Luke 12:24
Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them: how much more are you better than the fowls?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(24, 25) Consider the ravens.—See Notes on Matthew 6:26-27. Here, however, we have the more specific “ravens” instead of the wider “fowls of the air,” as another example of independence. The choice of the special illustration was possibly determined by the language of the Psalmist, “He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry” (Psalm 147:9).

Luke

ANXIOUS ABOUT EARTH, OR EARNEST ABOUT THE KINGDOM

Luke 12:22 - Luke 12:31
.

The parable of the rich fool was spoken to the multitude, but our Lord now addresses the disciples. ‘Therefore’ connects the following with the foregoing teachings. The warnings against anxiety are another application of the prohibition of laying up treasure for self. Torturing care is the poor man’s form of worldliness, as luxurious self-indulgence is the rich man’s. There are two kinds of gout, as doctors tell us-one from high living, and one from poverty of blood. This passage falls into two parts-the prohibition against anxious care {Luke 12:22 - Luke 12:31}, and the exhortation to set the affections on the true treasure {Luke 12:31 - Luke 12:34}.

I. The first part gives the condemnation of anxiety about earthly necessities.

The precept is first stated generally, and then followed by a series of reasons enforcing it. As to the precept, we may remark that the disciples were mostly poor men, who might think that they were in no danger of the folly branded in the parable. They had no barns bursting with plenty, and their concern was how to find food and clothing, not what to do with superfluities. Christ would have them see that the same temper may be in them, though it takes a different shape. Dives and Lazarus may be precisely alike.

The temper condemned here is ‘self-consuming care,’ the opposite of trust. Its misery is forcibly expressed by the original meaning of the Greek word, which implies being torn in pieces, and thus paints the distraction and self-inflicted harrassment which are the lot of the anxious mind. Prudent foresight and strenuous work are equally outside this prohibition. Anxiety is so little akin to foresight that it disables from exercising it, and both hinders from seeing what to do to provide daily bread, and from doing it.

The disciples’ danger of being thus anxious may be measured by the number and variety of reasons against it given by Jesus. The first of these is that such anxiety does not go deep enough, and forgets how we come to have lives to be fed and bodies to be clothed. We have received the greater, life and body, without our anxiety. The rich fool could keep his goods, but not his ‘soul’ or ‘life.’ How superficial, then, after all, our anxieties are, when God may end life at any moment! Further, since the greater is given, the less which it needs will also be given. The thought of God as ‘a faithful creator’ is implied. We must trust Him for the ‘more’; we may trust Him for the less.

The second reason bids us look with attention at examples of unanxious lives abundantly fed. Perhaps Elijah’s feathered providers, or the words of the Psalmist {Psalm 147:9}, were in Christ’s mind. The raven was one of the ‘unclean’ birds, and of ill omen, from Noah’s days, and yet had its meat in due season, though that meat was corpses. Notice the allusions to the preceding parable in ‘sow not, neither reap,’ and in ‘neither have storehouse nor barn.’ In these particulars the birds are inferior to us, and, so to speak, the harder to care for. If they who neither work nor store still get their living, shall not we, who can do both? Our superior value is in part expressed by the capacity to sow and reap; and these are more wholesome occupations for a man than worrying.

How lovingly Jesus looked on all creatures, and how clearly He saw everywhere God’s hand at work! As Luther said, ‘God spends every year in feeding sparrows more than the revenues of the King of France.’

The third reason is the impotence of anxiety {Luke 12:25}. It is difficult to decide between the two possible renderings here. That of ‘a cubit’ to the ‘stature’ corresponds best with the growth of the lilies, while ‘age’ preserves an allusion to the rich fool, and avoids treating the addition of a foot and a half to an ordinary man’s height as a small thing. But age is not measured by cubits, and it is best to keep to ‘stature.’

At first sight, the argument of Luke 12:23 seems to be now inverted, and what was ‘more’ to be now ‘least.’ But the supposed addition, if possible, would be of the smallest importance as regards ensuring food or clothing, and measured by the divine power required to effect it, is less than the continual providing which God does. That smaller work of His, no anxiety will enable us to do. How much less can we effect the complicated and wide-reaching arrangements needed to feed and clothe ourselves! Anxiety is impotent. It only works on our own minds, racking them in vain, but has no effect on the material world, not even on our own bodies, still less on the universe.

The fourth reason bids us look with attention at examples of unanxious existence clothed with beauty. Christ here teaches the highest use of nature, and the noblest way of looking at it. The scientific botanist considers how the lilies grow, and can tell all about cells and chlorophyll and the like. The poet is in raptures with their beauty. Both teach us much, but the religious way of looking at nature includes and transcends both the others. Nature is a parable. It is a visible manifestation of God, and His ways there shadow His ways with us, and are lessons in trust.

The glorious colours of the lily come from no dyer’s vats, nor the marvellous texture of their petals from any loom. They are inferior to us in that they do not toil or spin, and in their short blossoming time. Man’s ‘days are as grass; as a flower of the field so he flourisheth’; but his date is longer, and therefore he has a larger claim on God. ‘God clothes the grass of the field’ is a truth quite independent of scientific truths or hypotheses about how He does it. If the colours of flowers depend on the visits of insects, God established the dependence, and is the real cause of the resulting loveliness.

The most modern theories of the evolutionist do not in the least diminish the force of Christ’s appeal to creation’s witness to a loving Care in the heavens. But that appeal teaches us that we miss the best and plainest lesson of nature, unless we see God present and working in it all, and are thereby heartened to trust quietly in His care for us, who are better than the ravens because we have to sow and reap, or than the lilies because we must toil and spin.

Luke 12:29 adds to the reference to clothing a repeated prohibition as to the other half of our anxieties, and thus rounds off the whole with the same double warning as in verse 22. But it gives a striking metaphor in the new command against ‘being of doubtful mind.’ The word so rendered means to be lifted on high, and thence to be tossed from height to depth, as a ship in a storm. So it paints the wretchedness of anxiety as ever shuttlecocked about between hopes and fears, sometimes up on the crest of a vain dream of good, sometimes down in the trough of an imaginary evil. We are sure to be thus the sport of our own fancies, unless we have our minds fixed on God in quiet trust, and therefore stable and restful.

Luke 12:30 gives yet another reason against not only anxiety, but against that eager desire after outward things which is the parent of anxiety. If we ‘seek after’ them, we shall not be able to avoid being anxious and of doubtful mind. Such seeking, says Christ, is pure heathenism. The nations of the world who know not God make these their chief good, and securing them the aim of their lives. If we do the like, we drop to their level. What is the difference between a heathen and a Christian, if the Christian has the same objects and treasures as the heathen? That is a question which a good many so-called Christians at present would find it hard to answer.

But the crowning reason of all is kept for the last. Much of what precedes might be spoken by a man who had but the coldest belief in Providence. But the great and blessed faith in our Father, God, scatters all anxious care. How should we be anxious if we know that we have a Father in heaven, and that He knows our needs? He recognises our claims on Him. He made the needs, and will send the supply. That is a wide truth, stretching far beyond the mere earthly wants of food and raiment. My wants, so far as God has made me to feel them, are prophecies of God’s gifts. He has made them as doors by which He will come in and bless me. How, then, can anxious care fret the heart which feels the Father’s presence, and knows that its emptiness is the occasion for the gift of a divine fullness? Trust is the only reasonable temper for a child of such a father. Anxious care is a denial of His love or knowledge or power.

II. Luke 12:31 - Luke 12:34 point out the true direction of effort and affection, and the true way of using outward good so as to secure the higher riches.

It is useless to tell men not to set their longings or efforts on worldly things unless you tell them of something better. Life must have some aim, and the mind must turn to something as supremely good. The only way to drive out heathenish seeking after perishable good is to fill the heart with the love and longing for eternal and spiritual good. The ejected demon comes back with a troop at his heels unless his house be filled. To seek ‘the kingdom,’ to count it our highest good to have our wills and whole being bowed in submission to the loving will of God, to labour after entire conformity to it, to postpone all earthly delights to that, and to count them all but loss if we may win it-this is the true way to conquer worldly anxieties, and is the only course of life which will not at last earn the stern judgment, ‘Thou fool.’

That direction of all our desires and energies to the attainment of the kingdom which is the state of being ruled by the will of God, is to be accompanied with joyous, brave confidence. How should they fear whose desires and efforts run parallel with the ‘Father’s good pleasure’? They are seeking as their chief good what He desires, as His chief delight, to give them. Then they may be sure that, if He gives that, He will not withhold less gifts than may be needed. He will not ‘spoil the ship for a ha’p’orth of tar,’ nor allow His children, whom He has made heirs of a kingdom, to starve on their road to their crown. If they can trust Him to give them the kingdom, they may surely trust Him for bread and clothes.

Mark, too, the tenderness of that ‘little flock.’ They might fear when they contrasted their numbers with the crowds of worldly men; but, being a flock, they have a shepherd, and that is enough to quiet anxiety.

Seeking and courage are to be crowned by surrender of outward good and the use of earthly wealth in such manner as that it will secure an unfailing treasure in heaven. The manner of obeying this command varies with circumstances. For some the literal fulfilment is best; and there are more Christian men to-day whose souls would be delivered from the snares if they would part with their possessions than we are willing to believe.

Sometimes the surrender is rather to be effected by the conscientious consecration and prayerful use of wealth. That is for each man to settle for himself. But what is not variable is the obligation to set the kingdom high above all else, and to use all outward wealth, as Christ’s servants, not for luxury and self-gratification, but as in His sight and for His glory. Let us not be afraid of believing what Jesus and His Apostles plainly teach, that wealth so spent here is treasured in heaven, and that a Christian’s place in the future life depends upon this among other conditions-how he used his money here.12:22-40 Christ largely insisted upon this caution not to give way to disquieting, perplexing cares, Mt 6:25-34. The arguments here used are for our encouragement to cast our care upon God, which is the right way to get ease. As in our stature, so in our state, it is our wisdom to take it as it is. An eager, anxious pursuit of the things of this world, even necessary things, ill becomes the disciples of Christ. Fears must not prevail; when we frighten ourselves with thoughts of evil to come, and put ourselves upon needless cares how to avoid it. If we value the beauty of holiness, we shall not crave the luxuries of life. Let us then examine whether we belong to this little flock. Christ is our Master, and we are his servants; not only working servants, but waiting servants. We must be as men that wait for their lord, that sit up while he stays out late, to be ready to receive him. In this Christ alluded to his own ascension to heaven, his coming to call his people to him by death, and his return to judge the world. We are uncertain as to the time of his coming to us, we should therefore be always ready. If men thus take care of their houses, let us be thus wise for our souls. Be ye therefore ready also; as ready as the good man of the house would be, if he knew at what hour the thief would come.See this passage explained in the notes at Matthew 6:25-33. 22-31. (See on [1649]Mt 6:25-33). See Poole on "Luke 12:22" Consider the ravens,.... According to the Jews (k) there are three sorts of ravens, the black raven, the raven of the valley, which is said to be white, and the raven whose head is like a dove. In Matthew the "fowls of the air" in general are mentioned, as they are here in the Cambridge copy of Beza's; but in others, "the ravens" in particular, they being fowls of very little worth, and disregarded by men, and odious to them, as well as unclean by the law; and yet these are taken care of by God. The Arabic version reads, "the young ravens"; and these are which are said to cry unto God, who provides food for them, and gives it to them,

for they neither sow nor reap, which neither have storehouse nor barn; and yet they are provided for, and therefore, why should men, and especially God's own people, distrust his providence over them, when they both sow and reap, have the seedtime, and harvest in the appointed seasons: they cast their seed into the earth, and it springs up and brings forth much fruit, which they reap when ripe, and gather into their barns and storehouses, from whence they are supplied till another season returns; wherefore they have no reason to distress themselves, seeing, though this is not the case of ravens, yet

God feedeth them; their young ones, as the above places show. Jerom says (l), that it is affirmed by some philosophers, that they live upon dew. The Jews (m) have a notion, that the old ravens being cruel to their young, and hating them, the Lord has pity on them, and prepares flies, or worms for them, which arise out of their dung, and enter into their mouths, and they them. One of their commentators says (n), when the young ones are hatched they are white, and the old ones leave them, not taking them for their own, and therefore bring them no food, and then they cry to God; and this is mentioned by some Christian writers, but not sufficiently confirmed: and another of them observes (o), that the philosophers of the Gentiles say, that the ravens leave their young as soon as they are hatched; but what Aristotle (p), Pliny (q), and Aelianus (r) affirm of these creatures is, that as soon as they are able to fly they turn them out of their nests, and even drive them out of the country where they are; when, as it is said in Job, "they wander for lack of meat, and cry unto God, who gives it to them": and since this is the case, and the providence of God is so much concerned for such worthless creatures, the people of God, and disciples of Christ, ought by no means to distrust it: for as it follows,

how much more are ye better than the fowls: or "than these", as the Vulgate Latin version reads; that is than these ravens, or any other fowls whatever; See Gill on Matthew 6:26.

(k) T. Bab. Cholin, fol. 63. 1.((l) Comment. in Job 38.41. & in Psal. cxlvii. 9. (m) Jarchi in Job 38.41. & in Psal. cxlvii. 9. & Kimchi in lb. (n) Kimchi ib. Vid. T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 49. 2. & Gloss. in ib. (o) Aben Ezra in Psal. cxivii. 9. (p) Hist. Animal. l. 9. c. 31. (q) Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 12. (r) De Animal. Natura, l. 2. c. 49.

Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 12:24. κόρακας, the ravens, individualising, for Mt.’s πετεινὰ.—ὁ Θεὸς for ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν in Mt.24. the ravens] More specific, and therefore more poetic, than “the fowls” in St Matthew. Perhaps there is a reference to Job 38:41; Psalm 145:15.Luke 12:24. Κόρακας, the ravens) which are least of all birds useful to man, though even birds, too, are subservient to man.[121]ΤΑΜΕῖΟΝ, storehouse) from which they may draw forth seed for ‘sowing.’—ἀποθήκη, barn) in which they may store up what they ‘reap’: as the ants have a nest, into which they gather together their stores.—ὁ Θεὸς, God) Comp. Luke 12:28.

[121] And so even the ravens on one occasion, 1 Kings 17:4-6.—ED. and TRANSL.Verses 24-27. - Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them... Consider the lilies... they toil not, they spin not: and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. What a contrast between the life of the rich and prosperous landowner just related, whose whole heart and soul were concentrated on a toil which should procure him dainty food and costly raiment, and these fowls fed by God so abundantly, and those flowers clothed by God so royally! The ravens knew nothing of the anxious care and the restless toil of the rich man in the midst of which he died, and yet they lived. The lilies simply grew, and God's hand painted the rich and gorgeous clothing for each golden-jewelled flower; Solomon, the splendid Jewish king, the example of all that was magnificent, was never arrayed, men knew, like one of these lilies. With such a God above them, who surely loved each one as he never loved a bird or flower, was it worth while to wear a life away in toiling for tess than what God simply gave to raven and to lily? Such was the Master's argument, adorned, we may well conceive, with all the beauty and force of Eastern illustration. We possess, after all, but a scant resume of these Divine sermons. To apostle and chosen missionary his words had a peculiar interest. He bade them, in coming days of poverty and abandonment, never to lose heart. They would remember then their loved Teacher's words that day when he spoke of the fate of one whose life had been wasted in filling his storehouses and his barns; would remember how he turned from the foolish, toiling rich man, and told them of the birds and flowers, and how God tenderly cared even for such soulless things. Did they think he would ever lose sight of them, his chosen servants? They might surely reckon on the loving care of that Master to whose cause they were giving their life-service. Yet have these and other like words of the great Teacher been often misunderstood; and St. Paul's earnest and repeated exhortations to his converts - not to neglect honest toil, but by it to win bread for themselves, and something withal to be generous with to those poorer than they - were his protest against taking the Masterwords in too literal a sense, and using them as a pretext for a dreamy and idle life. Paul's teaching, and perhaps still more Paul's life - that life of brave, simple toil for himself and others - were his comment upon this part of the Master's sermon. The lilies. It is a little doubtful whether our Lord meant to speak of the red anemone, a very common but beautiful flower, with which the meadows throughout all Palestine are enamelled (Anemone coronaria), or the great white lily (Lilium candidum), or the exquisite red lily (Lilium rubrum); these latter are more rare. The Savior, probably, had each of these and other specimens of the flora of Palestine in his mind, when he spoke of the inimitable beauty and the matchless splendor of these flowers of God. Consider

See on Matthew 7:3.

Storehouse (ταμεῖον)

See on Luke 12:3.

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