The following teaching was given on Tuesday July 13th 2021 to a group of about 15 men while eating lunch at Mimi’s Café
We will be reading from J.C. Ryle’s commentary on Luke chapter 12.
33 “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
35 Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. 36 Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.
37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. 38 Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
39 But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 40 You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.”
Let us mark—what a striking exhortation these verses contain to seek treasure in Heaven. “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.” But this is not all. A mighty, heart-searching principle is laid down to enforce the exhortation. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.“
The language of this charge is doubtless somewhat figurative. Yet the meaning of it is clear and unmistakable. We are to sell—to give up anything, and deny ourselves anything—which stands in the way of our soul’s salvation. We are to give—to show charity and kindness to everyone—and to be more ready to spend our money in relieving others, than to hoard it for our own selfish purposes. We are to provide ourselves treasures in Heaven—to make sure that our names are in the book of life—to lay hold of eternal life.
This is true wisdom. This is real prudence. The man who does well for himself—is the man who gives up everything for Christ’s sake. “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). He makes the best of bargains. He carries his cross for a few years in this world—and in the world to come, has everlasting life. He obtains the best of possessions. He carries his riches with him beyond the grave. He is rich in grace here—and he is rich in glory hereafter. And, best of all, what he obtains by faith in Christ—he never loses. It is “that good part which can never be taken away.” (Luke 10:42)
Let us see whether we have treasure in Heaven—or whether all our good things are here upon earth. Would we like to know what our treasure is? Then let us ask ourselves—what we love the most. This is the true test of character. This is the pulse of our religion. Though what we say and profess is important (Matthew 12:36-37), what we most love reveals the true condition of our hearts (Matthew 12:34)? What are our affections set on? These are the great questions. “Where our treasure is—there will our hearts be also.“
Q: Is saving for retirement a violation of the principal (keeping our treasure in heaven) given by our Lord?
Let us mark—what an instructive picture these verses contain of the frame of mind which the true Christian should endeavor to keep up. Our Lord tells us that we ought to be “like men who wait for their Master.” We ought to live like servants who expect their Master’s return—fulfilling our duties, and doing nothing which we would not like to be found doing when Christ comes again.
The standard of life which our Lord has set up here, is an exceedingly high one—so high, indeed, that many Christians are apt to flinch from it, and feel cast down. Yet there is nothing here which ought to make a believer afraid. Readiness for the return of Christ to this world, implies nothing which is impossible and unattainable. It requires no angelic perfection. It does not require a man to forsake his family, or retire into solitude. It requires nothing more than a life of repentance, faith and holiness.
The man who is living a life of faith in the Son of God—is the man whose “loins are girded,” and whose “light is burning.” Such a man may have the care of kingdoms on him, like Daniel—or be a servant in a Nero’s household, like some in Paul’s time. All this matters nothing. If he lives looking unto Jesus (Hebrews 12:2)—then he is a servant who can “immediately open the door to Him.” Surely it is not too much to ask Christians to be men of this kind. Surely there was a reason why our Lord said, “You must be ready—because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him!“
Are we ourselves living as if we were ready for the second coming of Christ? It would be well if this question were put to our consciences more frequently. It might keep us back from many a false step in our daily life. It might prevent many a backsliding. The true Christian should not only believe in Christ, and love Christ—he should also look and long for Christ’s second coming. If he cannot say from his heart, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)—then there must be something wrong about his soul.
Q: How do we “live as if we were ready for the second coming of Christ”?
41 Peter said, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.
44 Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; 46 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
47 And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, 48 but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.
We learn firstly from these verses—the importance of doing, in our Christianity. Our Lord is speaking of His own second coming. He is comparing His disciples to servants waiting for their master’s return, who have each their own work to do during His absence. “Blessed,” He says, “is that slave [Doulos] whom his master finds so doing when he comes.“
The warning has doubtless a primary reference to ministers of the Gospel. They are the stewards of God’s mysteries, who are specially bound to be found “doing” when Christ comes again. But the words contain a further lesson which all Christians would do well to consider. That lesson is the immense importance of a working, practical, diligent, useful religion.
The lesson is one which is greatly needed in the churches of Christ. We hear a great deal about people’s intentions, and hopes, and wishes, and feelings, and professions. It would be better if we could hear more about people’s practice. It is not the servant who is found wishing and professing—but the servant who is found “doing” whom Jesus calls “blessed.“
The lesson is one which many, unhappily, shrink from giving—and many more shrink from receiving. We are gravely told that to talk of “working,” and “doing,” is ‘legalistic’, and brings Christians into bondage! However, the passage is not about justification—but about sanctification; not about saving faith—but about holiness of life. The point is not what a man should do to be saved—but what a saved man ought to do! A saved man ought to be “careful to maintain good works.” (Titus 3:8) The desire of a true Christian ought to be to be found “doing.“
If we love life—then let us resolve by God’s help, to be “doing” Christians. This is to be like Christ—He “went about doing good.” (Acts 10:38.) This is to be like the apostles—they were men of deeds even more than of words. This is to glorify God, “Herein is my Father glorified—that you bear much fruit.” (John 15:8.) This is to be useful to the world, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:16.).
Q: It has been said that some Christians are “so heavenly minded”, they are of “no earthly good”. How do we balance “setting our minds on things above” (Col. 3:2) with being “doing” Christians, who are “careful to maintain good works” (Titus 3:8)?
We learn, secondly, from these verses—the dreadful danger of those who neglect the duties of their calling. Of such our Lord declares, that they shall be “cut in pieces, and their portion appointed with the unbelievers.” These words no doubt apply especially to the ministers and teachers of the Gospel. Yet we must not flatter ourselves that they are confined to them only. They are probably meant to convey a lesson to all who fill offices of high responsibility. It is a striking fact that when Peter says at the beginning of the passage, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?“—our Lord gives him no answer. Whoever occupies a position of trust, and neglects his duties—would do well to ponder this passage, and learn wisdom.
The language which our Lord Jesus uses about slothful and unfaithful servants, is particularly severe. Few places in the Gospels contain such strong expressions as this. The same loving Savior who holds out mercy to the penitent and believing—never shrinks from holding up the judgments of God against those who despise His counsel.
Let no man deceive us on this subject. There is a Hell for one who continues on in his wickedness—no less than a Heaven for the true believer in Jesus. There is such a thing as “the wrath of the Lamb!” (Revelation 6:16.)
Let us strive to live so that whenever the heavenly Master comes, we may be found ready to receive Him. Let us watch our hearts with a godly jealousy (Proverbs 4:23), and beware of the least symptom of unreadiness for the Lord’s appearing. Especially let us beware of any rising disposition to lower our standard of Christian holiness—to dislike people who are more spiritually-minded than ourselves—and to conform to the world (Romans 12:2). The moment we detect such a disposition in our hearts—we may be sure that our souls are in great peril! The professing Christian who begins to persecute God’s people, and to take pleasure in worldly society—is on the high road to eternal ruin!
Q: In what tangible ways can we live so that whenever Christ returns, “we may be found ready to receive Him”?
We learn, lastly, from these verses—that the greater a man’s religious light is, the greater is his guilt if he is not converted. The servant which “knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes” and “from everyone who has been given much, much will be required“.
The lesson of these words is one of wide application. It demands the attention of many classes. It should come home to the conscience of every professing Christian (keep in mind that not all professing Christians are actually Christians). His judgment shall be far more strict, than that of the heathen who never saw the Bible.
It should come home to every hearer of the Gospel. If he remains unconverted—then he is far more guilty than the inhabitant of some dark land, who never hears any teaching but a sort of semi-heathen morality.
It should come home to every child in Christian families. All such are far more blameworthy, in God’s sight—than those who live in houses where there is no honor paid to the Word of God and prayer. Let these things never be forgotten. Our judgment at the last day—will be according to our light and opportunities.
John MacArthur comments on this passage: “The degree of punishment is commensurate with the extent to which the unfaithful behavior was willful. Note that ignorance is, nonetheless, no excuse. That there will be varying degrees of punishment in hell is clearly taught” in the following:
Matt 10:15 – Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.
Matt 11 – 22 “Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. 24 Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”
Hebrews 10:29 – How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
What are we doing with our religious knowledge? Are we using it wisely, and turning it to good account? Or are we content with secretly flattering ourselves that the mere knowledge of our Lord’s will makes us better than others (while that will is not done)?
Let us beware of eternal mistakes! The day will come, when unused knowledge will be found the most perilous of possessions. Thousands will awake to find that they are in a lower place in Hell, than the most ignorant and idolatrous heathen. Their knowledge not used, and their light not followed—will only add to their condemnation.
49 I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!“
We learn for one thing from these verses—how thoroughly the heart of Christ was set on finishing the work which He came into the world to do. He says, “I have a baptism to undergo“—a baptism of suffering, of wounds, of agony, of blood, and of death! Yet none of these things stopped Him. He adds, “How distressed I am until it is accomplished!” The prospect of coming trouble, did not deter Him for a moment.
He was ready and willing to endure all things—in order to provide eternal redemption for His people. Zeal for the cause He had taken in hand—was like a burning fire within Him. To advance His Father’s glory, to open the door of life to a lost world, to provide a fountain for all sin and impurity by the sacrifice of Himself—were continually the uppermost thoughts of His mind. He was distressed in spirit—until this mighty work was finished.
Forever let us bear in mind that all Christ’s sufferings on our behalf—were endured willingly, voluntarily, and of His own free choice. They were not submitted to patiently merely because He could not avoid them. He lived a sinless life for thirty-three years—simply because He loved to do His Father’s will (John 4:32-34; 6:38).
He died an agonizing death—with a willing and a ready mind. Both in life and death, He was carrying out the eternal counsel—whereby God was to be glorified and sinners were to be saved. He carried it out with all His heart—as mighty as the struggle was, which it entailed upon His flesh and blood. He delighted to do God’s will. He was distressed until it was accomplished.
Let us not doubt that (now in Heaven) the heart of Christ is the same that it was when He was upon earth. He feels as deep an interest now about the salvation of sinners as He did formerly about dying in their stead. Jesus never changes. He is the same yesterday, and today and forever (Heb. 13:8).
There is in Him—an infinite willingness to receive, pardon, justify, and deliver the souls of men from the wrath of God and from Hell. Let us strive to realize that willingness, and learn to believe it without doubting, and rest in His grace. It is a certain fact, if men would only believe it—that Christ is far more willing to save us, than we are to be saved.
Let the zeal of our Lord and Master, be an example to all His people. Let the recollection of His burning readiness to die for us—be like a glowing coal in our memories, and constrain us to live to Him, and not to ourselves (Luke 9:23-24). Surely the thought of it should awaken our sleeping hearts, and warm our cold affections, and make us anxious to redeem the time (Eph. 5:16), and do something for His glory. A zealous Savior—ought to have zealous disciples!
Revelation 3:19: As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.
Q: What does a “zealous” Christian life look like?
This teaching was taken from https://gracegems.org/Ryle/l12.htm which is J.C. Ryle’s (19th century) free on-line commentary on Luke.
Also, some commentary was taken from the MacArthur study Bible notes.