Connections 08.11.2019: From Indifference to Readiness

Luke 12:32-44

What does it mean to be indifferent to something? In the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, synonyms for “indifferent” are apathetic, complacent, disinterested, incurious, nonchalant, and unconcerned. Basically, being indifferent is not caring about something one way or the other.

What are you indifferent about? I’m indifferent to pretty much any sport, unless you count the magical game of Quidditch in the Harry Potter series. I’m indifferent to vehicles, unless you count the TARDIS in the show Doctor Who, the X-Wing Starfighter in the Star Wars universe, or the spaceship Serenity in the show Firefly. I’m indifferent to clothing styles, unless you count the themed T-shirts that feature my favorite series and shows.

What do I care about? Well, judging from my “indifferent” list, I obviously care deeply about science-fiction and fantasy!

Of course, I care about many other things as well, but as I read today’s Scripture, I began to ask myself, “How much do you really care about living in readiness for Jesus to return? How ready are you?” When I assess my life, I have to admit that thinking about Jesus’ second coming is not a high priority. Maybe this is due to my distaste over the obsession with end-times predictions that accompanied the Left Behind series in the 1990s and early 2000s. Maybe it’s because of how my loved one has lately devoted her life to fasting and praying and reading other people’s predictions—in obsessive, unhealthy ways—until the end comes. (You can read my blog post about her here.)

Regardless of the reason, I realize that while it’s important not to get obsessive about other people’s ideas concerning Jesus’ return, it’s also important not to be indifferent to his second coming. As Christians, we believe that Jesus will indeed come back to earth. We may not know all the details about how it will happen, and we certainly don’t know when it will happen, but we can trust it is true because Jesus assured us of it (see Jn 14:3).

Our lesson text from the Gospel of Luke contains words that Jesus spoke about his return. They are words of hope and promise, but they are also words of caution and care. “Be dressed for action,” be “alert,” “be ready,” Jesus says (see vv. 35, 37, 40).

If I am indifferent to the idea of Jesus coming back, how will that affect my daily life? I may start to live as if this life is all there is. I may view people I don’t know as loud and annoying instead of precious creations of God who need to hear about Jesus’ love. I may treat the earth as something I can use for my own benefit without ever giving anything back. I may develop a materialistic attitude about my possessions and even my loved ones.

Instead of being indifferent about Jesus’ return, I need to live in ways that make me ready for him to come again. I need to love others as I love myself. I need to spend time each day communing with God. I need to listen to people’s hopelessness and give them a reason to hope. I need to be ready.

Discussion

• What are you indifferent about?

• What do you care deeply about?

• Has anyone you know ever been sure of the date when Jesus will return or of exactly how he will come back? Where did this person get such information, and how did you respond?

• Why does it matter that Jesus is coming back one day?

• Why is it important that we live in ways that make us ready for Jesus to return? Practically, what does this kind of living entail?

Reference Shelf

In vv. 31-32a the disciples are told: “Instead, strive for his kingdom . . . . Do not be afraid little flock.” Verse 32b gives the reason: “for it your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

In 12:22-32 the disciples are enjoined not to be anxious about food and clothing, the necessities of life, because those who seek God’s kingdom will find God trustworthy to meet all such needs. Do not be anxious. Trust God. He will provide (Ps 23:1). Life is God’s gift, as are those things that sustain and protect life. For those who trust the power and the goodness of the giver of life, anxiety may abate, the grasping hand may relax, and greed may be replaced by generosity.

Hence the section on possessions is climaxed by 12:33-34, a specific injunction to almsgiving (11:41; 16:9; 18:22; 19:8; Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37; 9:36; 10:2, 4, 31; 20:35; 21:24?; 24:17). The Jewish practice of almsgiving is echoed in passages like Tobit 4:7-11 (“Give alms from your possessions to all who live uprightly,” v. 7) and Sirach 3:30 (“almsgiving atones for sin,” cf. 29:12). In the Lukan perspective those with possessions were expected to provide for the poor (v. 33—cf. Acts 2:44-45; 4:32; 4:34-37; 11:27-30): this was a sign that their treasure was in heaven and their hearts as well (vv. 33-34). The Lukan stance is echoed in 1 Timothy 6:17-19. In contrast, greed/covetousness is an indication that God’s kingdom is not one’s prime pursuit, and worry about food and drink an indication that one is unable to trust in God’s power and goodness (cf. Gen 3:1-6 where sin is identified with anxious distrust of God’s goodness and provision). Although Jesus believed no one could serve God and money, he called his disciples, in vv. 33-34, to serve God with money….

[Luke] 12:35-48,…like the previous section, falls into two parts (vv. 35-40, distinctive to Luke, and vv. 41-48 // Matt 24:45-51), the first addressed to all disciples, the second to the pastoral leadership of the community. In this section the evangelist turns to the matter of being prepared for the parousia. The sayings in this subsection have a post-Easter perspective. They envisage a situation in which the disciples are waiting their absent master’s return and in which some of the disciples occupy positions of leadership and pastoral responsibility (cf. Acts 20:17, 28-31). Within this framework the evangelist first addresses all disciples and then the pastoral leadership. (1) Verses 35-40 enjoin readiness on all Jesus’ disciples. Two parables make the point (vv. 35-38, 39). The first parable tells of servants who are ready for their master’s return from a wedding feast and who, upon his return, received an unheard of reward: the master serves the servants. What kind of servants receive the reward? Two striking images convey the meaning. “Dressed for action” (NRSV) refers to servants whose long robe was tied in place so as to enable work. “Lamps lit” (present imperative, so continually burning) refers to the same status of perpetual preparedness. The servants are ready! The second parable, the householder and the thief (v. 39), posits a perpetual wakefulness: though the householder could not stay awake all the time watching for the thief, this never-ending alertness is expected from Jesus’ disciples. Verse 40 gives Luke’s point: “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” The readiness that is enjoined is that which desires to be open to the Master at any moment (v. 36). All disciples are called to this ready openness.

(2) Verses 41-48 (// Matt 24:45-51) call for faithfulness on the part of those with leadership roles in the community of Jesus’ disciples. Peter’s question in v. 41 (only in Luke) provides the opportunity for warnings about the abuse of their positions by church leaders (cf. Acts 20:28-31; 1 Cor 3:10-15; 11:21; 1 Tim 4:12-16; 2 Pet 2:1-2, 13). Jesus’ parabolic saying is concerned with the situation of a servant who is placed in charge over other servants (vv. 42-43). If that one is doing a proper job when the master comes, that servant will be blessed (vv. 43-44). If, however, the servant is irresponsible in assigned duties, the servant will be punished by the master. A gradation of punishments is given: (a) for active tyranny, death ([the Greek word] in v. 46 means “to cut in two,” that is the dismemberment of a condemned person); (b) for deliberate neglect, a severe beating; and (c) for unintentional neglect, a light beating. This reflects Jewish thought about sins that were unconscious and less culpable than those that were deliberate (cf. Num 15:27-31; Deut 17:12; Ps 19:12-13; b. Baba Bathra 60b). Furthermore, those in positions of leadership, to whom much has been entrusted, will have more expected of them (v. 48b; cf. Jas 3:1). Leaders among Jesus’ disciples, even more than disciples generally, need to be prepared for the parousia-judgment (cf. 21:34-36; 1 Cor 4:1-5). Readiness for them means their faithfulness in doing the commission given them by their Master.

Charles H. Talbert, Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary (rev. ed., Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2002)158–60.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. She is also the office administrator for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her daughters, Samantha (14) and Natalie (12), and her husband John. Occasionally, she appears onstage in community theater productions and can sometimes be found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel movies and Doctor Who, and she’s still trying to write a young adult novel that her girls will enjoy.

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