Aug 07, 2014
Jesus says in Luke 12:33, 34,
33 Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
“Treasure,” in this case refers to wealth that we have in storage. Today, of course, most people store money in a bank account, though others store food, gold, silver, or other items that may be useful in the future. It is clear that Jesus wanted us to get our priorities in order, seeing that real wealth is not what we store for a future time on earth but what we store in heaven’s bank account.
The question really is, “Where is your heart?”
Throughout Jesus’ discussion we cannot forget the context in which these teachings were given. Earlier in Luke 12 Jesus was alluding to the coming destruction of Jerusalem. He would return to this theme in the next chapter as well. When Jerusalem was destroyed nearly forty years later, men’s wealth would be useless in staving off disaster. Only those with true faith might survive.
In Luke 21 Jesus will speak more plainly about the coming destruction of Jerusalem. There He will warn His disciples to “let those who are in the midst of the city depart, and let not those who are in the country enter the city” (Luke 21:21). We know from history that the Christians in Jerusalem heard and obeyed these instructions, and so they were not killed or enslaved when the Roman army took the city in 70 A.D.
Faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17). Hence, all those who remained in Jerusalem during that siege were those who refused to hear. Those with faith left the city, for they heard and obeyed. The importance of faith in that day is clear, because it was the difference between life and death.
Jesus’ instructions in Luke 12 were designed to show the solution to the problem in His day and gave the solution for the difficult time ahead. The solution was to begin now to live a life of faith, walking by the Spirit, hearing and obeying His voice, and building up a treasure of faith on earth and treasure in heaven as well.
God never gives warning about a problem without also showing the corresponding solution. When history arrives at the “days of vengeance” (Luke 21:22), those who have faith to hear and obey God’s instructions are properly prepared, with or without earthly treasure.
Storing earthly treasure or provisions for the future are not wrong in themselves, for God instructed Joseph to store grain for seven years against the famine that would come later. In that case, storage was God’s solution, and Joseph acted by faith after hearing the word of the Lord. On the other hand, God apparently did not forewarn Jacob in the land of Canaan, because He intended for Jacob to buy grain from Joseph in order to reunite them. Jacob’s faith led him in a different direction from the faith of Joseph, but both obeyed God and both were rewarded accordingly.
In Luke 12, however, it seems that Jesus’ instructions in faith were designed to prepare the people for the destruction of Jerusalem. His words were written down, first by Matthew and then later by Luke. Matthew’s gospel was more important in this regard, since it was the one used in the Jerusalem church. Thus, Matthew’s account goes into great detail in regard to Jesus’ warnings of the city’s destruction. And when the time came, they escaped to Pella, as history shows.
We also find that the Bethany family sold their houses and gave the money to the apostles for the support of the church. They were exiled from Judea during the persecution. If they had not done so, their houses would have been confiscated or burned to the ground, and the wealth would have been wasted.
So also was treasure in those days. Usually, treasure was hidden or buried in the ground on one’s property. They did not have banks in those days. It was cumbersome and even dangerous to move treasure from one location to another. In case of emergency, such treasure probably would be lost. In that context, it was better to use it today than lose it tomorrow.
Today we live in a different world, but yet Jesus’ instructions are still valid. We still strive to live a life of faith without fear of the future. We live in a time parallel to that of the disciples in Judea, as we await the final destruction of Jerusalem, as prophesied in Jeremiah 19:11. More than that, we live at the end of an age and are watching for the overthrow of Mystery Babylon. We do not know what sort of disruptions might affect people around the world, but if our heart is in the right place, we will be learning the principles of faith and not place our faith in earthly “treasure.”
Earthly preparations probably will be of value only if one is led by the Spirit. But if such preparations are done out of a spirit of fear, they will be of little value when it really matters. Earthly goods are subject to thieves and moths. Money can be stolen by thieves or eaten up by the moth of “inflation” that devalues the currencies.
Dressed in Readiness
Jesus continues His instructions in Luke 12:35, 36, saying,
35 Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps alight. 36 And be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.
Jesus was alluding to the time AFTER the wedding feast. James Freeman writes, “The usual duration of a wedding feast was a week” (The New Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 58). We see this in Genesis 29:28 in the story of Jacob’s marriage and again in the story of Samson (Judges 14:12).
Normally, a wedding feast was held at the groom’s house, sponsored by his father. However, this was often reversed (as in the case of Samson) when there was some distance between the two households. According to John D. Davis in A Dictionary of the Bible, p. 477,
“A feast was served at the house of the groom or of his parents (Mat. xxii. 1-10; John ii. 1, 9); but if he lived at a great distance the feast was spread in the house of the bride’s parents (Mat. xxv. 1), either at their expense or the groom’s…”
It was also customary for the more wealthy parents of the groom to give special garments to the wedding guests. Davis tells us again on page 477,
“The very wealthy prolong the feast several days, furnishing garments for each guest, to be worn only during the time.”
At the end of the wedding feast, the groom claimed His bride. Assuming that the feast had taken place at the bride’s house, he then took his bride home, where his own household awaited them.
Jesus told many parables about the prophetic wedding feast. In Matthew 22:1-10 the feast was said to be held at the groom’s house. In Matthew 25:1-13, however, verse 10 pictures the groom coming to the bride’s house where the wedding feast had been prepared.
In Matthew 25, the problem was that the five foolish virgins were not prepared and had insufficient oil for their lamps. But in Matthew 22:12 the problem was that some had no wedding clothes, for none had been supplied by the groom’s father as was customary. In the first case the virgins needed light. In the second, the people needed an invitation from the groom’s father, who would then supply the invited guests with suitable garments.
There are lessons to be learned in all of these details, but they are briefly summarized in Luke 12:35, “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps alight.”
In either case, faith is the answer. First, there is justifying faith, which puts us on the invitation list for the wedding. Secondly, there is a life of faith, by which the Holy Spirit prepares us by the light of His word. Both are necessary to attend the wedding.
We can see how this corresponds to the story of Israel in the wilderness. The whole church in the wilderness was justified by faith when they came out of Egypt, having applied the blood of the Lamb to their doorposts and lintels (Exodus 12:7). But once they were in the wilderness, there were two kinds of people, church and overcomers, foolish and wise “virgins.”
The overcomers (Caleb and Joshua) lived the life of faith, for they heard God’s voice and obeyed. The rest, however, were not prepared, nor did they keep their lamps full of oil. These died in the wilderness, not having received the promises, and they did not inherit the Kingdom. Like the foolish virgins, they missed the wedding feast.
This does not mean that they will lose their salvation, but it does show a clear distinction between the church and the overcomers. As I showed in my book, The Purpose of Resurrection, there are two resurrections portrayed in Revelation 20. The first is for the overcomers only, while the second includes all others, both believers and unbelievers (John 5:28, 29). Luke also speaks of this later in his 12th chapter, as we will see.
So Luke 12:36 refers to the time when the groom returns to his house with his bride. This is not an allusion to the wedding itself. The wedding had already taken place at the bride’s house. Instead, the members of his household ought to be watchful for the time of his return from the wedding feast.
These are believers who did not know precisely when the groom would return. In verse 39 the theme changes from the bridegroom to the thief. The two illustrations are vastly different, but they have in common an unexpected or unknown arrival during the night. That is the lesson or warning that Jesus was presenting to the people.
Luke 12:37 says,
37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master shall find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. 38 Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
The seven-day wedding feast is prophesied in the seven days of the feast of Tabernacles. Here the sons of God, who were begotten (conceived) through the feast of Passover, will be brought to birth on the first day of Tabernacles. The wedding feast is the celebration of unity with Christ, who apparently will come in the midst of the feast (John 7:14). The presentation of the sons of God then occurs, by law, on the eighth day (Exodus 22:29, 30), after which time, the Bridegroom (both Head and Body united) will return to the church on earth, which is His household.
Keep in mind this is not about invitations to the wedding feast, but being ready after He returns from the wedding. At that time, Christ and His Bride, being “one body” and “one flesh,” will “wait on them” who have awaited His coming. These are the blessed slaves. Luke 12:39, 40 concludes,
39 And be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 40 You, too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.
The different wedding parables present different lessons. In Luke 12 the focus is on the garment of “readiness,” which is faith, or a life of faith. The lamps have to do with the light of the word, which will be lit at all times as we are led by the Spirit.
This is the sixty-seventh part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones