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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Luke 12

 

 

Verse 1

Luke 12:1. When there were gathered together an innumerable multitude επισυναχθεισων των μυριαδων, literally, myriads (that is, tens of thousands, how many is not said) being gathered together. By this it appears, that though the scribes and Pharisees thought to accuse him, and bring him into disrepute, the people that were not under the influence of their prejudices and jealousies still admired him, attended on him, and did him honour. Nay, it seems the more these learned hypocrites strove to drive them from Christ, the more they flocked to him; which, doubtless, vexed them no little. It is not improbable, however, that this vast assemblage of people might be partly owing to an apprehension, either that Christ might meet with some ill usage among so many of his enemies, or that he would say or do something peculiarly remarkable on the occasion. Be this as it may, it is evident that the people could bear reproof better than the Pharisees; for though, in the morning, when they were gathered thick together, (Luke 11:29,) he had severely reproved them, as an evil generation that sought a sign, yet in the afternoon they renewed their attendance on him. It is pleasing to see people thus forward to hear the word of God, and venture upon inconvenience and danger, rather than miss an opportunity of being instructed in divine things. He began to say unto his disciples, Beware of the leaven, &c. — The caution given in this and the two following verses, and the subsequent exhortations contained in this paragraph, are to the same purpose with others that we have had in Matthew and Mark, upon other the like occasions. See on Matthew 16:6; Matthew 10:26-32; Mark 8:15. For it is reasonable to suppose, that our blessed Lord preached the same doctrines, and pressed the same duties, at several times; and that some of his evangelists have recorded them as he delivered them at one time, and others as he taught them at another. It is here said, that he addressed his disciples first of all; for they were his peculiar charge, his family, his school, and therefore he particularly warned them as his beloved sons. They made a greater profession of religion than others, and hypocrisy therein was the sin of which they were most in danger. And as they were to preach to others, if they should prevaricate, corrupt the word of God, and deal deceitfully with it, and with the souls of men, their hypocrisy would be more criminal than that of others. Christ’s disciples, Judas excepted, were, we have reason to believe, the best men in the world, and yet we see they needed to be cautioned against hypocrisy. What need, then, have we to be jealous of ourselves lest we should fall into this sin! Christ gave this caution to his disciples in the hearing of this great multitude of people, rather than privately, to add the greater weight to it, and to let the world know that he would not countenance any sin, and especially hypocrisy, even in those he loved best.


Verses 2-5

Luke 12:2-5. For there is nothing covered, &c. — All your actions shall be brought to light, either in this world or in the next. Wherefore take great care never to do any thing which cannot bear the light, but let the whole of your behaviour be fair, honest, and good. This argument against hypocrisy he proceeded to improve as a reason for their acquiring another quality, which would serve all the ends they could propose by their hypocrisy, and to much better purpose; an undaunted resolution in the performance of their duty, founded on faith in God, who now governs the world by a particular providence, and in the end will reward or punish every man according to his deeds. I say unto you, my friends — With all possible seriousness, and tender concern for your everlasting welfare; Be not afraid of them that kill the body — Let not the fear of man make you act the hypocrite, or conceal any thing which I have commissioned you to publish: and after that have no more that they can do — The immortal soul being entirely out of their reach. But I will forewarn you — Greek, υποδειξω υμιν, I will show you; whom you shall fear — Whose displeasure you shall be afraid to incur; fear him, which after he hath killed the body, hath power to cast into hell — Is able to torment the soul eternally, and whose displeasure, therefore, is infinitely to be dreaded. Yea, I say unto you, Fear him — And rather choose to venture on the greatest dangers, and to sacrifice your lives, than to do any thing which may offend his Divine Majesty. See on Matthew 10:28. It is remarkable that Christ gives this direction even to his peculiar friends: therefore the fearing of God, as having power to cast into hell, is to be pressed even upon true believers.


Verse 6-7

Luke 12:6-7. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings ασσαριων δυο, two pence, as Dr. Campbell translates it, or “three half-pence sterling;” and not one of them is forgotten before God — As if he had said, But trust in as well as fear him, for remember, he is an infinitely more kind, as well as more powerful friend than man, and all things are in his hand and keeping. His providence extends itself to the meanest of his works: he numbers the very hairs of your head, and therefore your enemies cannot hurt even your bodies without his knowledge and permission. Fear not therefore — For as men, and much more as my servants and friends, ye are of more value than many sparrows — And are more peculiarly under God’s care than they.


Verse 8-9

Luke 12:8-9. Also I say unto you — It will be necessary, however, in order that you may keep your minds unshaken, that you should often look forward unto the final judgment, at which I will own you as my servants, if, by your constant and cheerful obedience to my commands, you now acknowledge me as your Master. For whosoever shall confess me before men — Shall freely and openly acknowledge himself to be my disciple, and shall conduct himself as such, to whatever dangers and persecutions he may thereby expose himself; him shall the Son of man also confess — Shall declare to belong to him; before the angels of God — When they come to attend on his final triumph. But he that — To avoid reproach and suffering; denieth me before men — And is ashamed or afraid of maintaining so good a cause; shall be denied and disowned by me before the angels of God — When they appear in radiant forms around me, and wait in solemn silence the important event of that awful day. Nothing can be more majestic than the view which Christ here gives of himself, and of the issue of the final judgment. To be renounced by him is spoken of as a circumstance which will expose a man to the contempt of the whole angelic world, and leave him no remaining shelter or hope.


Verse 10

Luke 12:10. And whosoever, &c. — Nothing, therefore, can be more dangerous and fatal than to oppose my cause: and yet the denying me in some degree, may, upon true repentance, be forgiven: for whosoever shall speak a word — Expressive of unbelief and disregard, or even of opposition and enmity; against the Son of man — In this his present state of humiliation and suffering, he may possibly hereafter repent, and on his repentance his sins may be forgiven him. But unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost — If a man’s denying of me rise so high that he blasphemes and reviles the Holy Spirit, and ascribes the miracles wrought by him, in confirmation of the gospel, to the agency of Satan, this sin shall never be forgiven, neither is there place for repentance. And especially he that, after my resurrection and ascension, blasphemes the Holy Ghost, when that Divine Spirit shall have displayed his most glorious agency as my great advocate and witness; he who then opposes that last and most convincing and powerful method of God’s recovering grace, shall, as utterly incorrigible, be abandoned to final destruction. See on Matthew 12:31-32.


Verse 11-12

Luke 12:11-12. When they bring you unto the synagogues — Let me add, however others may be affected by this testimony of the Spirit, one happy effect of its operation shall be to furnish you, my apostles, for a proper and honourable discharge of your office in its most difficult parts: and therefore when, in the opposition you shall meet with from your persecutors, they shall bring you into the synagogues, to be tried in the judicial courts assembled there; And unto magistrates and powers — Before greater magistrates and supreme powers, whether Jewish or heathen; — Take ye no thought how ye shall answer — Be not solicitous about the matter or manner of your defence, nor how to express yourselves. Though they may have not only your liberty but your lives in their hands, yet be not anxious what apology you shall make for yourselves, or what you shall advance in defence of the gospel you preach. For the Holy Ghost shall teach you — For in these seasons of the greatest difficulty and extremity, the Spirit of God shall suggest to your minds the answers you ought to give to the most captious inquiries, and most invidious charges of your enemies. Proper thoughts and expressions shall flow in upon you as fast as you can utter them, so that with undaunted courage you shall be able to vindicate the honour of the gospel, and to confound the most artful or most potent of your adversaries. See on Matthew 10:19-20; Mark 13:11.


Verses 13-15

Luke 12:13-15. One said, Master, speak to my brother, &c. — While Jesus was discoursing, as above related, to his disciple, one of the crowd, that was then collected about Jesus, requested that he would speak to his brother, and persuade him to divide their paternal inheritance, and give him his share. But, because judging in civil matters was the province of the magistrates, and foreign to the end of our Lord’s coming, he refused to meddle in their quarrel. It is not said which of these brothers was in the wrong; only, because the disposition which they discovered afforded a fit opportunity for religious advice, our Lord embraced it, and cautioned his hearers in the most solemn manner against covetousness, declaring that neither the length nor the happiness of a man’s life depends upon the greatness of his possessions. He said, Take heed and beware — Greek, ορατε και φυλασσεσθε απο της πλεονεξιας, see to it, and be on your guard, against covetousness. The phrase is lively and full of force. Some old versions and good copies read, from all covetousness, in which extent, doubtless, our Lord intended his caution to be understood, whether he did or did not so particularly express it. “Properly speaking, covetousness is an immoderate love of money. Now of this passion there are two kinds: one which, in the pursuit of its purpose, does not scruple at fraud, falsehood, and oppression, and which is commonly accompanied with want of kindness and charity. This is the most odious and criminal species of covetousness. The other form of the vice consists in a high esteem of riches as the chief good, in seeking one’s happiness from the enjoyments which they procure, and in substituting them in the place of the providence and grace of God. This love of riches is, in Scripture, emphatically termed a trusting in them, and is a sort of covetousness that is abundantly compatible with a regard to justice, being often found in persons no way remarkable for the want of that virtue.” Thus Dr. Macknight; to which we may add, with Dr. Whitby, that the desire of having more than we really need, and that, not to supply the necessities of others, or to promote God’s glory, but that we may keep and treasure it up and enjoy it ourselves, is one species of covetousness; for these words are certainly produced as dissuasive from that sin, which they could not be, were not the desire of having more one species or symptom of it. And from the words following we learn, that to be more solicitous concerning temporal than spiritual things, and to be anxious about them, when we are not yet rich toward God, is another sign of covetousness. This may be concluded from the concern of this person for the dividing of his inheritance, rather than that our Lord should instruct him in the way of life, it being this which gave occasion to Christ’s admonition, to beware of covetousness; and it more clearly follows still from the example of the rich fool, mentioned in the following verses, who was so much concerned to hoard up his goods, but not at all concerned to be rich toward God; that is, to have his treasure with God in the heavens, and to esteem it his chief riches to be an heir of the kingdom of God, Luke 12:32, and to employ his property in a way that would be acceptable to God, and tend to his own future felicity; for this is a plain indication of a heart that values these temporal concernments more than God’s favour, or celestial riches, which, in St. Paul’s judgment, renders the covetous person guilty of idolatry. For a man’s life — That is, the comfort and happiness of it; consisteth not in the abundance that he possesseth — Nor can the continuance of his life, even for the shortest period of time, be secured by that abundance.


Verses 16-20

Luke 12:16-20. To illustrate his admonition, and give it the greater weight, our Lord here delivers an important parable. The ground of a rich man brought forth plentifully — This man, it appears, became rich, not by unjust gains, but by the produce of his own land, the most innocent method possible of making or increasing an estate. Nor did his covetousness consist in heaping up wealth without end, even by a method so innocent as that of agriculture: no; the extraordinary fruitfulness of one year’s crop contented him, for it was so great that he had no further care, but to contrive how to bestow his fruits. And the result of his deliberation was, to pull down his barns and build greater. Nor did his covetousness consist in hoarding up the fruits of that one bountiful year; for he laid them up with no other intention, but to take the full use of them in every sensual enjoyment which they could afford; saying to his soul, that is, to himself, with complacency and confidence, Thou hast much goods laid up for many future years, take thine ease — Cease from the fatigue of business, and even from the labour of thought. Enjoy thyself; eat and drink without any fear of exhausting thy stores, and be as merry as corn, and wine, and oil, shared with thy most jovial companions, can make thee. This man’s covetousness, therefore, consisted in the satisfaction which he took in his goods and fruits, in his putting a high value on the pleasures of luxury which they afforded, and in proposing to derive his happiness from them alone, without taking God and religion into his scheme at all. But God said unto him — God, who in this man’s scheme of happiness was overlooked, thought fit to show him the folly he was guilty of in contemning his Maker, on whom he depended for every thing, and by whose providence alone he lived to enjoy any blessing: God, with just displeasure, said to him, by the awful dispensation of his providence, amidst all his gayety of heart, and in the variety of his schemes and hopes, Thou fool — Who dost thus stupidly forget both the dignity and the mortality of thy nature, and thy continual dependance upon thy supreme Lord! Know, to thy terror, that this very night — While thou art talking of a long succession of pleasurable years; thy soul shall be required of thee — And hurried away to its own place; that soul, which thou just now saidst had much goods laid up for many years, and which thou badest take its ease and be merry. Greek, την ψυχην απαιτουσιν απο σου, They shall demand thy soul of thee; that is, “Either thy soul shall be required of thee by God that gave it, and whose deposite it is, as the Jews speak, or else it shall be required by evil angels, according to that other opinion of the Jews, that the souls of the just, when they die, are carried into the garden of Eden by the ministry of holy angels, and the souls of the wicked to the place appointed them, by evil spirits.” — Whitby. Then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided — Will they be thine any longer? When thou appearest at my bar to answer for thy actions, will they buy thee off from punishment? And when thou goest to thy own place, will they procure thee one moment’s respite from thy torment, or any comfort under it?


Verse 21

Luke 12:21. So — Such a fool, is he, in the divine account; that layeth up treasure for himself — Here on earth: and is not rich toward God — In acts of piety and charity, which would secure a fund of celestial treasures, lodged in his almighty hand, and therefore inviolably safe from such calamitous accidents as these. In other words, the covetous sensualist, who, in pursuing riches, has nothing but the gratification of his senses and appetites in view, no regard to the glory of God, who has commanded men to impart to others a portion of the good things which they enjoy, by almsgiving and other acts of beneficence; the man who thus lives only for himself, is as great a fool, and as far from real happiness, as the rich glutton in the parable, who proposes no other end to himself, from his riches, but eating, drinking, and making merry, little suspecting that he was but a few hours from death. Wherefore in this parable we have a perfect picture of the men whose affections are engrossed by the things of this present life. They forget that riches, honour, and power, are bestowed on them in trust. They do not consider that God has put these things into their hands for the good of others, and in order to their own improvement in religion and virtue, by the opportunities thus afforded them of exercising holy and benevolent dispositions. They rather look upon these advantages as mere instruments of self-indulgence and luxury, and use them accordingly. But at the very time when they are inwardly applauding themselves, in having such an abundance of the means of pleasure, and are laying schemes for futurity, as if they were never to die, and are thinking of nothing but happy days, God suddenly strips them of all their joys, overturns the treasures of the ant-hillock, which they had been idly busy in gathering together, and sends the foot of death to tread down, and spurn all abroad, the tottering piles which, like children in their play, they had foolishly, though laboriously, employed themselves in erecting.


Verses 22-31

Luke 12:22-31. And he said unto his disciples — Having delivered the preceding instructive and awakening parable, whereby he intended to caution the contending brothers and the multitude against covetousness, sensuality, and the love of pleasure, he now proceeds to address his disciples, and caution them against those anxious cares and earthly affections which are also very inimical to religious dispositions, and obstructive to all progress in the divine life. This part of his discourse he grounds on, and enforces by, the consideration of God’s superintending providence, and on the caution and parable which he had just delivered. As if he had said, Since a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things he possesseth; since plenty of goods and fruits is not capable of prolonging it one moment beyond the term fixed for it by God; ye, my disciples, more especially ought, for that reason, to take no thought, or rather, as μεριμνατε means, not be solicitous for the prolongation of your lives, by anxiously laying up a store of provisions and clothes, &c., as if these could preserve life; no, you should consider that the life is more than meat, &c. See the contents of these verses explained at large in the notes on Matthew 6:25-34. For Luke has here, as in other places, recapitulated several precepts given by our Lord to his followers, according to St. Matthew, at a very different time. Some commentators, indeed, have laboured to show that both evangelists refer to the same period, but certainly they have not been able to prove that point: and to attempt it was perfectly unnecessary, it being surely proper that our Lord should repeat to his hearers in Judea, who had hitherto not been favoured with his public ministry, the doctrines which he had before delivered to such as attended his discourses in Galilee. Neither be ye of a doubtful mind΄η μετεωριζεσθε. Be not (like meteors in the air, tossed about by every wind) of a fluctuating, unstable mind or judgment, agitated with a variety of restless, uneasy thoughts. Any speculations and musings in which the mind is suspended in an uneasy hesitation, might well be expressed by the word. The thing forbidden, says Theophylact, is περισπασμος και του λογου αστατος περιφορα, a distracting and unstable fluctuation of the mind, or reason, about provision for the body, which Christ would here remove from the children of God, assuring them that his wisdom knows what is needful for them, (Luke 12:30,) and that his fatherly care will certainly provide for them what is so.


Verses 32-34

Luke 12:32-34. Fear not, little flock — You, my dear property and charge, however feeble you may seem; fear not, I say, that you shall be left destitute of those common blessings of providence, for it is your Father’s good pleasure, &c. — ευδοκησεν, he takes delight, or joyfully acquiesces, in giving you the kingdom, even the kingdom of eternal glory; and can you possibly imagine, that while he intends to bestow that upon you, and even takes pleasure in the thought of making you so rich, great, and happy there, he will refuse you those earthly supplies, such as food and raiment, which he liberally imparts even to strangers and enemies? And since ye have such an inheritance, regard not your earthly possessions. Sell that ye have and give alms — That is, be ready, when God calls you, and the exigencies of Christ’s members require it, so to do; and be so far from the sordidness of the rich man, who would not give of his superfluities to the needy, as in these cases to relieve them out of the principal, or main stock; as knowing this heavenly kingdom is to be obtained, not by hoarding up treasures here on earth, but in consequence of an interest in Christ, and union with him through faith, by distributing them to his poor and destitute members. This was a precept peculiarly calculated for those times, in which the profession of the gospel exposed men to the loss of all their goods. And it is probable it was as a fruitful seed in the minds of some who heard it; and the liberal sale of estates, a few months after, by which so many poor Christians were supported, might be, in a great measure, the harvest which sprang up from it, under the cultivation of the blessed Spirit. Nothing is more probable, than that some of the many myriads now attending our Lord, (Luke 12:1,) might be in the number of the thousands then converted. See on Acts 2:41-47. Provide yourselves bags which wax not old — Nor wear out: an allusion this to the danger of losing money through a hole, worn in an old purse. Such is frequently the gain of this world, and so are its treasures hoarded up, and put into a bag with holes, Haggai 1:6. The rich men in Judea, so soon ravaged and destroyed by the Romans, particularly found it so. A treasure in the heavens — That region of security and immortality; that fadeth not — But remains for ever, and continually increases; where no thief approacheth — To plunder the riches of its inhabitants; neither moth corrupteth — Corrodes and spoils the robes of glory in which they appear. By bestowing your wealth in charity, you will send it before you into heaven, where it will lie secure from all accidents, and be a source of eternal joys to you. And where your treasure is, &c. — If your treasure be thus laid up in heaven, your heart will be there also; your thoughts and affections will naturally ascend thither, and consequently your dispositions and actions, your desires and hopes, will be all heavenly.


Verse 35-36

Luke 12:35-36. Let your loins, &c. — Our Lord, having recommended to his disciples disengagement of affection from the things of this world, and a due moderation as to their esteem for, and cares about, earthly possessions, proceeds now to exhort them to be in constant readiness for the proper discharge of their duty, for their final remove from earth, and for the awful solemnities of death, judgment, and eternity. That this is the purport of this paragraph, seems evident from every part of it. In the expression here, Let your loins be girded about, he alludes to the circumstance of the eastern people wearing long garments; in consequence of which it was necessary, when they had any thing to do which required them to exert their strength or agility, that they should tuck them up, and gird them close: a practice to which there are frequent references both in the Old and New Testaments. The entertainments in the East are also here alluded to, which were anciently made in the evening, so that night was commonly far spent before the guests were dismissed. On such occasions servants showed their faithfulness by watching, and keeping their lamps burning, that they might be ready to open the door to their master on the first knock; for to suffer them to be extinguished, as it would have been an inconvenient circumstance to the master, so it would also have been a demonstration of the servant’s idleness. The expressions, taken together, may intimate the care we should take to inform ourselves in our duty, and the resolution with which we should apply to the performance of it. And be ye like unto men — Unto good servants, attending to the work appointed them; that wait for their lord — That are continually prepared to receive him; when he will return from the wedding — That is, from a marriage-feast, or any other late entertainment; that they may open to him immediately — And not be surprised in any disorder. It does not appear that there is any particular mystery in the circumstance of a wedding, or marriage-feast, being here mentioned. Our Lord might probably instance in this entertainment, because marriage-feasts were generally the most splendid, and so prolonged to the latest hours.


Verse 37

Luke 12:37. Blessed are those servants, &c. — And blessed also will you be, if this shall be your case: verily, he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to meat — The master of such servants, pleased with their care, would perhaps order them a refreshment, after having watched and fasted so long; and if he were of a very humane disposition, might even bring it them himself, and give it them out of his own hand. It may not be improper to observe here, that it was usual for servants to sit at table, and for their masters to wait upon them, among the Romans in their Saturnalia, among the Cretans in their Hermæ, and among the Babylonians at their feast called Saccas: but whether our Lord here alludes to these, or any of these, it is difficult to judge. The words certainly are very intelligible without supposing any such reference. What our Lord chiefly meant by the similitude evidently was, to intimate to his disciples how acceptable their zeal in discharging the duties of their function would be to him, and how highly he would reward them for it.


Verses 38-40

Luke 12:38-40. And if he shall come in the second or third watch, &c. — This included all the time from nine in the evening to three in the morning; and was as if he had said, whether he come early or late. Here our Lord enforces “this constant watchfulness and habitual preparation for his coming, from the consideration of the uncertainty of the time of it; telling them, that as there is no master of a family but would make some preparation against a thief, if he knew of his coming, so it would be no great matter if they should make some preparation, on receiving certain information of his approach: for which reason, their zeal could only show itself by keeping them in constant readiness, as they did not know what hour he would come. Be ye therefore ready also, for the Son of man cometh, &c. — “The coming of the Son of man often signifies his providential interposition for the destruction of Jerusalem; but it cannot be taken in such a sense here, because our Lord speaks of an immediate reward to be bestowed on all faithful servants; and an immediate punishment to be executed on all that were unfaithful; and expressly declares this to be a matter of universal concern: all which particulars have very little sense or propriety, when applied to the destruction of Jerusalem. It must, therefore, be understood of his coming to remove them from the capacities of service here, to give up their account. And, if we suppose it to relate to death, as well as judgment, (which by a consequence at least it undoubtedly does,) it strongly intimates his having such a dominion over the invisible world, that every soul removed into it might be said to be fetched away by him.” — Doddridge.


Verses 41-44

Luke 12:41-44. Then Peter said, Lord, speakest thou this parable to us — Who are thy constant followers, to us who are ministers; or even to all — That come to be taught by thee, to all the hearers, and, in them, to all Christians? Peter, it appears, had been giving close attention to the whole of Christ’s discourse, and saw it to be very important; out was at a loss to know whether the latter part of it, namely, the parable of the watching servants, was spoken to the multitude in general, and therefore to all that should hereafter become Christ’s followers, or to the apostles in particular. He therefore begged his master to satisfy him as to that point. He knew indeed that the parable was addressed to all the disciples, but it contained instructions which Peter thought might be peculiarly designed for the twelve. And the Lord said, Who, &c. — Our Lord, in his answer to Peter’s inquiry, shows that, though his exhortations were directed to all, they more especially concerned those who were, or hereafter should be, intrusted with the care of the souls of others, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, &c. — The sense of the word is, “What do you think ought to be the character and conduct of a steward to whom his lord commits the care of his family in his absence, as I do the care of my church to you? Why, certainly, he should be both wise, to know in what manner to govern the family, and faithful in executing whatever his wisdom and prudence direct as fit to be done; for thus only all the members of the family under his care will have due provision made for them.” Blessed, μακαριος, happy, is that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing — To complete the character of such a steward, he must never remit his care and diligence, that so, at whatever time his Lord returns, he may find him employed in the prudent and faithful discharge of the duties of his office. If this be the case, such a servant shall be happy, not only in the consciousness of doing his duty well, but in the rewards and honours which his lord will bestow upon him. Here we see the unspeakable importance of a patient continuance in well-doing. The servant spoken of is supposed to be now wise, faithful, and happy; yet our Lord’s words imply that he might become the reverse of all this, and perish for ever. I say unto you, That he will make him ruler, &c. — He will commit the management of his whole estate to him; a trust which such a servant merits by the prudence, faithfulness, and diligence which he showed as steward of the household.


Verse 45-46

Luke 12:45-46. But and if that servant, &c. — On the other hand, consider attentively the character and punishment of a bad servant, that you may avoid both. If any steward, who has the care of his lord’s family committed to him, yielding to the evil of his own disposition, shall take occasion from his lord’s long absence to behave unfaithfully in his duty; and shall begin to beat the men-servants, &c. — Shall behave tyrannically toward his fellow-servants, and give himself up to gluttony and drunkenness, wasting their provisions in living riotously with his companions. The lord of that servant will come when he looketh not for him — Such a course of rioting will stupify that servant, so that he will not foresee his lord’s coming, nor know of it till he is in the house, and shall have exemplary punishment inflicted upon him, proportionable to the greatness of his offences: and will cut him in sunder, &c. — See on Matthew 24:51; and appoint him his portion — His everlasting portion; with the unbelievers — His wickedness having proceeded from his not believing the rewards and punishments of a future state, he shall have his portion in that state with such as were of those Sadducean principles. The Greek, μετα των απιστων, may be properly rendered, with the unfaithful: as faithful as he once was, Christ himself being judge, he becomes unfaithful, and has his eternal portion with the unfaithful. This circumstance, it must be observed, is added according to the meaning, rather than the form of the parable, and is explanatory of that meaning.


Verse 47-48

Luke 12:47-48. And that servant which knew his lord’s will, &c. — Lest the consideration of the strictness of the account, and the greatness of the punishment, described in the parable, might terrify men of honest dispositions, who are liable to err merely through weakness, Jesus showed them, that as offences differ greatly in their circumstances and aggravations, so shall they differ in their punishments also. To understand this part of our Lord’s discourse, we must suppose that the steward here spoken of had received full instruction from his lord, either before his departure, or afterward by letters, how he was to employ himself and the servants under his care. Wherefore, if he neglected his duty, he was more to blame than the inferior servants, who had no knowledge of their lord’s will but from the steward, who might conceal it from them, if he had a mind to serve any by-end of his own. In this respect, how fitly does the parable describe the aggravations of the sin of the ministers and teachers of religion, who have such singular advantages for knowing Christ’s will. In this light, it shows the justice of the more severe punishments here denounced as to be inflicted on them for such wilful neglects and miscarriages, as they are found to be guilty of in the discharge of their office. The expressions, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his lord’s will, deserve particular attention; for here the sense rises above that of the foregoing verse. It is as if our Lord had said, Think not that I merely intend to forbid such gross immoralities as drunkenness, riot, oppression, &c.; but be assured that sins of omission, where there have been fair opportunities of learning your duty, will expose you to the divine correction: shall be beaten with many stripes — Shall have the sorest punishment inflicted on him. Scourging was a usual punishment for negligent servants. But he that knew not, &c. — The opposition between this and the preceding verse is, between a servant who receives an express message from his master, which he contradicts, and another who, though he received no such express message, yet falls into such instances of misbehaviour as he cannot but know to be inconsistent with his duty and office in general; by which he exposes himself justly to some punishment, though, other things being equal, he is less criminal than the former. And did commit things worthy of stripes — Here our Lord’s words strongly intimate, that ignorance will not entirely excuse any who have neglected God’s service, since they might, in general, have known at least the main branches of their duty, as every servant may know, in the main, what kind of conduct his master will approve; though some may be much more fully instructed than others as to his particular pleasure. It may be further observed, that as rational creatures, it is as much our duty to cultivate our reason, and to inquire into, and know our duty, as it is to act agreeably to the knowledge we have. Unto whomsoever much is given, &c. — In the divine administration, the rule of judgment shall be observed which men themselves think just, and put in practice in their commerce one with another. The more advantages any one enjoys, the greater improvement will be expected of him, and the more severely will he be punished if he come short.


Verses 49-53

Luke 12:49-53. I am come to send fire on earth — Our Lord concludes his charge to his disciples with foretelling the divisions that should be occasioned by his gospel. See on Matthew 10:34. As if he had said, After all that I have done and spoken to promote peace and love, so opposite is my doctrine to the prejudices and the lusts of men, and such are the violent contentions that my gospel will occasion, through the wickedness of those among whom it is preached, that it will seem as though I came to kindle a fire on earth, that should produce destructive and wide-spreading desolation. And what will I, if it be already kindled

τι θελω, ει ηδη ανηφθη, which Dr. Campbell renders, What would I, but that it were kindled? which is, according to the Vulgate, quid volo, nisi ut accendatur? It is justly observed by Dr. Whitby, that ει, here rendered if, sometimes signifies that; as Acts 26:23, where ει παθητος χριστος, is properly rendered, that Christ should suffer and that he should rise; and it is also a particle, of wishing: so Numbers 22:29, ει ειχον μαχαιραν, I wish I had a sword; Isaiah 48:18, ει ηκουσας, O that thou hadst hearkened; Psalms 81:13, ει ο λαος μου ηκουσε, O that my people had hearkened, &c.; Luke 19:42, ει εγνως, O that thou hadst known! The sense, therefore, of this passage is, “I come to deliver to the world a doctrine which will incense the world against me and my followers, and subject us to great sufferings, signified in Scripture by fire, and will baptize me in my own blood; but yet I am so far from being moved from prosecuting my Father’s pleasure, by the prospect of them, that I wish the time of my suffering were at hand, and my gospel were preached to the world.” Of the baptism here spoken of, see on Matthew 20:23. And how am I straitened πως συνεχομαι, how am I pressed in spirit; (see Acts 18:5;) till it be accomplished. He longed for the time when he should suffer and die, having an eye to the glorious issue of his sufferings. The words allude to a woman in travail, that is pained to be delivered, and welcomes her pains, because they hasten the birth of the child, and wishes them sharp and strong, that the work may be cut short. Christ’s sufferings were the travail of his soul, which he cheerfully underwent, in hope that he should by them see his seed. Isaiah 53:10-11. So much was his heart set upon the redemption and salvation of man. Suppose ye that I am come to send peace on earth — By subduing all the nations of the world into one great monarchy, under the Jews, and establishing that temporal tranquillity and prosperity which you expect should attend the Messiah’s kingdom? I tell you nay, but rather division — For notwithstanding that my gospel is the gospel of peace, proclaiming peace between God and man, and enjoining all that embrace it to follow peace with all men; yet it will be so opposed and perverted, that, instead of peace and unity, discord, strife, and division will be frequently occasioned by it. For from henceforth — On account of the introduction of my religion, there shall be five in one house divided, &c. — Contentious heats and animosities will frequently arise in families; that part of the family which does not obey the gospel opposing and persecuting the part which obeys it. And this shall be the case even when those families consist of persons who stand in the nearest relations to each other; the father, for instance, differing with the son, and the son with the father. It may be proper to observe here; so many prophecies of the Old Testament speak of the peaceful state of the Messiah’s kingdom (see Psalms 72:7; Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 11:6-9; Isaiah 65:25) “that it is hard to say how Christ could completely answer the character of the Messiah if he should never establish peace, even universal peace, on earth. But the error of the Jews lay in supposing he was immediately to accomplish it; whereas the prophecies of the New Testament, especially those contained in the book of Revelation, show, and those of the Old Testament most plainly intimate, that this prosperous state of his kingdom was not only to be preceded by his own sufferings, but by a variety of persecutions, trials, and sufferings, which should in different degrees attend his followers, before the kingdoms of the earth became, by a general conversion, the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.” — Doddridge.


Verses 54-56

Luke 12:54-56. And he said to the people — Namely, to the unbelieving multitude, which on this occasion was gathered together, and stood around him: When ye see a cloud, &c. — As if he had said, The perverseness which I have spoken of, as about to take place when my gospel is more fully and universally preached, already shows itself in your overlooking so many proofs of the Messiah’s appearance among you, while you discover such sagacity in your observations with respect to other things. For when you see a cloud rise out of the west — Or coming from that quarter; ye say, There cometh a shower ομβρος, a heavy shower, and so it is: it happens as foretold. The Mediterranean sea lying west from Judea, the clouds and showers usually came from that quarter. See 1 Kings 18:44-45. And when ye see the south wind blow — From the deserts of Arabia, and other hot climates; ye say, There will be heat καυσων, sultry or scorching heat; and it cometh to pass — Your conjecture is verified. The wind which came from the southward of Judea, blowing over the hot sands of Arabia and Egypt, occasioned, as it still does, a great heat in the air. Those which are called the hot winds in that climate are so hot that they bring on fainting and difficulty of breathing. Ye hypocrites — Who pretend to ask for a further sign, as if you were really desirous to know whether I be or be not a divine teacher; ye can discern the face of the sky — So as to foretel the changes in the weather before they come; but how is it that ye do not discern this time — This season of the Messiah’s coming, distinguishable by so many surer signs. He meant both the time of the Messiah’s appearing on earth to accomplish the salvation of mankind, according to the ancient prophecies, and also the time of his coming to destroy the Jewish nation, which he had described under the similitude of one who comes secretly and unexpectedly to rob a house.


Verse 57

Luke 12:57. Why even of yourselves — Without any external sign; judge ye not what is right? — Why do ye not discern and acknowledge the intrinsic excellence of my doctrine, and gather from such obvious promises how you ought to receive it, and behave toward me? The prediction of the coming of the Son of man, to punish the Jews for their perfidy and rebellion, was a loud call to a national repentance. Wherefore, as the improvement of that prediction, he exhorted them to a speedy reformation, telling them that common sense, with a very small degree of reflection, would point it out to them as the very best thing they could do for averting the impending judgments of God.


Verse 58-59

Luke 12:58-59. When thou goest with thine adversary, &c. — The evils which befall obstinate sinners, he here illustrates by the punishment which, in ordinary cases, is inflicted upon the man who obstinately refuses to make compensation for the injuries he has done; but, even while his adversary is haling him to the judge, he will not agree the matter with him. He is therefore brought by force to the bar. The judge condemns him. The officer seizes him. He is cast into prison, and lies there till he has paid the very last mite. See on Matthew 5:25-26. Thus, as if Christ had said, If you persist to be regardless of the proposals of God’s mercy while the day of life and grace continues, nothing is to be expected from the tribunal of his justice but a severe sentence, which will end in everlasting confinement and punishment. Reader, may we learn from these warnings of our Lord to be so wise at all times as to discern the evidences, and comply with the purposes, of the gospel; otherwise our knowledge in natural things, should it extend not only to the most common, but to the most curious appearances on the face of the earth or the heavens, will turn to no other account but to shame and condemn us. And if we have any reasons to fear that through our impenitence, the blessed God is still an adversary to us, let us make it our first care, by an humble submission of soul to him, and obedient faith in Christ and his gospel, to seek that reconciliation with him which will prevent that strict scrutiny of his justice, and that sentence of his wrath, which would otherwise plunge us into endless ruin and misery; for when could we pretend to have paid the last farthing of this debt of ten thousand talents which we have been daily contracting, and which is charged to our account in the book of his remembrance?

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Luke 12:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/luke-12.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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