“I came to start a fire on the earth, and what more is there for me to wish if it has already been lighted?”—Luke 12:49
What fire? How did it get lit?
Doesn’t it refer to God’s ways versus the ways of a world estranged from him? That fire was lit long ago. Jesus fans it into fever pitch, introducing a preaching activity that will ultimately put the choice in everyone’s face—is it the kingdom that they want to rule over them, or the present human system of 200 squabbling nations? Jehovah’s Witnesses who speak for him today do nothing to bring that future kingdom about, but they do publicize it:
“And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Daniel 2:44
Moreover, those who want and expect that kingdom rule versus those who do not want or expect it assume different priorities in their lives that reflect their desires and expectations. It makes for significant conflicts, even within families. That must be what Jesus meant as he went on to say:
Do you imagine I came to give peace on the earth? No, indeed, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on there will be five in one house divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against [her] mother, mother-in-law against [her] daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against [her] mother-in-law.”—Luke 12:51-53
It manifests itself today in people changing sides—for the allure of both sides are as strong as the are different. In the case of a Witness family that some members depart from, it takes the form of the latter charging that they were misled, manipulated, and so forth. No wonder the apostle seems to anticipate the charge:
“We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one.”—2 Corinthians 7:2
“Nevertheless, you say, I was “crafty” and I caught you “by trickery.”—2 Corinthians 12:16.
Jesus doesn’t buy it, either, about being obtuse regarding the end of this system of things approaching:
“Then he went on to say also to the crowds: “When see a cloud rising in western parts, at once you say, ‘A storm is coming,’ and it turns out so. And when you see that a south wind is blowing, you say, ‘There will be a heat wave,’ and it occurs. Hypocrites, you know how to examine the outward appearance of earth and sky, but how is it you do not know how to examine this particular time?—Luke 12:54-56
The trick may be to check your “critical thinking” skills at the door, so as to focus on what he next says: “Why do you not judge also for yourselves what is righteous?”—vs 57 God’s kingdom is “righteous.” Human governments, whatever their intent, whatever their ideals, whatever their sporadic successes, are not.
That being the case with God’s kingdom approaching, why make oneself an “adversary of him?”
“For example, when you are going with your adversary at law to a ruler, get to work, while on the way, to rid yourself of the dispute with him, that he may never hale you before the judge, and the judge deliver you to the court officer, and the court officer throw you into prison.”—vs 58
I liked this point as well (most of these verses were considered at the Kingdom Hall meeting this past week, and the ones not will be considered next week):
“But if ever that slave should say in his heart, ‘My master delays coming,’ and should start to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day that he is not expecting [him] and in an hour that he does not know, and he will punish him with the greatest severity and assign him a part with the unfaithful ones.”—vs 45-46
Practically speaking, the “slave” that doubts that the master is coming anytime soon (or at all) begins to reappraise all the effort he has put into publicizing that event. What once seemed as natural as breathing air now comes to seem wasted time, in fact, worse than wasted time, since it served to put he/she behind the curve as regards the goals of the greater world. In no time at all, such persons have joined “the unfaithful ones.” They are deriding what they once embraced—in effect, “beating their fellow slaves.” They are almost forced to carry on about how they were misled and manipulated, because the alternative is to explain how they could have been so stupid to go along for so many years with what they now reject. So they frame matters as a “sinister religious corporation” taking advantage of the minions. They are nuts—the only reason members incorporate is so that they can do things legally, such as owning land or publishing, that will not all fall apart with the death of the founders.
Let us visit the parallel verses in the Book of Matthew, noting that the slaves doing business have always been associated with the preaching and disciple-making work. Let us consider it in the satirical Sheepngoats Translation, which is not accepted by all scholars—in fact, most of them assume that the translators must have been smoking something:
“After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. So the one that had received five talents came forward and brought five additional talents, saying, ‘Master, you committed five talents to me; see, I gained five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’
“Next the one that had received the two talents came forward and said, ‘Master, you committed to me two talents; see, I gained two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’
“Finally the one that had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I didn’t do squat. I thought about it, but you see, to do business, I would have had to work with the others, and they are all jerks. I also would have had to work with the bankers, and it is all about money with them. And I for sure didn’t want to work with any non-profit organizations who might lean on me to do something I didn’t want to do. I shouldn’t have to put up with that—I have rights. After all, we all know that you reap where you did not sow, and gather where you do not winnow. You want disciples? Then get off your rear end and make them yourself! Don’t foist your corporate agenda on me!’
“In reply his master said to him, ‘Wicked and sluggish slave, you knew, did you, that I reaped where I did not sow and gathered where I did not winnow? Well, then, you ought to have deposited my silver monies with the bankers, and on my arrival I would be receiving what is mine with interest.’”—Matthew 25:19-25
The master could have worked with that attitude, it appears! Just take it to the bank if you feel that way, he says. Instead, the loutish slave dug in the ground and hid the silver money, (vs 25) working up a sweat so as to thwart the master’s will. it is as opposers do today. They go to considerable effort to thwart the work that they once took part it.