Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 12:47 - 12:48

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 12:47 - 12:48

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Luk_12:47-48. That servant, which knew his Lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

IF there be much spoken in Scripture concerning the necessity of faith in Christ, so is there much spoken also concerning the necessity of obedience to him. The two are never to be separated: they are indissolubly connected together in God’s purpose; and must be also in our attainments: they are the root and the fruit, or the foundation and the superstructure. The importance of good works is marked with peculiar force in the words before us; wherein our Lord makes known to us,

I.       The ground and measure of our responsibility to God—

The ground of our responsibility to God is, that we are his servants—

[Every living man, from the highest to the lowest, is a servant of the Most High God. In this respect there is no difference between the king upon his throne and the beggar on a dunghill. Every one of us has his proper office to perform for him, and every one that measure of talent which He has seen fit to commit to our care. Had we been independent of him, we had had no responsibility: but, having received every thing from him, and for him, we must, of necessity, give up an account to him of all that we have received, and of all that we have done.]

The measure of our responsibility depends on the knowledge we have possessed of our Master’s will—

[A steward has much communication with his master, and an intimate acquaintance with his will; whilst a labourer is but very partially and imperfectly informed. Of course, therefore, much more is expected from the steward, than from the labourer. Thus it is in God’s family. There is much more expected of a Christian, than of a Heathen, who has never received any revelation from God; and much more from one who has the Gospel faithfully administered to him, than from one who has never had its riches unfolded to him. The two different persons will be judged by a different law: the Heathen “being a law unto themselves;” but Christians being judged according to the opportunities of instruction that have been afforded them. Our blessed Lord told his hearers, that, “if he had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin; but that now they would have no cloak for their sin [Note: Joh_15:22.].” And on the same ground he warned them, that they would have a more tremendous doom than Tyre and Sidon, yea, than even Sodom and Gomorrha, because they had possessed advantages which the inhabitants of those cities had never known, and had abused privileges which they had never enjoyed [Note: Luk_10:12-14.].]

Agreeable to this view of our responsibility will be,

II.      The rule of God’s procedure towards us in the day of judgment—

Under the law, certain offences were to be punished with stripes, which were awarded to malefactors according to their desert [Note: Deu_25:2-3.]. Now, in a family, every servant ought to know his duty; and, therefore, if he violate it through ignorance, he is deserving of blame: but if he violate it knowingly and wilfully, he is, of course, worthy of severer reprehension. This, under the law, was particularly marked as a rule whereby to estimate and punish the faults of men: “The priest shall make an atonement for the soul that sinneth ignorantly, when he sinneth by ignorance before the Lord, to make an atonement for him: and it shall be forgiven him. But the soul that doeth aught presumptuously, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people [Note: Num_15:27-31.].”

His investigation of cases will be most exact—

[The advantages of every person for knowing and doing his Master’s will, will be distinctly marked, and weighed, as it were, in the nicest balance. We form some idea of this from the offerings which were required by the Law for sins of ignorance. If a priest sinned through ignorance, he was to offer a bullock for his offence; as were also the whole congregation, if they erred: for the advantages possessed by a priest for knowing his duty were so superior to that of others, that an error in him was equal in enormity to the same evil when committed by the whole people of Israel. If a ruler sinned through ignorance, he was to bring a male kid for his offering: but if one of the common people erred, a female kid or lamb would suffice for him [Note: Lev_4:3; Lev_4:13; Lev_4:22; Lev_4:27-28; Lev_4:32.]. Ignorance was a sin in any one of them, and demanded an atonement to be made for it [Note: Lev_5:17-19.]; but its enormity varied according to the means which different persons possessed of acquiring information. Conformably with this rule will justice be administered in the day of judgment. Ministers have, beyond a doubt, by far the greatest measure of responsibility; and, if they be unfaithful to their office, must receive by far the heaviest condemnation. Magistrates too, inasmuch as their duties call for the greater, and their errors produce the more pernicious, effects upon society, must be considered as deeply accountable to God for their conduct, and as involving themselves in a peculiar measure of guilt, if they execute not aright the trust reposed in them. Indeed, every member of society, according to the extent of his information and his influence, will be responsible to God for the discharge of his appropriate duties; and, in the event of his neglecting to fulfil them, will receive from God a corresponding punishment. Such will be God’s mode of judging: and]

His sentence, too, will be pronounced in perfect equity—

[“Stripes,” to whomsoever administered, will be proportioned, not merely to the offence committed, but to the circumstances under which they were committed. This is the rule of conduct amongst men. “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they expect the more.” If we ourselves have committed five talents to a servant, we expect a greater increase than from him to whom we have committed only two. And if there be a servant to whom we have entrusted only one, we expect a suitable improvement even of that one. This is what God also does: and, whilst to those who have approved themselves faithful he will give a suitable reward, he will say concerning the unprofitable servant, “Cast him into outer darkness, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth [Note: Mat_25:30.]”]

Consider now, beloved,

1.       What is the aspect of this passage upon your state—

[Not only the heathen world, but thousands of Christians also, possess not the privileges which you enjoy. Not only must you, but God himself also will, bear me witness, that I have not “withheld from you any thing that was profitable for you.” “I have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God:” so that, if you have neglected to fulfil it, you are altogether without excuse. Call to mind, then, the instructions that have been given you: and compare with them the state of your souls before God [Note: Jam_4:17.] — — — Do this, and say whether you have not reason to fear that “stripes” will be your deserved recompence [Note: Luk_10:15.] — — —]

2.       What is your duty in relation to it—

[Rise to the occasion. Remember whose ye are. Ye are the Lord’s: ye are his by creation: ye are his by redemption: “you are not in any respect your own: ye are bought with a price; and therefore are bound to glorify God with your bodies and your spirits, which are God’s [Note: 1Co_6:20.].” Think not that ignorance will excuse you: “Say not before the angel or messenger of the Lord, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands [Note: Ecc_5:6.]?” Search out, with diligence, the mind of God: lose no opportunity of obtaining a further acquaintance with it: and, whatsoever you know to be his will, “do it with all your might [Note: Ecc_9:10.].” — — —]