By Jason Hood with assistance from Generous Giving staff
Luke’s gospel reveals Jesus as King and Savior, the One who brings the kingdom of God to earth. Much of the teaching in this gospel describes the implications of the kingdom of God for Christian discipleship, including the implications for the pocketbooks and possessions of believers. In fact, Luke has more to say about stewardship and generosity than any other New Testament writer.
Our study of Luke consists of two parts. In the first section, readers will find our stewardship study notes. These notes analyze, in a passage-by-passage fashion, the implications of the book’s teaching for Christian generosity and related issues. The second section consists of short essays describing the book’s major stewardship themes. These notes and essays are not intended to be comprehensive explanations of Luke’s goals in writing this book, nor do they exhaust the book’s possible applications in matters related to stewardship and generosity.
While Generous Giving’s Bible study material will aid anyone who is searching the Scriptures for guidance, they may prove especially useful as sermon helps for pastors and as a resource for teachers, advisors and lay leaders interested in obeying and teaching the message of Scripture in matters of generosity and stewardship. We readily acknowledge our fallibility in writing these study notes, for they are the work of humans, not God. Please search the Scriptures (Acts 17:11) as you read this material critically, carefully and prayerfully. May God bless you in your studies.
Passage-by-Passage Study Notes
Luke 1:6-7 — Despite the righteousness of Zechariah and Elizabeth, God had not (yet) blessed them with children, and their lives had been full of that pain (see Luke 1:24-25). We must exercise patience and hope in the face of disappointment, knowing that while God cares for us and our needs, our desires may not be his desires. God’s care for those in need (and care for those in need by God’s people) is on display throughout Luke-Acts.
Luke 1:11-14 — God frequently chooses to bless barren couples in Scripture (Abraham and Sarah, Rachel and Jacob, Samson’s parents, Elkanah and Hannah). Such blessing often comes after great amounts of time and great amounts of prayer: God moves to answer his people and bring his purposes to fruition. God’s gifts are often delayed, and we must exercise patience as we wait for them. See Luke theme essay Prayer.
Luke 1:14-17 — The angel makes it clear that God’s plan for John’s life is not simply to bless Zechariah and Elizabeth. Rather, John is part of the fulfillment of the hopes of Israel. His ministry in this regard is to “turn many…to the Lord their God…to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” A significant part of John’s preparatory preaching focuses on justice and righteousness with money and possessions; see Luke 3:7-14. No Christian minister in the service of the Kingdom can afford to avoid addressing such issues (Galatians 2:10, 1 Timothy 6:17-19). See Luke theme essay Joy and Praise.
Luke 1:15 — Wine is prohibited because of John’s mission, as an act of consecration to the Lord. See also Proverbs 31:4-5, where avoidance of alcohol is also recommended in a vocation-specific setting. Such passages remind us that although something is permissible, its use may not always constitute wise stewardship. See Luke theme essay Possessions.
Luke 1:32-33 — The political, nationalistic hopes of Israel will culminate in Jesus, the Messianic King, the Son of David. Luke leaves the question open as to how such hopes will be fulfilled, and he later points us away from nationalism and toward a new, universal vision of God’s reign over all nations through a Jewish King (in keeping with the promises of the Old Testament; e.g., Psalm 2 and 47). The righteousness of the king in caring for the afflicted and needy is especially important throughout the Old Testament and Luke’s gospel; see especially Luke 4:18-19 and Isaiah 61:1-3. See Luke theme essay Salvation's Claim on Our Finances.
Luke 1:38, 45 — Mary characterizes herself as “the Lord’s slave,” indicating that she is giving the Lord the whole of her life. Even though her calling will put her in jeopardy socially, she accepts it in faith that God will do through her what he has promised. Whatever difficulties she encounters because of this calling will be justified (see Luke 2:35). Likewise, we steward our calling to suffer for Christ’s sake so that we may play our part in the story of salvation by bearing Jesus to the world, for the salvation of the world. See Luke theme essay Salvation's Claim on Our Finances.
Luke 1:46-55 (Key Passage) — Mary’s Song: Mary speaks out of her life experience (in Israel, in need of a Messiah; as a lowly peasant girl, poor and oppressed by the wealthy and the powerful). She speaks as a Jew, longing for the salvation and healing of Israel, and expecting it now with the birth of her son. God is doing nothing less than what he has promised from the beginning (Luke 1:55). Mary knows that even in her “humble estate” she is better off than the richest ruler in the world (compare verses 48 and 52), because she will receive and participate in God’s redemptive, restorative reign. Material poverty with knowledge is superior to wealth without understanding. This song is a reminder to the poor and the powerless that God knows their situation, and a reminder to the rich to be mindful of God’s concern for the poor and judgment on their oppressors. We must mirror the character of our heavenly Father. See Luke theme essays Salvation's Claim on Our Finances, Joy and Praise, and The Poor: Our Responsibility.
Luke 1:48, 51-53 — These verses form a “matrix” for us to view the religious and political elites throughout Luke’s gospel; although there are exceptions, many of these powerful leaders, such as Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas and some of the priests and Pharisees, are generally regarded as wicked and corrupt, abusing their power for their own prosperity and safety and rejecting Jesus and God’s agenda for Israel and for their lives. Although God accepts people from all walks of life, he frequently stoops to the lowliest of souls: the poor, the sick, the oppressed, the hurting, the disenfranchised, the despised and rejected (see especially the Beatitudes, Luke 6:20-26; also 7:22; 16:19-31, among others). See Luke theme essays The Poor: Our Responsibility and God’s Special Concern for Outcasts
Luke 2:8-20 — “Shepherds appear on nearly every list of despised professions in the rabbinic literature. ... They were held in contempt because of their vulgarity and ignorance and especially because of their lack of moral character” (W. Pilgrim, The Poor: Who Are They?, 80). Their appearance here continues the theme of the extension of God’s gracious kingdom to the poor and despised in Luke. Even those in the most despised professions may constitute “all the people” (Luke 2:10) who will hear and receive and spread the Good News. God is not content to use only the best and brightest; he uses the poorest and the least valued members of society as well. See Luke theme essays The Poor: Our Responsibility, Joy and Praise, and God’s Special Concern for Outcasts
Luke 2:24 — Luke continues to draw attention to the poverty of Jesus, by noting that the sacrifice made by his parents after his birth was not the normal sacrifice of a lamb, but that of two small birds. Leviticus 12:8 states that this exception was for the poor, who could not afford a lamb. See the comments on Luke 2:7; 1:48; and read 2 Corinthians 8:9-14. See Luke theme essay The Poor: Our Responsibility.
Luke 2:25, 36-38 — Simeon and Anna are some of the earliest stewards of the mysteries of God’s redemption in Jesus (Colossians 1:25, Ephesians 3:1-3). Stewardship goes beyond economics, and it is first and foremost rooted in our stewardship of the good news about God’s kingdom. Christian economic stewardship is really only one part of our stewardship of the message of Jesus’ redemptive reign. In Anna’s case, this message was truly all she had; yet she stewarded it well, telling “all who were waiting.” See Luke theme essays Salvation's Claim on Our Finances, Joy and Praise, and The Poor: Our Responsibility.
Luke 2:46-49 — Jesus stewards the opportunity to learn and grow in the Scriptures and in wisdom (Luke 2:40, 52). He signals the importance of his “Father’s business” (NKJV) by intimating that this is where he belongs (though he ultimately returns home in submission, Luke 2:51). A boy’s 12th year was typically spent as an apprentice in his father’s business, stewarding the family skills; Jesus’ answer suggests that there is far more for him to steward than carpentry.
Luke 3:3-14 — John the Baptist preaches repentance and tells those coming out for baptism that they must “bear fruits in keeping with repentance,” for judgment will fall on those who bear no fruit (see note on Matthew 25:31-46). John follows Old Testament prophets, such as Malachi (who prophesied about John’s appearance in Malachi 4:5; compare Matthew 17:10-13), and foreshadows Jesus’ and the apostles, in his insistence that repentance must have an impact on one’s wallet, not just one’s words, particularly given the needs of the poor and the oppressed. Repentance is not simply “feeling sorry for your sins” or even saying that you are sorry for your sins. Repentance is turning and changing your direction, handing in your old, bankrupt agenda for a new one; giving up the path that got you lost and taking the new path that leads to obedience and glory. We learn from John’s answer to the crowds' question, “What should we do?” that the things we do with our money, possessions and vocations form a powerful “compass” for verifying whether we’ve really repented (turned around). We can compare James 2:14-24; Matthew 25:31-46 and 1 John 3:16-19 with John’s insistence on the necessity of fruit prompts the crowds to ask how they might illustrate their repentance and their commitment to the coming kingdom of God. Just like John, James, and Jesus in Matthew, John responds by commanding them to be generous with the needy; he also calls them to economic righteousness in their vocations. Interestingly, John does not tell them to give up their secular or government jobs. He tells them to continue their work, but with a commitment to righteousness and justice. Stewardship and a proper approach to money, possessions and vocation are inseparable parts of kingdom life. What would John (and Jesus) have us do for the many poor and destitute in today’s world (Luke 12:33; 16:19-31)? Can we claim that we are Christians if such concerns are not at the top of our agendas (James 2:14-23; 1 John 3:16-18)? See Luke theme essays Possessions, The Poor: Our Responsibility and God’s Special Concern for Outcasts.
Luke 3:18 — For Luke, the message of the “gospel” (Good News preached) is inseparable from instruction about the need to bear fruit illustrating that repentance. Judgment for those who do not show the fruit of repentance (Luke 3:9, 17) is the “dark side” of the good news. The absence of stewardship and sharing as well as other economic injustices (the reverse of Luke 3:10-14; see Luke 16:19-31; Revelation 19 and Matthew 25:31-46) will indicate our fitness for the fire of judgment. God is concerned with revival and generosity, because the one is a true indicator of the other.
Luke 3:19 — Herod the tetrarch was famous for many acts of wickedness, including jealousy, greed and overindulgence. John the Baptist criticized him for taking his brother’s wife (Herodias) to be his own wife, an overt and public act of covetousness and overindulgence. The true leaders of God’s people, however, were called to demonstrate righteousness and justice and were to resist overindulgence in possessions, pleasure, and power (Deuteronomy 17:14-20).
Luke 3:23-38 — God keeps his promises. Unlike Matthew, who begins with Abraham, Luke begins his genealogy with Adam. He suggests that the gift of the Messiah is providentially designed to impact all of humanity, not merely the Jewish nation. Where Adam, Eve and all of their offspring had failed, the True Human, Jesus, would succeed: In Luke 4 and 22, Jesus himself will be tempted to ignore God’s will for his own comfort and success, yet he will choose the poverty and self-sacrifice of the cross, giving himself generously for people who don’t deserve it. See Luke theme essay Salvation's Claim on Our Finances.
—the pursuit of the Kingdom of God and God’s will for our lives. See Luke theme essay Possessions.
Luke 4:5-8 — Jesus is again tempted to take a pragmatic (and sinful) approach to success. But for Jesus and his followers, there is no victory without a cross. Jesus and all who wish to follow him must lay down their lives for the sake of the kingdom, regardless of the benefit(s) which temporarily come from worshiping something other than God. Christians cannot choose the “easy life” as opposed to a life of struggle and self-sacrifice (Matthew 10:38-39, 2 Timothy 3:12). We must carefully watch our motives and our actions and resist the temptation to run after and “worship” money, power, glory, success and influence. God has provided far more than these things for us; we must serve (Luke 4:8) and wait for the inheritance he provides. Christians throughout the centuries have been tempted to give up their allegiance to the Lord for various kinds of gain, or in order to avoid torture or imprisonment or family abuse. Pragmatism would suggest that avoiding imprisonment or economic impoverishment might result in the expansion of the Kingdom, but God does not ask for success as the world defines success; God demands fidelity. See Luke theme essay Possessions.
Luke 4:16-21 (Key Passage) — Jesus’ Mission: Jesus is the consummate example of stewarding that which God has given to him, namely, his Spirit-led mission to God’s people to illustrate God’s concern for the poor, the oppressed and the sick (these are both material and spiritual descriptions, Luke 5:31-32). This comprehensive mission is now passed onto his followers (Galatians 2:7-10; Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37). The mission to the materially needy and the spiritually needy are integrally related and cannot be separated; one without the other is worthless (James 2:14-24; Matthew 25:31-46; 1 John 3:16-18). See Luke theme essays Salvation's Claim on Our Finances, God’s Special Concern for Outcasts, and The Poor: Our Responsibility.
Luke 4:39 — Note the response of Simon’s mother to her healing: She immediately returns to the service of those around her. Our response to God’s liberating work in our lives should be the same—we are not “freed” to live in whatever way we wish; rather, God restores us to be who we were made to be, servants of God and his people, giving as God has given to us. See Luke theme essay Salvation's Claim on Our Finances.
Luke 5:11 — Following Jesus does not always mean abandoning one’s vocation (see the note on Luke 3:10-14). However, if this is required, then the disciples’ response must be imitated: “They left everything and followed him,” even the fish they miraculously caught. Even if God does not require us to abandon our jobs, we must leave the world’s way of looking at our lives, possessions, money, relationships and jobs and follow Jesus, taking on his view of all these things.
Luke 5:13 — See note on Luke 5:30-32.
Luke 5:16 — Despite the success of his ministry, Jesus never abandoned his source: his relationship with his Father. This is the key to any ministry, including stewardship. If we lose sight of our need for God, we begin to rely on ourselves and our own strength—even our own giving and generosity. We must continually take our efforts for biblical stewardship and other forms of ministry before the Lord in prayer, relying on his strength and acknowledging that he is the ultimate source of anything good we accomplish. See Luke theme essay Prayer.
Luke 5:27-28 — Levi leaves his business for Jesus’ sake, although such action is not always required, even of tax collectors (see the notes on Luke 3:10-14). Nonetheless, whatever Jesus requires, we must surrender. See Luke theme essay Possessions.
Luke 5:29 — Upon becoming a disciple, Levi immediately puts his “wealth” (money, social connections) to work for the sake of the kingdom, without regard for the economic cost or lack of popularity. Although contentment and frugality is the Christian norm, we may liberally put our wealth to use for good purposes, in this case, a festive “seeker’s dinner” (1 Timothy 2:9, 6:6-10, 17-19). Jesus did not refuse to be involved with these scandalous, rich (immoral?) tax collectors. See Luke theme essays Possessions, Salvation's Claim on Our Finances, and God’s Special Concern for Outcasts
Luke 5:30-32 — Stewarding his mission required Jesus to go outside the bounds of normal social convention and legal restraint (touching lepers, Luke 5:13, crushing grain and healing on the Sabbath, Luke 6:1-11, and here). He could have maintained his safety, his reputation and his ritual purity according to the Law, but he chose not to do so for the sake of those in need. Jesus evidently did not think feasting was at odds with a radical commitment to the poor; asceticism is not a Christian requirement, although fasting and frugality are encouraged (see the next verses). See Luke theme essays Salvation's Claim on Our Finances and God’s Special Concern for Outcasts.
Luke 5:33-35 — Jesus affirms that Christians may fast and deprive themselves of certain possessions (food, alcohol, T.V.) for spiritual reasons, though he never advocates a permanent lifestyle of asceticism. See also the notes on Luke 1:15.
Luke 6:20-23 (Key Passage) — God’s Concern for the Needy: God exhibits special concern for those in need. The rejects, the poor, the hungry, the oppressed (especially those who are oppressed for Jesus’ sake) will be rewarded; these constitute the people of God who will inherit the kingdom. Those of us with resources should seek to ameliorate such conditions, knowing that what we do for those in these conditions is the same as doing it for Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46). Those with resources who do not respond to such needs have no guarantee of salvation; they do not have any evidence that the Spirit of Jesus lives in them—in fact, quite the opposite. If Jesus loves the poor and oppressed as much as these verses suggest, and if those who have the Spirit of Jesus living in them must reflect his agenda, then a lack of kingdom-minded stewardship falsifies any claim that “faith alone” has saved us (Luke 16:19-31, 1 John 3:16-18, and especially James 2:14-24). See Luke theme essays Salvation's Claim on Our Finances, God’s Special Concern for Outcasts, Possessions, and The Poor: Our Responsibility.
Luke 6:24-26 — It is possible to obtain success and comfort in this world at the expense of receiving comfort and riches in the next (Luke 18:18-30). Life in the kingdom requires a self-sacrificial lifestyle modeled on Jesus’ own generosity (2 Corinthians 8:9; Luke 9:22-24). If we are willing to set aside our popularity (Luke 6:26), our comfortable lifestyles (6:25) and our wealth and all that it brings (6:24) in order to meet the needs of the poor and the oppressed and the lost for Jesus’ sake, we will be rewarded (Matthew 25:31-46). If not, we will be judged harshly (see notes on Luke 6:20-23), even more so if we have contributed to such oppression and poverty (Amos 5 and 6, James 5, Revelation 18). See Luke theme essays Salvation's Claim on Our Finances, God’s Special Concern for Outcasts, Possessions, and The Poor: Our Responsibility.
Luke 6:27-38 — The great “kingdom reversal” continues. The world’s mode of operation is self-service, self-preservation, and self-fulfillment. Jesus commands that those in his kingdom must serve others, preserve others and empty ourselves. Such radical action is “bad stewardship” by the world’s standards, but not by God’s. The extent and motives of kingdom generosity are vastly different from those of the world around us. This world tells us to be generous in order to build up our image or in order to feel good about ourselves; God tells us to be generous in order to reflect the mercy we’ve received, and to seek heavenly repayment. Society tells us to be profligate with our bodies (sexually) but self-centered with our resources; the early Christians were famous for being profligate with their resources but stingy with their bodies. They were following the lead of their Lord by living with an eternal perspective. See the following notes for more commentary.
Luke 6:29-31 — Our trust in a heavenly Father who provides for us in this world and the next trumps our need to retaliate in defense of our possessions. We are only allowed to say “no” to those in need if giving would be harmful to the recipient (giving cash to a drug addict, for example; Paul tells his congregations not to support the lazy (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). Loving others as we love ourselves means that when others are in need, we are to give them the same care we would want to receive, should the situation be reversed. See Luke theme essays Possessions, The Poor: Our Responsibility and Prayer.
Luke 6:32-36 — Being Christ-like (see the note on Luke 6:40) means giving to those who cannot possibly repay us, and serving our enemies. Our heavenly Father sees what we do, and he himself will reward us accordingly, as Proverbs 19:17 and Luke 14:12-14 teach. See Luke theme essay Possessions.
Luke 6:38 (Key Passage) — Receiving from God: Jesus makes the promise that if we give, we will receive in return from the Lord. We are to give because we have been gracious recipients of his generosity and because he is our Lord, the owner of everything, who will faithfully reward us for what we give according to his perfect timing and standards. One of the most significant ways that we receive God’s generosity is through the gift of forgiveness, which carries the obligation that we must also forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). This concept seems to be linked to Christian generosity: Because God has provided most generously for us, we must give without the expectation of receiving anything back (Luke 6:30). In addition, our imitation of God’s generosity is not to be targeted only at people we like; just as he gave to us when we were still his enemies (Romans 5:6-8; Ephesians 2:1-7), we are to give to our enemies, those who hate us, those who steal from us and everyone else who asks (Luke 6:30). Of course, we must exercise discretion—there are times that our giving could be leveraged by others to perpetuate lifestyles of premeditated sin, but we should approach these situations with fear and trembling, realizing the seriousness (and nearness) of sin in this part of our lives (Genesis 4:7). The principle remains that we must give to people whom we find unappealing or simply don’t like. Yet as we obey, we find again that God is gracious. When we give in this way, he delights to reward us in far better ways than we could “reward ourselves” with our resources. While from the surrounding context we are clearly not supposed to be looking for our reward from men, the Scriptures do commend us to look for rewards from God (Hebrews 11:24-26). God is not a cosmic vending machine (we don’t give him money so that we can selfishly get better things back), but he will reward us as he sees fit—now, in eternity, financially or with other rewards. It is tempting for us to use our own methods to garner rewards from others, but God gives us rewards that are far better. If we surrender our gifts to him, he will bless us with rewards better than those we could gain ourselves. See Luke theme essay Possessions.
Luke 6:40 — The goal of Jesus’ teaching is to make us Christ-like (see Luke 6:43-49), “imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1; Matthew 5:44-48; 2 Corinthians 8:9). As his children, we must share his character.Thus we should seek to become more faithful students of Jesus, the perfect teacher. See Luke theme essays Salvation's Claim on Our Finances and God’s Special Concern for Outcasts.
Luke 6:41-45 — It is imperative that we have teachers who are trained and able to teach, particularly in matters of stewardship, mercy and generosity. Teaching without doing, however, is hypocrisy. If a pastor, teacher or other leader is not modeling generosity, fidelity, mercy and Jesus’ agenda of kingdom economics, he must attend to that deficiency or face judgment for it (James 3:1).
Luke 6:43-45 — Jesus is unafraid to tell us that our works (“fruit”) matter. If we bear no good fruit in these matters (kingdom-minded generosity and mercy), we prove ourselves to be worthless and open to judgment. See the following note and Luke 16:19-31; Matthew 25:31-46; James 2:14-24 and the notes on Luke 3:3-8, 10-14.
Luke 6:46-49 — Hearing Jesus’ words, and even agreeing with them, is not the goal of Christian teaching and study. Rather, in order to be a disciple we must do what he tells us. Since Jesus arguably has more to say about possessions than any other topic (save “the Kingdom”), we must especially tune our ears to hear and obey what he says about stewardship-related matters and respond accordingly. Failure to do this eventually results in our collapse and ruin (see Luke 16:19-31 and 18:18-25 for examples).
Luke 7:24-30 — The “reed” was a common symbol for Herod (on coins, for instance), who was considered to be “shaky” and “shifty” despite his opulence and supposed power. Jesus is comparing John to the luxurious, self-indulgent leaders of his day. God’s ministers may not be called to eat locusts and live out in the desert, but they certainly must stand out from materialism and other evils in their culture by living a life of generosity (1 Timothy 6:3-10). See Luke theme essay Possessions.
Luke 7:33-35 — Jesus’ reputation described here is not a blanket invitation for us to party like rock stars or practice self-indulgence (obviously Jesus himself was not a glutton and drunkard). It does illustrate, however, Jesus’ ability to use possessions and material things in a spirit of joy and celebration, even around those who are not righteous (see also Luke 5:33ff). Moreover, it is important to note that Jesus was doing these things not just to enjoy life but to share the source of life with sinners. He was not merely living for his own enjoyment but living for the redemption of sinners and outcasts. See Luke theme essays God’s Special Concern for Outcasts and Possessions.
Luke 7:36-50 (Key Passage) — Gratitude for God’s Grace: We see three elements of generosity in this passage. (1) God is radically generous with sinners, forgiving their sins and receiving them in public; Jesus’ acceptance of the woman is social suicide, and he sacrifices “coolness points” in order to accept her. Verse 44 subtly makes this point as he speaks to Simon while “turning toward the woman.” (2) A lack of generosity is a sign that someone is a foreigner to God’s grace. Simon doesn’t greet Jesus and take care of him as an honored guest according to cultural standards, and he disapproves of Jesus’ acceptance of the woman (Luke 7:39). He is not acknowledging Jesus as God’s messenger and is not willing to sacrifice his social standing or his oil for radicals like Jesus or for sinners like this woman. (3) The woman, however, loves and gives generously because she has received God’s love and generosity in Jesus. She gives everything to Jesus, knowing he has given everything for her sake. We note that such lavish affection for Jesus is appropriate because of the unique nature of Jesus’ presence (See also the notes on John 12:1-8; Luke 5:33-39). Because Jesus is no longer with us here on earth, if we want to lavish love and grace and money on Jesus, he tells us to do it for the poor and needy for his sake: see Matthew 25:31-46; 1 John 3:16-18 and 4:19-21. See Luke theme essays Possessions and God’s Special Concern for Outcasts.
Luke 8:4-15 — Note that the Devil employs riches, worldly concerns (which can include “good things” such as providing for the needs of one’s family), and worldly pleasures such as comfort and style to prevent Jesus’ followers from “bearing fruit in steadfast endurance.” The emphasis on bearing fruit reminds us of John’s description of such fruit in Luke 3:10-14. The goal is not merely to hear and understand or even affirm God’s word: those in the good soil must do what they have heard. Since possessions are one of Jesus’ chief topics, and since this passage teaches that such things prevent us from becoming mature and bearing fruit, we must not fail to drink deeply and regularly of the Scriptures’ messages on possessions and obey those messages. We must keep our eye on Jesus and stay committed to the Kingdom, rather than focusing primarily on our needs in this life. Jesus notes the connection between him and those who hear the word of God and do it in 8:19-21 and 11:27-28. See Possessions under Luke theme essays.
Luke 8:16-18 — Jesus notes that the fruit we bear for him will be seen by those around us. Our commitment to Christian generosity will shine like a light for all to see and will be rewarded by our heavenly father (Luke 8:18). Because of this, we must steward what we hear and obey God’s messages. In light of verses 14 and 15, this applies especially to matters of money and possessions. See Luke theme essay Possessions.
Luke 8:19-21 — See notes on Luke 8:4-15.
Luke 8:22-25 — The power of Jesus extends even to rebuking the “winds and the water.” Such a powerful God ought to cause us to recognize his ability to care for us, producing in us faith and generosity and inoculating us against the fear of economic uncertainty (see especially Matthew 6:19-34). If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31). See Luke theme essay Prayer and Salvation's Claim on Our Finances.
Luke 8:43-48 — Luke notes that the woman had spent her whole savings in an attempt to get healthy. We must remember our frailty as humans and know that there are many things (even in today’s world) that only God can do. No amount of money can guarantee health and comfort, just as no amount of money can buy happiness. Only Jesus can provide the security and wholeness that we seek. See Luke theme essays Salvation's Claim on Our Finances and God’s Special Concern for Outcasts.
Luke 9:10-17 — Ironically, the disciples see great works done in their ministries and then fail to believe that Jesus, or God working through them (Luke 9:13), can provide for their own and the crowd's physical needs. We must continually remind ourselves of God’s ability to provide (Matthew 6:19-33), so that we do not miss opportunities to bear witness to God’s greatness by relying on him in faith. When we look at our lives, our needs, our resources and our finances (as the disciples do here), we must never fail to take into account the ability of our Father to supernaturally provide for our spiritual and physical needs. See Luke theme essay Possessions, God’s Special Concern for Outcasts, and Salvation.
Luke 9:21-27 — Stewardship of our Christian calling centers on self-denial (literally, “disowning himself,” Luke 9:23) and living a crucified life (Galatians 2:20-21), just as Jesus’ stewardship of his own mission centered around self-denial and the cross. Attempting to preserve our lives, wealth, pleasure and comfort will lead us into conflict with Jesus’ kingdom agenda, and it will lead to our ruin: We will “forfeit” ourselves. Jesus’ death on the cross and his life lived in the service of God and others are set forth as an example. Note that being ashamed of Jesus—perhaps for social reasons?—is indicative of such rejection. So is shame at his words; and we must not run from, downplay, or be ashamed of Jesus’ admonitions when it comes to money and possessions. Such shame may be an indication that we are trying to “save our lives,” not “lose them” for Jesus’ sake. See Luke theme essay Possessions.
Luke 9:37-62 — Disciples and would-be disciples fail to understand and embody Jesus’ kingdom in five ways: (1) lack of faith in his power (Luke 9:40); (2) misunderstanding of Jesus’ sacrificial mission (9:44-45); (3) competing for greatness in their relationship with one another (9:46-48) and in their relationship with other followers of Jesus (9:49-50); (4) failure to relate properly to opponents of Jesus (9:51-55); (5) failure to relate properly to possessions and family in light of the priority of the kingdom mission (9:57-62). In response, Jesus stresses the nature of his kingdom (9:46-48) and the cost of discipleship (9:57-62). He turns social pyramids upside down, celebrating a little child (virtually worthless socially in the first century and not valued or esteemed by anyone save parents). Our approach to possessions, greatness and Christian discipleship must be informed by our mission and by God’s perspective on “greatness” and possessions and relatives, not swept up in the pursuit of “relative greatness” according to human standards or the desire for social acceptability or the approval of our family. See Luke theme essays Possessions and God’s Special Concern for Outcasts.
Luke 9:57-62 — The Son of Man has no place to lay his head; disciples must be willing to follow Jesus in his poverty and in his “risky” pattern of a life lived for the Kingdom. (See notes on Luke 9:37-62). See Luke theme essay Possessions.
Luke 10:1 — The reference to 70/72 reflects the number of nations in the whole world in Genesis 10 (see also the Septuagint, which contains 72 instead of 70). Jesus sends this number out symbolically to indicate the conquest of the whole world by the gospel and the extent of his future kingdom. The whole world is the Lord’s, and everything it contains. God is bringing everything and everyone into complete submission to his Son, the King. No part of the world and no part of our lives is exempt from his claim to authority (Matthew 28:18). See Luke theme essay Salvation.
Luke 10:7 — God’s workers deserve their wages. This is not a license to get rich from ministry. Rather, this points to the reciprocal relationship of God’s people: Some lead, preach, heal and proclaim the kingdom; others (those who respond) are obligated to provide for the needs of those who dedicate themselves to such ministry (see the preceding notes, as well as those on Luke 8:1-3). See Paul’s discussion of this and other matters in 1 Corinthians 9:1-18. See Luke theme essay God’s Special Concern for Outcasts.
Luke 10:10-16 — Part of the requirement of Christian stewardship is responsibility for what we have heard and seen. We must steward what we have been given, for we will be held accountable for what we have, not for what we don’t have. This is true of knowledge, experience, relationships, and influence as well as possessions. See also Luke 12:47-48.
Luke 10:17-20 — Right stewardship requires that we recognize what is most important: It is not power, effectiveness, miracles or spiritual authority. It is salvation. See Luke theme essay Salvation.
Luke 10:25-27 — Jesus does not negate but rather amplifies the Old Testament obligation to love one’s neighbor (care for their needs; see 1 John 3:16-18; James 2:14-17; Luke 16:19-31). If we have no love for our neighbor, John tells us we have no love for God (1 John 4:19-21). If we have no love for our neighbor, we cannot inherit eternal life. Such love does not save us, but when we have a saving relationship with God, a renewed heart will produce such love (Matthew 7:18). See Luke theme essays God’s Special Concern for Outcasts, The Poor: Our Responsibility, and Salvation.
Luke 10:28-37 (Key Passage) — The Good Samaritan: Jesus’ parable answers the man’s question and shows the boundless love that we must have for others, even our enemies, because of the boundless love that God has shown us in Jesus. The road in question was known to be dangerous, which is part of the reason the Levite and priest avoided the injured man. Helping the man—a concrete demonstration of obeying the command to “love your neighbor”—placed the Samaritan at physical risk, required time, required him to take a significant social risk (cross-cultural, socially unlikely interaction; the Samaritan had no guarantee that the Israelite would appreciate what he did!), and cost him significant financial resources. No arrangement for repayment is made—in fact, arrangements are made for the Samaritan’s future obligations for the man’s care, which opens him up to continuous financial responsibility. This parable is “not a model of moral obligation but of ... action grounded in compassion that risks much more than could ever be required or expected,” (J.B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, 432). God did far more than was “required” for us; we must respond by doing likewise for others, even if it requires great personal risk and sacrifice. Jesus closes this parable with a clear command: “Go and do likewise.” See Luke theme essays God’s Special Concern for Outcasts, The Poor: Our Responsibility, Possessions, and Salvation.
Luke 10:38-42 — Martha is not stewarding an opportunity to be with Jesus, to receive from him, because she is too consumed with her labor (and perhaps because of social convention; Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching,” indicating she was his disciple—an unthinkable arrangement for a woman in Jesus’ day). We cannot let good things keep us from Jesus and his kingdom; see the note on Luke 14:15-24.
Luke 11:2 — We can trust God because he is Father (see more on Luke 11:5-13). In the Old Testament and in Jesus’ day, this is imperial language; the emperor—supposedly—protected and provided for his people. Before our requests we glorify God, “hallowing” his name, so that we do not use prayer or our relationship with the Lord cheaply. Our first request is that the Lord’s kingdom would come (Matthew 6:33). We seek God’s reign on this earth, because we long for the peace and glory of his kingdom and because we long for the redemption of the earth and its inhabitants (Revelation 22:17; Romans 8:18-24). See Luke theme essay Prayer.
Luke 11:3-4 — We then pray for ourselves, but only in the context of God’s holiness and the desire for his kingdom to come. God cares about our needs and instructs us to pray for them in the right way. But pursuit of “wants,” even in prayer, is selfish when such desires are contrary to glorifying God and extending his kingdom (see James 4:3-4 for an example of this and Acts 8:9-24). If our hearts and our prayers center around God’s agenda, we have the promise that he hears and answers such prayers (John 14:13-14). See Luke theme essays Prayer and Possessions.
Luke 11:5-13 — Jesus elaborates on our relationship with God as Father (Luke 11:2). This passage is not a blanket invitation to ask for any sort of thing; our requests must come in the context of God’s kingdom (which, of course, includes our lives and the things we truly need in our lives—food, health, wisdom, etc). As we grow in our walk with Christ and we delight in his abundant love for us, our desires will begin to match up with his desires for us (Psalm 37:4). Jesus notes that the Holy Spirit is the answer to our request and that we should all desire the Spirit to work in and through us (Luke 11:13). Because we have a relationship with God, we can pray, labor, suffer, abound, rest, succeed and fail, all the while knowing that God is with us, enabling us to do that which he has called us to do. Our needs will be met. See Philippians 4:11-13 on how this works in Paul’s ministry. See Luke theme essay Prayer.
Luke 11:27-28 — See the notes on Luke 8:4-15.
Luke 11:33-36 — When your spiritual perception is healthy, you are healthy spiritually. However, when you do not have the ability to perceive accurately, you are in darkness and cannot function as the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-16). Because many do not hear and obey Jesus’ words concerning possessions, they fail to accurately perceive the dangers and responsibilities involved in possessions and wealth, and they will suffer the loss of their witness (as “lights” that are “wholly bright”) or even their souls (Luke 16:19-31; 8:14).
Luke 11:42 — Jesus affirms that the Pharisees should be tithing; however, the tithe or other “standards” of giving do not eliminate the need for justice and love by God’s standards (Luke 10:25-37). The tithing of the Pharisees does not guarantee that they are pleasing God. Justice is sorely underemphasized in churches today, and such ignorance prevents churches and individual Christians from obtaining a biblical view of money and possessions and stewardship. Neglect of justice is an attribute of Pharisaism, even for those who are being relatively generous with their possessions. Attending to respectable things, such as contributions for a church’s budget and church buildings, means nothing to God if we are not passionately seeking justice (see Micah 6:6-8; Amos 5:18-6:7; Jeremiah 7:4-7, 21-24). See Luke theme essays God’s Special Concern for Outcasts, Possessions, and The Poor: Our Responsibility.
Luke 11:46 — This warning is critically important for those who teach and preach about possessions and stewardship. We must be careful to teach and speak with grace and mercy. As we lay out the radical message of Jesus, we must be sure to do the following: (1) model correct behavior without hypocrisy (Luke 12:1-2), remaining anchored in the ultimate example, Jesus’ generosity, 2 Corinthians 8:9; (2) tell people the truth, but in a loving, gracious manner (see again Paul’s example in 2 Corinthians 8-9); (3) assist people in their burdens, in part by providing them with opportunities for obedience and encouragement as they make progress (2 Corinthians 8:10-15).
Luke 12:15 (Key Passage) — Beware of Greed: Why be on your guard against this particular sin? It’s obvious when you are committing adultery or murder. But it is far harder to know when you are being greedy, jealous, covetous, selfish or materialistic (particularly if your culture practices all these things with regularity). Author and pastor Timothy Keller notes that people frequently confess sexual sins or temptations to ministers, but never greed, materialism or covetousness. Abundance of possessions for the rich (seen in Luke 12:16-21) or an illegitimate focus on lack of possessions by the poor (seen in Luke 12:22-31) can fatally distract us from the source of real life and delude us into thinking that possessions bring ultimate satisfaction. This verse, then, introduces both sections of Luke 12:16-34. See Luke theme essay Possessions.
Luke 12:16-21 — (See note on Luke 12:15.) This rich man’s analysis of his situation is equivalent to an advertisement from almost any contemporary investment firm, real estate firm, high-end dining or luxury car: “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink, be merry. You've earned it, you deserve it.” See note on Luke 12:21 for what he should have been doing instead, being “rich toward God.” Failing to do this so that we may store up treasures for ourselves and our comfort is not just selfish; it is also stupid (God calls this man a “fool,” a very harsh term in the first century). See Luke theme essay Possessions.
Luke 12:21 (Key Passage) — Rich toward God: Jesus elsewhere defines “being rich” as caring for those in need (Matthew 25:31-46); John concludes that we know we love God by our care for those in need (1 John 4:19-21; see also James 1:27). Luke 12:33 suggests that this is precisely what we should do. Given the plight of many of our brothers and sisters in Third World nations, and the plight of many people here in our own nation, how can we be rich toward God today? Enjoying comforts in this life (while others suffer), then leaving our wealth to others who might need them when we die hardly solves the problem, namely, that we were not rich toward God while we lived. Acts 2:44-45 and 4:32-37 describes how Jesus’ followers were rich toward God immediately after the church began her mission. Our hearts will be where we have placed our treasure. See Luke theme essay Possessions, God’s Special Concern for Outcasts and The Poor: Our Responsibility.
Luke 12:22-31 — After addressing the wealthy (Luke 12:16-21), Jesus now addresses his poorer disciples. He encourages them in their poverty by reminding them how God cares for them and how he can provide for them in any and all situations. If we are poor, we must commit ourselves to trust and resist worry and fear, knowing that God is a good father who provides for his children and, in fact, is preparing an entire kingdom for the sake of himself and his faithful followers. When we teach people (rich or poor) to put their hope elsewhere, we teach them to trust in something other than God. A spirit of dissatisfaction will harm us more than it will help us. Verse 31 emphasizes getting our perspective and priorities sorted out: seek first the kingdom of God and there is no need to worry about our basic needs; God is the great provider. See Luke theme essays Possessions, The Poor: Our Responsibility, and Salvation.
Luke 12:34 (Key Passage) — Treasure Principle: This passage is one of the most oft-quoted passages about money, and for good reason—it teaches that what we care about most in practice is indicative of the priorities of our hearts. This means that what we do with our money shows what our hearts care about most. But this principle also applies to much more than money. What we do with our time, energy and affections also influences and betrays the inward orientation of our hearts. If we invest in ourselves, then we will only care for ourselves; but if we invest in God’s work, we will start to care about the things that he cares about. Do we spend most of our time and energy trying to attain wealth, power, popularity and financial self-sufficiency a so that we can safely be at the center of our lives
Luke 12:35-48 — We must steward what we have been given (knowledge, kingdom resources, talent, etc.), because like the rich man (Luke 12:16-21), we do not know when our time is up.
Luke 12:47-48 — Jesus again indicates that judgment will be relative to what we know. Just as unbelievers in Israel were judged for their failure to obey what was in the Law, so those in the church who have read Scripture but failed to obey it will be judged much more harshly than those outside, who never knew what Scripture required of them (although they surely sinned by their own standards). See also Luke 10:13-15; 11:29-32.