Summary: Who you know, who you are, and who you serve are vital for life and eternity. Each day we have a choice. What will yours be?
We humans have a lot in common with lemmings. Lemmings - you know, those little furry creatures that are so herd-centric that if one of them runs off a cliff the rest will simply follow until they are all dead. One wonders if they are too stupid to know they are about to fall to their death or so trained to follow the leader in front of them that it doesn’t matter. In fact, the people at the beginning of Luke 12 are literally acting like lemmings or a herd of cows - crowding so close to Jesus that they nearly trample each other.
The truth about lemmings is not quite as interesting as the myth - lemmings (2-4" mammals like voles and muskrats - in the rat family) have such terrible eyesight that they can’t distinguish a small creek from a fjord. But the idea of the suicidal lemming has become legend - and is emblematic of a human tendency to the crowd mentality. Our blindness to our true spiritual condition makes us prone to following the crowd straight to hell!
If you don’t believe me then think for a moment about what is cool to you - and I don’t mean temperature. What is in-style, what is hip, what is hot, what are you down with, what’s the bomb? For every generation - really every decade now - there are standards that are developed by someone or a group of someones that everyone else wants to emulate. In the 1960’s it was James Dean - "Rebel Without A Cause." Later it was John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever," and so on. Today I suppose its Tom Hanks or Johnny Depp - rated the #1 and #2 most popular stars in America in a January 2006 Harris poll. Denzel Washington, by the way, dropped out of the top ten this year.
Especially when we are younger we like to think that we are so individual and yet if you spy a group of high school students on campus you notice that they all tend to dress, act, and talk alike - depending on what group they associate with.
This is also true when it comes to our philosophies and beliefs - even our faith. Right now post-modernism is in-vogue. We want something to hang our hat on - especially if that is something different than what came before. The people in Jesus’ day were no more immune to that tendency than we are. But what Jesus tells everyone in every age is that He is not just another philosophy, another leader, another persuasion to be discarded when something cooler comes along. Out of this we learn three principals from the first 21 verses of Luke 12:
Who you are matters - integrity (what you do and say - is it integral-solid?)
Who you know matters - the real power lies with God and Jesus is the real key
Who you serve matters - don’t let anything own you other than God
Verses 1 - 3
Jesus has just left a blistering encounter with the Pharisees and lawyers where He blasted the theology of creating and placing an unbearable legalistic system on people, then not doing any of it themselves.
So just to make it clear, Jesus tells them to watch out for the doctrine of the Pharisees because once you ingest it its like yeast: spreading and invading other areas of your life. Its basic legalism - that is: pleasing God through your own efforts. You can’t do it. "There is none righteous, no not one" (Romans 3:10).
Legalism at its root is basic selfishness:
"The way I look to others is more important than the way I look to God"
"Having what I want is more important than knowing God, loving God, and being like God"
"Obtaining and keeping power is to be sought no matter the cost" (killed the prophets)
But the Pharisees were the power brokers - they were the ones everybody paid attention to. They were the ones that held all the cards and if you wanted to get ahead you needed to heed what they said. Jesus is saying - they might appear to be righteous on the outside but you don’t realize that everything they (and we) do or say will be revealed. All the "masks" will come off. That’s very freeing and very scary.
You mean every thought or careless word I’ve spoken will come back to haunt me? Yes - unless you have those things cleansed by knowing the real power broker - God. Here He is saying that the hypocrisy of the Pharisees will be exposed.
Verses 4 - 7
The Pharisees were both revered for being "cool" and feared for the power they held. We fear many things - embarrassment, rejection, punishment, hunger, etc. Our biggest fear as humans is death - getting killed. That’s the worst another human or external cause can do to us. But that’s not the worst thing that can happen to us. Far far worse is being separated from God for all of eternity - now that’s something we should avoid at all costs.