Our Lord Jesus is here inculcating some needful useful lessons upon his disciples, which he had before taught them, and had occasion afterwards to press upon them; for they need to have precept upon precept, and line upon line: “Therefore, because there are so many that are ruined by covetousness, and an inordinate affection to the wealth of this world, I say unto you, my disciples, take heed of it.” Thou, O man of God, flee these things, as well as thou, O man of the world, 1 Tim. 6:11.
I. He charges them not to afflict themselves with disquieting perplexing cares about the necessary supports of life: Take no thought for your life, Luke 12:22. In the foregoing parable he had given us warning against that branch of covetousness of which rich people are most in danger; and that is, a sensual complacency in the abundance of this world’s goods. Now his disciples might think they were in no danger of this, for they had no plenty or variety to glory in; and therefore he here warns them against another branch of covetousness, which they are most in temptation to that have but a little of this world, which was the case of the disciples at best and much more now that they had left all to follow Christ, and that was, an anxious solicitude about the necessary supports of life: “Take no thought for your life, either for the preservation of it, if it be in danger, or for the provision that is to be made for it, either of food or clothing, what ye shall eat or what ye shall put on.” This is the caution he had largely insisted upon, Matt. 6:25; and the arguments here used are much the same, designed for our encouragement to cast all our care upon God, which is the right way to ease ourselves of it. Consider then,
1. God, who has done the greater for us, may be depended upon to do the less. He has, without any care or forecast of our own, given us life and a body, and therefore we may cheerfully leave it to him to provide meat for the support of that life, and raiment for the defence of that body.
2. God, who provides for the inferior creatures, may be depended upon to provide for good Christians. “Trust God for meat, for he feeds the ravens (Luke 12:24); they neither sow nor reap, they take neither care nor pains beforehand to provide for themselves, and yet they are fed, and never perish for want. Now consider how much better ye are than the fowls, than the ravens. Trust God for clothing, for he clothes the lilies (Luke 12:27, 28); they make no preparation for their own clothing, they toil not, they spin not, the root in the ground is a naked thing, and without ornament, and yet, as the flower grows up, it appears wonderfully beautified. Now, if God has so clothed the flowers, which are fading perishing things, shall he not much more clothe you with such clothing as is fit for you, and with clothing suited to your nature, as theirs is?” When God fed Israel with manna in the wilderness, he also took care for their clothing; for though he did not furnish them with new clothes, yet (which came all to one) he provided that those they had should not wax old upon them, Deut. 8:4. Thus will he clothe his spiritual Israel; but then let them not be of little faith. Note, Our inordinate cares are owing to the weakness of our faith; for a powerful practical belief of the all-sufficiency of God, his covenant-relation to us as a Father, and especially his precious promises, relating both to this life and that to come, would be mighty, through God, to the pulling down of the strong holds of these disquieting perplexing imaginations.
3. Our cares are fruitless, vain, and insignificant, and therefore it is folly to indulge them. They will not gain us our wishes, and therefore ought not to hinder our repose (Luke 12:25): “Which of you by taking thought can add to his stature one cubit, or one inch, can add to his age one year or one hour? Now if ye be not able to do that which is least, if it be not in your power to alter your statures, why should you perplex yourselves about other things, which are as much out of your power, and about which it is necessary that we refer ourselves to the providence of God?” Note, As in our stature, so in our state, it is our wisdom to take it as it is, and make the best of it; for fretting and vexing, carping and caring, will not mend it.
4. An inordinate anxious pursuit of the things of this world, even necessary things, very ill becomes the disciples of Christ (Luke 12:29, 30): “Whatever others do, seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; do not you afflict yourselves with perplexing cares, nor weary yourselves with constant toils; do not hurry hither and thither with enquiries what you shall eat or drink, as David’s enemies, that wandered up and down for meat (Ps. 59:15), or as the eagle that seeks the prey afar off, Job 39:29. Let not the disciples of Christ thus seek their food, but ask it of God day by day; let them not be of doubtful mind; me meteorizesthe—Be not as meteors in the air, that are blown hither and thither with every wind; do not, like them, rise and fall, but maintain a consistency with yourselves; be even and steady, and have your hearts fixed; live not in careful suspense; let not your minds be continually perplexed between hope and fear, ever upon the rack.” Let not the children of God make themselves uneasy; for,
(1.) This is to make themselves like the children of this world: “All these things do the nations of the world seek after, Luke 12:30. They that take care for the body only, and not for the soul, for this world only, and not for the other, look no further than what they shall eat and drink; and, having no all-sufficient God to seek to and confide in, they burden themselves with anxious cares about those things. But it ill becomes you to do so. You, who are called out of the world, ought not to be thus conformed to the world, and to walk in the way of this people,” Isa. 8:11, 12. When inordinate cares prevail over us, we should think, “What am I, a Christian or a heathen? Baptized or not baptized? If a Christian, if baptized, shall I rank myself with Gentiles, and join with them in their pursuits?”
(2.) It is needless for them to disquiet themselves with care about the necessary supports of life; for they have a Father in heaven who does and will take care for them: “Your Father knows that you have need of these things, and considers it, and will supply your needs according to his riches in glory; for he is your Father, who made you subject to these necessities, and therefore will suit his compassions to them: your Father, who maintains you, educates you, and designs an inheritance for you, and therefore will take care that you want no good thing.”
(3.) They have better things to mind and pursue (Luke 12:31): “But rather seek ye the kingdom of God, and mind this, you, my disciples, who are to preach the kingdom of God; let your hearts be upon your work, and your great care how to do that well, and this will effectually divert your thoughts from inordinate care about things of the world. And let all that have souls to save seek the kingdom of God, in which only they can be safe. Seek admission into it, seek advancement in it; seek the kingdom of grace, to be subjects in that; the kingdom of glory, to be princes in that; and then all these things shall be added to you. Mind the affairs of your souls with diligence and care, and then trust God with all your other affairs.”
(4.) They have better things to expect and hope for: Fear not, little flock, Luke 12:32. For the banishing of inordinate cares, it is necessary that fears should be suppressed. When we frighten ourselves with an apprehension of evil to come, we put ourselves upon the stretch of care how to avoid it, when after all perhaps it is but the creature of our own imagination. Therefore fear not, little flock, but hope to the end; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. This comfortable word we had not in Matthew. Note, [1.] Christ’s flock in this world is a little flock; his sheep are but few and feeble. The church is a vineyard, a garden, a small spot, compared with the wilderness of this world; as Israel (1 Kgs. 20:27), who were like two little flocks of kids, when the Syrians filled the country. [2.] Though it be a little flock, quite over-numbered, and therefore in danger of being overpowered, by its enemies, yet it is the will of Christ that they should not be afraid: “Fear not, little flock, but see yourselves safe under the protection and conduct of the great and good Shepherd, and lie easy.” [3.] God has a kingdom in store for all that belong to Christ’s little flock, a crown of glory (1 Pet. 5:4), a throne of power (Rev. 3:21), unsearchable riches, far exceeding the peculiar treasures of kings and provinces. The sheep on the right hand are called to come and inherit the kingdom; it is theirs for ever; a kingdom for each. [4.] The kingdom is given according to the good pleasure of the Father; It is your Father’s good pleasure; it is given not of debt, but of grace, free grace, sovereign grace; even so, Father, because it seemed good unto thee. The kingdom is his; and may he not do what he will with his own? [5.] The believing hopes and prospects of the kingdom should silence and suppress the fears of Christ’s little flock in this world. “Fear no trouble; for, though it should come, it shall not come between you and the kingdom, that is sure, it is near.” (That is not an evil worth trembling at the thought of which cannot separate us from the love of God). “Fear not the want of any thing that is good for you; for, if it be your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom, you need not question but he will bear your charges thither.”
II. He charged them to make sure work for their souls, by laying up their treasure in heaven, Luke 12:33, 34. Those who have done this may be very easy as to all the events of time.
1. “Sit loose to this world, and to all your possessions in it: Sell that ye have, and give alms,” that is, “rather than want wherewith to relieve those that are truly necessitous, sell what you have that is superfluous, all that you can spare from the support of yourselves and families, and give it to the poor. Sell what you have, if you find it a hindrance from, or incumbrance in, the service of Christ. Do not think yourselves undone, if by being fined, imprisoned, or banished, for the testimony of Jesus, you be forced to sell your estates, thought they be the inheritance of your fathers. Do not sell to hoard up the money, or because you can make more of it by usury, but sell and give alms; what is given in alms, in a right manner, is put out to the best interest, upon the best security.”
2. “Set your hearts upon the other world, and your expectations from that world. Provide yourselves bags that wax not old, that wax not empty, not of gold, but of grace in the heart and good works in the life; these are the bags that will last.” Grace will go with us into another world, for it is woven in the soul; and our good works will follow us, for God is not unrighteous to forget them. These will be treasures in heaven, that will enrich us to eternity. (1.) It is treasure that will not be exhausted; we may spend upon it to eternity, and it will not be at all the less; there is no danger of seeing the bottom of it. (2.) It is treasure that we are in no danger of being robbed of, for no thief approaches near it; what is laid up in heaven is out of reach of enemies. (3.) It is treasure that will not spoil with keeping, any more than it will waste with spending; the moth does not corrupt it, as it does our garments which we now wear. Now by this it appears that we have laid up our treasure in heaven if our hearts be there while we are here (Luke 12:34), if we think much of heaven and keep our eye upon it, if we quicken ourselves with the hopes of it and keep ourselves in awe with the fear of falling short of it. But, if your hearts be set upon the earth and the things of it, it is to be feared that you have your treasure and portion in it, and are undone when you leave it.
III. He charges them to get ready, and to keep in a readiness for Christ’s coming, when all those who have laid up their treasure in heaven shall enter upon the enjoyment of it, Luke 12:35
1. Christ is our Master, and we are his servants, not only working servants, but waiting servants, servants that are to do him honour, in waiting on him, and attending his motions: If any man serve me, let him follow me. Follow the Lamb whithersoever he goes. But that is not all: they must do him honour in waiting for him, and expecting his return. We must be as men that wait for their Lord, that sit up late while he stays out late, to be ready to receive him.
2. Christ our Master, though now gone from us, will return again, return from the wedding, from solemnizing the nuptials abroad, to complete them at home. Christ’s servants are now in a state of expectation, looking for their Master’s glorious appearing, and doing every thing with an eye to that, and in order to that. He will come to take cognizance of his servants, and, that being a critical day, they shall either stay with him or be turned out of doors, according as they are found in that day.
3. The time of our Master’s return is uncertain; it will be in the night, it will be far in the night, when he has long deferred his coming, and when many have done looking for him; in the second watch, just before midnight, or in the third watch, next after midnight, Luke 12:38. His coming to us, at our death, is uncertain, and to many it will be a great surprise; for the Son of Man cometh at an hour that ye think not (Luke 12:40), without giving notice beforehand. This bespeaks not only the uncertainty of the time of his coming, but the prevailing security of the greatest part of men, who are unthinking, and altogether regardless of the notices given them, so that, whenever he comes, it is in an hour that they think not.
4. That which he expects and requires from his servants is that they be ready to open to him immediately, whenever he comes (Luke 12:36), that is, that they be in a frame fit to receive him, or rather to be received by him; that they be found as his servants, in the posture that becomes them, with their loins girded about, alluding to the servants that are ready to go whither their master sends them, and do what their master bids them, having their long garments tucked up (which otherwise would hang about them, and hinder them), and their lights burning, with which to light their master into the house, and up to his chamber.
5. Those servants will be happy who shall be found ready, and in a good frame, when their Lord shall come (Luke 12:37): Blessed are those servants who, after having waited long, continue in a waiting frame, until the hour that their Lord comes, and are then found awake and aware of his first approach, of his first knock; and again (Luke 12:38): Blessed are those servants, for then will be the time of their preferment. Here is such an instance of honour done them as is scarcely to be found among men: He will make them sit down to meat, and will serve them. For the bridegroom to wait upon his bride at table is not uncommon, but to wait upon his servants is not the manner of men; yet Jesus Christ was among his disciples as one that served, and did once, to show his condescension, gird himself, and serve them, when he washed their feet (John 13:4, 5); it signified the joy with which they shall be received into the other world by the Lord Jesus, who is gone before, to prepare for them, and has told them that his Father will honour them, John 12:26.
6. We are therefore kept at uncertainty concerning the precise time of his coming that we may be always ready; for it is no thanks to a man to be ready for an attack, if he know beforehand just the time when it will be made: The good man of the house, if he had known what hour the thief would have come, though he were ever so careless a man, would yet have watched, and have frightened away the thieves, Luke 12:39. But we do not know at what hour the alarm will be given us, and therefore are concerned to watch at all tines, and never to be off our guard. Or this may intimate the miserable case of those who are careless and unbelieving in this great matter. If the good man of the house had had notice of his danger of being robbed such a night, he would have sat up, and saved his house; but we have notice of the day of the Lord’s coming, as a thief in the night, to the confusion and ruin of all secure sinners, and yet do not thus watch. If men will take such care of their houses, O let us be thus wise for our souls: Be ye therefore ready also, as ready as the good man of the house would be if he knew what hour the thief would come.