Luke 12:35
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(35) Let your loins be girded . . .—To “gird up the loins” was, in Eastern habits and with Eastern garments, the received symbol of readiness for active service (Luke 12:37; Luke 17:8; 1Kings 18:46; 2Kings 1:8; John 13:4; 1Peter 1:13). The “lights” are the lamps (as in Matthew 5:15) which the watchful hold in their hands. What follows has the interest of presenting the germ of the thought which was afterwards developed into the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. (See Notes on Matthew 25:1-13.)

Luke

THE EQUIPMENT OF THE SERVANTS

Luke 12:35 - Luke 12:36
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These words ought to stir us like the sound of a trumpet. But, by long familiarity, they drop upon dull ears, and scarcely produce any effect. The picture that they suggest, as an emblem of the Christian state, is a striking one. It is midnight, a great house is without its master, the lord of the palace is absent, but expected back, the servants are busy in preparation, each man with his robe tucked about his middle, in order that it may not interfere with his work, his lamp in his hand that he may see to go about his business and his eye ever turned to the entrance to catch the first sign of the coming of his master. Is that like your Christian life? If we are His servants that is what we ought to be, having three things-girded loins, lighted lamps, waiting hearts. These are sharp tests, solemn commandments, but great privileges, for blessedness as well as strength, and calm peace whatever happens, belong to those who obey these injunctions and have these things.

I. The girded loins.

Every child knows the long Eastern dress; and that the first sign that a man is in earnest about any work would be that he should gather his skirts around him and brace himself together.

The Christian service demands concentration. It needs the fixing of all a man’s powers upon the one thing, the gathering together of all the strength of one’s nature, and binding it with cords until its softest and loosest particles are knit together, and become strong. Why! you can take a handful of cotton-down, and if you will squeeze it tight enough, it will be as hard and as heavy as a bullet and will go as far, and have as much penetrating power and force of impact. The reason why some men hit and make no dint is because they are not gathered together and braced up by a vigorous concentration.

The difference between men that succeed and men that fail in ordinary pursuits is by no means so much intellectual as moral; and there is nothing which more certainly commands any kind of success than giving yourselves with your whole concentrated power to the task in hand. If we succeed in anything we must focus all our power on it. Only by so doing, as a burning-glass does the sun’s rays, shall we set anything on fire.

And can a vigorous Christian life be grown upon other conditions than those which a vigorous life of an ordinary sort demands? Why should it be easier to be a prosperous Christian than to be a prosperous tradesman? Why should there not be the very same law in operation in the realm of the higher riches and possessions that rules in the realm of the lower? ‘Gird up the loins of your mind,’ says the Apostle, echoing the Master’s word here. The first condition of true service is that you shall do it with concentrated power.

There is another requirement, or perhaps rather another side of the same, expressed in the figure. One reason why a man tucked up his robe around his waist, when he had anything to do that needed all his might, was that it might not catch upon the things that protruded, and so keep him back. Concentration, and what I may call detachment, go together. In order that there shall be the one, there must be the other. They require each other, and are, in effect, but the two sides of the same thing contemplated in regard to hindrances without, or contemplated in regard to the relation of the several parts of a man’s nature to each other.

Observe that Luke immediately precedes the text with:-’Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Let your loins be girded about.’ That is to say, do not let your affections go straggling anywhere and everywhere, but gather them together, and that you may gather them together tear away the robe from the briars and thorns which catch you as you pass, and gird the long flowing skirts close to yourselves in order that they may not be caught by these hindrances. There is no Christian life worth living except upon condition of wrenching oneself away from dependence upon idolatry of, or longing for, perishable things. The lesson of my text is the same as the solemn lesson which the beloved Apostle sharpened his gentle lips to pronounce when he said, ‘If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.’ ‘Gird up your loins,’ detach heart, desire, effort from perishable things, and lift them above the fleeting treasures and hollow delusive sparkles of earth’s preciousness, and set them on the realities and eternities at God’s right hand. ‘For where the treasure is, there will the heart be also,’ and only that heart can never be stabbed by disappointment, nor bled to death by losses, whose treasure is as sure as God and eternal as Himself. ‘Let your loins be girded about.’

And then there is another thing suggested, which is the consequence of these two. The girding up of the loins is not only the symbol of concentration and detachment, but of that for which the concentration and the detachment are needful-viz. alert readiness for service. The servant who stands before his lord with his belt buckled tight indicates thereby that he is ready to run whenever and wherever he is bid. Our girded loins are not merely in order to give strength to our frame, but in order that, having strength given to our frame, we may be ready for all work. That which is needful for any faithful discharge of any servant’s duty is most of all needful for the discharge of the highest duty and the noblest service to the Master who has the right to command all our service.

There are three emblems in Scripture to all of which this metaphor applies. The soldier, before he flings himself into the fight, takes in another hole in his leather belt in order that there may be strength given to his spine, and he may feel himself all gathered together for the deadly struggle, and the Christian soldier has to do the same thing. ‘Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.’

The traveller, before he starts upon his long road, girds himself, and gathers his robes round him; and we have to ‘run with perseverance the race set before us’; and shall never do it if our garments, however delicately embroidered, are flapping about our feet and getting in our way when we try to run.

The servant has to be succinct, girded together for his work, even as the Master, when He took upon Him the form of a servant, ‘took a towel and girded Himself.’ His servants have to follow His example, to put aside the needless vesture and brace themselves with the symbol of service. So as soldiers, pilgrims, servants, the condition of doing our work is, girding up the loins.

II. Further, there are to be the burning lamps.

If we follow the analogy of Scripture symbolism, significance belongs to that emblem, making it quite worthy to stand by the side of the former one. You remember Christ’s first exhortation in the Sermon on the Mount immediately following the Beatitudes: ‘Ye are the salt of the earth, ye are the light of the world. Men do not light a candle, and put it under a bushel. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds.’ If we apply that key to decipher the hieroglyphics, the burning lamps which the girded servants are to bear in the darkness are the whole sum of the visible acts of Christian people, from which there may flash the radiance of purity and kindness, ‘So shines a good deed in a naughty world.’ The lamp which the Christian servant is to bear is a character illuminated from above {for it is a kindled lamp, and the light is derived}, and streaming out a brilliance into the encircling murky midnight which speaks of hospitable welcome and of good cheer in the lighted hall within.

Now, what is the connection between that exhibition of a lustrous and pure Christian character and the former exhortation? Why this, if you do not gird your loins your lamp will go out. Without the concentrated effort and the continually repeated detachment and the daily renewed ‘Lord! here am I, send me,’ of the alert and ready servant, there will be no shining of the life, no beauty of the character, but dimness will steal over the exhibition of Christian graces. Just as, often, in the wintry nights, a star becomes suddenly obscured, and we know not why, but some thin vaporous cloud has come between us and it, invisible in itself but enough to blur its brightness, so obscuration will befall the Christian character unless there be continual concentration and detachment. Do you want your lights to blaze? You trim them-though it is a strange mixture of metaphor-you trim them when you gird your loins.

III. Lastly, the waiting hearts.

An attitude of expectancy does not depend upon theories about the chronology of prophecy. It is Christ’s will that, till He comes, we know ‘neither the day nor the hour.’ We may, as I suppose most of us do, believe that we shall die before He comes. Be it so. That need not affect the attitude of expectance, for it comes to substantially the same thing whether Christ comes to us or we go to Him. And the certain uncertainty of the end of our individual connection with this fleeting world stands in the same relation to our hopes as the coming of the Master does, and should have an analogous effect on our lives. Whatever may be our expectation as to the literal coming of the Lord, that future should be very solid, very real, very near us in our thoughts, a habitual subject of contemplation, and ever operative upon our hearts and conduct.

Ah! if we never, or seldom, and then sorrowfully, look forward to the future, and contemplate our meeting with our Master, I do not think there is much chance of our having either our loins girt, or our lamps burning.

One great motive for concentration, detachment, and alertness of service, as well as for exhibiting the bright graces of the Christian character, is to be found in the contemplation of the two comings of the Lord. We should be ever looking back to the Cross, forward to the Throne, and upwards to the Christ, the same on them both. If we have our gathering together with Him ever in view, then we shall be willing to yield all for Him, to withdraw ourselves from everything besides for the excellency of His knowledge; and whatsoever He commands, joyfully and cheerfully to do.

The reason why such an immense and miserable proportion of professing Christians are all unbraced and loose-girt, and their lamps giving such smoky and foul-smelling and coarse radiance, is because they look little back to the Cross, and less forward to the Great White Throne. But these two solemn and sister sights are far more real than the vulgar and intrusive illusions of what we call the present. That is a shadow, they are the realities; that is but a transitory scenic display, like the flashing of the Aurora Borealis for a night in the wintry sky, these are the fixed, unsetting stars that guide our course. Therefore let us turn away from the lying present, with its smallnesses and its falsities, and look backwards to Him that died, forward to Him that is coming. And, as we nourish our faith on the twofold fact, a history and a hope, that Christ has come, and that Christ shall come, we shall find that all devotion will be quickened, and all earnestness stirred to zeal, and the dim light will flame into radiance and glory.

He comes in one of two characters which lie side by side here, as they do in fact. To the waiting servants He comes as the Master who shall gird Himself and go forth and serve them; to those who wait not, He comes as a thief, not only in the suddenness nor the unwelcomeness of His coming, but as robbing them of what they would fain keep, and dragging from them much that they ought never to have had. And it depends upon ourselves whether, we waiting and watching and serving and witnessing for Him, He shall come to us as our Joy, or as our Terror and our Judge.Luke 12:35-36. Let your loins, &c. — Our Lord, having recommended to his disciples disengagement of affection from the things of this world, and a due moderation as to their esteem for, and cares about, earthly possessions, proceeds now to exhort them to be in constant readiness for the proper discharge of their duty, for their final remove from earth, and for the awful solemnities of death, judgment, and eternity. That this is the purport of this paragraph, seems evident from every part of it. In the expression here, Let your loins be girded about, he alludes to the circumstance of the eastern people wearing long garments; in consequence of which it was necessary, when they had any thing to do which required them to exert their strength or agility, that they should tuck them up, and gird them close: a practice to which there are frequent references both in the Old and New Testaments. The entertainments in the East are also here alluded to, which were anciently made in the evening, so that night was commonly far spent before the guests were dismissed. On such occasions servants showed their faithfulness by watching, and keeping their lamps burning, that they might be ready to open the door to their master on the first knock; for to suffer them to be extinguished, as it would have been an inconvenient circumstance to the master, so it would also have been a demonstration of the servant’s idleness. The expressions, taken together, may intimate the care we should take to inform ourselves in our duty, and the resolution with which we should apply to the performance of it. And be ye like unto men — Unto good servants, attending to the work appointed them; that wait for their lord — That are continually prepared to receive him; when he will return from the wedding — That is, from a marriage-feast, or any other late entertainment; that they may open to him immediately — And not be surprised in any disorder. It does not appear that there is any particular mystery in the circumstance of a wedding, or marriage-feast, being here mentioned. Our Lord might probably instance in this entertainment, because marriage-feasts were generally the most splendid, and so prolonged to the latest hours.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.Let your loins ... - This alludes to the ancient manner of dress. They wore a long flowing robe as their outer garment. See the notes at Matthew 5:38-41. When they labored, or walked, or ran, it was necessary to "gird" or tie this up by a "sash" or girdle about the body, that it might not impede their progress. Hence, to gird up the loins means to be "ready," to be active, to be diligent. Compare 2 Kings 4:29; 2 Kings 9:1; Jeremiah 1:17; Acts 12:8.

Your lights burning - This expresses the same meaning. Be ready at all times to leave the world and enter into rest, when your Lord shall call you. Let every obstacle be out of the way; let every earthly care be removed, and be prepared to follow him into his rest. Servants were expected to be ready for the coming of their lord. If in the night, they were expected to keep their lights trimmed and burning. When their master was away in attendance on a wedding, as they knew not the hour when he would return, they were to be continually ready. So we, as we know not the hour when God shall call us, should be "always" ready to die. Compare the notes at Matthew 25:1-13.

35-40. loins … girded—to fasten up the long outer garment, always done before travel and work (2Ki 4:29; Ac 12:8). The meaning is, Be in readiness.

lights, &c.—(See on [1651]Mt 25:1).

Ver. 35,36. The first words of Luke 12:40, Be ye therefore ready also, expound Luke 12:35. In this sense we find the phrase used, 1 Kings 18:46 2 Kings 4:29 9:1 Job 38:3 40:7 Jeremiah 1:17. In those Eastern countries both masters and servants were wont to wear long garments, which they were wont to gird up, either when they went to fight, or when they were to travel, Exodus 12:11 1 Kings 18:46; or when they went about any service; see Luke 17:8 John 13:4: this was a piece of their preparation. We read of the girding about of the loins of the mind with truth, Ephesians 6:14, and with habits of grace and virtue; 1 Peter 1:13, Wherefore gird up the loins of your minds, be sober, and hope to the end. The other phrase, and your lights burning, is of the same import, relating to the Lord’s coming from the wedding, mentioned Luke 12:36; for in those countries their weddings were celebrated in the night. Christ’s coming to judgment, whether our particular or the more general judgment, is that which is here set out to us, under the notion of a man’s coming home late at night from a wedding. Nor improperly, for in this life souls are united to Christ, Ephesians 5:32. When Christ shall have done his work of that nature upon the earth, that all the elect shall be gathered, then shall he come to judge the world. He would have all his people be ready for that day, and waiting for their Lord, that his coming may be welcome to them. Let your loins be girded about,.... With the girdle of truth, Ephesians 6:14 keeping close to the doctrines of the Gospel, abiding faithfully by them, even unto death: the allusion is either to the eating of the first passover, Exodus 12:11 or rather to servants, who, in these eastern countries, wore long garments; and therefore, when in business, used to gather them up, and gird them about them, that they might perform their service with greater strength, more ease, quicker dispatch, and less hinderance: the phrase denotes readiness for business:

and your lights burning. The Vulgate Latin version adds, "in your hands"; meaning torches that were held in the hand: and may design either the Scriptures of truth, which were to be a light or lamp unto them, guiding and directing them in the ministration of the Gospel; or the lamps of profession, which should be kept clear and bright, and good works, becoming them, that should so shine before men, that all may see them, and glorify God. The allusion is to persons waiting at a wedding in the night, with torches and flambeaus in their hands.

{11} Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;

(11) The life of the faithful servants of God in this world is certainly a diligent journey, having the light of the word going before the journey.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 12:35-36. Only echoes of the following references to the Parousia occur at Matthew 24:42 ff. All the less is the originality to be attributed only to Luke (Olshausen) or to Matthew (Kuinoel). In Luke the exhortations to preparedness for the Parousia are readily accounted for by the previous promise of the Messiah’s kingdom (Luke 12:32) and the requirement associated therewith (Luke 12:33).

ἔστωσανκαιόμενοι] The meaning stripped of figure is: Be in readiness, upright and faithful to your calling be prepared to receive the coming Messiah. The nimble movement that was necessary to the servant made requisite the girding up of the outer garment round the loins (1 Peter 1:13, and see Wetstein), and slaves must naturally have had burning lamps for the reception of the master when he returned home at night. The ὑμῶν emphatically placed first, as ὑμεῖς at Luke 12:36, corresponds to the special duty of disciples; that your loins should be girded, … and that ye like men, etc.

ἀνθρώποις] i.e. according to the context: slaves, as it is frequently used in the classical writers, Mark 14:12.

ἐκ τῶν γάμων] not: from his marriage, but from the marriage, at which he (as a guest) has been present. For his marriage is after the Parousia (see on Matthew 22:2; Matthew 25:1). The detail of the figure is not to be pressed into interpretation further than to imply the blessed condition (τὴν ἄνω εὐφροσύνην κ. ἀγαλλίασιν, Euthymius Zigabenus) from which the Messiah returns.

ἐλθόντοςἀνοίξ. αὐτῷ] a well-known construction, Winer, p. 186 [E. T. 258 f.]. On the direct πότε, see Buttmann, Neut. Gr. p. 215 f. [E. T. 251].Luke 12:35-38. Loins girt, lamps burning. Connection with what goes before is not apparent, but there is a latent affinity which makes the introduction of this logion here by Lk. or his source intelligible. The kingdom the summum bonum; all to be sacrificed for it; its coming (or the King’s) to be eagerly waited for.35. Let your loins be girded] Without which active service is impossible in the loose flowing dress of the East (Exodus 12:11; 1 Kings 18:46); and spiritually, for the Christian amid worldly entanglements, 1 Peter 1:13; Ephesians 6:14.

your lights burning] The germ of the Parable of the Ten Virgins, Matthew 25:1Luke 12:35. Ἔστωσαν, Let-be) What goes before and what follows, and the connection between them, applies most exactly to those times which followed after Christ’s ascension. As to selling comp. Acts 4:34. He wishes that His people should be free from encumbrances.—ὀσφύες, loins) So afterwards Peter enjoins, 1 Ep. ch. Luke 1:13, and Paul, Ephesians 6:14.Verses 35, 36. - Let your loins be girded about, and your lamps burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. The Master goes on with his teaching on the subject of covetousness, still addressing himself primarily to the disciples. "There is another reason why my chosen followers should treat the amassing of earthly goods with indifference; no man knows when the end of this state of things may come; their hearts must be fixed on something else than perishable things. They must act as servants on the watch for the return of their lord. See now, my own," Jesus proceeds to say; "your attitude in life must be that of servants, at once loyal and devoted, whom their employer has left in his house while he is absent at a great wedding-feast. The day of his absence passes into evening, and evening shades into night; and even the night wears slowly and tediously away, and still the master of the house comes not back from his festival." But the faithful servants all this while never slumber, or even lie down to rest. All the time of his absence, with their loose flowing Eastern robes taken up, and the skirt fastened under the girdle, with their lamps all trimmed and burning, these watchers wait the coming of their lord, though he tarry long, that they may be ready to receive him and serve him the moment he arrives. All kinds of busy house service, too, carried on during the long night of watching, is implied by the girt-up robes and the lit lamps of the tireless watchers.
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