Few would deny that we live in the perilous times concerning which the apostle Paul warned us in 2 Timothy 3.1. He foretold by the Spirit that in the last days men would be lovers of their own selves. Not surprisingly, the next characteristic he mentions is covetousness, for as soon as a man starts to love himself above all others, he will long to have what others have. Rather than be "Ready to distribute", he will be more than ready to accumulate. This attitude the Lord Jesus warns His followers against in Luke 12.16-34, to which we now turn our attention.
The second man
There are really only two men in the Bible; the first man, Adam, and the second man, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the last Adam. The rest of men are either under the headship of one or the other. Lukes Gospel is the Gospel of the Second Man, and is written so that those who are under the headship of this Second Man may learn to imitate Him.
Believers, who have put on the new man at conversion, are expected to display the features that are found to perfection in Christ. Our old man (our pre-conversion self considered as to its links with Adam) was crucified in company with Christ (Rom 6.6), and, as far as God is concerned, is cancelled. We are reckoned to be a new creation in Christ Jesus, and the old things have passed away in principle (2 Cor 5.17). In practice, however, we have to face the fact that we are still able to sin, for our bodies, although bought with a price (1 Cor 6.20) are as yet not fully redeemed. That awaits the return of the Lord Jesus, when we shall sing in triumph, "O death, where is thy sting?", for "the sting of death is sin", and that sin will be forever gone when our bodies are changed (1 Cor 15.55-57). No longer will they be the headquarters of the sin-principle within us. Meanwhile, we need the exhortation of Romans 6.12 to not let sin (covetousness included) reign in our mortal bodies. Just as Luke was often the companion of the apostle Paul on his journeys, so the Gospel of Luke is the companion of the Pauline epistles.
Up to Jerusalem
In Luke 9.51 the Lord Jesus steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. We must not conclude from this, however, that Luke is about to record a single journey. There were, in fact, three journeys by the Lord Jesus to Jerusalem after this point, and "go to Jerusalem" covers them all. There was the journey mentioned in John 7.2,10, when the Lord attended the Feast of Tabernacles, which took place at the end of September. Then, in December, He was in Jerusalem again, this time at the Feast of the Dedication (Jn 10.22). Then, in the spring, He made His final journey to die at Passover time. Now John records events at Jerusalem connected with these journeys, whereas Luke records other matters, without being very specific as to place and time. Indeed, it is remarkable that Luke, renowned as an accurate and painstaking historian who is deeply interested in recording detailed facts, only names Jericho as a place visited by the Lord after He had begun to "go to Jerusalem". Even Bethany is called "A certain village" (Lk 10.38). It is as if, like his Lord, Luke has his eye fixed on Jerusalem, where the Second Man will cancel out the first man.
It is the ministry and miracles that took place in between and on these journeys with which Luke is concerned what is called Christs Perean ministry. This is highly significant in connection with the ministry given, for Perea is Old Testament Gilead, the territory which half of the tribe of Manasseh preferred instead of fully entering the Land of Promise with all its blessings. The reason given was that Gilead was good for their business of cattle raising (Num 32.16,39). How significant are Christs words during His Perean ministry, therefore: "Beware of covetousness!" How significant, too, that so much is said in His ministry at this time about attitudes to possessions, money, and generosity (see Lk 9.57-62; 10.30-42; 11.41; 12.13-34; 18.18-30; 19.8-10). It is sadly possible for believers to prefer the business opportunities of the world to the enjoyment of spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. Of course, every true believer possesses these blessings, but, like the half tribe of Manasseh, they may cross the Jordan with the rest of the people, but then return to the place of compromise. How important it is to set our affection on things above, not on things on the earth, for Christ is in heaven, sitting on the right hand of God as the dispenser, as First-born, of all the blessings His death has won for us. As the Lord Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Lk 12.34).
The Feast of Ingathering
Another relevant fact about the Perean ministry is that it is given before and after the Feast of Tabernacles. This feast was a reminder of Gods faithfulness to their forefathers in providing for them whilst they were in desert conditions, travelling on to Canaan. The Feast of Tabernacles was also called the Feast of Ingathering, for it was a time of celebration for harvests reaped and winepresses overflowing after the land had been reached (Lev 23.39). This was the time when they could bring "all the tithes into the storehouse" as Malachi 3.10 puts it. Or, in other words, bring to God their offerings. So they praised the God who provided for their need, and they offered to Him out of their plenty.
We should have a weekly feast of ingathering. Having partaken of the bread and wine, we remember Gods abundant provision for us in our deep need. But then we should transfer from our storehouse to Gods storehouse. The apostle puts it like this: "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him " (1 Cor 16.2). As it happens, the collection envisaged by the apostle in that place was literally brought to Jerusalem, not to be put into the offering boxes in the Temple courts, but to supply the needs of the poor saints in Judea. But the principle remains the same a practical and tangible response from the heart in view of great blessings granted.
Covetousness is condemned by both law and grace. The last of the ten words of commandment said, "Thou shalt not covet" (Ex 20.17). This was the command that slew Saul of Tarsus. Whilst his fellow Israelites might sum up his outwardly religious life as being "blameless" (Phil 3.6), the command that exposes heart and motive slew him (Rom 7.7-11). He was as good as dead as far as pleasing God by law-keeping was concerned. Only grace can make a man want to be a generous giver. In that connection, note the repetition of the word "grace" in 2 Corinthians 8 & 9, the chapters that have so much to say about giving.
Covetousness is condemned by grace too, for He who is grace personified, Gods ideal Man, not only condemned it by His words, but also by His attitudes and actions. The first parable of the Perean ministry is that of the Good Samaritan. He who was vilified by men in the words, "Thou art a Samaritan" (Jn 8.48), is pleased to accept the title to show that He was completely free from racial prejudice. It was others who robbed the traveller of his money, his clothes, and very nearly his life. But it was the Samaritan who gave his time, his energy, his oil and wine, his beast, his two pence, and whatever other cost was involved during his absence. He became poor that the robbed man might be rich. And then comes the oft-forgotten command "Go, and do thou likewise". Apt as the parable is to illustrate the gospel, we should never forget the "Do thou likewise". Martha did not forget, for Luke immediately records that she received him into her house (Lk 10.38) and she took care of Him, as the Samaritan and the inn-keeper had taken care of the traveller.
To be continued.