Monday, May 12, 2014

First Things First (Matthew 6:31-34)

“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:31–34, NASB95)

Matthew 6:33 is one of those verses that is a favorite to many, especially to those who struggle with making ends meet or questions about tomorrow. These verses today and the ones that come immediately before it all have to do with worry and anxiety. They have to do with carrying burdens that seem unbearable or approaching deadlines that seem unable to be met. They have to do with people who live under the burden of waiting for the next shoe to drop. The Bible has a lot to say about worry and what we are to do about those worries.

Jesus wraps up this portion of His message with the instruction not to worry about things down the road or beyond today such as tomorrow’s food, drink, and clothing, and He set these worries in the context of the Gentiles who eagerly seek after these things. Looking to the setting of His message we need to be mindful that He was speaking to the Jews as His audience. And to them the Gentiles were those who did not know their God nor did they seek after Him. Their hope was in their own ability to provide. Beyond themselves there was no expectation of deliverance of any form short of possibly pleasing and gaining the favor of some god which Jesus has already declared does not exist. Their hope outside of themselves was an empty hope and their worries were very real.

Jesus reminds His believers and even us today as people who know our hope in God, that our Heavenly Father does truly know our needs and He is powerful to act to take care of them. He created us to need food. He created us to need water. He knows our need of clothing having Himself clothed Adam and Eve after they sinned and they found themselves naked in the garden. None of these needs are surprises to our God, and we know with an absolute certainty that He loves us more than we could ever imagine. We were reminded earlier how He provides for the birds of the air and how He adorns the flowers of the field. He does this for all of His creation, and we are told that He will do much more for us.

It is in this context that we read, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Jesus reminds His hearers that their real priority is to seek after God and His plan for them with their whole hearts and to understand and walk in His righteousness. For us who have trusted Jesus for our salvation we know that our righteous God has put on us the righteousness of His own Son and has called us as His beloved children to follow after and serve Him. This is to be our real priority before God, and in this process of seeking Him we are to lay our anxieties for the other stuff at His feet and trust Him to tend to them as well. In 1 Peter we read, “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7, NASB95)

We are told by Jesus later in this same message to consider just how much our earthly fathers who sin do for us and then imagine how much more our heavenly Father will do for us. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11, NASB95) His power is unlimited, His love is boundless, and He is able to do so much more than we can ever ask or imagine.

In the last verse of today’s passage we read that we are not to worry about tomorrow, but to lay the trials of today before our God and to trust His to strengthen us to deal with the trials of tomorrow when tomorrow comes. We can be reminded of the people of Israel for whom God provided their daily bread (manna) in a very literal sense day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year. God was immensely faithful to them and He will be the same to us. This is how He tells us to trust Him—laying each burden before Him as those burdens come, trusting Him to strengthen and to provide.

When we get up to work we can be thankful for the work that will meet those needs. When we are able to set something aside for a later date we can thank Him for His abundant provision. And when things run short we can even give Him praise for enabling us that we might come out standing on the other side. One of my favorite reminder verses in this area is 1 Corinthians 10:13 where we read, “No temptation [test or trial] has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted [tested or tried] beyond what you are able, but with the temptation [test or trial] will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NASB95)

This may not make a whole lot of sense in our culture where we are hammered over things such as retirement and having the funds to survive. And it is not even to say that we are not to lay away things for the future so that we might be able to live during that day. But in a very real sense for those who don’t know where the immediate things are coming from and how those pressing needs will be met, Jesus tells us to look to Him, to lay our needs at His feet, and to worship Him with all of our hearts. This can be a very difficult thing for us as humans to do, but it is what God assures us we can do as we wait on Him.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:5–8, NASB95) 

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