Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

Kingdom themes run through Luke’s travel narrative. The miracles that Jesus performs, such as exorcisms and healings, are signs that God’s kingdom is breaking into this world. In fact, Jesus teaches that very truth: after casting out a demon from a mute man, Jesus teaches the crowds: “If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.” Some had said Jesus was casting out demons with Satan’s own power, but Jesus points out how ridiculous that is: Why would Satan drive out his own servants? Rather, the exorcisms were signs that Satan’s kingdom was crumbling before their eyes and God’s kingdom was taking its place. Again, Jesus later teaches the crowds: “The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to observe, nor will they say, “Lo, here it is!” or “There it is!” for behold, the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you. Jesus says this about himself: he is the King and where the King is, there is the Kingdom. The Kingdom is already among the people, in Jesus’ own person, but they don’t recognize it.

Only Luke includes the parable of the rich fool who thought he had a future of pleasure. He had such big crops that he had to tear down his barns and build larger barns to hold his enormous crop yields. When that was finished he thought he had a long lifetime to enjoy the pleasures of life, and that he was in control of his life. He acted as if there were no God (The fool says in his heart/there is no God. Ps 14:1) But his life was demanded of him the very night he planned to party with his friends. The Greek word rendered “demanded” is used to call in a debt. The “life” that the man considered to be his own was really on loan from God.

12:21 The lesson of the parable is thus similar to what Jesus said earlier about persecution: keep God in the picture. One should view earthly things, whether negative or positive, from the perspective of eternity. This is precisely what the man did not do. He was too busy thinking about himself to think of God and to thank God for blessing him with a rich harvest. Thus he was also busy hoarding his wealth rather than sharing it with the poor. He stored up treasure for himself rather than “treasure in heaven,” and so was not rich toward God.

12:22-30 Jesus now speaks to those who lack material goods and so worry about what to eat and drink and wear. In all cases it is a matter of entrusting one’s life (psyche) to God. If God feeds the birds and clothes the flowers with splendor beyond that of Solomon, will He not much more provide for human beings, who are much more important. Yes, but…what about the 500+children detained at the border because their parents can’t be found? What about the starving children, even in the US? What about the people dying of this terrifying pandemic? But things are normalizing in the transition. Joe Biden is getting the funds he needs to set up a government; I’m sure he needs fund for many actions he’s planning. This country will never be the same, though. Trump radicalized Mitch McConnell to the point that he probably won’t work with Joe Biden. Going back to trusting God, God knows what people need, so disciples should trustingly pray to the Father for their “daily bread,” as Jesus taught them.

12:31-32 Rather than worry, disciples should seek God’s kingdom. Those who strive to live for the sake of the Kingdom of God will receive back an overabundant return in this present age, as these other things will be given them. By focusing on this kingdom perspective, disciples can learn not to be afraid, even if they remain little in the eyes of the world. Jesus here refers to the disciples as a flock, using the imagery of sheep and shepherd so beloved elsewhere in the Scriptures (Ps 23; John 10).

Almsgiving. Jesus’ teaching on almsgiving builds on Old Testament texts. He refers to the cleansing power of almsgiving and twice connects giving alms to the poor with storing up lasting treasure in heaven. Such teaching is often misunderstood as if self-interested people are presuming to tell God to save them for their good works. Rather, the reason that Scripture attaches a reward to charity is not simply to appeal to self-interest, but to make a statement about the nature of the world. To behave in this way is thus to act with faith. Charity is not just a good deed but a declaration of belief about the world and the God who created it. The economy of the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus teaches, reflects the type of world God has created. Showing mercy to the poor taps into the larger font of mercy that governs God’s providential hand. It is for this reason and for this reason alone that funding such a treasury leads to unimagined compensation.

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