The term “take heed” – which appears 28 times in the New Testament – is expressed in five different Greek words – “prosecho”, “horao”, “blepo”, “epeko” and “skopeo”. Although there are slight nuances in emphasis, the King James translators rightly used the words, “take heed” in their translation.
Let us consider two of these references in their context, that we may draw precious lessons from them:
o “Take heed (Greek – “prosecho”) that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward” (Matthew 6: 1-2).
This is the first time the term, “take heed” appears in the New Testament. It means “to hold the mind” or “to pay careful attention to”.
In context, Jesus was warning His disciples against an ostentatious display of their good works. The religious leaders gave of their alms “to be seen” of men. Such deeds might win the praises of men, but the omniscient Lord saw through their hypocrisy: “Verily I say unto you, They have their reward” (v 2).
“If he gives alms to the poor, he has his penny in one hand, but his other hand is holding to his mouth a trumpet, so that he may blow it at the corner of the street that everybody may know how generous he is. He spoils all that he does because his soul is lifted up with pride, which warps his whole life” (C H Spurgeon).
Brethren, let us do our good deeds with the right motive – for the glory of God. Let our acts of kindness be done sincerely and secretly: “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret Himself shall reward thee openly” (vv 3-4).
o “And he said unto them, Take heed (Greek – “horao”), and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12: 15).
In the original, “horao” means “to discern clearly”. Note Jesus’ double caution against the grievous sin of covetousness – “take heed” and “beware”. This reflects the strong inclination in our depraved nature to this sin.
Jesus spoke these words of warning when a man asked Him to arbitrate in an inheritance dispute with his brother. Knowing the covetous heart of the inquirer, the Lord told the parable of the rich farmer who had reaped a bountiful harvest. To store his goods, the man decided to build bigger barns (v 18). In his prosperity, the rich man’s chief concern was to enjoy life’s pleasures: “And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (v 19).
To many, the rich farmer was a great success, but Jesus called him “a fool” – because of his total disregard for God and the things of eternal value. He lived only for the present – to accumulate and enjoy his wealth. That very night, however, his life was cut short and he had to part from all his earthly possessions: “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (v 20).
“What an awful sentence to a man who, as he thought, had got just ready to live and enjoy himself! In a single moment all his hopes were blasted, and his soul summoned to the bar of his long-forgotten God. So, many are surprised as suddenly and as unprepared. They are snatched from their pleasures, and hurried to a world where there is no pleasure, and where all their wealth cannot purchase one moment’s ease from the gnawings of the worm that never dies” (Albert Barnes).
We read of his sad end in v 21: “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” As exhorted by our Lord, let us guard against a covetous spirit, for our life does not consist in the abundance of our worldly possessions. To think of life in terms of material wealth is sheer folly. Let us set our affections on things above (Col 3: 1). Lay up treasures in heaven by doing God’s will and living for Him each day. Seek not the things of this world. Rather, let us seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all the things that we need shall be added unto us (Matt 6: 33).