Don't be Afraid
Luke 12 : 1-35
Today is the last of our Bible Studies for a while and we find ourselves in the middle of Luke’s Gospel, with a sense of increasing danger. Jesus is among a crowd, so big that people are trampling on each other. This isn’t some sort of orderly Church procession. It’s more like the Hillsborough tragedy or some type of Beatlemania. It’s getting dark and dangerous.
Jesus and the Pharisees are at each other’s throats. How are we to interpret this. Don’t forget that by the time Luke wrote his Gospel, the relationship between the early church and the Judaic community was already strained and was breaking down. We see some of that here, in the way that Jesus’ relationship with them is portrayed. The pharisaical movement had a lot going for it, they were on the side of the poor and the oppressed. However it has sometimes been portrayed as a scheming giant by early Christian literature. We need to be careful not to inadvertently spread anti-semitism in the name of Jesus.
There follows a section on who should we fear? Well, I think that a lot of people probably have the Satan in mind, but that’s not quite what Luke actually says here. Who has the authority to throw you into Hell? Presumably the same Son of Man who may disown those who disown him. In other words, it is God who we should fear, no-one else. However, God cares for us so much that all the hairs on our head are numbered. This is obviously not literal, it is designed to say that God loves us so much, this much, and God is the only one whom you should fear. QED Don’t be afraid!
V 13… And still people are looking out for themselves, why because they are afraid of being short changed or something. It is generally fear that drives selfishness, fear that drives violence, fear that drives racism etc. So a man calls out “tell my brother to divide his inheritance with me” Jesus replies in words such as “What’s it to do with me. Stop walking away from your responsibilities and trying to pass them onto someone else” If we think like that where is our focus, it is too focused on STUFF. When we fall into that trap we can spend our whole life focusing on obtaining STUFF, imagining even more dangerously that when we have got enough we can stop and do nothing. That is the time to beware, if we stop striving, then we die to ourselves.
Instead we need to stay alive, to keep growing, to stay alert keeping ourselves ready to listen and to learn. If we narrow our gaze too much, thinking about job, or house, family or food, then are we missing out on so much else. Life is more than that, and as Guardians of God’s creation we are called to embrace life not choose just a smidgin, and think that is enough. We need to keep ourselves open to being useful to God, like a tree that bears fruit. What happens when it stops doing that?
Where is our real interest and passion? Where is our ambition? It doesn’t have to be earth shattering – there’s another scriptural type ploy. It doesn’t have to be huge, it can be looking after someone, it can be loving pets or the garden. The point is that it is there that our treasure is. That treasure can be everlasting or could be decaying depending on our viewpoint. Scripture would probably describe that latter as putrid and worm eaten. You get the point!
When we focus on God, we shouldn’t turn away from the world. Creation is after all God’s own beloved handiwork. Rather we should seek God in and through all things, which will transform the mundane into the divine.
In Jesus’ name