The Expository Files

Understanding The Greater Threat

Luke 12:4-7

"And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." (Luke 12:4-7)

One of the most powerful motives in human behavior is the fear of the impending loss of your life. The fear of death will cause us to visit an emergency room with great haste, call the police, fire a weapon, hide or flee to a safe place. This will to live and defeat death causes people everyday to cancel air flights, take a cumbersome detour or seek professional protection. Police officers wear bullet-proof vests, men who work at risky heights use safety equipment and drivers enroll in defensive driving. We do not want to be killed. There is a natural human impulse to stay alive.

Jesus said, "do not be afraid of those who kill the body." Is Jesus telling us that the above typical cautions are unwise and faithless? Do His words recommend that we have no concern, no fear, no bother over the threat of death? No. First, we must study His words in the context of all He is saying on this occasion, in this text. Second, we must consider this truth in the light of other biblical truth (Paul said to a man attempting suicide, "do yourself no harm," Acts 16:28).

The point Jesus makes has to do with what is worse. There is something worse than physical death. Being cast into hell! There should be in us - not just the fear of physical death, but the greater fear of spiritual death. If we take lightly the approach of the devil, and we do not take God seriously - we haven't learned what Jesus teaches.

Isn't it revealing how strong and quick our impulses are when we think physical death is near. Yet when faced with something that could cast us into hell, we may show no evidence of any alarm! If we believe a vicious stalker is near, we act with caution. A gunman in the neighborhood will prompt our keen defenses. The devil is a murderer, a stalker and vicious enemy - but there is often no sense of alarm, no fear or concern (see Jno. 8:44; 1 Pet. 5:8). Jesus wants us to understand the greater threat! This is about taking God seriously (reverence and fear toward Him), and along with this - a sober, watchful defensive position toward the devil.

Who really cares about you? Not the devil. His interest in you is strictly carnal; you are meat to him (see 1 Pet. 5:8)!

God cares about you in the deepest, purest way. Sparrows have enjoyed their existence since their creation, under the protection of God's providence. but we "are of more value than many sparrows."

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 8.5; May 2001