Bible Book List
Luke 12 - IVP New Testament Commentaries
Resources » Commentaries » Luke » Chapter 12 » exegesis

Discipleship: Trusting God

Since the way of Jesus is different from that of the leadership, understanding the nature of discipleship is crucial. This section treats such concerns. Disciples must fear God and stand up for him in the midst of persecution. They must avoid dependence on material things. They must trust God and realize that they are accountable to him. The essence of discipleship is fearing God and putting him first. To share God's priorities is the disciples' call. To learn from God means to follow him.Fear God and Confess Jesus (12:1-12)

The pressure of the Pharisees' example, along with the rise of persecution, prompts Jesus to warn his disciples about whose opinion they value. Peer pressure is a given in any culture. The power of those who seek conformity is very strong. Persecution methods can be strong, controlling and painful. The book of Acts tells of beatings, floggings and stonings. Economic pressure was also sometimes applied, along with social ostracism. The pressures to conform are still great. But Jesus issues a call in this passage to be strong and resist such pressure.

In the midst of growing crowds and official opposition Jesus issues a warning. The setting of his words is not insignificant. Even though people are practically crawling over one another to get to Jesus, the disciples should not be fooled by current popularity and should recall the level of opposition Jesus has faced. Popularity can breed a desire to remain popular and thus to soften the hard truth of our sinfulness before God. So Jesus warns, "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees." Leaven (NIV yeast) was a symbol of corruption (Ex 12:14-20; 1 Cor 5:6). The Pharisees' hypocrisy has just been discussed in 11:39-41. Jesus is saying that the desire to impress can lead to a double life. The way of the Pharisees is not the way for Jesus' disciples.

Hypocrisy will not work, because everything is revealed before God. The secrets of people's hearts will be revealed (Rom 2:15; 1 Cor 4:5). God's omniscience means that there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. This includes words said in the dark or whispered in private rooms. A private room (tameion) was the innermost apartment in a house. So even things said deep within one's home and mind are known to God. Even these things will be proclaimed from the housetops one day. What is done in the basement will be revealed on mountaintops. We may divide our activities into public and private, visible and unseen, but there is no such division with God's vision. The walls we build up to protect our psyche and rationalize our behavior cannot keep out the eyes of God.

Now we might debate whether the passage stresses the revealing of sin or the exposure of righteousness. The previous statements about hypocrisy make a negative force likely here, but the following call to fear God may also suggest that God's positive response is in view. The choice between the options may be a false one. God responds to all that we do, and his justice in the future will balance any injustice that exists today.

So given the pressure to do one thing in public and another in private, Jesus reminds the disciples that they should fear God. They should fear not those who kill the body but the One who has power to throw . . . into hell. Human beings' power over life is limited. The life that counts is the life to come. We should not fear rejection or even martyrdom. The Jews understood this as well: "Let us not fear him who thinks he kills; for a great struggle and peril of the soul awaits in eternal torment those who transgress the ordinance of God" (4 Maccabees 13:14-15). There is no prosperity theology here, nor is there any glossing over of the rejection disciples may face. Standing up for God will mean opposition; they had better be prepared.

But they can also be assured that God is aware of their situation no matter how bad it gets. Even five sparrows that sell for a few pennies do not escape God's attention. These sparrows were the cheapest thing sold in the ancient market, and an assarion (Greek form of a Latin loanword) was the lowest valued Roman coin, being worth one-sixteenth of a denarius or a half-hour's minimum wage. God cares for those insignificant birds, and he cares for the disciple. He knows the number of hairs on one's head, and he knows that people are more valuable than sparrows. So we need not fear even the direst of persecutions, because God knows what is taking place.

What it all comes down to is a choice of allegiance, an identification with Jesus. Those who acknowledge Jesus before human beings will receive due reward. The Son of Man, that is, Jesus, will acknowledge them before the angelic witnesses of heaven; they will stand accepted for eternity. A picture of this truth is Stephen's martyrdom in Acts 7:54-59. On the other hand, those who deny Jesus will face a similar denial before the angels.

Jesus raises the issue of blasphemy against the Spirit, a sin that cannot be forgiven in contrast to a word spoken against the Son of Man. This statement has led to considerable debate. Is the blasphemy attributing Jesus' work to the power of Satan (11:14-20)? Is it a reference to apostasy? Is it rejecting the apostles' preaching about Jesus, since that was Spirit-empowered preaching? Or is it not so much a single act as a persistent rejection of the Spirit's testimony about Jesus? This last option, the obstinate rejection of Jesus, is the most likely meaning. Not only does this remark fit all the Synoptic contexts in which this saying appears, but it fits with the importance Jesus places on the preached gospel message (Lk 24:44-47) and corresponds to the warnings the apostles issue at the end of their preaching (Acts 3:22-26; 13:38-41). To fear God means to choose Jesus. To reject him is to reject the Spirit who testifies constantly to him. Exposure to Jesus and church attendance are not the same thing as receiving the testimony of the Spirit and embracing the hope of the gospel. The Son of Man accepts only those who respond to the testimony of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14-15).

Jesus' remarks prepare anyone thinking about responding to him for a world that will pressure those who embrace Jesus. The world may persecute disciples, but Jesus will honor those who seek him.

The pressure to deny Jesus may be great, but so is God's provision as disciples stand up for him: "When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say." Jesus promises that the Spirit will come to their aid. Again, examples of fulfillment of this promise occur in Acts (4:13-22).

The disciple may face a hostile world, but loving God means standing up for him. Behind that backbone and resolve to face the opposition is an understanding that we must fear God and know that he sees both the disciple and the accuser. What is done in secret will be revealed in public before God one day. Then the disciple will stand though others fall.The Parable of the Rich Fool (12:13-21)

Now Jesus turns from issues of trust and conviction to discuss a major distraction to the spiritual life. The parable of the rich fool is unique to Luke. Rather than taking sides in a family dispute, Jesus warns about greed. Often disputes over inheritance are really about greed, symptoms of the disease of "possessionitis." Jesus attacks this disease directly in this parable, making a point Luke repeats often in his Gospel (4:4; 8:4-15; 9:24-25; 12:22-34; 16:19-31; 18:18-30). It appears that greed and the pursuit of possessions constitute one of the greatest obstacles to spiritual growth. This is especially true in modern culture, where possessions are readily available and their technological glitz is always being enhanced, as splashy advertisements for the latest gadget make clear.

Jesus will tell the parable in response to the arrival of a man who wishes to settle a dispute over an estate with his brother. Often rabbis served as mediators in such disputes, and so this man approaches Jesus as he would a leader of the Jewish community (on Jewish inheritance, Num 27:1-11; 36:5-9; Deut 21:15-17; m. Baba Batra 8:1--9:10). The details of the conflict are not clear. Often in the ancient world families kept their property together and shared its resources for business purposes, even though ownership was technically distinct. Did the brother want out of a family business so he could take his share and go out on his own? It should be noted that the brother really does not want an arbiter but an advocate on his behalf: "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." This may have been Jesus' clue that there was a danger of greed in the situation.

Jesus refuses to judge between the two. He has not been appointed their judge, but he cannot avoid the opportunity to turn the request into an opportunity for instruction: "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." When Jesus makes this warning, he has more in mind than monetary accumulation. If Jesus were alive today he would see the attitude behind the expression "The one with the most toys wins" as a prescription for failure in life. The ancients knew, as moderns also know, that life consists of more than the accumulation of wealth. Scripture repeatedly warns against greed and includes it in lists of moral vices (Mk 7:22; Rom 1:29; Eph 4:19; 5:3; Col 3:5; 1 Tim 6:10; 2 Pet 2:3, 14; in the Old Testament, Job 31:24-25; Ps 49). The ancient historian Plutarch said, "Greed never rests from the acquiring of more" (On Love of Wealth 1 [Mor. 523 E]; L. T. Johnson 1991:198).

When possessions are the goal, people become pawns. In fact, a reversal of the created order occurs, as those made in the living image of God come to serve dead nonimages. It is this inversion of the created order that makes greed such a notorious sin; it is even called idolatry in some texts (Eph 5:3; Col 3:5). When I think of this story and its lesson, I picture a Buddha with a dollar attached to its stomach. For some, the material world is god. Many of us end up serving our dollars or pounds and bowing before their demands rather than relating sensitively to people. In the process relationships can be damaged and marriages destroyed. False worship involves bowing before something that is not worthy of honor and that cannot deliver life's true meaning. The pursuit of wealth is the pursuit of false religion.

So Jesus tells an example parable, in which the example is negative. It involves the fortune of one man and how he handles that fortune. The man remains nameless, as is the normal pattern in such parables, because he represents a type of person. This farmer has a banner crop year. So great is the yield that he lacks storage space for it all. Rather than letting his resources waste away, he devises a plan to create more storage space. Now it is crucial to realize that the decisions the man makes to address his dilemma are perfectly normal and prudent, but the rationale, philosophy and desires that result from the decision are the problem.

This man believes that what he has is his in no uncertain terms. Several times in the next few verses he speaks in first-person terms about what he has: my crops . . . my barns . . . my grain . . . my goods . . . myself. There is no hint of an awareness of stewardship or responsibility to others as a result of his fortune. There is only self-interest. In his view he, like the famous American investment company, has made money the old-fashioned way--he has earned it! So after he stores his grain, he can relax into a totally self-indulgent life of ease: "Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." The language recalls the biblical and Jewish texts of hedonism, as well as Greek culture (Eccl 8:15; Is 22:13; Tobit 7:10; 1 Enoch 97:8-10; Euripides Alcestis 788-89). Almost every culture recognizes that using the creation for strictly selfish ends is a distortion.

As the man contemplates his future as one of the rich and famous, God has another account to render: the man is about to join the dead and departed. When God addresses the man as fool, he indicates the man's blindness in judging life's priorities. The man's soul is being weighed in the balance. On that scale the possessions the man has and the social resume he has built register no weight whatsoever. He cannot take these things with him to the bar of divine justice. Only his naked character will be on that balance. The man whose life is possessions makes himself a paperweight at the final judgment. The one who defines life in terms of possessions comes up empty when the time comes to assess whether eternal life will be gained. The parable ends on a note of tragedy: "Who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" One thing is for sure, his treasures will not be his anymore.

Jesus underscores this tragedy as he closes the parable with a final commentary: "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." Jesus' point is that the seeker of wealth ends up with an empty soul and an empty life. Possessions are like "lite" beer; they may taste great, but they are really less filling.

All this teaching suggests the importance of proper priorities regarding possessions. They are a stewardship, not to be hoarded selfishly but to be used to benefit those around us. Jesus is not saying possessions are bad, but that the selfish pursuit of them is pointless. When the creation is inverted, the value of possessions is distorted. Those who climb over people or ignore them in the pursuit of possessions will come up empty on the day God sorts out our lives. What a tragic misuse of the gift of resources this man had gained! What could have been an opportunity for generosity and blessing became a stumbling block to the soul.Do Not Be Anxious (12:22-34)

If we are not going to pursue material things, then how should we deal with our physical needs? Jesus' answer to this question is really fairly simple: "Trust God." Using creation as the example, Jesus points to the tender care of the heavenly Father and asks people to consider how gentle God is. If God can care for his other creatures, he can care for you.

This passage's basic exhortation is Do not worry. Given God's care, we can be generous with the things God provides. The contrast between Jesus' attitude here and that of the rich fool could not be greater. Jesus' concern is with food and clothing (v. 22), the basics of life, a perspective Paul also shares (1 Tim 6:7-10). Jesus' exhortation begins with a call not to worry (me merimnate). He uses a present imperative in Greek to indicate that a constant attitude is in view. Paul has a similar exhortation in Philippians 4:6-7.

Jesus explains his call away from worry by noting that life is more than food or clothing. The deepest dimension of life is relationship with God and with others. In 10:25-28 Jesus made it clear that real life has to do with relationship. Living is more than having; it is being in relationship with God and relating well to others. Placing concern for our daily needs in God's hands is part of what it means to have relationship with God (11:3-4).

Jesus now turns to support his exhortation with three illustrations from natural life: the birds (v. 24), the lilies (v. 27) and the grass (v. 28). Ravens refers to a wide variety of crows that inhabited Palestine. Interestingly, they were unclean creatures in Old Testament thinking (Lev 11:15; Deut 14:14; Job 39:13-14; Ps 147:9). They were among the least appreciated of birds, so the example is important because of the cultural perception of these creatures. Jesus has gone to the "bottom of the creature barrel" for this example. God cares for them by giving them food, and just think how much more valuable you are than birds! In other words, if he cares for them, he certainly will care for you.

Beyond the illustration from creation, there is a practical reason not to worry: it does no good. Does worrying "add a cubit" (Greek) to one's span of life? Now a cubit is about eighteen inches. There is debate whether Jesus is using the term to speak of ability to increase one's stature or the length of one's life. Neither option alters Jesus' point, though the more natural possibility is the idea of adding to the length of one's life (so NIV). Either way, worrying does not help! In fact, anxiety should have a surgeon general's or health minister's warning attached to it: "Warning: anxiety may be harmful to your health." Jesus does not issue such a medical warning, however, only a practical one.

If worrying is futile in adding even a small increment to your life span, why do you worry about the rest? Worry is wasted energy, an emotional investment that yields nothing. Worry actually reflects the tension we have when we feel that life is out of our control; it is the product of feeling isolated in the creation. Disciples, however, should know that God cares for them. Biblically, the opposite of worry is trust. That is why after offering some more illustrations Jesus addresses his audience as you of little faith in verse 28. He wants them to come to trust God again.

So Jesus turns to his second and third natural illustrations. Both the lilies and the grass manage to be clothed with beauty. Lilies are arrayed more beautifully than courtly garments in the golden age of Solomon. Grass is cared for, even though it is soon tossed into the oven for fuel. Grass is often a figure for what is transitory in creation (Job 8:12; Is 40:6-8). If God cares for these basic, short-lived plants, how much more will he clothe you. Just as the ravens illustrated God's care to feed, so the lilies and the grass picture God's ability to adorn. Food and clothing are basics God knows we need. With them we are adequately adorned.

So we should not be anxious. "Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it." Such an attitude may be hard in our culture, where unemployment and the future are often not very secure. But Jesus is calling on disciples to realize that the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. It is no accident that Jesus refers to God as the Father in this context, for our intimate relationship with God should encourage us that we will receive his care. Once again, security comes from our relationship to God.

Seek his kingdom: disciples' priorities differ from those of the world. Unlike those in the world who consume themselves with the pursuit of food and clothing, disciples are to focus on seeking God's kingdom. This means we pursue relationship with God, his will and the evidence of his rule and guidance in our lives as we seek to serve him. Matthew 6:33 has a longer form of this saying: to pursue God's kingdom is to pursue his righteousness.

Jesus offers a promise with the exhortation: God will provide these other things as well. We can major on what God desires for us because he is committed to our care.

As Jesus concludes his exhortation, he turns more directly to the application. Little flock, his address for the disciples, suggests imagery of tender, easily frightened sheep who need the care of a shepherd. Jesus is deliberate in comparing believers to these fragile creatures rather than to lions or bears. The Father is the shepherd (Ps 23), and he promises to give everything associated with the kingdom to his sheep. We may be fragile, but God promises to care for us and make us strong.

Jesus' statements here fit well in a context of persecution and rejection. Whatever risk comes from trusting Jesus, whatever ostracism and isolation, know that God will care for you. Kingdom blessing will be provided. This is not a promise of abundant material blessing but of sufficient provision to do what God really desires.

In fact, so certain can we be of this care that we can be generous with what God provides. Jesus encourages the disciples: "Sell your possessions and give to the poor" (Greek "give alms"). The stress here is on how unattached disciples should be to the world, since they serve the kingdom of God. The virtue is not in giving up one's possessions but in being generous with resources, as the mention of alms indicates (on alms see 11:41).

There are two kinds of treasure: that which grows old and rots and that which lasts. Trust in God frees us to treasure the relationships that are at the center of life. To serve for the sake of God is to live. Do we value others, so that we serve them in giving and through service? Or do we value self and things, so resources are hoarded? Jesus says, Look at your treasure and what you do with it. That will show where your heart is. Since the Father gives, so should the disciple. (Zacchaeus becomes an example of a commended giver in 19:1-10.)

Jesus is talking about our basic approach to life. Are we anxious and lacking trust in God, constantly trying to gain control of things that often are beyond our control? Or do we trust God to provide and concentrate on honoring relationships by pursuing righteousness and serving others with our resources? Two things tell us the answers to these questions: our heart and our pocketbook. Our heart can tell us if we are anxious, and our pocketbook can tell us if we are generous. Both tell us if we are trusting God.Be Faithful Stewards (12:35-48)

Perspective is crucial. Sometimes when we are going through particularly difficult situations, everything seems hopeless and pointless. Only after some time do we gain perspective so that events come into focus and the lessons become obvious. Perspective in life can work in two directions. Usually it is reflective, as we look back and consider what has happened in relation to subsequent events. But perspective can also be prospective. We can act now in light of what we hope will happen in the future. A couple who saves prudently now for their children's future education or for their own retirement lives prospectively. That kind of perspective is harder, because it requires faith and counts on events that have not yet occurred. It is very different from living strictly according to present needs and gratification.

Christians are supposed to live prospectively. Believers know that Jesus is returning and that all will give an account for their stewardship. So in this passage Jesus gives a series of three images to underline the importance of living prospectively. The parable of being prepared (vv. 35-36), the parable of waiting for the Son of Man (vv. 39-40) and the parable of the kinds of stewards (vv. 41-48) call us to reflect on our view of the future. The nature of the future helps to determine present priorities. Jesus wants to make sure disciples are prepared for what is to come. Faith means trusting God, not only for the present but also for the future, by walking faithfully with him until he returns. What God will do affects what we do.

Jesus launches right into the exhortation and parable: Let your loins be girded (Greek) and keep your lamps burning. These two images both suggest being prepared. So the NIV rightly renders the first as be dressed ready for service. Tying up one's garment around the waist is a picture of constant readiness to move quickly (Ex 12:10-11; 1 Kings 18:46; 2 Kings 4:29; 9:1; Is 59:17; Eph 6:14; 1 Pet 1:13). The perfect participle, acting as an imperative, makes the point: keep yourself ready. The image of lamps burning adds to the sense of watchfulness. Even in the dark hours of the night you must be ready. Watch at all times. A variation of the image is Matthew 25:1-13.

Now Jesus makes a comparison. Like servants who wait for their master to return from a wedding celebration, disciples should be ready for their Lord to appear anytime at the door. Wedding feasts could last for as long as a week, so the time of someone's return was not always predictable. Servants had to be ready to serve whenever the master broke loose from the party to return home. Disciples should live in the same expectation.

Jesus offers a beatitude for those who heed his advice (v. 37); NIV introduces it with it will be good. The NRSV more closely follows the Greek: "Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes." The beatitude has an interesting twist: when the master returns, he will serve the servants who are faithful. Jesus has always placed a high premium on service, and here he shows that he will honor faithfulness with service. It is not at all common for masters to serve slaves, but God's grace shows the extent of God's love. The chief steward leads the stewards in service. He will share the meal at the table of fellowship and serve the food. The imagery suggests the blessing of being totally accepted by Jesus.

But Jesus does not tell his disciples when the master will return. The allusion to the second or third watch gives a general time frame, though the exact time is uncertain because it is not clear if Luke intends a Jewish three-watch or a Roman four-watch schedule. Either way the time frame is "deep night," somewhere between midnight (Roman time) and 2:00 a.m. (Jewish time). Luke uses the Roman schedule elsewhere (Acts 12:4), but a Jewish setting might suggest the other possibility. Either way the point is clear: the disciples must be ready because the return may be at any moment, even deep in the night when one normally would not be prepared. Constant vigilance is expected.

Jesus extends the call to readiness by comparing his return to a thief's robbing a house at night. Just as a man would never leave his house exposed if he knew a robber was going to try to enter it, so the disciple should be ready for the Son of Man's return. For just as we do not know when a thief may come, so we must be ready at all times. The Son of Man will come at an unexpected hour. There is spiritual exposure in lack of preparedness. The thief image suggests that the risks of unpreparedness are great.

Peter catches the importance of Jesus' remarks and asks who the parable's audience is. He may be distinguishing between the crowds and the disciples, or he may be asking about distinctions between the disciples and the leadership. The answer is not as easy as it might at first appear. That leaders are included is obvious from the passage's stewardship imagery. The problem is that when Jesus returns to render judgment, all are subjected to it. But only some disciples are asked to care directly for the Lord's children. If the judgment is for all, then the ministers to the community are any who associate with the community. So it would appear that Jesus has in mind all disciples, not just the leaders and not all humanity.

If there is an evaluation of stewardship, then what is good and bad stewardship? What will the evaluation be like? Jesus begins by noting what a good steward is like. A steward in ancient culture was a slave who was left in charge of domestic affairs when the master was away (16:1; 1 Cor 4:4-5; Michel 1967:149-51). The steward's major responsibility was to care for the other servants' welfare, especially to allot food to them. Food might be handed out daily, weekly or monthly. A steward's job was to serve, not to exercise power. This may well be why Jesus uses the image (Manson 1957:118).

Jesus praises faithfulness with another beatitude much like that of verses 37-38. The good servant, the one who waits and is ready, is the one who serves faithfully during the master's absence. Often we think of waiting as an attitude, but Jesus sees it as translating into action. Life lived prospectively is marked by constant service to God. The Lord blesses those living faithfully as they await his return. The reward will be further, expanded responsibility. Then the steward will have responsibility not only over the house and its servants but over the whole estate. What this "promotion" represents is hard to specify. Certain texts suggest that Jesus will continue to administer the creation upon his return (19:17; 1 Cor 6:2-3; Rev 20:1-6). Administrative assistants will be needed to exercise this responsibility. The reward seems to involve the future period of Jesus' rule, at which time faithfulness will be honored with more service.

But other outcomes are possible. What if the steward's service is blatantly unfaithful? Jesus raises this other side of the coin next: But suppose the servant says to himself, "My master is taking a long time in coming," and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. In light of the subsequent verses, Jesus is discussing a stewardship that goes exactly opposite of what Jesus requested. Instead of the servants' being cared for, they are abused. Resources are wasted on the steward and not shared with others. How will the Lord evaluate those who don't care that the Master is returning and who live like it, abusing others along the way?

The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. For such a steward there is no reward, only severe judgment. The key to the passage is the dismemberment (dichotomeo) imagery and the idea of having a portion with the unfaithful. The Greek speaks of the "unfaithful," but contextually, given the judgment imagery, the NIV is correct to render this term unbelievers. The steward is not given a mere beating, but a mortal blow and a total separation. It represents a total rejection--a painful death as opposed to a punishment. This type of punishment is the most severe possible. The imagery of dismemberment is rendered too softly in many English translations (for example, "punish him" in RSV; see Betz 1964). This servant is rejected--as Matthew 24:51 says, placed among the hypocrites where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Such servants may also include those who destroy God's temple in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, who in turn are destroyed by God. These are the false teachers Acts 20:26-35 warns about and leaders like those condemned in 1 Timothy 3:3. In sum, they do not end up in heaven but are exposed for their unbelief and end up in hell with the rest of the totally unfaithful.

Jesus elaborates on other degrees of stewardly unfaithfulness--unfaithfulness that falls short of eliciting the total judgment Jesus has just described. In verse 47 it appears the servant exercises poor stewardship by not acting to do what his master wants. This is something less than a blatantly disobedient stewardship. This servant suffers a beating with many blows, as opposed to the dismemberment described in verse 46 for blatant disobedience. This is the discipline of a unfaithful steward, but one with some knowledge.

Second is the unfaithfulness of one who does not know. Here the servant is still culpable for his failure, but his punishment is a few blows, a discipline less severe than the previous two. Both the possibilities in verses 47-48 have conceptual parallels in Paul's remarks in 1 Corinthians 3:15--these are saved, but as through fire. The more one knows, the greater one's responsibility.

To be associated with Jesus is to have responsibility before him. Those who are sensitive to his return and their accountability to him will serve him faithfully. God will richly reward the faithful. Those who take this accountability less seriously will be sorted out according to their deeds. Those who never really responded to the Master and ignored his return by doing the opposite of what he asked for will seal their place among the unfaithful. Those who are knowingly negligent will be disciplined, while those who act in ignorance will be less severely disciplined.

The end of the passage helps to explain its start. We should live prospectively, sensitive to the accountability of discipleship. We should wear our work clothes and keep the lamps burning, looking for the Lord's return by serving him faithfully.

Next commentary:
Know the Time: Israel Turns Away but Blessing Still Comes

About this commentary:
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.