of so many thousands: Lit., “of the myriads.” The Greek word literally refers to a group of 10,000, a myriad, but it can also be used of a very large, unspecified number.
in the light: That is, in public; openly.
preached from the housetops: See study note on Mt 10:27.
Gehenna: See study note on Mt 5:22.
sparrows: See study note on Mt 10:29.
for two coins of small value: Lit., “for two assarions.” Earlier, during his third Galilean tour, Jesus said that two sparrows could be bought for one assarion. (Mt 10:29) An assarion was the wage a man earned for 45 minutes’ work. (See App. B14.) Now, likely about a year later during his ministry in Judea, Jesus makes the statement that Luke records, saying that five sparrows could be obtained for two assarions. Comparing these accounts, we learn that sparrows were of such little value that merchants would include the fifth one free of charge.
even the hairs of your head are all numbered: See study note on Mt 10:30.
public assemblies: Or possibly, “synagogues.” The Greek noun sy·na·go·geʹ used here literally means “a bringing together; an assembly.” In most occurrences in the Christian Greek Scriptures, it refers to the building or place where Jews assembled for Scripture reading, instruction, preaching, and prayer. (See Glossary, “Synagogue.”) The word in this context could refer to “synagogues,” to which local Jewish courts were attached (see study note on Mt 10:17), but it seems to be used here in a broader sense to refer to the type of gatherings that were accessible to the public, Jewish or non-Jewish. These assemblies were organized for the purpose of legally prosecuting a Christian and perhaps even rendering some kind of judicial decision against him because of his faith.
divide the inheritance with me: The Mosaic Law was quite clear on the matter of dividing an inheritance between siblings. The eldest son received a double portion, for he was to inherit the responsibilities of the family head. (De 21:17) The remainder of the inheritance was to be divided among the other heirs. It seems likely that the man referred to in this verse greedily wanted more than his legal share. This might explain his inappropriate behavior in interrupting Jesus’ spiritual discussion with a demand about this secular matter. Jesus wisely refused to get involved in the dispute, but he went on to warn against greed.
arbitrator: Or “divider; apportioner.” Jesus here acknowledges that there was no need for him to get involved in a matter that was clearly defined in the Mosaic Law. Further, that Law designated elders to arbitrate any monetary disputes. Jesus also understood that he was sent to the earth, not to get involved in secular matters, but to preach the good news of God’s Kingdom.
greed: Or “covetousness.” The Greek word ple·o·ne·xiʹa literally means “having more” and denotes an insatiable desire to have more. This Greek term is also used at Eph 4:19; 5:3. After mentioning “greediness” at Col 3:5, Paul adds, “which is idolatry.”
an illustration: See study note on Mt 13:3.
myself: Or “my soul.” The Greek word psy·kheʹ, traditionally rendered “soul,” occurs three times in verses 19 and 20. The meaning of this term has to be determined by the context. (See Glossary, “Soul.”) Here it refers to the person himself—the material, visible, tangible person—and not to an invisible, untouchable substance inside the human body. Therefore, the expressions “my soul” and “myself” basically mean the same thing.—See study note on You have in this verse and study note on Lu 12:20.
You have: Or “Soul, you have.” The foolish man is here addressing himself. As explained in the note on myself in this verse, the Greek word psy·kheʹ, traditionally rendered “soul,” here refers to the person himself.—See Glossary, “Soul.”
Unreasonable one: Or “You fool.” Rather than denote a person who is lacking in mental ability, such terms as “unreasonable” or “fool” as used in the Bible generally refer to an individual who rejects reason and follows a morally insensible course, one that is out of harmony with God’s righteous standards.
they are demanding your life from you: In this illustration, reference is not made to any group of humans or angels. The Greek verb for “to demand” is in the third person plural (“they”), simply indicating what was going to happen to the man. Jesus did not specify how the rich man in the illustration would die or who would take his life. The point was that by some means, the man was going to die that night. Therefore, the phrase could also be rendered “your life will be demanded from you.”
your life: Or “your soul.” As mentioned in the study note on Lu 12:19, the meaning of the Greek word psy·kheʹ, traditionally rendered “soul,” has to be determined by the context. Here it refers to the life that a person has.—See Glossary, “Soul.”
rich toward God: Or “rich in the eyes of God,” that is, rich in the things that are important from God’s perspective.
stop being anxious: Or “stop worrying.” The tense of the Greek verb me·ri·mnaʹo in this prohibition indicates to stop doing an action already in progress. The Greek term for “being anxious” can refer to worry that divides a person’s mind and distracts him, robbing him of joy. Luke uses the same Greek word at Lu 12:11, 25, 26. This verb is used by Paul at 1Co 7:32-34 and Php 4:6.—See study note on Mt 6:25.
your lives: Or “your souls.” The Greek word psy·kheʹ, traditionally rendered “soul,” here refers to a person’s life.—See Glossary, “Soul.”
the life: Or “the soul.” As in the preceding verse, the Greek word psy·kheʹ here refers to the life that a person has. In this context, the combination life (soul) and body represents the entire person.
ravens: In the Christian Greek Scriptures, this bird is mentioned only here. When Jesus gave similar admonition in the Sermon on the Mount, he did not refer to a specific bird. (Mt 6:26) Luke’s account has its setting during Jesus’ ministry in Judea, about 18 months after he delivered the Sermon on the Mount in Galilee. Here Jesus emphasizes the admonition by pointing to the raven, a bird that was unclean according to the Law covenant. (Le 11:13, 15) Evidently, the lesson is that since God provides for unclean ravens, we can be certain that he will never forsake people who trust in him.
a cubit: See study note on Mt 6:27.
his life span: See study note on Mt 6:27.
such a small thing: Or “such a very little thing.” Lit., “the smallest thing.” This apparently refers to what is stated in the preceding verse about adding a cubit to one’s life span. If humans cannot extend their life just a little, not even a cubit, why should they be so anxious and concerned about storing a great amount of wealth, food, and clothing and about having many homes and properties?
the lilies: Some identify this flower with the anemone, but it may have included a variety of lilylike flowers, such as tulips, hyacinths, irises, and gladiolus. Some suggest that Jesus referred simply to the many wildflowers growing in the area and therefore translate the Greek word using more general terms, such as “flowers” or “wildflowers.” This may be inferred, since this phrase is used in parallel with “vegetation in the field.”—Lu 12:28; Mt 6:28-30.
vegetation . . . oven: See study note on Mt 6:30.
you with little faith: See study note on Mt 6:30.
stop being in anxious suspense: Or “stop worrying.” The Greek word me·te·o·riʹzo·mai occurs only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures. In classical Greek, it had the meaning “to raise on high; to suspend”; it is even used in this sense with reference to ships being tossed at sea. In this context, however, it is used figuratively for being anxious or unsettled, as if tossed about or wavering because of doubt and anxiety.
keep seeking: The form of the Greek verb used here indicates continuous action and could be rendered “seek continually.” Jesus’ true followers would not seek the Kingdom for a time and then go on to other things. Rather, they would always make it their chief concern in life. The same counsel by Jesus is recorded at Mt 6:33 as part of his Sermon on the Mount in Galilee. Luke’s account here records events about a year and a half later, during the concluding part of Jesus’ ministry, likely in Judea. Jesus apparently saw fit to repeat his previous admonition.
gifts of mercy: See study note on Mt 6:2.
Be dressed and ready: Lit., “having your loins girded around.” This idiom refers to binding up the ends of a long outer garment with a belt to facilitate physical work, running, and so forth. It came to denote a state of readiness for any activity. Similar expressions occur many times in the Hebrew Scriptures. (For example: Ex 12:11, ftn.; 1Ki 18:46, ftn.; 2Ki 3:21, ftn.; 4:29; Pr 31:17, ftn.; Jer 1:17, ftn.) In this context, the form of the verb indicates a continuous state of readiness for spiritual activity on the part of God’s servants. At Lu 12:37, the same Greek verb is rendered “dress himself for service.” At 1Pe 1:13, the expression “brace up your minds for activity” literally means “gird up the loins of your mind.”
second watch: That is, from about 9:00 p.m. until midnight. This division is according to the Greek and Roman system of four night watches. The Hebrews formerly divided the night into three watches of about four hours each (Ex 14:24; Jg 7:19), but by the first century C.E., they had adopted the Roman system.—See study notes on Mt 14:25; Mr 13:35.
the third: That is, from midnight to about 3:00 a.m.—See study note on Mr 13:35.
steward: Or “house manager; house administrator.” The Greek word oi·ko·noʹmos refers to a person placed over servants, though he himself is a servant. In ancient times, such a position was often filled by a faithful slave who was placed in charge of his master’s affairs. Therefore, it was a position of great trust. Abraham’s servant “who was managing all [Abraham] had” was such a steward, or household manager. (Ge 24:2) This was also true of Joseph, as described at Ge 39:4. The “steward” in Jesus’ illustration is referred to in the singular, but this does not necessarily mean that the steward represented only one particular person. The Scriptures contain examples of a singular noun referring to a collective group, such as when Jehovah addressed the collective group of the Israelite nation and told them: “You are my witnesses [plural], . . . yes, my servant [singular] whom I have chosen.” (Isa 43:10) Similarly, this illustration refers to a composite steward. In the parallel illustration at Mt 24:45, this steward is called “the faithful and discreet slave.”
the discreet one: Or “the wise one.” The Greek adjective phroʹni·mos used here conveys the idea of understanding associated with insight, forethought, discernment, prudence, and wisdom in a practical sense. Luke uses a form of the same Greek word at Lu 16:8, where it is rendered “wiser in a practical way.” The same Greek word is used at Mt 7:24; 25:2, 4, 8, 9. The Septuagint uses this word at Ge 41:33, 39 regarding Joseph.
his body of attendants: Or “his household servants; his household staff.” Like the term “domestics” (Greek, oi·ke·teiʹa), used at Mt 24:45, this term (Greek, the·ra·peiʹa) refers to all individuals who serve in the master’s household. Luke uses a term common in classical Greek with the same general meaning as the term used by Matthew. Luke’s use of the term may reflect his education and background.
that slave: The steward mentioned in verse 42 is here referred to as a “slave.” (See study note on Lu 12:42.) If “that slave” is faithful, he will be rewarded. (Lu 12:44) In the parallel illustration at Mt 24:45-47, this steward is called “the faithful and discreet slave.”—See study note on Lu 12:45.
that slave: The slave mentioned here refers to the steward described at Lu 12:42. If “that slave” is faithful, he will be rewarded. (Lu 12:43, 44) On the other hand, if “that slave” is disloyal, he will be punished “with the greatest severity.” (Lu 12:46) Jesus’ words here are actually a warning directed to the faithful steward. Similarly, in the parallel illustration at Mt 24:45-51, when saying, “If ever that evil slave says in his heart,” Jesus is neither foretelling nor appointing an “evil slave” but is warning the faithful slave about what would happen if he were to start displaying the characteristics of an evil slave.
punish him with the greatest severity: See study note on Mt 24:51.
to start a fire: Symbolically speaking, the coming of Jesus brought a fiery time to the Jews. Jesus started the fire by raising issues that caused heated controversy and resulted in the consuming of many false teachings and traditions. For example, contrary to the nationalistic expectations of the Jews, while the Messiah was on earth, he did not liberate literal Israel from Roman rule but he suffered a shameful death. By his zealous preaching, Jesus made God’s Kingdom the paramount issue before the people, thus sparking a heated controversy throughout the nation.—1Co 1:23.
your last small coin: Lit., “the last lepton.” The Greek word le·ptonʹ means something small and thin. A lepton was a coin that equaled 1/128 of a denarius and was apparently the smallest copper or bronze coin used in Israel.—See Glossary, “Lepton,” and App. B14.