Chapter

Luke 12:46

ESV the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful.
NIV The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
NASB then the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect, and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in two, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
CSB that servant's master will come on a day he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unfaithful.
NLT The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant in pieces and banish him with the unfaithful.
KJV The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.

What does Luke 12:46 mean?

Jesus is trying to teach the disciples that after He leaves, they need to continue working diligently until He returns. He has given two parables to this effect and is in the middle of a third. Meanwhile, Peter seems concerned that Jesus considers the disciples to be mere servants on the same level as the teeming crowd (Luke 12:1, 35–41).

In response, Jesus explains that, yes, there is a difference between the servants that are His followers and the servants whom He will install as leaders. The leaders will have more responsibilities and will be held to a higher standard. If they fail to be diligent in their responsibilities until His return, they will be seriously punished (Luke 12:42–45).

James will back up Jesus' warning, saying, "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness" (James 3:1). Jesus' words also continue to repeat the warning God gave to the Jewish religious leaders at the time of the Babylonian exile. These "shepherds" abused God's "sheep." God warned that He is against such shepherds and He will judge them, although He doesn't describe how (Ezekiel 34).

This verse reflects that ambiguity. How will God judge teachers more strictly? How will He take abusive church leaders and "cut [them] in pieces"? We know that if someone is saved, all their sins are covered by Jesus' sacrifice—including the spiritual abuse Jesus refers to here. We also know that those who are saved will not face punishment for their sins; Jesus took it all. So how will they be "put…with the unfaithful?"

Paul explains that Christians will be judged for their good works; namely, how they build up the church. Works will be tested as if by fire, and whatever survives will warrant a reward. Some Christians will face this fire and escape with only their lives; their useless works are turned to ash (1 Corinthians 3:11–15).

Here, however, Jesus is using hyperbole to try to get Peter and the disciples back to His point. If they—and following leaders—do not faithfully care for the church, they are no better than unbelievers. In fact, they may be unbelievers. Their abuse of the people in the church reveals their rejection of Jesus' message. They are at risk of revealing that they are not legitimate followers of Christ, at all.
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