Luke 12


Christ preaches to his disciples against hypocrisy; and against

timidity in publishing the Gospel, 1-5.

Excites them to have confidence in Divine providence, 6, 7.

Warns them against denying him, or betraying his cause, 8, 9.

Of the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, 10.

Promises direction and support in persecution, 11, 12.

Warns the people against covetousness, 13-15.

Parable of the rich man who pulled down his granaries to build

greater, 16-21.

Cautions against carking cares and anxieties, 22-32.

The necessity of living to God, and in reference to eternity,


At the request of Peter, he farther explains the preceding

discourse, 41-48.

The effects that should be produced by the preaching of the

Gospel, 49-53.

The signs of the times, 54-57.

The necessity of being prepared to appear before the judgment

seat of God, 58, 59.


Verse 1. An innumerable multitude of people] τωνμυριαδωντου

οχλου, myriads of people. A myriad is ten thousand, and myriads

must, at the very lowest, mean twenty thousand. But the word is

often used to signify a crowd or multitude which cannot be readily

numbered. There was doubtless a vast crowd assembled on this

occasion, and many of them were deeply instructed by the very

important discourse which our Lord delivered.

Leaven of the Pharisees] See Mt 16:1-12.

Which is hypocrisy.] These words are supposed by some to be an

addition to the text, because it does not appear that it is their

hypocrisy which Christ alludes to, but their false doctrines.

They had, however, a large proportion of both.

Verse 2. There is nothing covered] See the notes on

Mt 5:15; 10:26, 27; Mr 4:22.

Verse 4. Kill the body] See Clarke on Mt 10:28.

Verse 5. Fear him] Even the friends of God are commanded to fear

God, as a being who has authority to send both body and soul into

hell. Therefore it is proper even for the most holy persons to

maintain a fear of God, as the punisher of all unrighteousness. A

man has but one life to lose, and one soul to save; and it is

madness to sacrifice the salvation of the soul to the preservation

of the life.

Verse 6. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings?] See this

explained on Mt 10:29, from which place we learn that two

sparrows were sold for one farthing, and here; that five were sold

for two farthings: thus we find a certain proportion-for one

farthing you could get but two, while for two farthings you could

get five.

Verse 7. Fear not therefore] Want of faith in the providence and

goodness of God is the source of all human inquietudes and fears.

He has undertaken to save and defend those to the uttermost who

trust in him. His wisdom cannot be surprised, his power cannot be

forced, his love cannot forget itself. Man distrusts God, and

fears that he is forgotten by him, because he judges of God by

himself; and he knows that he is apt to forget his Maker, and be

unfaithful to him. See on Mt 10:29-31.

Verse 8. Shall confess] See on Mt 10:32, 33.

Verse 10. Him that blasphemeth] See the sin against the Holy

Ghost explained, Mt 12:32.

Verse 11. Unto magistrates and powers] See Mt 10:17-20.

Take ye no thought] See Mt 6:25; 10:19.

Verse 13. Speak to my brother, that he divide] Among the Jews,

the children had the inheritance of their fathers divided among

them; the eldest had a double portion, but all the rest had equal

parts. It is likely the person complained of in the text was the

elder brother; and he wished to keep the whole to himself-a case

which is far from being uncommon. The spirit of covetousness

cancels all bonds and obligations, makes wrong right, and cares

nothing for father or brother.

Verse 14. A judge] Without some judgment given in the case, no

division could be made; therefore Jesus added the word judge.

PEARCE. A minister of Christ ought not to concern himself with

secular affairs, any farther than charity and the order of

discipline require it. Our Lord could have decided this difference

in a moment; but the example of a perfect disengagement from

worldly things was more necessary for the ministers of his Church

than that of a charity applying itself to temporal concerns. He

who preaches salvation to all should never make himself a party

man; otherwise he loses the confidence, and consequently the

opportunity of doing good to the party against whom he decides.

Better to leave all these things to the civil magistrate, unless

where a lawsuit may be prevented, and the matter decided to the

satisfaction or acquiescence of both parties.

Verse 15. Beware of covetousness] Or rather, Beware of all

inordinate desires. I add πασης, all, on the authority of

ABDKLM-Q, twenty-three others, both the Syriac, all the Persic,

all the Arabic, Coptic, AEthiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, all the

Itala, and several of the primitive fathers.

Inordinate desires. πλεονεξιας, from πλειον, more, and

εχειν, to have; the desire to have more and more, let a

person possess whatever he may. Such a disposition of mind is

never satisfied; for, as soon as one object is gained, the heart

goes out after another.

Consisteth not in the abundance] That is, dependeth not on the

abundance. It is not superfluities that support man's life, but

necessaries. What is necessary, God gives liberally; what is

superfluous, he has not promised. Nor can a man's life be

preserved by the abundance of his possessions: to prove this he

spoke the following parable.

Verse 16. The ground of a certain rich man, &c.] He had

generally what is called good luck in his farm, and this was a

remarkably plentiful year.

Verse 17. He thought within himself] Began to be puzzled in

consequence of the increase of his goods. Riches, though ever so

well acquired, produce nothing but vexation and embarrassment.

Verse 18. I will pull down, &c.] The rich are full of designs

concerning this life, but in general take no thought about

eternity till the time that their goods and their lives are both

taken away.

Verse 19. Soul, thou hast much goods] Great possessions are

generally accompanied with pride, idleness, and luxury; and these

are the greatest enemies to salvation. Moderate poverty, as one

justly observes, is a great talent in order to salvation; but it

is one which nobody desires.

Take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.] This was exactly the

creed of the ancient Atheists and Epicureans. Ede, bibe, lude;

post mortem nulla voluptas. What a wretched portion for an

immortal spirit! and yet those who know not God have no other, and

many of them not even this.

Verse 20. Thou fool!] To imagine that a man's comfort and peace

can depend upon temporal things; or to suppose that these can

satisfy the wishes of an immortal spirit!

This night] How awful was this saying! He had just made the

necessary arrangements for the gratification of his sensual

appetites; and, in the very night in which he had finally settled

all his plans, his soul was called into the eternal world! What a

dreadful awakening of a soul, long asleep in sin! He is now

hurried into the presence of his Maker; none of his worldly goods

can accompany him, and he has not a particle of heavenly treasure!

There is a passage much like this in the book of Ecclesiasticus,

11:18, 19. There is that waxeth rich by his wariness and pinching,

and this is the portion of his reward: Whereas he saith, I have

found rest, and now will eat continually of my goods; and yet he

knoweth not what time shall come upon him; and that he must leave

those things to others, and die. We may easily see whence the

above is borrowed.

Verse 21. So is he] That is, thus will it be. This is not an

individual case; all who make this life their portion, and who are

destitute of the peace and salvation of God, shall, sooner or

later, be surprised in the same way.

Layeth up treasure for himself] This is the essential

characteristic of a covetous man: he desires riches; he gets them;

he lays them up, not for the necessary uses to which they might be

devoted, but for himself; to please himself, and to gratify his

avaricious soul. Such a person is commonly called a miser, i.e.

literally, a wretched, miserable man.

Verse 22. Take no thought] Be not anxiously careful.

See Clarke on Mt 6:25.

Verse 25. To his stature one cubit?] See Clarke on Mt 6:27.

Verse 28. Into the oven] See Clarke on Mt 6:30.

Verse 29. Neither be ye of doubtful mind.] Or, in anxious

suspense, μημετεωριζεσθε. Raphelius gives several examples to

prove that the meaning of the word is, to have the mind agitated

with useless thoughts, and vain imaginations concerning food,

raiment, and riches, accompanied with perpetual uncertainty.

Verse 30. The nations of the world seek after] Or, earnestly

seek, επιζητει from επι above, over, and ζητεω, I

seek; to seek one thing after another, to be continually and

eagerly coveting. This is the employment of the nations of this

world, utterly regardless of God and eternity! It is the essence

of heathenism to live only for this life; and it is the property

of Christianity to lead men to live here in reference to another

and better world. Reader! how art thou living?

Dr. Lightfoot observes on this place, that κοσμος, the world,

and αιων, world or age, have a meaning in the sacred writings

which they have not in profane authors. αιων has relation to the

Jewish ages, and κοσμος to the ages that are not Jewish:

hence, by συντελειατουαιωνος, Mt 24:3, is meant the end of the

Jewish age or world: and προχρονωναιωνιων, Tit 1:2, means

before the Jewish world began; and hence it is that the term world

is very often, in the New Testament, to be understood only of the


Verse 32. Fear not, little flock] Or, very little flock, το

μικρονποιμνιον. This is what some term a double diminutive, and,

literally translated, is, little little flock. Though this refers

solely to the apostles and first believers, of whom it was

literally true, yet we may say that the number of genuine

believers has been, and is still, small, in comparison of heathens

and false Christians.

It is your Father's good pleasure] ευδοκησεν, It hath pleased,

&c., though this tense joined with an infinitive has often the

force of the present. Our Lord intimated, God has already given

you that kingdom which consists in righteousness, peace, and joy

in the Holy Ghost, and has undertaken to protect and save you to

the uttermost; therefore, fear not; the smallness of your number

cannot hurt you, for omnipotence itself has undertaken your cause.

Verse 33. Sell that ye have] Dispose of your goods. Be not like

the foolish man already mentioned, who laid up the produce of his

fields, without permitting the poor to partake of God's bounty:

turn the fruits of your fields (which are beyond what you need for

your own support) into money, and give it in alms; and the

treasure thus laid out, shall be as laid up for yourselves and

families in heaven. This purse shall not grow old, and this

treasure shill not decay. Ye shall by and by find both the place

where you laid up the treasure, and the treasure itself in the

place; for he who hath pity on the poor lendeth unto the Lord;

and he may rest assured, that whatever, for Christ's sake, he thus

lays out, it will be paid him again.

Verse 34. Where your treasure is] Men fix their hearts on their

treasures, and often resort to the place where they have deposited

them, to see that all is safe and secure. Let God be the treasure

of your soul, and let your heart go frequently to the place where

his honour dwelleth. There is a curious parallel passage to this

in Plautus, quoted by Bishop Pearce on Mt 6:21.

Nam ego sum hic; animus domi est, sc. cum argento meo. "I am

here; but my heart is at home, i.e. with my money."

Verse 35. Let your loins] Be active, diligent, determined ready;

let all hinderances be removed out of the way; and let the candle

of the Lord be always found burning brightly in your hand.

See Clarke on Lu 12:37.

Verse 36. That wait for their lord]

See Clarke on Mt 25:1, &c.

The wedding] How the Jewish weddings were celebrated, see in the

notes on Mt 8:12; 22:13.

Verse 37. He shall gird himself] Alluding to the long garments

which were worn in the eastern countries; and which, in travelling

and serving, were tucked up in their belts. That those among the

Romans who waited on the company at table were girded, and had

their clothes tucked up, appears from what Horace says, Sat. b.

vi. l. 107: Veluti SUCCINCTUS cursitat HOSPES, He runs about like

a girded waiter. The host himself often performed this office. And

ibid. viii. 10: Puer alle cinctus: and that the game custom

prevailed among the Jews appears from Joh 13:4, 5, and Lu 17:8.

From this verse we may gather likewise, that it was the custom of

those days, as it was, not long since, among us, for the

bridegroom, at the wedding supper, to wait as a servant upon the

company. See Bishop PEARCE.

Verse 38. If he shall come in the second watch]

See Clarke on Mt 14:25.

Verse 40. Be ye therefore ready also] It is pretty evident that

what is related here, from verse 35 to 49, Lu 12:35-49 was

spoken by our Lord at another time. See Mt 24:42, &c., and the

notes there.

Verse 42. Faithful and wise steward] See Clarke on Mt 24:45;

where the several parts of the steward's office are mentioned and

explained. Those appear to have been stewards among the Jews, whose

business it was to provide all the members of a family, not only with

food, but with raiment.

Verse 45. Begin to beat, &c.] See the different parts of this

bad minister's conduct pointed out on Mt 24:48, 49.

Verse 46. With the unbelievers.] Or, rather, the unfaithful; των

σπιστων. Persons who had the light and knowledge of God's word,

but made an improper use of the privileges they received. The

persons mentioned here differ widely from unbelievers or infidels,

viz. those who were in a state of heathenism, because they had not

the revelation of the Most High: the latter knew not the will of

God, Lu 12:48, and, though they acted against it, did not do it

in obstinacy; the former knew that will, and daringly opposed it.

They were unfaithful, and therefore heavily punished.

Verse 47. Shall be beaten with many stripes.] Criminals among

the Jews could not be beaten with more than forty stripes; and as

this was the sum of the severity to which a whipping could extend,

it may be all that our Lord here means. But, in some cases, a man

was adjudged to receive fourscore stripes! How could this be, when

the law had decreed only forty? Answer: By doubling the crime. He

received forty for each crime; if he were guilty of two offences,

he might receive fourscore. See Lightfoot.

Verse 48. Shall be beaten with few] For petty offences the Jews

in many cases inflicted so few as four, five, and six stripes. See

examples in Lightfoot.

From this and the preceding verse we find that it is a crime to

be ignorant of God's will; because to every one God has given less

or more of the means of instruction. Those who have had much

light, or the opportunity of receiving much, and have not improved

it to their own salvation, and the good of others, shall have

punishment proportioned to the light they have abused. On the

other hand, those who have had little light, and few means of

improvement, shall have few stripes, shall be punished only for

the abuse of the knowledge they possessed. See at the end of the

chapter. Lu 12:59

Verse 49. I am come to send fire] See this subject largely

explained on Mt 10:34, &c. From the connection in which these

words stand, both in this place and in Matthew, it appears as if

our Lord intended by the word fire, not only the consuming

influence of the Roman sword, but also the influence of his own

Spirit in the destruction of sin. In both these senses this fire

was already kindled: as yet, however, it appeared but as a spark,

but was soon to break out into an all-consuming flame.

Verse 50. But I have a baptism] The fire, though already

kindled, cannot burn up till after the Jews have put me to death:

then the Roman sword shall come, and the Spirit of judgment,

burning, and purification shall be poured out.

Verse 51. To give peace] See Mt 10:34.

Verse 52. Five in one house divided] See on Mt 10:35, 36.

Verse 54. A cloud rise] See on Mt 16:2, 3.

Verse 56. This time?] Can ye not discover from the writings of

the prophets, and from the events which now take place, that this

is the time of the Messiah, and that I am the very person foretold

by them?

Verse 57. And why-judge ye] Even without the express

declarations of the prophets, ye might, from what ye see and hear

yourselves, discern that God has now visited his people in such a

manner as he never did before.

Verse 58. When thou goest with thine adversary] This and the

next verse are a part of our Lord's sermon upon the mount. See

them explained Mt 5:25, 26. St. Luke is very particular in

collecting and relating every word and action of our blessed Lord,

but seldom gives them in the order of time in which they were

spoken or done. See the Preface to this Gospel.

Give diligence] δοςερασιαν, Give labour, do every thing in

thy power to get free before a suit commences.

The officer] πρακτωρ properly signifies such an officer as was

appointed to levy the fines imposed by the law for a violation of

any of its precepts. See Kypke.

Verse 59. Till thou hast paid the very last mite.] And when can

this be, if we understand the text spiritually? Can weeping,

wailing, and gnashing of teeth, pay to Divine justice the debt a

sinner has contracted? This is impossible: let him who readeth


THE subject of the 47th and 48th verses Lu 12:47, 48 has been

greatly misunderstood, and has been used in a very dangerous

manner. Many have thought that their ignorance of Divine things

would be a sufficient excuse for their crimes; and, that they

might have but few stripes, they voluntarily continued in

ignorance. But such persons should know that God will judge them

for the knowledge they might have received, but refused to

acquire. No criminal is excused because he has been ignorant of

the laws of his country, and so transgressed them, when it can be

proved that those very laws have been published throughout the

land. Much knowledge is a dangerous thing if it be not improved;

as this will greatly aggravate the condemnation of its possessor.

Nor will it avail a person, in the land of light and information,

to be ignorant, as he shall be judged for what he might have

known; and, perhaps, in this case, the punishment of this

voluntarily ignorant man will be even greater than that of the

more enlightened; because his crimes are aggravated by this

consideration, that he refused to have the light, that he might

neither be obliged to walk in the light, nor account for the

possession of it. So we find that the plea of ignorance is a mere

refuge of lies, and none can plead it who has the book of God

within his reach, and lives in a country blessed with the

preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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