Here are some thoughts I derived from spending time with Luke 12: 1-15. As you will see, I’m just pulling some general principles here, not applying them to specific situations around us. I think some of the applications are obvious, others need to be more tailored.
This passage starts with a very large crowd gathering. Itâ€™s an exciting time, and maybe even a somewhat dangerous time. So what does Jesus do? He pulls the 12 disciples apart for a warning. Under those circumstances, this warning would carry some special weight. Everybody is a bit â€œupâ€? for the occasion. So a pause for a warning here would be significant and would be remembered.
The warning? â€œBe on your guard against … hypocrisy.â€?
My paraphrase: â€œThe Pharisees usually get the bulk of peopleâ€™s attention in matters of God and religion. Now you guys are getting a great deal of that kind of attention. Be careful. We cannot imitate or fall into the trap of deceit and fraud that they fall into. Watch out; guard yourselves!â€?
Given that context, this selectionâ€™s five paragraphs became a series of five guidelines for how to stay morally and spiritually healthy even when you are attracting more attention than you are used to.
TITLE: Comfort and Straight Talk from Jesus on How To Stay On Track When You Are Attracting Attention
You have to be what you are, and your presentation of yourself in words must correspond to what you really are. Be on your guard about this.
How do you handle threats, explicit or implied? You remember who really can hurt you and who can only seem to hurt you. And you remember that to God â€œyou are worth moreâ€?! It reminds me of that strange remark of Socrates, AFTER he had been sentenced to death. â€œI know that no harm can befall a good man.â€? Sounds like he knew something, as Jesus obviously did, about what is ultimately dangerous and what only seems dangerous.
3. LOYALTY TO GOD
The only explanation for â€œblasphemy against the Holy Spiritâ€? that I find which fits what I know from the rest of Scripture goes something like this. Jesus is a concrete, physical, local manifestation of the good God. Itâ€™s possible for limited, finite humans like we are to see a concrete instance of Ultimate Goodness and misunderstand it. Even John the Baptist had his doubts. Many people today are attracted to or interested in God, but for one reason or another cannot stand going into the institutions that claim to represent Jesus in this world. So Jesus says, â€œeveryone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven.â€?
But there is a more profound choice facing every human. Will I pursue Goodness, or will I turn aside? And what IS Goodness, but the Holy Spirit? God is Spirit. God is Holy. God is Good – and God is not Good because God measures up! God is Good because that IS what God IS. If you choose in your life (and thus probably also in your words) to reject, discount, revile, walk away from Goodness, then you ARE blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. As long as you are doing that, there is no way for healing or forgiveness to come.
SO the lesson from this for when you are attracting attention: stay carefully and deep-in-your-heart loyal to that ultimate Goodness. Stay loyal to God. If youâ€™ve been learning from Jesus, then that will mean maintaining your loyalty to Jesus and His word to you.
Fearlessness (above) has to do with how you handle threats. Confidence is a part of that, of course, and threat is implied in this situation, but confidence is also an issue. It focuses more on the responsibilities and opportunities that present themselves than on the threats involved.
How do you handle the increased responsibility or opportunity that comes with increased attention? Keep trusting God. Keep practicing the other 4 of these guidelines. Donâ€™t freak out and imagine that you can – or need to – control every aspect of whatâ€™s coming down. You can’t.
I am very sure Jesus is NOT promoting disconnection, irresponsibility, or refusal to think ahead. That would contradict how he lived and much of the rest of his teaching. Heâ€™s counseling calm and confidence in the care of God for you in this new situation. Which, by the way, frees the inner channels for the Spirit to guide us much more effectively than would otherwise be the case. As â€œthe wrath of man does not achieve the righteousness of Godâ€?, so also â€œthe freaking-out of men does not achieve the righteousness of God.â€?
Jesus makes a very strong statement – as he does a number of times in his career – that money is not the ultimate value, and greed is NOT a virtue. Be on your guard against that just as much as against hypocrisy.