Luke 12:45

ESV But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk,
NIV But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk.
NASB But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will take a long time to come,’ and he begins to beat the other slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk;
CSB But if that servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' and starts to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk,
NLT But what if the servant thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk?
KJV But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;

What does Luke 12:45 mean?

When the master of a house goes away, good servants will keep lights on and stay prepared for his return, no matter how late he arrives. This illustration teaches how Jesus' followers should remain diligent in their responsibilities while they await His return and the fulfillment of the kingdom of God (Luke 12:35–40). Jesus wants His followers to understand that they will not know when He will return, so they need to remain watchful. Peter, however, seems to hear that Jesus is comparing the disciples to servants. In Peter's mind, there surely must be some differentiation between the Twelve and the "ordinary" people crowding around them (Luke 12:1, 41).

Jesus allows that within servanthood some will be leaders, but leaders carry even more responsibility: they must make sure the believers in their care are fed properly. Sometimes, this is literal, like in the early church (Acts 6:1–6). Most of the time, this refers to providing the "bread of life": the truth about Jesus (John 6:35).

Now, Jesus describes a bad church leader. They grow tired of waiting for their master to return. They begin to think they are the master, and therefore entitled to the choice things in the house. They eat the master's food, drink his wine, and beat his servants. They don't realize the master will return unexpectedly. Because these "leaders" know what they are supposed to do and refuse to do it, they will be punished harshly (Luke 12:46–47).

Jesus' description is strikingly similar to God's description of the Jewish religious leaders in Ezekiel 34. These "shepherds" feed themselves instead of their "sheep," take what they want, refuse to heal the wounded, and abandon the lost. As a result, the sheep scatter, easy prey for wolves and lions (Ezekiel 34:1–6). God promises to rescue the sheep and "set up over them one shepherd, [his] servant David, and he shall feed them" (Ezekiel 34:23). This "David" is Jesus. The disciples are the fellow workers Jesus delegates to feed His sheep (1 Corinthians 3:9; John 21:15–17).
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