdom Luke 12:27; Luke 16:16). It is a word that has the connotation of rejection of Jesus. It is the culmination of unbelief and rejection! The temporal refusal of the gospel has eternal consequences.

Luke 12:10 "everyone" The inclusive term is used in both Luke 12:8 and Luke 12:10. The gospel is as wide as all humanity, but judgment is also as wide as all of those who say "no"!

Luke 12:11 The verbs of Luke 12:11 are subjunctives (contingency), which implies that this specific persecution will not happen to every believer, but it will surely happen to some!

"authorities" See Special Topic: Archç at Luke 1:2.

"do not worry" This is an aorist active subjunctive with the negative particle which implies do not even start to be worried.

"about how or what you are to speak" This cannot be a proof-text for a preacher's lack of personal study and preparation to preach on Sundays! This is a promise to those believers going through persecution and public trials.

Luke 12:12 "for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say" In times of persecution God will provide special help for these powerful witnessing opportunities (cf. Luke 21:15; Matthew 10:16-20).


Verses 13-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 12:13-21 13Someone in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." 14But He said to him, "Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?" 15Then He said to them, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions." 16And He told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man was very productive. 17And he began reasoning to himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?' 18Then he said, 'This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."' 20But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' 21So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

Luke 12:13 "Someone in the crowd said to Him" Apparently this man broke into Jesus' teaching session to ask a trivial question related to family inheritance. He did not think anything unusual about this because these were common questions addressed to rabbis, and it seems to relate to Deuteronomy 21:15-17.

Luke 12:14 "But He said to him, "Man’" This is a mild reproach (cf. Luke 22:58, Luke 22:60; Romans 2:3; Romans 9:20).

"who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you"Jesus is rejecting the idea that He is just another rabbi or local Levite. His task of proclaiming the arrival of the Kingdom of God took precedence over all other issues of life.

The term "arbitrator" is used only here in the NT and not at all in the Septuagint, but it is common in Greek literature. The verb form ("divide") is used in Luke 12:13 by Jesus' questioner. Because of the rareness of the term several other terms are found in the Greek MSS, but UBS4 gives this reading (MSS P75, א, B. L) a "B" rating (almost certain).

Luke 12:15 "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed" This is a very emphatic statement in Greek (a present active imperative and a present middle imperative, both plural). Greed (or covetousness) is the attitude and lifestyle of "more and more for me at any cost" (cf. Romans 1:29; Ephesians 4:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5)! It is the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil! Greed kills (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

Luke 12:16 "And He told them a parable" The following context deals with right and wrong attitudes toward earthly possessions. This parable emphasizes the false security that money and possessions provide. There was a Roman proverb that says, "Money is like sea water, the more you drink, the more you want!" The problem here is not money, but the love of money, the priority of money, the self-sufficiency that money seems to provide (cf. Mark 8:36-37).

Luke 12:17 "he began reasoning to himself" This is an imperfect middle (deponent) indicative. It can be understood in two ways.

1. the rich man of Jesus' parable began to reason (NASB)

2. the rich man reasoned within himself over and over again

Luke 12:19 "soul" This is the Greek term psuchç, which reflects the Hebrew term nephesh. This refers to our being, our self, our personhood (cf. Acts 2:41; Acts 3:23; Romans 13:1) or life force connected to this planet, this physical sphere of existence.

"take your ease" The theological emphasis here is on the frailty and presumption of human plans (cf. Proverbs 27:1; James 4:13-15). True life is much more than physical prosperity!

Luke 12:20 "You fool" This man was not a theological atheist, but he lived his life in practical atheism, as so many in the church today (cf. Psalms 14:1; Psalms 53:1). The NT book of James is a good NT commentary on the priority of wealth!

This is a different word for "fool" (aphrôn, cf. Luke 11:40; Luke 12:20; 1 Corinthians 15:36) and not the word "fool" (môros) of Matthew 5:22, which reflects the Aramaic raca. Jesus Himself uses môros in Matthew 23:17, Matthew 23:19. See SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR FOOLISH PEOPLE at Luke 11:40.

"required" This is surprisingly a plural. It is literally "they require your soul."

1. Luke often uses this form without focusing on the "they" (cf. Luke 6:38; Luke 12:11, Luke 12:20; Luke 16:9; Luke 23:31).

2. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 2, p. 176, thinks it is a circumlocution of the rabbis to avoid using God's name, therefore, a form of the OT "plural of majesty."

3. Michael Magill, NT Transline (p. 239) thinks it refers to angels (cf. Luke 16:22).

"and now who will own what you have prepared" This is a penetrating question for materialists (cf. Psalms 39:6; Psalms 49:10; Ecclesiastes 2:18-23).

Luke 12:21 "rich toward God" It is so hard to keep time and eternity in proper balance in a fallen world with the residual effects of the fall in all of us (cf. Luke 12:33; Matthew 6:19-34).

Surprisingly MS D (fifth century) and some Old Latin versions (a,b,d from the fourth and fifth centuries) omit Luke 12:21. The UBS4 gives its inclusion an A rating (certain), because it is found in MSS P45,75, א, A, B, L W, and many Old Latin versions.


Verses 22-32

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 12:22-32 22And He said to His disciples, "For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! 25And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life's span? 26If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 28But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! 29And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. 30For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. 31But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom."

Luke 12:22 "And He said to His disciples" Apparently Jesus directed His teachings to different groups in this large audience (the sick, the curious, the religious leaders, the disciples). This paragraph is paralleled in Matthew 6:25-33, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).

The pronoun "His" is missing in some very early MSS (P45,75, B) and two Old Latin versions c and e). However, its inclusion follows Luke's writing style and it is found in MSS א, A, D, L, W. The UBS4 cannot decide between its inclusion or exclusion, so it puts it in brackets.

"do not worry about your life" This is a present active imperative with the negative particle, which usually implies stop an act in process. The disciples were worrying (cf. Luke 12:11, Luke 12:22, Luke 12:25, Luke 12:26) about physical needs (cf. Matthew 6:25, Matthew 6:27, Matthew 6:28, Matthew 6:31, Matthew 6:34).

The term life is psuchç, as in Luke 12:19 and 23, which denotes the self.

Luke 12:23 This is the theological summary. Believers are co-inheritors (cf. Romans 8:17) of all things (cf. Luke 12:31-32).

Luke 12:24 "Consider the ravens" Even these unclean birds (cf. Leviticus 11:15) were provided for by God (cf. Psalms 147:9) and even used by God (cf. Genesis 8:7; 1 Kings 17:4, 1 Kings 17:6). This verse may reflect Job 38:41.

"how much more valuable you are than the birds" This is the second time Jesus has made this statement (cf. Luke 12:7; Matthew 10:31).

Luke 12:25 "which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life's span" The term pçchus is literally "cubit." It is the distance between a man's elbow and his longest finger. It is usually about 18 inches long. It is used in two different ways in Greek.

1. it can be used of size (cf. John 21:8; Revelation 21:17)

2. it can be used of time (cf. Matthew 6:27; Luke 12:25)

The same dual meaning is found in the Greek term hçlikia (NKJV, "add one cubit to his stature"). It can refer to size (cf. Luke 19:3; Ephesians 4:13) or time (cf. John 9:21, John 9:23; Hebrews 11:11). Both terms seem to refer to time in this context.


Luke 12:26 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes.

Luke 12:27 "consider" This is an aorist active imperative. The term is made up of the preposition kata plus the verb to understand or comprehend (cf. Matthew 7:3), which denotes very carful consideration. Luke uses it often in his writings (cf. Luke 6:41; Luke 12:24, Luke 12:27; Luke 20:23; Acts 7:31, Acts 7:32; Acts 11:6; Acts 27:39).

"lilies" This refers to the anemones, crocuses, or irises of Palestine. In Song of Song of Solomon 5:13, this flower is used for the color of a woman's lips.

NASB, NKJV NET, NIV,"how they grow: they neither toil nor spin" NJB, NRSV (footnote), REB"they never spin or weave"

The NASB follows MSS P45,75, א, A, B, L, W, while the NJB follows MS D. The UBS4 gives the first option a "B" rating (almost certain). This is also the wording of Matthew 6:28.

"not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these" Nature reflects the beauty and design of its creator. Nature is part of the revelation of God (cf. Psalms 19:1-6). The beauty, intricacy, and power of nature is becoming a way of asserting evidence of the existence of God (cf. Romans 1:19; Romans 2:14; see Mere Creation, ed. William A. Dembski and The Battle of Beginnings by Del Ratzsch.

Luke 12:28 "if" This is another first class conditional sentence (cf. Luke 12:26).

"the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace" This reflects an OT idiom of the transitory nature of grass (human life) compared to God (cf. Isaiah 40:6-8; Job 8:12; Job 14:1-2; Psalms 37:2, Psalms 37:20; Psalms 90:5-6; Psalms 102:11-12; Psalms 103:15-17; James 1:10-11; 1 Peter 1:24-25).

"how much more will He clothe you" This is the repeated theme of Luke 12:24b. Humans are more important than grass.

"You men of little faith" This is a compound term "little" plus "faith." It is used especially by Matthew (cf. Matthew 6:30; Matthew 8:26; Matthew 14:31; 16:80), but only here in Luke. It is not used at all in the Septuagint or the Koine Egyptian Papyri. Even flawed, weak, and worrying believers are valuable to God.

Luke 12:29 "do not seek what you will eat" This is a present active imperative which relates to the next two phrases, "what you will eat" and "what you will drink" (both aorist active subjunctives). The pronoun "you" is placed first in the Greek sentence to emphasize the God's provision for believers/disciples.

"do not keep worrying" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative with the negative particle, which usually denotes stopping an act in process (cf. Luke 12:11; Matthew 6:31).

This Greek word meteôrizô is used only here in the NT. In Greek literature it means "to lift up" ( cf. Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 405). It is used several times in the Septuagint in this same sense. Because of this some scholars (Luther) want to translate it as "do not be high minded." However, we must remember the linguistic principle that context determines meaning, not etymology or lexicons. "Worry" fits this context best.

Luke 12:30 "For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek" God knows what humans need (cf. Matthew 6:32); He will provide in His time and in His way. This is often called the doctrine of Providence. God provides the physical needs of all life on this planet (cf. Matthew 5:45). Jesus is God's agent in this role in Colossians 1:17 and Hebrews 1:3. For a good discussion of this concept see Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed., pp. 412-435.

"your Father" This surely goes back to Jesus' teaching on prayer (cf. Luke 11:2, Luke 11:13; also note Luke 6:36).

Luke 12:31 "But seek His kingdom" This is a present active imperative. When we have God, we have everything, but without Him even physical life is fearful and anxious!

Several early Greek manuscripts have "The Kingdom of God" (cf. MSS P45, A, D1, W, and most Old Latin versions, as well as the Vulgate and Syriac translations, cf. NKJV), but most English translations (NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB, NIV) have "His kingdom" (cf. MSS א, B, D*, L, and the Coptic version) Context makes the pronoun antecedent obvious. The UBS4 editors give the pronoun a "B" rating (almost certain). The papyri manuscript P75 omits both.

Luke 12:32 "do not be afraid" This is another present active imperative with the negative particle, which usually means stop an act in process. Jesus said this often (cf. Matthew 17:7; Matthew 28:10; Mark 6:50; Luke 5:10; Luke 12:32; John 6:20; Revelation 1:17).

"'little flock"" This is the only use of this term in the NT. It emphasizes the significance of the Christian community (cf. Luke 13:18-21). This term is used in Isaiah 40:11 (and 40:14 in the LXX) for God as Shepherd (cf. Psalms 23:0.) In Zechariah 13:0 the Messiah ("My Shepherd," "My Associate") is depicted as the smitten shepherd of God. Jesus spoke of Himself as "the Good Shepherd" in John 10:11-18.

"for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom" The term eudokeô is used in the Synoptic Gospels predominately for God the Father being "well-pleased" with the Son (cf. Matthew 3:17; Matthew 12:18; Matthew 17:5; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22; and 2 Peter 1:17).

In this context the focus is on the Father's will to make us part of His family and Kingdom (cf. Ephesians 1:5, Ephesians 1:9). Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 260, call this verb "a characteristically Jewish Greek verb." It occurs often in the Septuagint. Luke knew the Septuagint well.

Verses 33-34

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 12:33-34 33"Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Luke 12:33 "Sell your possessions" This is an aorist active imperative. It is not a universal command, but deals with the priority structure of our lives (cf. Luke 14:33; Luke 18:22; Matthew 19:21; 1 Corinthians 13:3). If God is not priority, everything and anything else must be eliminated from first place (cf. Matthew 5:29-30). This recurrent theme clearly shows the radical aspect of the Christian commitment. God must be first! All else is idolatry. However, many people in the BibleAbraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Jewish Kings, Zachaeus, Joseph of Arimathea, are wealthy. Wealth is not the problem, but the priority of wealth!

"and give to charity" This probably refers to Luke 11:41. Love for the poor and needy is evidence that God has changed one's perspective and worldview. Luke's Gospel emphasizes Jesus' love for the outcasts and ostracized of society. See Special Topic: Alms at Luke 11:41.

"make yourselves money belts" This is another aorist active imperative. The term ballantion is used only by Luke in the NT (cf. Luke 10:4; Luke 12:33; Luke 22:35, Luke 22:36). It is used in the Septuagint for a bag or purse (cf. Job 14:17; Proverbs 1:14).

John uses a different term, glôsskomon, for the disciples' money box (cf. Luke 12:6; Luke 13:29). This term originally referred to a box used to store musical reeds or mouthpieces.

Matthew and Mark use the term zônç which refers to

1. a girdle (cf. Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6; Acts 21:11; Revelation 1:13; Revelation 15:6 and the Septuagint for priestly sash in Exodus 28:4, Exodus 28:39, Exodus 28:40; Deuteronomy 23:14) or

2. a money belt (cf. Matthew 10:9; Mark 6:8)

The rest of the verse lists several characteristics of the money bag of generous believers (cf. Matthew 6:19-20).

1. will not wear out

2. will not fail or be exhausted

3. thief cannot steal

4. moth cannot corrupt

Ancient sources of wealth were

1. weight of precious metals or jewels

2. expensive clothing adorned with gold, silver, or jewels

3. food stores

Security was a major problem. Thieves could steal, mildew destroy, and insects or rodents could eat. This list was a way of describing believers' secure inheritance with God (cf. 1 Peter 1:4-5), which was evidenced by generosity while here on earth.

Verses 35-38

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 12:35-38 35"Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps Leviticus 3:0; Leviticus 3:06Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. 38Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves."

Luke 12:34 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be" This is a summary statement. One's relationship to God is observable by how he/she handles their earthly resources. For modern, western believers, priority commitments are clearly seen in their checkbooks and calendars. We fool ourselves into thinking that by giving to God of the excess of our wealth and a few hours out of our week in gathered worship, we are NT disciples!

Luke 12:35

NASB"Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit" NKJV"Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning" NRSV"Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit" TEV"Be ready for whatever comes, dressed for action and with your lamps lit" NJB"See that you have your belts done up and your lamps lit"

This verse has a main verb and two related participles (periphrastic).

1. the present imperative of eimi ("let be")

2. the perfect passive particle, "having your loins girdled" (a symbol for constantly being ready for action)

3. the present passive participle, "keep burning" (but used as a middle voice, referring to oil lamps)

These are all idioms for being ready for strenuous activity at any moment (cf. Luke 12:36; Matthew 25:1-13). These relate to the activity of servants waiting for their master's return, as believers wait for the return of Christ (cf. Luke 12:37-38, Luke 12:43).

Luke 12:37 "truly I say to you" See Special Topic: Amen at Luke 4:24.

"he will gird himself" This shocking reversal of roles reminds one of Jesus' actions in the upper room in washing the disciples feet (cf. John 13:4). The standard treatment of slaves is stated in Luke 17:7-10.

Luke 12:38 "the second watch" The Romans divided the night into four watches (6-9, 9-12, 12-3, 3-6, cf. Matthew 14:25; Mark 13:35), but the Jews divided the night into three (6-10, 10-2, 2-6, cf. Judges 7:19).

"whether. . .even" This verse is a third class conditional sentence (kai + ean, twice), which speaks of potential action.

Verses 39-40

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 12:39-40 39"But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 40You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect."

Luke 12:39 "if" This is a second class conditional sentence (ei + an + subjunctive), which makes a false assertion to emphasize a false conclusion. It is often called the "contrary to fact condition." Example: "if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming (which he did not), he would not have allowed his house to be broken into (which it was)." Some other examples of this construction in Luke are Luke 4:26; Luke 7:39; Luke 17:6; Luke 19:23.

"what hour the thief was coming" This metaphor is common in the NT in dealing with the any-moment return of the Lord (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10; and Revelation 3:3; Revelation 16:15). There is a tension in the NT between the "any-moment return of the Lord" and "some events must occur first." See Special Topic below.

Only the Father knows the time of the Second Coming (cf. Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7)!


"he would not have allowed" There is an addition of several words from the parallel of this saying in Matthew 24:43 that is found in MSS אcf8 i1,2, A, B, L, W. The shorter reading is found in P75, א*, D. The UBS4 gives the shorter reading a "B" rating (almost certain).

"broken into" This is literally "dug through." Robbers were called "mud diggers" because they dug through the mud-thatched walls of homes and businesses.

Luke 12:40 "You too, be ready" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative. This is our responsibility (cf. Luke 21:36; Mark 13:33)!


Verses 41-48

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 12:41-48 41Peter said, "Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?" 42And the Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? 43Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. 44Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; 46the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. 47And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, 48but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more."

Luke 12:41 This is exactly the question that modern interpreters ask of Jesus' teachings, "Who are they directed to?" There were many different groups in the crowds that followed Jesus; a crucial element of interpretation is "which group is addressed?"

Luke 12:42-48 This is paralleled in Matthew 24:45-51, but is not found in Mark. It is these sayings and teachings (those common to Matthew and Luke, but not Mark) that are assumed to have been contained in a list of Jesus' sayings that modern biblical scholars called "Quelle," from the German for "source." This list has never been found, but it is logically necessary for at least one current theory (the two-source theory, see Introduction to Luke) related to modern understanding of the relationship between the Synoptic Gospels.

Luke 12:42 Notice how the steward is characterized:

1. the faithful

2. sensible

3. in charge of the other servants

These seem to be referring to either the Twelve or later church leaders. It must be emphatically stated that every believer is a called, gifted minister, so Jesus' words may refer to alert and diligent believers who live every day in light of the Second Coming!

Luke 12:43 This is the repeated emphasis from Luke 12:35-38.

"blessed" This is the term used in the Beatitudes (makarios, cf. Luke 6:20-22; Matthew 5:3-11). Jesus regularly used it to pronounce a type of person blessed, privileged, or happy (cf. Luke 1:45; Luke 6:20-22; Luke 7:23; Luke 10:23; Luke 11:27, Luke 11:28; Luke 12:37, Luke 12:38, Luke 12:43; Luke 14:14, Luke 14:15; Luke 23:29).

Luke 12:44 "Truly" This is the term alçthôs used in the sense of the Hebrew "amen." See SPECIAL TOPIC: AMEN at Luke 4:24. Luke was writing to Gentiles who would not have understood the Hebrew term.

Luke 12:45 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which means potential action.

Luke 12:46 "and will cut him in pieces" This was an OT form of capital punishment (cf. LXX of 2 Samuel 12:31; 1 Chronicles 20:3). It is used literally in the LXX of Exodus 29:17; Ezekiel 24:4. Here it is used figuratively to intensify the eschatological judgment even on those who claim to know and serve Jesus! This term appears in the NT only here and in Matt. 24:57. Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 165, provide an inscription which also uses the term figuratively.

Luke 12:47-48 This seems to assert degrees of punishment. Verse Luke 12:47 implies that humans are punished in accordance with the best light they have (cf. James 4:17). Verse Luke 12:48 implies that everyone has some light and has not lived up to it (cf. Romans 1:19-20; Romans 2:14). For other passages on the seeming degrees of punishment see Luke 10:12-15; Luke 11:31-32; Matthew 18:6, Matthew 18:7. See SPECIAL TOPIC: DEGREES OF REWARDS AND PUNISHMENTs at Luke 10:12

Verses 49-53

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 12:49-53 49"I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! 50But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! 51Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; 52for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. 53They 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."

Luke 12:49 "I have come to cast fire upon the earth" The word "fire" is placed first in the Greek sentence for emphasis (see Special Topic at Luke 3:17). In John 3:17-21 it states that Jesus did not come the first time as Judge, but as Savior. After being among fallen humans, He now wishes eschatological judgment was already present (cf. Luke 12:49b). Gospel hearers are divided into two, and only two, groups by how they respond to Jesus and His message (cf. Luke 24:44-49).

"how I wish it were already kindled" Some see this as

1. a second class conditional sentence (cf. Bass-Debrunner-Funk, Greek Grammar of the New Testament, pp. 359-360)

2. a Semitic idiom (cf. Black, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts, p. 123)

3. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 2, p. 182, takes ti as "how" and ei as "that" (hoti), but also admits, "it is not clear what this passage meant"

4. George M. Lamsa's translation of the ancient Syriac (Aramaic) manuscripts is "and I wish to do it, if it has not already been kindled"

Jesus wants the Kingdom of God to be manifest on the earth (cf. Matthew 6:10), even though there will be a great cost to Himself and others (the loss of unbelievers eternally and the persecution of believers temporarily).

Luke 12:50 "I have a baptism to undergo" The Greek has "a baptism to be baptized with." From Mark 10:38 it is obvious that this does not refer to Jesus' water baptism, but to

1. the persecution and rejection of His preaching

2. His testing in Gethsemane

3. His crucifixion on Calvary

Jesus saw Himself as the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 (the Promised Seed) and Isaiah 53:0 (Suffering Servant). He saw Psalms 22:0 as foreshadowing His own experience.

"how distressed" This term means a mental pressure (cf. Philippians 1:23). Jesus' struggle is so clearly seen in Gethsemane (cf. Mark 14:32-42; Matthew 26:36-46; and Luke 22:40-46).

Salvation may be free, but it was not cheap!

A good discussion of this verse is found in Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 472-475. This is a good resource book for difficult texts, both OT and NT. I commend it to you!

Luke 12:51 "Do not suppose that I came to grant peace on earth" See the parallel in Matthew 10:34-39. Even the close family relationships in a Jewish home will experience division over Jesus. There is a priority commitment needed to follow Him! Believers form a new family, the family of God (cf. Luke 8:21; Luke 11:27-28)!

Luke 12:53 This may be a poem or dirge. It may be an allusion to Micah 7:6, because of the Matthew parallel (cf. Matthew 10:35, Matthew 10:36), which quotes Micah 7:6.

Verses 54-56

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 12:54-56 54And He was also saying to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, 'A shower is coming,' and so it turns out. 55And when you see a south wind blowing, you say, 'It will be a hot day,' and it turns out that way. 56You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time?"

Luke 12:54 "He was saying to the crowds" Notice Jesus expressly states the group He is addressing (see note at Luke 12:41).

"When you see" Jesus offers a series of weather forecasting signs (Luke 12:54-55) that this Palestinian audience knew well. They could predict the weather, but were blind to the coming judgment of God. They missed God's Messiah (cf. Luke 12:56)!

Luke 12:56 "hypocrites" See Special Topic at Luke 6:42.

Verses 57-59

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 12:57-59 57"And why do you not even on your own initiative judge what is right? 58For while you are going with your opponent to appear before the magistrate, on your way there make an effort to settle with him, so that he may not drag you before the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59I say to you, you will not get out of there until you have paid the very last cent."

Luke 12:57-59 This is paralleled in Matthew 5:25-26. This brief teaching fits the general topic of eschatological judgment, but it does not fit well into this context. Luke is selecting, arranging, and adapting Jesus' words from

1. Mark

2. Quell

3. his unique sources (cf. Luke 1:1-4)

4. Paul

The Gospels are not chronological, sequential, cause-and-effect biographies. They are targeted, evangelistic tracts (see Fee and Stuart, How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth pp. 127-148).

Luke 12:59 "cent" This is the term lepton. It was the smallest Jewish coin and was made of copper (cf. Mark 12:42). It was worth about 1/64 of a denarius. See Special Topic: Coins in Use in Palestine in Jesus' Day at Luke 15:8.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Luke 12". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/luke-12.html. 2021.
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