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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Luke 12



Verses 1-34

4. For what the Disciple of the Saviour has, and for what he has not, to take care ( Luke 12:1-34)

1In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude [lit, the myriads] of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which Isaiah 2hypocrisy. For [But[FN1]] there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, 3that shall not be known. Therefore, whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the house-tops 4 And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do 5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him [this one, τοῦτον]. 6Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? 7But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows 8 Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me [have confessed] before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: 9But he that denieth10[hath denied] me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of Prayer of Manasseh, it shall be, forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth [hath blasphemed] against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven 11 And when they bring you unto [before] the synagogues, and unto [before] magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer [in your defence], or what ye shall say:[FN2] 12For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.

13And one of the company said unto him, Master [Teacher], speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me 14 And he said unto him, Prayer of Manasseh, who made [appointed] me a judge or a divider over you? 15And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of [all[FN3]] covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth 16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground17[estate; lit, place, χώρα] of a certain rich man [had] brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow [deposit] my fruits [or, crops]? 18And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry 20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required [lit, they require] of thee: then whose shall those things be, which 21 thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

22And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought [Be not anxious] for your [the[FN4]] life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on 23 The life is more than meat [food], and the body is more than raiment [apparel]. 24Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls25[birds]? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature [length of life, ἡλικίαν] one cubit?[FN5] 26If ye then be not able to do [even] that thing which is least, why take ye thought [are ye anxious] for the rest? 27Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not [how they neither toil nor spin, V. O.[FN6]]; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these 28 If then God so clothe the grass, which is to-day in the field,[FN7] and to-morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? 29And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or [and[FN8]] what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.[FN9] 30For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and [or, but] your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things 31 But rather seek ye the kingdom of God [seek ye 32 his kingdom[FN10]]; and all [om, all] these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom 33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags [purses] which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth34[destroyeth]. For where your treasure Isaiah, there will your heart be also.


1. Although there is no lack of able attempts so to unite the different elements of discourse in Luke 12that therein a logical connection shall become possible (Olshausen, Stier, Lange, a. o.), yet in our eyes the view is more probable that this whole chapter exhibits a chrestomathic character; in other words, that Luke here places together different admonitions and warnings of the Saviour which actually, according to the other Evangelists, were at least in part delivered on very different occasions. Without doubt the Saviour in this period of His life delivered a detailed discourse before the ears of a numerous multitude, in which He expressly warned against the Pharisaical leaven, Luke 12:1. Yet even Luke 12:3-9 remind us, as respects contents and course of thought, too strongly of Matthew 10:26-33 for us to be able to find here anything else than a modified redaction of the sayings given by Matthew in the right place. Luke 12:10 stands here much less congruously than Matthew 12:31-32. The promise, Luke 12:11-12, appears also in Luke, Luke 21:14-15, while we have met with it in a very fitting connection in Matthew 10:19-20. If we, therefore, will not assume that the Saviour uttered it three times, we shall be obliged to suppose that it does not stand here, Luke 12:11-12, in its right place. We come thus almost to the view of De Wette, in reference to the words of Jesus contained in this chapter, when Hebrews, with it is true not wholly fitting expression, declares: “mostly compiled, only Luke 12:13-21 peculiar.” The parable of the Rich Fool belongs exclusively to Luke, and since he does not give an intimation that it was originally delivered in another historical connection, we are at full liberty to connect it with this course of thought. In reference to Luke 12:22-24, on the other hand, we cannot regard it as very probable that the Saviour should have twice adduced the very same example from the realm of nature, in warning His disciples against unprofitable care (comp. Matthew 6:22-34), while besides this it appears that the thoughts in Matthew are rendered much more naturally and correctly than in Luke. Much more simple is the view that of such words of the Saviour more than one redaction has been preserved by the Evangelists, who certainly in the statement and transcription of His utterances were no more destitute of the guidance of the Holy Spirit than in the delineation of His deeds and destiny. Luke 12:32 again is to be found only in Luke, as well as also—to speak here of the contents of the second half of this chapter— Luke 12:35-38; Luke 12:47-48, in this form is only communicated by him. Luke 12:39-46 have again so manifest a coincidence with Matthew 24:42-51 that in all probability it belongs originally to the last eschatological discourse of the Saviour. To a similar result do we come if we compare Luke 12:49-53 with Matthew 10:34-36 (comp. Luke 20, 22), Luke 12:54-56 with Matthew 16:2-3, and Luke 12:58-59 with Matthew 5:25-26. It is certainly conceivable that the Saviour uttered all this twice or oftener before different hearers, and not impossible, if one places this hypothesis in the foreground, to find then the leading thread also which more or less closely joins together all these heterogeneous elements of discourse: but is it not much more simple to assume that the same saying of the Lord has been given by each of the different Evangelists under higher guidance in his own way, in which case it must be left to a discerning criticism in particular cases to investigate which form is most original? In each particular case so to decide the matter that not the least uncertainty shall remain, will perhaps, and probably, always remain impossible. In the lack of trustworthy historical data, subjective opinion always has more or less play, and dogmatics exercises even unconsciously its influence upon harmonistics. Commonly, however, at least as respects this our chief point, a consideration free of prejudice will lead to the conclusion that the most of the here-cited sayings are given by Matthew in a connection which has the greater probability for itself. This, however, does not hinder us from acknowledging that the way in which they are communicated and arranged by Luke, gives us sometimes a deeper view into the unspeakable riches of the words of the Eternal Word. Therefore, without every time inquiring as to the connection in which they have been preserved elsewhere, we take them up simply as Luke communicates them to us.

2. As respects now Luke 12:1-34 in particular, we will, in order to be able better to survey the rich matter contained in this portion of the discourse, divide it into three parts. In the first, Luke 12:1-12, the tone of warning predominates; in the second, Luke 12:13-21, we perceive a tone of instruction, while in the third, Luke 12:22-34, a tone of encouragement and comfort becomes evident.

a. Warning Against The Temper Of The Pharisees, And Commendation Of The Opposite Character ( Luke 12:1-12)


Luke 12:1. In the mean time, ἐν οἷς.—Manifestly we have so to conceive the matter that while the Pharisees were occupying themselves with ensnaring questions and plotting, the throng around the Saviour was increasing with every moment. There is no actual ground to consider even the mention of the myriads as hyperbolical (Meyer), although undoubtedly it was still farther from being a strictly arithmetical computation. Comp. Matthew 4:23-25; Mark 3:20; Mark 4:1. We have here manifestly arrived at a point of the history in which the extremes of love and hatred towards the Saviour extensively and intensively have reached the highest pitch.

First of all.—Thus does the Saviour begin to speak to His disciples, and exhibits hereby His forbearance and self-control, in that He at this moment, when the Pharisees are inflamed with blind rage against Him, does not turn Himself directly to the masses with His warning. ΙΙρῶτον not to be joined with τοῖς μαθητ. (Luther, Bengel, Knapp, a. o.), which would be partly obscure, partly purposeless, partly also without example; but with προσέχετε= Luke 9:61. After that which had just taken place, the Saviour has no warning so much at heart as just this.

Of the leaven.—Comp. Matthew 16:6. As appears from the conversation after the second miracle of the Loaves, the Saviour designated by the leaven of the Pharisees their doctrine, and this not in general, for then it would have contained also pure Mosaic elements, but so far as it had been disfigured by the spirit of their sect. It is thus probable, even a priori, that Hebrews, inasmuch as He was at a former time zealous against this ζύμη, now also has this doctrine in mind. On this ground we must fully subscribe to the penetrating remark of Meyer: “Here also it is not hypocrisy that is meant (as commonly explained), because otherwise afterward ὑπόκρισις (with an article) would have to stand, but the pernicious doctrines and ordinances of the Pharisees upon which Jesus but just before had been debating at table. Of this He says: ‘Their essence is hypocrisy,’ which gives an element of the warning with the ground on which it rests.”

Luke 12:2. There is nothing covered.—Comp. Matthew 10:26. As hypocrisy in itself is not permitted, Luke 12:1, so is it besides fruitless, since the truth sooner or later comes to light.—Concealed—hidden (with entire generality of meaning), both from God and man. Nothing,—Good as well as Evil; that which is greatest as well as that which is least.

Luke 12:3 : Therefore, whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness.—A singular statement, if we bring it exclusively into connection with the apostolic κήρυγμα, for we read indeed of the Saviour that He preached to His disciples in the ear ( Matthew 10:27), but their preaching was from the beginning destined to the greatest publicity. Therefore the opinions (De Wette: “an incongruous expression.” Bengel: cum timore aliquo. Meyer: “All that ye—on account of persecutions—shall have taught in secret, will—at the victory of My cause—be proclaimed with the greatest publicity.”). This whole antithesis of persecution and victory Isaiah, however, plainly gratuitous. But why, moreover, is it necessary to understand here so decidedly the apostolic κήρυγμα? It is much more simple if we understand in general all which, whether by the apostles or by the people, Luke 12:1, has been spoken in secret and is hereafter to be brought to the light. Luke 12:2, it is said of everything hidden that it shall come to the light; Luke 12:3, more definitely of the hidden words of each one. By this reminder hypocrisy is opposed in its deepest grounds, and even before the apostles could come into the temptation of concealing truth from the fear of Prayer of Manasseh, it is indicated to them in Luke 12:4-5, whom they must not fear, and whom they must beyond question fear.

Luke 12:4. Be not afraid.—Comp. Matthew 10:28. We have here the question, who is meant by the name: τὸν—ἐξουσίαν ἕχοντα ἔμβαλεῖν εἰς τὴν γέενναν, God or Satan? The majority of commentators have, in agreement with the exegetical tradition, decided in favor of the former view; some voices have been raised for the latter (Olshausen, Stier, Lange, L. J. ad loc., Besser, Arndt, Riechel, Van Oosterzee, L. J.). After the retractation of Lange, also, on Matthew ad loc., we cannot but assusme that the truth is on the side of the minority. Grounds: 1. Fear can only be here interpreted in one sense, in that of being afraid of, being on one’s guard; for this certainly the word denotes in the first part of the admonition, and he whom man has to fear, δὲ μᾶλλον, cannot be the Supreme Love, but must necessarily be Satan. It is true, there is a distinction in the construction. We have first: μὴ φοβηθῆτε ἀπὸ τῶν, κ.τ.λ., then: φοβήθητε δὲ τὸν ἔχοντα, κ.τ.λ. Bengel already remarked: Plus Esther, timeo illum, quam timeo ab illo. But the Saviour uses in the connection of the parallel passage, Matthew 10:26, φοβήθητε with the accusative also in the sense of being afraid, and the μᾶλλον (in Matthew) plainly intimates that here an increase of fear (of being afraid) unto yet much greater fear takes place; that the Saviour, therefore, does not give His disciples the admonition in order, instead of the first named feeling, to awaken another within them, but on the other hand to cherish the same fear in yet much higher degree.

2. Besides, Satan is the proper soul-murderer, even as men are murderers of the body: but of God it is never said that He destroys the soul. To the objection that the devil nowhere appears in Scripture as the one who damns to hell (Olshausen), we must answer that he appears here not as Judges, but as executor of the retributive judgment of God, under His special permission. [Where in the New Testament is the mediæval notion of the devil as God’s bailiff, or executioner, countenanced?—C. C. S.] The body he kills through men who are his instruments, John 8:40-41; the soul he destroys through the deadly destruction of sin. From among the many foes who could do them great harm, the Saviour brings one forward who was capable of inflicting the greatest of all upon them, and whom they accordingly must fear much more. Therefore He adds, according to Luke, with visible intensity: “Yea, I say unto you, fear him.” “Whoever can think of the Heavenly Father, we understand not how his ear can hear.” Stier.

3. Least of all does such a designation of the Father belong to a discourse in which the Saviour speaks to His friends, for their encouragement, of a special Providence, which has numbered even the hairs of their head. On all these grounds we here understand “the fearful unnamed and yet well-known One, whose kingdom is hell, who here already beguiles the soul and there forever tortures body and soul.” Besser. [Hell is described as the place of Satan’s punishment; where is it described as the place of his dominion?—C. C. S.] The Saviour wishes to fill His disciples with holy fear: “That the evil enemy may not beyond deliverance devour their soul to destruction.” Lange, Bibl. Gedichte. Or, if any one, perchance, finds a difficulty in this that He addresses such a warning to His disciples, then may we remark with Chrysostom: τί γεέννης χαλεπώτερον; ἀλλ̓ οὐδὲν τοῦ ταύτης χρησιμώτερον φόβοι.Ὁ γὰρ τῆς γεέννης φόβος τὸν τῆς βασιλείας ἡμῖνκομίζει στέφανον. Ἔνθα φόβος ἐστίν, οὐκ ἔστι φθόνος. ἔνθα φόβος ἐστί, χρημάτων ἔρως οὐκ ἐνόχλει. έ̓νθα φόβος ἐστίν, ἔσβεσται θυμός, ἐπιθυμία κατέσταλται πονηρά, ἅπαν ἀλόγιστον ἐξώρισται πάθος. Homil. VI. ad popul. Antioch., tom. vi, p560. Yet enough already to justify our doubt that here the friends of Jesus are required to fear God, who in the immediately following verse Isaiah, on the other hand, represented as the object of their child-like trust, Ab utraque parte saltem disputari potest.

[The following remarks on the parallel passage in Matthew appear to me to present in a clear light the inadmissibleness of the author’s interpretation.—C. C. S.

“Stier designates it as ‘the only passage of Scripture whose words may equally apply to God and the enemy of souls.’ He himself is strongly in favor of the latter interpretation, and defends it at much length; but I am quite unable to assent to his opinion. It seems to me at variance with the connection of the discourse, and with the universal tone of Scripture regarding Satan. If such a phrase as φοβεῖσθαι τὸν διάβολον could be instanced as=φυλάξασθαι τὸν δ., or if it could be shown that anywhere power is attributed to Satan analogous to that indicated by δυνάμενος κ. ψ. κ. σ. ἀπολέσαι ἐν γ., I should then be open to the doubt whether he might not here be intended; but seeing that φοβεῖσθαι ἀπό, indicating terror, is changed into φοβεῖσθαι, so usually followed by τὸν θεόν in a higher and holier sense (there is no such contrast in Luke 12:26, and therefore that verse cannot be cited as ruling the meaning of this), and that God Alone is throughout the Scripture the Almighty dispenser of life and death, both temporal and eternal, seeing also that Satan is ever represented as the condemned of God, not δυν. ἀπολέσαι, I must hold by the general interpretation, and believe that, both here and in Luke 12:3-7, our Heavenly Father is intended as the right object of our fear. As to this being inconsistent with the character in which He is brought before us in the next verse, the very change of construction in φοβεῖσθαι would lead the mind on out of the terror before spoken of, into that better kind of fear always indicated by that expression when applied to God, and so prepare the way for the next verse. Besides, this sense is excellently in keeping with Luke 12:29 in another way… The parallel passage, James 4:12, even in the absence of other considerations, would be decisive. Full as his epistle is of our Lord’s words from this Gospel, it is hardly to be doubted that in εἷς ἐστιν νομοθέτης ὁδυνάμενος σῶσαι καὶ ἀπολέσαι, he has this very verse before him. This Stier endeavors to escape by saying that ἀπολέσαι, barely, as the opposite to σῶσαι, is far from being = ψυχὴνἀπολέσαι in a context like this. But as connected with νομοθέτης, what meaning can ἀπολέσαι bear except that of eternal destruction?”—Alford.]

Luke 12:6. Five sparrows.—A beautiful version of the same saying, Matthew 10:29. So insignificant is the worth of sparrows in daily life, that whoever buys them for twopence gets one into the bargain, and yet what is regarded among men as almost worthless is with God in heaven not forgotten. To the disciples it is left to calculate how far they excel such sparrows in value.

Luke 12:8. Also I say unto you.—The repetition several times of this announcement is also to the attentive hearer a proof that here different sayings of the Saviour, originally belonging in an entirely different connection, are chrestomathically put together. With this also the anxious inquiry after the connection between this and the immediately preceding admonition falls away. Respecting the matter itself, the courageous confession of Christ, see the remark on Matthew 10:32, and on Luke 9:26. Here it is especially the reward of a confession coram angelis; in the parallel passage in Matthew, on the other hand, that of a confession coram Patre.

Luke 12:10. But unto him that hath blasphemed against the Holy Ghost.—Respecting the sin against the Holy Spirit, comp. Lange on Matthew 12:31-32, and the authors there stated. As entirely inadequate we may consider the view that this sin is nothing else than “the ascribing those miracles to the power of the devil which Christ wrought by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Wesley. It must be placed entirely in one line with the sin which cannot be forgiven, and of which the Scriptures speak also in other places, Hebrews 10:26; 1 John 5:16. Only then, however, can we speak of the sin against the Holy Spirit where a high measure of religious enlightenment and development exists; and in opposition to the not knowing of that which one does, Luke 23:34, we have here to understand fully conscious and stubborn hatred against God and that which is Divine as it exists in its highest development. The highest grace alone makes the deepest apostasy possible, and only he who has reached an important height can plunge into such a depth. Before his conversion Paul blasphemed the Son of Man and it was forgiven him; had he kicked against the pricks, suppressed with all his might the impression received, then would he have committed the sin which cannot be forgiven. Of Judas we might perhaps say that he committed this sin, and refer to the judgment which, Matthew 26:24, is uttered concerning him.—As respects the punishment for this sin, we have to bear in mind the word of Augustine (De Civit. Dei. xxi24): “neque enim de quibusdam veraciter diceretur, quod eis non remittetur, neque in hoc sœculo, neque in futuro, nisi essent, quibus, etsi non in isto, tamen remittatur in futuro.” A brief but good description of the nature of this sin is given by Stier, ii. p44. Respecting the distinction between the Reformed and Lutheran expositors, of whom the former believe that no regenerate person, the latter that such alone, can fall into this sin, we cannot here speak. The grounds for the opinion of the latter are found in Stier and Olshausen; those of the opposite views in J. Muller, Christ. Lehre von der Sünde, ii. p566.

Luke 12:11. Before the synagogues.—One may not unjustly doubt whether the former warning against the sin against the Holy Spirit was wholly congruous for the faithful, devoted disciples of the Saviour; this promise, on the other hand, is very definitely given with reference to their future calling as preachers of the Gospel. The accumulation of expressions is especially adapted to indicate to them that they would be cited not only before Jewish but also before heathen tribunals, and the here-given promise of the Holy Spirit is of such a kind that it promises to them a direct immediate help from above for all cases in which they could need it. Although, however, this help is here limited to that which they should say in their defence, it is understood without doubt that this defence of the apostles was at the same time a testimony, κήρυγμα, in the most exalted sense of the word, and that the assistance already promised them for the lesser should be far less still withheld for the higher. The Book of Acts is an uninterrupted and continuous exposition of the significance and force of this saying. Comp. especially the apologetic discourses of Peter and Paul. Therefore, with right, Bengel: “aut quid dicatis etiam prœter apologiœ necessitatem.”


1. It is by no means accidental that in one of the discourses of the Lord the warning against the ζύμητῶν φαρισαίων, ἥτις ἐστὶν ὑπόκρισις stands in the foreground. Hypocrisy is only one of the many sins which He rebukes and opposes in those called to His kingdom; but it is the sin which exceeds all others in meanness, and is in the most irreconcilable conflict with the fundamental law of the kingdom of truth. In the Christian sphere also the Old Testament declaration holds good, Deuteronomy 18:13; Psalm 51:10.

2. It is well known how high a rank the mysteries occupy in the heathen religions of antiquity. Those initiated into them believed themselves to have attained a higher degree of piety; from the familiar they mounted up into the region of the unfamiliar, which no uninitiated foot ever dared tread, no indiscreet tongue betray. But in the Christian sphere precisely the opposite is the case. Here the κεκαλυμμένον is not the higher but the lower degree, and not into the chambers but upon the housetops are His followers directed; a proof at the same time of the fact that the restoration of the heathen mysteries in the bosom of the Catholic Church is in principle against the original spirit of Christianity, and that secret orders, that do not venture to come to the light with that which they actually profess or do, have to fear His veto who demanded publicity in the noblest sense of the word, and whose cause more than any other is worthy to face the brightest light.

3. There are words of the Saviour which are best understood and estimated when they are read in the light of a clear starry heaven. To this belongs also the saying of the sparrows and the hairs of the head. “When I consider Thy heavens the work of Thy fingers, the moon and stars which Thou hast ordained: what is man that Thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that Thou hast numbered the hairs of his head?” In order, however, rightly to estimate the whole comfort of this doctrine of a providentia specialissima, we must never forget that the Saviour here speaks to His friends, who precisely as such were the objects of the special providence of God.

4. The immortality of the soul in the philosophical sense of the word is as far from being expressly taught and proved by the Saviour as the being and the unity of God; ordinarily He presupposes what indeed cannot be doubted. Not the purely negative conception of immortality, but the positive conception of resurrection and eternal life, stands in the Scriptures of the New Covenant in the foreground. But for this reason we may the less fail to notice that He at least once has in so many words declared that the soul, which is definitely distinguished from the body, can in no case be destroyed. The New Testament Demonology also receives by this saying an important degree of light, and the admonition which He gives to His disciples, that they should be perpetually on their guard against Satan’s craft and might, they in their turn hold up before their fellow-believers, Ephesians 6:10; 1 Peter 5:8; James 4:7, et alibi.

5. The sin against the Holy Spirit may in no wise (as e.g. Colani does) be made equivalent to the sin against one’s own conscience. Conscience speaks even in the breast of the rudest heathen; against the Holy Spirit, however, no one can sin who does not already possess more than usual knowledge and experience of the power of Christian truth.

6. Not unjustly is the Saviour’s promise of the assistance of the Holy Spirit regarded as one of the strongest grounds of the high authority in which the word and writings of the apostles stand. Especially according to the parallel in Matthew 10:19-20, is that which this Spirit speaks in them definitely distinguished from the utterances of their own individual consciousness. The manner of the Spirit’s working may be incomprehensible; but so much we see at once, that we have here to understand an entirely extraordinary immediate influence; for it was to be given them ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ. The promise of this assistance extended as well to the substance as to the form of their language (πῶς τί), and this help was to support them so mightily (comp. Luke 21:14-15) that it would be morally impossible for their enemies to persevere in offering them resistance. At the same time this help is promised them for everything which they had to say, not alone respecting their own persons, but also concerning the cause of their Lord. Their writings also, in which this apology of their faith is stated according to the varying necessities of the time, are entirely the faithful expression of that which the Spirit gave them in such moments to ponder, to speak, to write; and this whole promise, communicated by all the Synoptics, is only the brief summary of all that which the Saviour in His parting discourse in John has brought into view in greater detail in reference to the Paraclete.


The opposition in principle between Pharisaism and Christianity.—How the hypocrite stands related to the Saviour and the Saviour to the hypocrite.—Mysteries whose distinction it is to remain concealed to eternity, the kingdom of heaven does not contain.—Secret speaking and acting must be an exception; sincerity and publicity must be the rule with the disciples of the Saviour.—No fear before many enemies, but only before an adversary fearful beyond measure.—The might of Satan: 1. Its extent; 2. its ground; 3. its limits.—Watchfulness against the enemy of souls united with child-like confidence in the Father of spirits.—The rule of God in little things.—The arithmetic of the Saviour’s disciple.—The least is great, the greatest is little before God.—The life of the Christian is invaluable.—The comfort which a look at sparrows and at the hair of the head can give to the disciple of Christ. How much higher do we stand as: 1. Rational beings; 2. as immortal beings; 3. as purchased by the blood of the Son of God; 4. as called to likeness with God. Therefore is it impossible that He who numbers the sparrows should forget the Prayer of Manasseh, the Christian.—The holy function of the Christian to confess his Lord. This function has: 1. A broad extent; 2. unquestionable right; 3. incomparable importance.—According to that which we are here before the Lord can we already judge what hereafter to expect from Him.—How far does even the disciple of the Saviour still need a warning like the Pharisees ( Matthew 12:31-32) against the sin against the Holy Spirit?—The sin which cannot be forgiven: 1. There is only one sin which absolutely cannot be forgiven; 2. it is now as ever possible to commit this sin; 3. the judgment upon it is perfectly righteous; 4. the mention of it is now as ever fitting: a. in order to give a salutary disquiet to individuals; b. in order to give a settled composure to troubled souls.—The Holy Spirit the best apologist of the threatened cause of the Saviour: 1. How far this promise regards exclusively the apostles and has been fulfilled in them; 2. how far it holds good of all believers and may be used also for their advantage.

Starke:—Who does not teach aright, he also lives not aright; and who does not live aright, he also does not teach aright.—Quesnel:—The saints avoid not the light, and do nothing of which they must be ashamed before God’s judgment.—Hedinger:—God’s proclamation of grace is no secret of alchemy, but every one is to know and understand it.—The marvellous simplicity which is found in the Gospel, Psalm 19:9.—Brentius:—If servants and children of God have much of the suffering of Christ, they are also richly comforted through Christ.—The soul has its own individual existence; therefore it may fare well or ill with it when it is separated from the body.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—It is impossible that God should leave those that trust in Him.—Everything, even the least of things, that happens to man is God’s ruling.—It is not enough to believe with the heart on Jesus, but we must also resolutely and joy fully confess Him with the mouth before the world.—There is a sin greater than others, and also worthy of heavier punishment.—Majus:—Every Christian must be ready to give account of his hope, 1 Peter 3:15.—The great ones of the earth have been from the beginning for the most part great enemies to Christ and His Gospel.—The inner ministry of the Holy Ghost is very closely connected with the outer, and must not remain separated from it, 1 Timothy 6:3-5.

Palmer (on the parallel, Matthew 10:26-33):—The Lord’s might and men’s impotency: 1. His work He accomplishes, and man cannot hinder it; 2. His faithful ones He protects, and man cannot hinder it; 3. the unfaithful He overthrows, and man cannot hinder it.—Van Oosterzee:—The government of God takes note of trifles. This is truth: 1. Too sure for doubt; 2. too glorious to be slighted; 3. too instructive to be forgotten.—Beck:—Whence comes true courage?

b. the parable of the rich fool ( Luke 12:13-21)


Luke 12:14. And He said.—Entirely without reason has the historicalness of the occasion for this parable of the Rich Fool been brought in doubt by De Wette; to us, on the other hand, this trait appears to be probable, and to have been taken from life. But certainly the speaker here appearing is no familiar friend of Jesus (Kuinoel), but a stranger, who perhaps among the myriads, Luke 12:1, had heard the Saviour for the first time, and while He was speaking of heavenly things had been brooding over earthly. Struck by the might of the personality of the Nazarene, he had considered within himself whether His influence might not perhaps best bring to a happy conclusion the existing family strife. At the same time, this instance shows in a peculiar manner how parties were continually defining themselves more and more sharply for and against the Saviour, inasmuch as in the very place where they had embittered even His meal ( Luke 11:37), there is given Him a special proof, undoubtedly of strong cleaving to earthly things, but quite as much of personal confidence. From the warning against avarice which the Saviour, Luke 12:15, subjoins, we have not necessarily to draw the conclusion that the petitioner had in mind a thing in and of itself unrighteous.

Man.—The answer exhibits no personal displeasure of the Saviour against the bearer of the unseemly request, but only shows that the Saviour was by no means minded to enter upon a sphere which could not possibly be His own. His answer involuntarily reminds us of the language which once an Egyptian uttered to Moses, Exodus 2:14.

Luke 12:15. Take heed and beware of covetousness.—Not only of covetousness which has just before appeared in the definite form of cleaving to a disputed inheritance, but of all exaggerated love of earthly possession. If the petitioner ( Luke 12:13) still remained in the circle of the hearers, the Saviour here renders him a better service than if He had made him rich; He will heal him of his chief malady. To this end serves the parable of the Rich Fool, which Luke alone has preserved, and of which it is not unjustly affirmed, “It is scarcely to be called a parable, so distinctly does it of itself and without any diversion of thought set forth the relation to God” (Riggenbach).

For a man’s life … which he possesseth.—A difficult sentence, in which however the reading of Tischendorf, αὐτῷ, appears to deserve the preference above that of Lachmann, αὐτοῦ. The best construction, on the whole, appears to be this: “ὅτι ἡζωὴ αὐτῷ οὐκ ἐστίν τινι ἐν τῷ περισσεύειν (infinitive for the substantive) ἐκ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων αὐτοῦ.—Ζωή is not here to be taken in the sense of the happiness of life but = ψυχή, as Schott paraphrases: “siquidem quando quis bonis abundat, tamen vita ejus a bonis minime pendet.” Not from the possession of many goods, but from the will of God, who lengthens or shortens the thread of life, does it depend whether one remains long and quietly here in life or not. One may be preserved in life without possessing goods, and also remain in the possession of goods and unexpectedly lose life. That riches in and of themselves do not give happiness is undoubtedly true, yet not the chief thought of this parable.

Luke 12:17. The estate of a certain rich man.—Probably a quite considerable space of ground, not χωρίον, but χώρα. Not without intention does the Saviour choose as His example a man who gathers his riches in a customary, legitimate, apparently innocent way. “Modus hic ditescendi innocentissimus et tamen periculosus.” Bengel. The first thing which is lacking to this fortunate rich man is complete contentment.

What shall I do?—With discontent is joined anxiety and perplexity, since he does not know how he shall manage with his treasures. A similar perplexity to that which is related, Mark 16:3, in which, however, God does not come into the midst and give help. That his increased prosperity offers him opportunity to do something for his poor brethren, does not even come into his mind; selfishness strikes the key-note, even in the four times recurring μου: τοὺς καρπούς μου, κ.τ.λ.

Luke 12:18. I will pull down my barns.—By a forcible tearing down, therefore, he believes he shall open the way to his happiness. The ἀποθῆκαι were for the most part subterraneous dry vaults. It is possible that the Rich Fool is thinking of enlarging them, but also that he is of a mind to build up greater ἀποθῆκαι from the foundation. Here also there is not the least mention of the poor, but, on the other hand, an emphatic exaltation of his γεννήματα as his highest earthly ἀγαθά.

Luke 12:19. Soul.—To the continuing discontent and rising care of the rich man is added now the self-deceit of the falsest hope. Unconsciously he confesses that he has hitherto not yet found the long sighed-for rest, but expects it, and that for a long time, when the intended work shall have been entirely completed. Very finely, Meyer: “to my soul, not exactly mihi, but to my soul, the seat of the sensibilities, here of the desire of enjoyment.” Not only idleness, no, revelling, is the ideal that this fool mirrors to himself. The reference to the passage, Sirach 11:17-19, is in this whole representation almost impossible to mistake.

Luke 12:20. Thou fool.—The searching contrast between the soliloquy of the fool and the judgment of God, belongs to the greatest beauties of the parable. This beauty, however, is lost if we think here merely of a decretum Dei (Kuinoel) instead of the invisible King of Heaven appearing in speech and action, and suddenly causing him to feel that not even so many hours are allotted him as he had been dreaming of years—ἀπαιτοῦσιν. Who now is to fulfil this sentence? God Himself (Meyer); the death-angels to whom I have committed the power (Von Gerlach); robbers and murderers (Bornemann, Paulus)? The latter is perhaps the most agreeable to the concrete character of the parable; neither is there any ground whatever for understanding the verb impersonally. If we understand burglars demanding his life of him, the requirement has then double emphasis. There is thereby the image of terror held up before the rich Prayer of Manasseh, to him especially in the highest degree frightful; and the question immediately following thereon, “Whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?” acquires still higher significance if we assume that the murderers, unknown to him and already approaching, shall be at the same time the robbers of his goods. Nor does Luke 12:21 offer any difficulty to this explanation if we only keep the tertium comparationis in mind.

Luke 12:21. So is he that.—He dreams as illusively as this fool, in order sooner or later to awake in a similarly terrible manner. Θησαυρίζων ἑαυτῷ, in suum commodum, so that in his enjoyment consists the chief end which he in the augmentation of his treasures has in mind. To this restless and fruitless θησαυρίζειν is opposed the still and abiding πλουτεῖν εἰς Θεόν which is directed towards God and Divine things, and in another passage is called “laying up treasures in heaven,” Matthew 6:20.


1. That the Saviour does not meditate even an instant the composing of the controversy respecting the inheritance in any way whatever, is worthy of note. Had such a strife arisen among His own, He would then without doubt have composed it, so that undoubtedly the later precept of His apostle ( 1 Corinthians 6:1-6) was entirely in the spirit of the Master. But here, where it concerned a matter entirely foreign, standing in no relation to the kingdom of God, His answer could only be one of refusal, and accordingly He decidedly repels the temptation to enter upon a sphere which lay so far from that which the Father had appointed Him. Although he had appeared as Israel’s King, He mingles as little with the controversies of the Jews as with the political affairs of the Romans, but on the other hand remains faithful to His subsequently uttered principle ( John 18:36). And as He gives in this relation also an example to all His disciples, who are to be no ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοποι ( 1 Peter 4:15), so is His conduct also of importance for the regulation of the principle of the relation of the Church to the State. Not without reason, at least, has the Augsburg Confession, in its 28 th article, adduced this declaration of the Saviour ( Luke 12:14) as a proof that the two jurisdictions, the spiritual and the secular, should not be confounded with one another.

2. Not as a judge concerning inheritances, but as a Redeemer from sins, and from avarice among them, not less than from hypocrisy, will the Saviour exhibit Himself on this occasion. Such a consideration is wholly in the spirit of the third, the Pauline Gospel (comp. 1 Timothy 6:6-10), and deserves the more to be laid to heart, inasmuch as avarice is not seldom especially the sin of the saints, who have already died to the lusts of the flesh, and are made free from the natural pride of the heart. As to the rest, the parable of the Rich Fool is also full of allusions to Old Testament utterances. See, e.g., Job 22:25; Psalm 39:7; Psalm 49:12 seq.; Jeremiah 17:11; Psalm 72:10-11.

3. If we consider that the parable of the Rich Fool was uttered in the presence of the disciples of Jesus, and also, therefore, of Judas, we find new occasion to admire the Saviour’s wisdom in teaching which so indirectly but powerfully attacks the darling sin of the future traitor.


Even under the preaching of Jesus there are unreceptive and inattentive listeners.—Care for the earthly inheritance instead of the longing for the heavenly.—The Saviour will not work with force, but renewingly and regeneratingly upon earthly relations.—Avarice the root of all evil.—Let every one abide in that whereunto he is called.—How poor a rich man and how rich a poor man may be.—If riches fall to any one, let him not set his heart thereon.—Even earthly blessing may become a snare.—Cares of earthly riches opposed to the holy unanxiousness of the children of God.—The rich man’s self-enjoyment of life in its full beggarliness.—Augmenting disquiet with augmenting wealth.—Delusive hope of rest in later years.—God’s thoughts other than the thoughts of men.—The unlooked-for death of the child of the world.—The mournful fate of the man who gathers treasures to himself and is not rich toward God: 1. Painful discontent; 2. increasing anxiety; 3. delusive hope; 4. irreparable loss.—Riches in God: 1. The only true; 2. the inalienable; 3. the universally accessible riches.

For homiletical treatment, either the 15 th verse or the 21 st verse offers the point of departure. For a harvest-sermon also this parable is especially adapted.

Starke:—Quesnel:—The goods of this world give often occasion for discord, disquiet, and offence.—Canstein:—It is not great wealth that preserves the temporal life of Prayer of Manasseh, but God’s power and blessing.—God’s blessing reaches even over the fields of the ungodly, Matthew 5:45.—They who receive the richest blessing are wont often to forget their benefactor.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—Earthly souls have ever earthly thoughts and purposes.—Majus:—Epicurean men soon have their everlasting reward.—The Lord knoweth the thoughts of men that they are vain.—Bibl. Wirt.:—The avaricious are unhappy in this world and that to come.—Majus:—Whoever is rich in God, like Abraham, David, and Song of Solomon, whom earthly riches hurt not, he uses them according to the Lord’s will. [Grave exception may be taken to the last-named of these three examples.—C. C. S.]

Heubner:—Even the strictest bands of consanguinity do not protect selfish hearts against discord.—How great is the self-love of the vain-minded?—Cleaving to earthly good a folly.—The poor Rich Fool comes before God’s judgment with a lost name, with a lost soul, with a lost world, with a lost heaven (Rieger).—The true wealth of man.—Comp. two homilies of Basil, Opp. ii. p43, Edit. Garner.—Arndt:—Fleshly security: 1. Its form; 2. God’s judgment upon it.—Lisco:—Concerning the misleading of many citizens of the kingdom by earthly wealth.—Avarice considered as the destroyer of all the harvest-blessing.—Krummacher:—How faith keeps harvest-home and how unbelief. The two classes of men diverge essentially: 1. In their view of the Divine blessing received; 2. in the use that they make of the same; 3. in the relation of dependence in which they place themselves to the blessing.—Gerok:—The rich man—a poor man; see how one can miscalculate.—Couard:—What is requisite if our earthly care is not to be a sinful one.—Kliefoth:—What shall we take with us through the gates of the grave?

c. The Freedom From Anxiety Of The Disciples Of The Saviour ( Luke 12:22-34)


Luke 12:22. Therefore I say unto you.—If we presuppose that this admonition to tranquil freedom from care was delivered on the same occasion (see however above, and comp. Matthew 6:22-34), then it is not difficult to give the connection of this part of the Saviour’s discourse with the former one. The source of the avarice which He has just been combating is nothing else than the excessive anxiety and fear that we might in some way suffer lack, and this fear certainly becomes no one less than the disciple of the Saviour. Earthly care now is directed first of all to nourishment and clothing. Both forms the Saviour opposes, inasmuch as He points those that are anxious to what they see in the realm of nature, but above all to the truth that He who has already given the higher, will certainly not let them lack the lesser.

Luke 12:23. The life is more than food.—“You turn it exactly round; food is meant to serve life, but life forsooth serves food; clothes are to serve the body, but the body forsooth must serve the clothing, and so blind is the world that it sees not this.” Luther. If God bestows the higher, He by that very fact already gives a pledge that He will not withhold the lesser. Romans 8:32.

Luke 12:24. Consider the ravens.— Psalm 147:9. Perhaps also an indirect reminiscence of the miraculous history of Elijah, 1 Kings 17:6. By κατανοήσατε there is more meant than a superficial view, rather an observing and studying, of the ravens. Matthew, using more general terms, has only πετεινά. Perhaps at this particular moment birds or lilies had in His immediate vicinity drawn the attention of the Saviour to this, and given Him occasion to this figurative mode of speech.

Luke 12:25. To his length of life.—See Lange on Matthew 6:27.

Luke 12:27. Consider the lilies.—The plural designates the κρίνα not necessarily as a mass but also as individuals.—ΙΙῶς οὔτε νήθει, κ.τ.λ., an indirect question, whose more complete form is found in Matthew. See the notes on the text.

In all his glory.—When he showed himself in his full royal magnificence. See 2 Chronicles 9:15.

Luke 12:29. Neither be ye of doubtful mind, or, do not exalt yourselves, ιὴ μετεωρίζεσθε.—The usage of this word is familiar, which echoes also in our “Meteor.” See the rich collection of examples in Kuinoel, ad loc. Μετεωρίζεσθαι can signify nothing else than: To lift one’s self so far on high that one shines like an aerial phenomenon, but must also share the fate of so many wandering lights. Comp. the familiar: “Tolluntur in altum, ut lapsu graviore ruant.” Especially does the high flight of fancy appear here to be meant, when one creates imagined necessities for himself, and for this reason is doubly ill-content with reality, and for this very reason allows himself so much the more to be seduced into unbelieving anxiety. The more modest the wishes, the more easily is the heart contented.

Luke 12:31. Seek ye His kingdom.—There is no sufficient ground for transferring hither from Matthew 6:33, the adverb πρῶτον. According to Luke it is the Saviour’s will that we should seek absolutely after God’s kingdom; in which case the precept is only apparently different from that given in Matthew 6:33. The πρῶτον ζητεῖτε which is there enjoined is also a seeking that excludes every further anxiety. In the sense in which they are to seek the kingdom of God, the Saviour’s disciples have nothing more to strive after. See Lange on the passage in Matthew.

Luke 12:32. Fear not, little flock.—In the first place, here, without doubt, allusion is made to the fear combated in the foregoing verses, but then also further, fear which might hinder them in the seeking of the kingdom of God. This seeking should in no case be fruitless: for it was the Father’s good pleasure to give them what they desired above everything.

Little flock.—Perhaps the intentional contrast of the little circle of disciples with the myriads of the people, Luke 12:1. At the same time a word of the Good Shepherd. Comp. Matthew 26:31; John 10:11.—Your Father’s good pleasure.— Ephesians 1:4-6. Not only a divinum arbitrium, cui stat pro ratione voluntas, but also a beneplacitum amoris divini.

Luke 12:33. Sell that ye have.—A strengthening of the admonition which in Matthew 6:19-21 appears in another form. Undoubtedly this precept may be applied in a very sound sense as addressed to every Christian: comp. Matthew 19:21. Here, however, it is a definite command to the apostles, who, in order to live entirely for the kingdom of God, were to be fettered by no earthly care.

And give alms.—This commandment also must, like several precepts of the Sermon on the Mount, not be interpreted κατὰ ῥητόν but in the spirit of Wisdom of Solomon, which is quite as far from egoistic limitations as from communistic extravagances. In caring in this way for others they would make to themselves (ἑαυτοῖς) purses that wax not old. To take with them this kind of βαλάντια was not forbidden, as it was to take the other sort, Luke 22:35; and in these purses they laid up for themselves a treasure that faileth not. This treasure in heaven, of which the Synoptics speak, is already laid up in this life, as also ζεὴ σὶώνιος, according to John, begins even before death. Even because the treasure in heaven is of spiritual origin, of heavenly kind, it is also of absolutely imperishable duration.

Luke 12:34. For where your treasure is.—A word of the deepest knowledge of men, and capable of the most manifold explication. The human heart little by little appropriates to itself the style and nature of the treasure to which its whole thought is directed. Whoever constitutes his god of gold, his heart becomes as cold and hard as metal; whoever takes flesh for his arm or makes it his idol, becomes more and more sensual, and takes on the properties of that which he loves above everything; but whoever has invisible treasures keeps spontaneously eye and heart directed upon the invisible world, and whoever has no higher good than God, accords to Him in his love also the first place. This is the key to the unspeakably rich patristic word: “Domine, quia nos fecisti ad te, cor nostrum inquietum in nobis, donec requiescat in te..”


1. See Exegetical and Critical.

2. In order to feel the high value of this instruction of the Saviour, we have only to place ourselves in the condition of the apostles, who for His sake left all. Not only were the Eleven by the force of this beyond doubt often preserved from discouragement and anxiety, but also in the soul of a Paul, who did not as yet sit here at the feet of the Saviour, echoes the tone of this encouraging word, which he without doubt afterwards heard. See Philippians 4:6-7, and comp. 1 Peter 5:7.

8. The holy freedom from care which the Saviour here commenda to His disciples has nothing in common with the light-minded carelessness of those who do not think of the morrow; for there is also Christian care, which impels to prayer and also at the same time to labor. Only that anxiety docs the Saviour censure which acts as if all in the last resort was dependent on this care alone, instead of thinking on the admirable rule: “Mit Sorgen und mit Grämen, Lasst Gott rich gar nichts nehmen, es will erbeten sein.” [Anxiety procures nothing from God, but Only prayer]. Very justly does Luther distinguish: “The care mat comes from love is bidden, but that which is separate from faith is forbidden.”

4. This part also of the Saviour’s discourse affords the complete proof how Hebrews, the Friend of Prayer of Manasseh, was at the same time the friend of glorious nature. Ravens and lilies does He make for His disciples preachers of the most consolatory truth. But if we will feel the whole power and beauty of this imagery, we must regard Him who used it with the eye of a John, and recognize in Him the Eternal Word without which nothing was made that is made—that has created also the ravens and lilies of the field. The symbols of the fatherly care of God to rhich He points are not only His own discovery, fe t what is more, are also His own creation.

5. The encouraging word to the little lock contains the rich germs of the Evangelical and especially of the Pauline doctrine of Predestinaticii At the same time we obtain here an important in mation in reference to the point of view from whidl this doctrine must, according to the will of the Saviour, be considered and represented, namely, as a consolation to troubled believers and not as an occas: in of idle questions. The comfort here given rem ins moreover the same, although the number of the disciples of Christ has enlarged itself to many millions. Still, as ever, contrasted with the majority of the unbelieving world, this number is a very small one, and of the friends of the Saviour it may still as ever be said, “Behold I send you as sheep in the midst f wolves” ( Matthew 10:16). But these little and defenceless ones have for themselves so much the surer pound of reckoning on the defence and help of the Heavenly Father.


How far the disciple of the Saviour Iks to care for his temporal support and how far not.—The distinction between the care of the blind heathen, the God-fearing Israelite, and the believing (Christian.—The preaching of the ravens and lilies.—Excessive anxiety for earthly things is: 1. In part needless; 2. in part fruitless; 3. in part injurious to higher interests.—If thou wilt be raised above the care for the lesser good that is yet wanting to thee, look upon the higher that has already been bestowed upon thee.—The impotency of all our caring to alter anything against the will of God in our on ward fate.—God clothes: 1. Solomon with glory; 2. the lilies far more gloriously than Solomon; 3. the believer far more richly than Solomon and the lilies s together.—Seek not for high things, but condescend to the humble, Romans 12:16.—“In quietness and confidence shall be your strength,” Isaiah 30:15.—Your Father knows that ye have need of all these things1. There is One who knows what we need; 2. this One is our Father; 3. to this Father Jesus leads us.—Fear not, little flock, a word of comfort: 1. For the circle of apostles over against the unbelieving world; 2. for the evangelical church in the mids other numerous enemies; 3. for every believing ecclesiola over against a degenerate hierarchical church.—Those that buy, that they be as though tl ij possessed not, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31.—Christian con munism in opposition to its caricature in our century.—The art of so giving that we become not poorer but richer.—The security of the treasure that, is laid up in heaven.—Where the treasure there the heart, either, 1. On earth, or2. in heaven.

Starke:—Between anxious care and over-negligence Christians must keep the middle path .—Arhdt:—Let us by all means study diligently the book of nature together with the Holy Scripture.—Quesnel:—The experience of our impotency even in lesser matters should serve to this, that we surrender ourselves wholly to God in the weightier.—Canstein:—Beautiful attire and boastful glory of other things are wholly vain and come not once near tthe beauty of a field-flower.—Christ forbids not the labor of the body, but the disquiet and mistrustfulness of the soul—Children of princes and kings need not to torment themselves with anxious care, and Christians even much less.—Canstein:—As God means to give us Heaven, why plague we ourselves then anxiously on account of sustenance on earth?—True believers have been at all times few compared with the great mass of the ungodly, Psalm 12:1.

Cramer:—To do good to the poor is every Christian’s duty, Isaiah 58:7.—Whoever will be benevolent, let it be from his own means, not from other people’s.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—No funds are better and more safely invested than alms.—Examine thyself, O Soul, where is thy treasure and thy heart?

Heubner:—The right precedence among cares.—The miserable folly of earthly cares.—The chief care of the Christian.—Care not how long, but how thou livest.—Couard:—Concerning earthly care, how it, 1. Is unworthy of us; 2. most dangerous; 3. beyond measure foolish; 4. utterly profitless.—Westermeyer:—The care forbidden by God: 1. How far forbidden; 2. why.—Claus Harms:—A Harvest sermon in the Sommerpostille, 6th ed. p349.


FN#1 - Luke 12:2.—Γάρ rests only on the authority of D. Cod. Sin. omits even δέ.—C. C. S.]

FN#2 - Luke 12:11.—We find no sufficient grounds for the opinion that the words τί εἴπητε are taken from the parallel passage in Matthew.]

FN#3 - Luke 12:15.—The insertion of πάσης instead of τῆς is supported by convincing agreement of critics and manuscripts, including A, B, D, and Cod. Sin.—C. C. S.]

FN#4 - Luke 12:22.—The decided weight of authority (including A, B, D, Cod. Sin.) is for the omission of ὑμῶν.—C. C. S.]

FN#5 - Luke 12:25.—The words μεριμνῶν and πῆχυν ἓνα are not sufficiently well attested critically, to avoid the supposition that they are borrowed from Matthew. [Μεριμνῶν is read by Lachmann, Meyer, Tregelles with A, B, Cod. Sin, with17 other uncials, and πῆχυν by Tischendorf also, with all the manuscripts. Van Oosterzee must have meant to say that ἕνα was weakly supported, as it is omitted by B, D, Cod. Sin.—C. C. S.]

FN#6 - Luke 12:27.—Rec.: πῶς αὐξάνει οὐ κοπιᾷ οὐδὲ νήθει. D, on the other hand, as also Versions and Clem.: πῶς οὔτε νήθει οὔτε ὑφαίνει. So Tischendorf. [Also Meyer, Alford.] Although the reading has no preponderance of external authorities, it is nevertheless internally more probable, as the Recepta, on the other hand, is taken from the parallel passage in Matthew.

FN#7 - Luke 12:28.—Lit.: If God so clothe in the field the grass which is to-day, and to-morrow, &c. Εἰ δὲ ἐν ἀγρῷ τὸν χόρτον ὄντα σήμερον, κ.τ.λ. B, L, Sin. The field is represented as the theatre of God’s activity.—C. C. S.]

FN#8 - Luke 12:29.—Καί, B, L, Cod. Sin, 2other uncials.—C. C. S.]

FN#9 - Luke 12:29.—Van Oosterzee translates this: Erhebt [verfliegt] euch nicht in euren Wünschen. “Be not too high-raised in your expectations.” Vulgate: Nolite in sublime tolli. This meaning is defended by De Wette and Meyer, agrees with the more usual meaning of μετεωρίζεσθαι, but, as Bleek remarks, and Alford also, is much less congruous with the context than the signification: “to fluctuate in doubt,” which is also an undisputed sense of the word.—C. C. S.]

FN#10 - Luke 12:31.—Αὐτοῦ has the authority of B, D, [Cod. Sin,] Copt, Sahid, Æth, and others, for itself, while, on the other hand, the Recepta, τοῦ Θεοῦ, has against it the suspicion of being transferred from Matthew 6:33, as also, probably, the superfluous πάντα after ταῦτα.

Verses 35-48

5. The Vigilance and the Conflict of the Genuine Disciple of the Lord ( Luke 12:35-59)

(Parallel to Matthew 24:43-51.)

a. Luke 12:35-48

35Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; 36And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that, when 37 he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat [recline at table], and will come forth [approach] and serve them [wait on them]. 38And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them Song of Solomon, blessed are those servants39[they[FN11]]. And this know, that if the goodman [master] of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through 40 Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not 41 Then Peter said unto him,[FN12] Lord, speakest thou this parable unto [for] us, or even to [also for] all? 42And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and[FN13] wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household [body of servants, θεραπείας], to give them their portion of meat [allowance of food] in due season? 43Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing 44 Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath [he will 45 set him over all his possessions]. But and [om, and] if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming: and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; 46The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers[FN14] [the unfaithful]. 47And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did accordingto his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For [And] unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required; and to whom men [they] have committed much, of him they will ask the more.


Luk 12:35. Let your loins be girt about.

Very fittingly does the admonition to watchfulness join in with the admonition given in the previous verses to confidence and freedom from care. It is true they could be free from anxiety as to whether it was the Father’s good pleasure to give them His kingdom ( Luke 12:32), but they could only inherit if they expected, watching and working, the coming of the Lord. It is true that the now-following admonition alludes to the parable of the Ten Virgins (De Wette), but it contains, nevertheless, a number of peculiar traits which cause the method, as well as the blessing, of Christian watchfulness, to appear in an entirely new light. As well the form as the substance of the now-following parable in Luke is far more complete than the manner in which Matthew, Luke 24:42-51, has rendered it.

Your lights burning.—Two qualities of the servant who is to receive his returning Lord in fitting wise. The long garments of the Orientals had to be girt up if they were not to hinder them in walking and waiting. See Wetstein, ad loc. Comp. 1 Peter 1:13, perhaps a reminiscence of this saying. Even so must the light be kindled when the Lord was about to return in the middle of the night. By the first image it is the activity, by the second the watchfulness, of the faithful servant which is especially indicated.

Luke 12:36. When He shall return from the wedding.—A trait of the parable somewhat deviating from the common form of the conception, according to which the heavenly γάμοι begin only after the Parusia of the Son of Man. See, e. g., Matthew 25:1-13. Here the Messiah is represented as Hebrews, surrounded of course by guests and friends, celebrates His wedding in heaven, and now, after the wedding banquet is ended, returns to His dwelling, and crowns His faithful servants with honor and joy. That these after His return continue to celebrate the wedding with Him, is here not said. It is now, perhaps, considered as ended. (Otherwise Bengel, Stier.) The servants, however, who have faithfully awaited their Lord when celebrating the wedding, are now refreshed by Him with another feast, prepared in their honor, at which He appears, not as Bridegroom, but as servant. It Isaiah, of course, understood that it would be exceedingly forced to press dogmatically every trait of the parabolic representation, and that we must only have respect to the tertium comparationis.

Open immediately.—Because they have nothing to hide, and have not fallen asleep. “Vult suos esse expeditos.” Bengel.

Luke 12:37. Blessed are those servants.—By different images the blessedness of the faithful is now portrayed. First stage: The Lord will cause the momentary separation, which had hitherto been between them, to close, and will kindly approach nearer (παρελθών). Second stage: He girds His garment on, in order now, on His side also, to serve them. How literally the Saviour has fulfilled this feature of His picture appears from John 13:4. Third stage: He causes them to take their place at table, and sets before them His most exquisite viands. It is needless here to understand the viands which had been brought from the wedding-feast, or had been sent to His dwelling. (Kuinoel.) To this is added again, as a fourth feature, Luke 12:44, that the servants, to whom hitherto only a part of the estate had been committed, are now entrusted with the administration of all the possessions of their Lord. It Isaiah, however, not necessary to have in mind the Saturnalia of the Romans (Grotius), among whom it is well known that good and bad servants alike were served by their masters. We might rather call to mind the usage of the ancient Hebrews, of giving their servants a share in sacred feasts ( Deuteronomy 12:18; Deuteronomy 16:11).

Luke 12:38. In the second watch … in the third watch.—The Romans divided the night into four night-watches, diei inclinatio, gallicinium, canticinium, diluculum, a division which the Jews had accepted from them. See particulars among others in Friedlieb, Archäologie der Leidensgeschichte, on Luke 22:60-62. The opinion is entirely without ground (Lisco, Olshausen), that the Saviour here followed another division into only three night-watches. He says nothing of the fourth, simply for the reason that the disciples, from that, should note that His return was, by no means, to be expected as late as possible, even as He does not name the first; because it would weaken the whole representation of the watchful servants. The Parusia does not come so quickly as impatience, nor yet so late as carelessness supposes, but in the very middle of the night, when the temptation to fall asleep is greatest, and therefore must be most vigorously combated. It may even tarry longer than the servants thought; but, grant that it should take place not till the third, or should come even in the second, watch of the night, whoever perseveres faithfully at his post shall in no wise lose his reward.

Luke 12:39. If the master of the house.—A modification of the figurative language, in which those who had hitherto been represented as servants, now, during the presupposed absence of their Lord, are compared with the master of the house, who has to take care that his goods be not stolen.

The thief.—Not the ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου (Olshausen) but the Son of Prayer of Manasseh, Luke 12:40, who will come quite as unexpectedly to His disciples. It is noticeable how this comparison of the Parusia with the coming of the thief has passed over, in all manner of forms, into the apostolic writings, and is afterwards heard from the mouth of the glorified Saviour. 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3; Revelation 16:15. Of course the similitude of the thief is taken entirely from the point of view of those who are sunken in earthly enjoyment and inactive rest, and to whom therefore the Parusia of the Son of Man is no joyful but a terrible event.

Luke 12:40. Be ye therefore ready also.—See Lange on Matthew 24:43-44.

Luke 12:41. Then Peter.—The doubt as to the originality of this question is without any ground. And just as little can it be regarded as an interpolation of Luke (against De Wette). It Isaiah, on the contrary, precisely accordant with the character of the apostle, and it Isaiah, from a psychological point of view, worthy of remark that this question is proposed by that very apostle who afterwards, Matthew 26:41, most of all needed the admonition, and in so sad a manner forgot it. In view of the well-known earthly-mindedness of the disciples, it is much to be feared that this question was elicited even more by the first than the second part of the parable; by the holding up of the reward even more than by the exhortation to watchfulness, and that Peter wishes to know whether this high distinction ( Luke 12:37) was only intended for him and his fellow-disciples, or also, besides these ( καί), for others.

Luke 12:42. And the Lord said.—The Saviour is as far from affirming that the parable respects all (Friedlieb), as that it has a special reference to the apostles (Ewald); but He continues in a general sense His figurative discourse, and that in such a way, that Peter, by some reflection, can give himself the answer. This answer amounts to this, that according as a more extended circle of operation is entrusted to a servant of the Lord, his obligation to watchfulness increases, and if he forgets his vocation, he has so much the sharper chastisement to fear. An exceedingly weighty teaching for all the apostles, but, most, for the very Peter who had elicited it. Comp. Matthew 16:18.

Who then is that faithful and wise steward.—The οἰκονόμος, comp. 1 Corinthians 4:2, was a middle person, between the lord and the slave, and, as Eleazer with Abraham and Joseph with Potiphar, was burdened with the care of the whole domestic establishment. It was in the fullest sense of the word a post of confidence, in which, therefore, faithfulness in every respect was required. As the οἰκονόμοι to the rest of the servants, so should also the apostles stand with reference to other believers, and be called to distribute them food. The reward of faithfulness consisted in this, that the circle of operation received important enlargement.

Luke 12:45. But if that servant, ἐκεῖνος. With emphasis the Saviour thereby alludes very definitely to the οἰκονόμος just portrayed. He represents him as misled by negligence to two great sins, to hardness and caprice towards others, to slothfulness and wantonness as respects himself. Still more strikingly is this last thought expressed in Matthew, Luke 12:49, by eating and drinking with the drunken. Precisely this is the peculiarity of the caprice of the unfaithful οἰκονόμος, that he oppresses his faithful but defenceless fellow-servants, and withholds from them that which is their right, but, on the other hand, peoples the dwelling committed to his administration with a vile rabble, and makes it a scene of dissoluteness. While we here behold the image of the unfaithful apostle, shepherd, and teacher, we may, at the same time, compare the admirable portraiture of the shepherds in Ezekiel, Luke 34, who, instead of the sheep, feed themselves. The whole history of the church shows us the image of such unworthy ones.

[Blind mouths, that scarce themselves know to hold

A sheep-hook, or aught else the least have learned

That to the faithful herdman’s art belongs.

What lists it them? what reck they? they are fed:

And when they list, their lean and flashy songs

Grate on their scrannel pipes of wretched straw.

The hungry sheep look up and are not fed.

But, swollen with mist and the rank wind they draw,

Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread.

Milton, Lycidas.]

It is remarkable how the spirit of this whole warning pervades the epistles of Peter. See, e.g., 1 Peter 5:3; 2 Peter 3:3.

Luke 12:46. Διχοτομήσει αὐτόν.—For different views respecting this, see Lange on Matthew 24:50. Undoubtedly there is much to be said for the view that we are not to understand the word in a milder sense, but that we must translate it literally: “He will split him into two pieces.” On the other hand, it must not be overlooked that it is after this punishment of the condemned that his part is appointed with the hypocrites, and he represented consequently as yet living. The word occurs only here and in Matthew 24:51; comp. 2 Samuel 5:20; 2 Samuel 6:7-8; 1 Chronicles 14:10-11. This image is so much the more fittingly chosen if we consider that this punishment is threatened against a villain who first appeared to be faithful but afterwards manifested himself as unfaithful, and therefore was most miserably divided in heart. Qui cor Divisum habet, Dividetur. Bengel.

With the unfaithful.—According to Matthew, among the hypocrites. Here the thought comes especially into prominence, that the Lord will judge His servants according to the condition in which He finds them, and that no earlier manifested faithfulness can deliver them if they afterwards, in view of the delay of the Parusia, shall fall into negligence and unfaithfulness. In another form we find the same thought expressed, Ezekiel 18:24.

Luke 12:47. That servant.—The Saviour justified the judgment just passed against the possible suspicion of too great severity, by placing a general principle in the foreground, namely, that the more light there beams upon us the greater will be the punishableness of sin, and precisely in the difference of punishment is the impartiality and righteousness of the judge made known. All evil servants are punished, even those of whom it may be said in a certain sense that they have not known the will of their Lord, since in no case is the ignorance absolute, and entirely without their own fault. Some knowledge, how imperfect soever it might be, could be presupposed in them all, because on men there is bestowed not only the light of a special Revelation, but also the light of conscience. Comp. the words of Calvin: Tenendum memoria Esther, qui regendœ Ecclesiœ prœfecti sunt, eos non ignorantia peccare, sed perverse et impie fraudare Dominum suum. Hinc tamen generalis doctrina colligi debet, frustra ad ignorantiœ patrocinium confugere homines, ut se a reatu liberent.—Comp. James 4:17.—Many stripes.—Although the fixed number of stripes, according to the Mosaic jurisprudence, amounted to forty, Deuteronomy 25:2-3, it is of course understood that such determining of the number in this case would be in conflict with the spirit of the parable. But the same principle which is expressed, Deuteronomy 25:2, namely, that a righteous relation must exist between the greatness of the offence and the punishment, is also emphasized here by the Saviour.

Luke 12:48. To whom much is given.—In temporal things as well as also in spiritual. The greatest prerogatives bring also the greatest responsibility with them. ’Εδόθη πολύ, not to be restricted precisely to the magna et accurata religionis scientia, but in general to be understood of the commission which is given to the high-placed οἰκονόμος, and so far also of the confidence reposed in him.—ΙΙολὺ ζητηθήσεται, in official activity (Meyer), of which strict account shall be required. Although παρέθεντο and αἰτήσουσιν are expressed impersonally, it is nevertheless in this connection scarcely possible to exclude the thought of the Lord of the servant, who has bestowed confidence on him, and will immediately judge his work.—The more, περισσότερον.—According to Meyer: “More than was deposited with him, he is therewith to win a surplus.” But where, in the foregoing parable, is the thought expressed that the faithful servant is to get interest with the property of his Lord? The connection appears in this passage much more to favor the interpretation of: plus quam ab aliis, which can appear weak and without meaning only in case it is forgotten that this whole expression bears a proverbial character; the parallelism moreover of the two sentences on this interpretation is better preserved.


1. It must not surprise us that the Saviour represents His disciples so decidedly from the point of view of dependent servants, for only in the latter period of His intercourse with them does He address them as Friends and Children, and the high honor which He here promises the faithful servant shows plainly how high a rank His servants possessed in His eyes, and what love He had for His disciples. With the exception of perhaps the promise, Revelation 3:21, we know no utterance of the Saviour which holds up before the life of the faithful so rich and ravishing a reward as this, Luke 12:37.

2. It is manifest that the parable of the Faithful and Unfaithful οἰκονόμος is for no one of so high importance as for the preachers of the gospel, who, because they stand upon a higher position than others, are also exposed to greater dangers. After such declarations of the Saviour we comprehend the better the holy fear of the apostle, 1 Corinthians 9:27 b.

3. We weaken the force of the parable if by the Unfaithful Servant we understand any particular person (Vitringa, e.g., understood the Pope). In the form of a concrete personality, on the other hand, there is a type delineated which is easily found again in all ecclesiastical despots and hierarchs, and verily not at Rome alone. In order to make manifest the inward unfaithfulness of all those who outwardly range themselves among His servants, and perhaps began with a guise of faithfulness and obedience, the Saviour needs to do nothing more than to make some delay. Then the old Adam, who for a while was covered and bedecked, comes spontaneously into manifestation again, and that not seldom in the most hideous forms. Even after the Middle Ages, boundless haughtiness and arrogance towards “the people that know not the law,” have often gone hand in hand with equal wantonness and sensuality. But the Saviour treasures up in His memory as much what is committed by an unholy clericalism in His name as what is practised by the spirit of anti-christianity against His defenceless servants.

4. The whole delineation of the terrific punishment just prepared for the unfaithful servant bears the character of the justitia retributiva. Those who believe that from the evangelical position one cannot properly speak of any punishment in the juridical sense, but only affectionate chastisements for the moral amendment of the misled, can hardly measure aright the fearful earnestness of declarations such as those of Luke 12:45-48. It is noteworthy also that the Saviour makes indeed a distinction in the grades, but not in the duration, of the decisive retribution of the future. That those also are threatened with this retributive judgment to whom the Lord’s will is less known than to others, admits of entire justification. For if even the heathen, according to Romans 2:15, have an ἕργον τοῦ νόμου γραπτὸν ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὑτῶν, so that they are not to be excused, how much less can the servant of Christ reckon upon entire exemption from punishment if he in some particular case did not know the will of the Lord.


The life of the disciples of the Saviour must be a life of watchfulness.—The nature of Christian watchfulness: 1. Alertness, 2. activity, 3. circumspection.—The motive of Christian watchfulness: 1. Certainty, 2. suddenness, 3. decisiveness of the coming of the Lord.—What does the Lord demand of His faithful servants? 1. An eye that is open for His light, 2. a hand that carries on His work, 3. a foot that is every instant ready to go to meet Him and to open to Him.—What does the Lord promise to His faithful servants? 1. Honorable distinction, 2. perfect contentment, 3. beseeming elevation.—The connection between this representation and Luke 17:7-10.—Not on the long duration, but on the faithfulness of their working, depends the gracious reward of the servants of the kingdom of God.—According to the state in which the Lord finds us will He judge us.—The thief in the night: 1. How unexpectedly he comes, 2. how carefully his coming must be awaited.—Increasing negligence a sign that the coming of the Son of Man is no longer distant, but near by, even at the door.—The minister of the gospel an οἰκονόμος. By this image there is expressed: 1. His high rank, 2. his holy vocation, 3. his heavy responsibility: “Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful,” 1 Corinthians 4:2.—The οἰκονόμος in the kingdom of God no ruler over the men-servants and maidens, but just as little their slave.—Great temptation to negligence is connected with the tarrying of the coming of the Lord.—Injustice towards the least of His people which is committed by one of His messengers, is to the King of the kingdom of God utterly intolerable.—Excessive severity towards others and excessive laxness towards one’s self are not seldom united in hirelings without the shepherd’s heart.—The Jus Talionis in the theocratic sphere.—Different grades: 1. Of the pardonableness, 2. of the retribution of sin.—Even ignorance in relation to the will of the Lord may be a self-caused ignorance.—For the unfaithful οἰκονόμος it would be better on that day to have been the least of the servants.—He that is privileged above others may only rejoice with trembling, comp. Hebrews 2:3.—The higher one stands the deeper can he fall.

Starke:—When God knocks we are at once to open to Him the door of our hearts and receive Him as willingly as joyfully, Revelation 3:20.—Brentius:—Masters must requite their servants’ love and faithfulness with love and faithfulness.—To be always found in the doing of good works is the best preparation for eternity, Romans 14:8.—With a blessed death the blessedness of believers begins, Revelation 14:13.—Majus:—There is an instant on which eternity hangs; in an instant all may be squandered and lost; therefore must we ever watch.—All should watch, especially ministers, whose business it is to quicken others to watchfulness.—Cramer:—A true steward of God must be at once faithful and prudent.—It is the business of all the family to direct themselves according to the beck and will of such stewards.—The unthankful world esteems in general the faithfulness and the diligence of the stewards of God not sufficiently, but God will reward such the more richly.—Quesnel:—Two vices are common among ungodly preachers: to rule over their hearers with violence, and to live in idleness and voluptuousness.—Hedinger:—Unfaithfulness smites its own Lord.—Cramer:—When the people are the securest their destruction is the nearest.—Terrible sins are followed by terrible punishments.—Knowing and doing must never be separated in true religion.—Nov. Bibl. Tub.:—Let no one count him happy who has many gifts and acts not accordingly.—God’s grace and righteousness detract not from each other, but each establishes His holiness.

Lisco:—The different servants.—Of the readiness of the true citizens of the kingdom for the coming of Christ: 1. Watchfulness, 2. faithfulness.—Arndt:—Watchfulness in its true character: 1. Its inner essence, 2. its blessed consequences, 3. its indispensable universality.—The glory of the devout and the ignominy of the unfaithful servant.

Heubner:—God’s judgment takes account of all that can lessen or augment guilt.—All is given by God on credit; we are only stewards.—Krummacher:—The watching servant in our time, a missionary sermon. (Sabbath-Glocke, 5 p17 seq.)—Souchon:—Folly in the care for our eternal salvation: 1. Wherein this folly consists; 2. what can move us to remove from us and to keep far from us this folly.—Kliefoth:—The coming of the Lord.—Gerok:—The excellent day’s work of the laborer of God.—Thomasius:—Readiness for the day of the Lord.


FN#11 - Luke 12:38.—Since the words οἱ δοῦλοι are wanting in B, D, [Cod. Sin,] L, Cant. Corb, and others, it is easy to suppose that they have been inserted here from Luke 12:37. We have therefore omitted them, with Tischendorf and Lachmann. [Meyer, Alford. Cod. Sin. omits ἐκεῖνοι also.—C. C. S.]

FN#12 - Luke 12:41.—Perhaps an interpolation, perhaps also genuine, but omitted by B, D, [ins, Cod. Sin,] L, [R,] X, as it might appear superfluous.

FN#13 - Luke 12:42.—Καί before φρόνιμος is of later origin.

FN#14 - Luke 12:46.—Διχοτομήσει, which has literally the signification given it in our text, is regarded by most critics as used here in a tropical sense, equivalent to “he shall cruelly scourge him.” Van Oosterzee takes it so. But the assuming of this meaning is supported by no examples, and is merely inferred from the supposition that the servant is represented as alive after the punishment, in καὶ τὸ μέρος, κ.τ.λ. But this, as Meyer remarks, is simply epexegetical of the preceding, indicating what the punishment is meant to express.—C. C. S.]

Verses 49-59

b. Luke 12:49-59

49I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled [how much do I wish that it were already kindled![FN15]]? 50But I have a baptism to be baptizedwith; and how am I straitened[FN16] till it be accomplished! 51Suppose ye that I am cometo give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather [only] division: 52For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two againstthree. [They shall be divided, father against son[FN17]]53The father shall be divided against the Song of Solomon, and the [om, the] son against the [om, the] father; the [om, the] mother against the [om, the] daughter, and the [om, the] daughter against the mother; the [om, the] mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and the [om, the] daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law 54 And he said also to the people, When ye see a [the[FN18]]cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and Song of Solomon 55it is. And when ye see the south wind blow [blowing], ye say, There will be heat;56and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of theearth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time? 57Yea, and why even of yourselves 58 judge ye not what is right? When [For as] thou goest [proceedest] with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale [drag] thee to the Judges, and the judge deliver theeto the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison 59 I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last [even the last] mite [λεπτόν].


Luke 12:49. I am come.—To the question in what connection this part of the Saviour’s discourse stands with what immediately precedes, the neutiquam cohœrent (Kuinoel) is certainly, it seems to me, the simplest possible answer. At least the method in which Olshausen and others give the connection of the ideas, is in our eyes excessively forced. But if we insist on having some connection, then the view of Meyer, “that the greatness of the responsibility, Luke 12:48, as well as the whole momentousness of the previously demanded faithfulness, is still more strengthened by the difficulty of the state of things, Luke 12:49, and so is meant to be made the more palpable to the disciples,” is perhaps the most simple.

Luke 12:49. Send fire on the earth.—The question Isaiah, what fire the Saviour here means. The answer that we have here to understand a fire of controversy, appears indeed to be the most admissible, but has, however, this difficulty, that then Luke 12:51 is really only a weak repetition of that which has been already said in Luke 12:49. If πῦρ is entirely the same with μάχαιρα, Matthew 10:34, and διαμερισμός, Luke 12:51, it cannot then be well conceived that the Saviour could have unconditionally wished the kindling of such a fire. On the other hand, there is not the least reason for here, with many of the fathers and some modern expositors, immediately understanding the fire of the Holy Spirit, for which βαλεῖν would certainly have been no very fitting expression. It is best, without doubt, to proceed from the general signification of the metaphorical expression, and to understand the extraordinary movement of mind which Christ should bring to pass when His Gospel should everywhere be proclaimed, comp. Luke 24:32. As fire has on the one hand a warming and purifying, but on the other a dissolving and destroying, force, not otherwise is it with the manifestation of Christ, of which the Gospel bears testimony. It Isaiah, however, by no means to be denied that the Saviour has in mind the latter rather than the former side of the fact. It does not, however, come into the fullest prominence until Luke 12:51. Division had already been effected by the Saviour’s advent, but the fire was not to blaze up in its full power until after His death and His exaltation.

Καὶ τί θέλω εἰ ἤδη ἀνήφθη; The general interpretation (Kuinoel, Bretschneider, De Wette, who appeal to Matthew 7:14): “How much I could wish that it were already kindled,” has the signification of εἰ against it. Better Schleiermacher: “And what more do I wish if it is even already kindled?” But it will best agree with the character of the discourse if we with Grotius and Meyer translate: “And what will I? Would that it were already kindled!” This wish, however, the Saviour does not cherish only because between now and the kindling of this fire lay His near and bitter Passion in the midst, which must first be endured (Meyer), but rather because, besides the harmful and ruinous, the salutary force of the fire also stands before His view, and because He knows that only through these flames can all impurity be purged away from the earth.

Luke 12:50. A baptism to be baptized with.—Over against the heavenly fire which He sends, stands the earthly water of the suffering which previously to that must roll entirely over Him.—To be baptized.—An image of the depth and intensity of this suffering, like a baptism performed by immersion. Comp. Matthew 20:22; John 1:33.—How am I straitened, πῶς συνέχομαι.—As far from being only a pressure of longing and desire (Euth. Zigab, De Wette) as from meaning merely, “oppressed by anxiety and fear” (Meyer and others); on the other hand the one must be joined with the other. Without doubt there is here a συνοχὴ καρδίας, not less than John 12:27; 2 Corinthians 2:4, and whoever in this human reluctation of the Lord against His suffering finds any cause of offence, places himself in a Docetic position. But in the heart of the holy Son of Man such a shrinking back from suffering, and the wish that it might already have been overcome, could not arise without His feeling at the same time the pressure of a love which must be baptized with this baptism, only because it itself has willed it. A similar union of anxiety and longing we see in the woman, John 16:21, who when her hour comes is seized with fear and anguish, and yet in the midst of this fear feels love and inward longing soon to press her child to her heart.

Luke 12:51. Suppose ye.—Comp. Matthew 10:34-36. It was only perplexity on the part of some expositors when they believed that here the language respecting the consequence of the Saviour’s manifestation was used exclusively ἐκβατικῶς, not τελικῶς. On the other hand, we may say that the Saviour here speaks not of the highest and ultimate, but yet of a very essential purpose of His manifestation on earth, which, however, was in its turn to be a means for the attainment of a higher end, of a peace, namely, which could be attained through this strife alone. The division which the Saviour brought on earth was and is so general, that He in a certain sense could say of Himself that He establishes nothing less than (ἀλλ̓ ) discord. This phenomenon is so far from being surprising and fortuitous, that, on the contrary, it has been foreseen and will be met, not as something good and desirable in itself, but as the only way in which He could erect His kingdom of peace here below upon an immovable foundation. An analogous representation, see Luke 2:34; John 9:39. Even because Christ is the Sun of Righteousness, it cannot but be that torches of strife and funeral pyres should be kindled by its fiery glow. When the Holy One of God comes into personal contact with an unholy world, a shock and strife is inevitable, and that not only against Him personally, but also among men themselves, inasmuch as these begin to distinguish themselves into adversaries and subjects of His kingdom.

Luke 12:52. Five in one house.—Here also is the mention of the uneven number five peculiar to Luke, as in the statement of the number of sparrows, Luke 12:6. When three stand against two and two against three, it is so much the more difficult to bring them together again. The holiest bonds are torn asunder, and as well in the male as also in the female sex does our Lord count friends and enemies, who on account of Him oppose one another. “Non additur gener, nam hic aliam constituit familiam.” Bengel. For the whole representation, compare the prophetical utterance, Micah 7:6. Only when the Saviour appears as the Prince of Peace can the disharmony between the three on the one hand and the two on the other hand be lastingly over.

Luke 12:54. And He said also to the people.—Luke justly remarks that here the address of the Saviour to the disciples breaks off. What now follows is more adapted to the mixed throng of His listeners, among whom there were found also enemies and those of Pharisaical views. According to Matthew 16:1 seq., the Saviour directed the next following censure very particularly against the Pharisees and Sadducees; the expressions, however, in the two Evangelists are more or less different. If we are disposed to demonstrate the connection with the previous section, we may find it in this, that the Saviour now proceeds to the statement of the source from which so much discord and misunderstanding flow as He had just described; namely, the failure to recognize the signs of the times, which unequivocally enough pointed to the Messianic kingdom.

A cloud.—The cloud which rose out of the west, on the side of the sea, was regarded as the sign of approaching rain, see 1 Kings 18:44, while the south wind was considered as a sign of heat to be expected, Job 37:17. The here-mentioned καύσεν is undoubtedly that glowing heat which was produced in Palestine by the south wind. In the LXX = קָדִים. In most mournful contrast with the sound intelligence of these weather-prophets, which in daily life at once decides (εὐθέως), and whose prophecies also commonly are fulfilled, stands the general blindness in reference to that which was infinitely more momentous and quite as easy to discover.

Luke 12:56. Ye hypocrites.—We cannot mistake the fact that here towards the end, the discourse again visibly inclines towards its point of departure. Very fittingly could the Saviour address the people in a mass thus, if we consider how deeply the leaven of the Pharisees had already penetrated into their minds. Since they were capable of distinguishing the face of the sky as well as that of the earth ( John 4:35), it could only be from a lack of good-will that they left wholly unnoticed the rain and the vital warmth which in these days had been imparted, in the kingdom of God. What lies nearest to the heart of man his understanding judges best; but since the advent of a spiritual kingdom of God was to them essentially indifferent, they do not account it even worth the trouble of giving heed to these signs in the moral world, which so convincingly afforded proof that the fulness of the time had arrived. The Saviour, on the other hand, will have His contemporaries become meteorologists in the spiritual sphere, and therefore He afterwards also rebukes them that they did not know the time of their visitation, Luke 19:44.

Luke 12:57. Of your own selves, ἀφ̓ ἑαυτῶν, Luke 21:30. There was lacking to them, as appears from what precedes, the gift necessary for clearly distinguishing in the spiritual sphere what was right (κρίνειν, secernere). When they discerned the face of the sky and the earth ( Luke 12:56), they did this indeed ἀφ̓ ἑαυτῶν, independently, without any necessity that it should first have been told them by another. So did it beseem them in other relations also to apply the standard of a natural science of truth and duty, without always first awaiting the inspiration of their spiritual guides.— Luke 12:58-59 the Saviour makes a special case in which they could apply such a κρίσις ἀφ̓ ἐαυτῶν, while He leaves it to their own understanding and conscience themselves to make a profitable application of the here-given rules to much higher and weightier concerns.

Luke 12:58. For as.—Γάρ here introduces the statement of the special case, by the delineation of which the Saviour more particularly explains His meaning. Comp. Matthew 5:25-26. He presupposes that they are with their adversary (ἀντίδικος) on the way to their legitimate ruler (ἅρχων), as appears from Luke 12:59, because a controversy had arisen about an unpaid debt; and if they now should persevere even to the end in the way of litigation, the consequences were very easy to be foreseen. The adversary with whom one cannot reconcile himself drags (κατασύρῃ) the debtor before the righteous judge (κριτής), and Hebrews, after he has ascertained the claim of debt to be well established, delivers the accused to the bailiff, who throws him into prison (πράκτωρ, exactor, executor, a legally appointed functionary of the Roman tribunals, whom Matthew has designated only in general as ὑπηρέτης). And there must one remain, until even the very last and least portion of the debt in its last item is paid. Matthew mentions τὸν ἔσχατον κοδράντην, Luke still more strongly τὸν ἔσχ. λεπτόν. The last farthing equals half a quadrant.—How much mischief, therefore, does one prevent, and how fully he acts in his own interest, when he comes to terms with such an ἀντίδικος, enters into a satisfactory compromise before the last decisive step is taken! Δὸς ἐργασίαν, a Latinism, perhaps as a Roman formula of law sufficiently familiar to Theophilus.

The Saviour, therefore, here urges His hearers in their own interest to placableness, and will have them by such a conduct show that they are in a condition ἀφ̓ ἑαυτῶν to κρίνειν τὸ δίκαιον. Considered by itself alone the admonition has, therefore, the same intention as in the parallel passage in Matthew, only with the distinction that with Luke the juridical form of the process is brought out somewhat more in detail. If one inquires now in what connection this exhortation, Luke 12:57-59, stands with the previous verses, Luke 12:54-56, we acknowledge that we have not found in one of the interpreters an answer perfectly satisfactory to us. The thread connecting the different parts of Luke 12becomes looser in proportion as the chapter hastens towards its end. In general, we may say that the Saviour here urges His hearers no longer to allow themselves to be so much led in their judgment by others as they had hitherto done, in consequence of which they also did not recognize the signs of the times, Luke 12:54-56, but to see more with their own eyes. This His meaning He elucidates by an example, Luke 12:58-59; but neither in the letter nor the spirit of His words is a single proof contained that this example must be interpreted as a parable, and that He wishes thereby to admonish them to repent betimes, “because the Messianic decision is so near, that they may not be exposed to the judgment of Gehenna.” (Meyer.) It is wholly arbitrary to see in the ἀντίδικος an allusion to the devil (Euth. Zigab.), to the poor (Michaelis), God (Meyer), or even to the law (Olshausen), and in the φυλακή to see a representation of Gehenna. Nothing but the craving to find in Luke 12:57-59 a congruous conclusion to a well-connected discourse has here put the expositors on a false track. The Saviour, however, presents not a single proof for the opinion that He here is urging them on allegorically to repentance, and according to the representation of Matthew 5:25, this saying has an entirely different sense. It Isaiah, without doubt, better, in case of necessity, to give up making out the connection which undoubtedly exists (Kuinoel, De Wette), which we, moreover, have by no means done, than to find under the simple sense of the words a deeper significance which no one amongst the first hearers, without a more particular intimation of the Saviour, could have found therein.


1. As the Saviour has first admonished His disciples to watchfulness and faithfulness, the remaining part of His discourse, so far in particular as it is addressed to the Apostles, has such a direction as to prepare them for many kinds of strife and troubles, and to take away the scandal which they might otherwise have found when His cause, instead of overcoming, should be suppressed and opposed. The cause of this strife lay at least in part in the unreceptiveness and earthly-mindedness of the people, who neglected to give heed to the signs of the times, and, like blind men, slavishly followed their spiritual guides, instead of seeing with their own eyes.

2. In this whole utterance of our Lord, as far as it stands in direct relation to His own personality and kingdom, we see a striking revelation on the one hand of His truly human, on the other hand His truly Divine, nature. With a genuinely human feeling He shrinks back from His suffering and longs for the beginning of the conflict. But with Divine knowledge He calculates at the same time the consequences of the combat, and utters forth the indispensable necessity of His baptism of suffering, if the fire were really to be kindled upon earth.

3. Already more than once have we heard the Saviour speak with heavy-heartedness and deep feeling of His approaching Passion, but here is the first revelation of this genuinely human reluctance to enter upon the approaching conflict, which afterwards returns in heightened measure, John 12:27; Matthew 26:38. This inner sorrow and pressure of love also constitutes a part of His hidden history of suffering.

4. It is one of the strongest arguments for the entirely unique significance of the personal manifestation of our Lord, that He calls forth such a discord in the sphere of humanity. The strongest sympathy or antipathy does He arouse, but in no case apathy. So much strife and blood the Gospel could never have caused, had not men been deeply persuaded on both sides that here there was to do with the Highest and Holiest.

5. The recognition of the signs of the times is one of the most sacred obligations which our Saviour imposes on all those who wish to be capable of passing an independent judgment on the concerns of His kingdom. However, the blindness of His contemporaries still shows itself continually under all manner of forms. Men who in the sphere of the natural life display a singular measure of sound understanding, are, and that in large Numbers, dulness and unreceptiveness itself, when it comes to the distinguishing of light and darkness, truth and illusion, from one another in the spiritual sphere. A sad proof of the power which the corruption of the sinful heart exercises upon the darkened understanding. See Romans 1:18; Ephesians 4:18.


The fire which Christ kindles on earth: 1. A fire which warms what is cold; 2. purifies what is impure; 3. consumes what is evil.—Suffering, a baptism.—For the Christian a threefold baptism necessary: 1. The water-baptism of sprinkling; 2. the spiritual baptism of renewal; 3. the fire-baptism of trial.—The intensity of anguish and love with which the Saviour foresees His approaching Passion.—The discord which Christ has brought upon earth: 1. A surprising phenomenon, if we look, a. at the King, Psalm 72, b. at the fundamental law of the kingdom of God, John 13:35; John 2. an explicable phenomenon if we direct our eye, a. to the severity of the Gospel, b. to the sinfulness of the human heart; 3. a momentous phenomenon, a. this strife is a proof of the high significance, b. and means for the establishment, the purification, and the victory of Christianity.—The proclamation of the conflict excited by His appearance a proof: 1. Of the infallible omniscience; 2. of the holy earnestness; 3. of the infinite love of our Lord.—Of all false peace the King of the kingdom of truth makes an end.—The fire kindled in the old earth no curse but a blessing.—Even our nearest earthly kindred we must, in case of need, deny for Christ’s sake.—The spiritual world also, like the kingdom of nature, has its signs.—The noticing of the signs of the times a duty: 1. Commended by heavenly Wisdom of Solomon 2. forgotten by sinful blindness.—The Saviour will have one judge independently what is true and good.—How our own interest urges us to the duty of placableness.—There comes a time in which the law is left to run its course, and every hope of grace is cut off.

Starke:—Canstein:—When the Gospel is preached in right earnest, it is as if a conflagration breaks out, which every one runs to quench, and thereby is faith proved.—Quesnel:—Jesus had ever His suffering before His eyes; His love to the cross shames the effeminacy and delicacy of Christians, who are so unwilling to suffer.—Three against two; so was it in Abraham’s house: Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac against Hagar and Ishmael.—There is hardly a house in which the evil are not mingled with the good and the good with the evil.—Brentius:—Between the kingdom of Christ and of Satan no peace exists, not even in eternity; let no one, therefore, give himself any fruitless trouble to bring it about.—Bibl. Wirt.:— Prayer of Manasseh, discern the time of grace, which to discern is indeed not difficult.—The proving of spiritual things is a duty even of the simple.—Cramer:—It is better to compose matters of controversy by friendly dealing and brotherly reconciliation, than by the sharp law and sentence of the Judges, 1 Corinthians 6:7—In hell there is no payment possible, therefore the plague of the same will have no end.

Heubner:—If all reforming and heating of people’s heads is wrong and illegal, then Christianity would be the most illegal of anything; but everything depends upon whether the revolutionizing and incendiarism comes from selfishness or from God.—Even he who is already resolved to duty feels, nevertheless, shrinking of heart till the conflict is fought out.—When tempests approach thee, strengthen thyself in Jesus.—What is great and noble requires severe conflict.—The false judging of Jesus is our own fault.—Ehrenberg:—Fire as the power: 1. Of separating; 2. of consuming; 3. of warming.—Tholuck:—“Of what fire does Christ speak here? Is it that which has just now been kindled in the Evangelical Church?” With reference to the separation of the Lutheran from the United Church (in the second volume of his Sermons, p412 seq.).—Schenkel:—The controversy which Christ has brought upon earth, how we have: 1. To wish for it; 2. to fear it; 3. to endure it.—T. Muller:—The destroying might of Christianity: 1. In the outer; 2. in the inner, world.


FN#15 - Luke 12:49.—Τί θέλω εἰ ἤδη ἀνήφθη; Van Oosterzee takes it thus: What do I wish? Would that it were already kindled! This gives essentially the same sense as the rendering proposed above, but, as Bleek and Meyer remark, it is a less natural turn of expression. The use of εἰ for ὅτε, when the object of the wish is less confidently expected, or known not to exist, is sufficiently well established. I will cite one example, adduced by Meyer from Sirach 23:14 : θελήσεις εί μὴ ἐγεννήθης.—C. C. S.]

FN#16 - Luke 12:50.—Norton translates this: “what a weight is on me till it be accomplished!”; which, though paraphrastic, appears to express the sense very exactly.—C. C. S.]

FN#17 - Luke 12:53.—According to the most probable reading, that of Lachmann and Tischendorf, διαμερισθήσονται, with B, D, [Cod. Sin,] T, U, cursives, Schid, Vulgate, Copt, Itala, and several fathers. The singular of the Recepta was spontaneously suggested by the immediately following substantives. Symmetry, however, requires the verb. [In allusion to Tischendorf’s and Lachmann’s joining διαμερισθήσονται with the previous clause.—C. C. S.]

FN#18 - Luke 12:54.—That Isaiah, the usual cloud brought by the prevailing west or northwest wind.—C. C. S.] The original τήν appears to have been inadvertently omitted in A, B, [Cod. Sin,] L, X, Δ., and cursives, on account of the preceding ἴδηTE. (Meyer.)


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Luke 12:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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