CONTENTMENT IN RELATION TO DAILY NEEDS
4/20/2012 11:34:30 PM -
Are You Anxious about Daily Provisions? This anxiety can rob you of contentment. Jesus addressed these anxieties:
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!
Do not worry then, saying, 'What shall 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. But do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt. 6:25-34 NASB).
I. WORRY IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE CHRISTIAN LIFE (vv. 25-30)
A modern day parable involves a conversation between a robin and a sparrow. One day a dialogue ensued between a Robin and a Sparrow. The Robin said to the Sparrow: 'There is one thing I would really like to know, why these anxious human beings rush about and worry so much.' The Sparrow said to the Robin: 'Friend, I think that it must be that they have no heavenly Father such as cares for you and me.'
The fictitious dialogue above is similar to the message that Jesus wanted to get across to His disciples and the multitude who had gathered around Him to hear the Sermon on the Mount. In this Sermon, Jesus repeats the prohibition, 'Do not be anxious' three times (Matt. 6:25, 31, 34). The truth is that Jesus neither denies nor despises the needs of the body. Jesus taught us to pray, 'Give us this day our daily bread.' What Jesus is teaching is that to become fixated on material comforts is a false preoccupation. For one thing, it is unproductive (except perhaps ulcers, headaches, neck pains, and yet more worry); for another it is unnecessary because 'Your Father knows what you need.' An exclusive preoccupation with food, drink, and clothing could be justified if physical survival were the only thing in human existence. If you weigh carefully all the commercials on TV and Newspapers, they always appeal to physical needs and comfort. But Jesus is saying that there is more to life than the preoccupation with physical needs. Thomas Gillespie, president of Princeton Theological Seminary says,
We live in a carnival atmosphere where sideshow barkers are continually beckoning us. Step right up. Here's the security you've been looking for. Buy this car and you'll feel free. Purchase these toys and your kids will stop complaining. Use this perfume and you'll be lovable, adorable, and worthy of being touched. Gargle with this mouthwash and people will enjoy being in your presence.
Our experience, however, indicates no end to the commercials and the craving for things cannot be satisfied.
Jesus is not forbidding us from thinking. On the contrary, He is encouraging it; He goes on to bid us look at the birds and flowers and consider how God looks after them. Jesus is not forbidding forethought. The Bible calls our attention to the ant. So Jesus is not saying that you are not to make provisions for the future. There is nothing in this text to stop us from making plans for the future or taking sensible steps for our own security. Why is worry about physical provision wrong?
Jesus answers this question by saying that obsessive worry of this kind is incompatible both with Christian faith (Matt. 6:25-30) and with common sense (Matt. 6:34). Our human experience is that God created and sustains our life. This is a fact of everyday experience. You did not make or create yourself. Neither do you keep yourself alive. God who created and saved you by His grace through His Son Jesus Christ knows how to take care of you.
If, therefore, you are anxious about daily provision, this fear presents you with a dual temptation to distrust God and to substitute fear for practical action. Worry means paying attention to what you cannot change instead of putting your energies to work in effective ways. Jesus is saying that worry takes away life rather than adding anything to it. You counteract worry by doing what you can and trusting where you cannot. When you work for God and wait on His timing, you will not have time to worry. When you seek first to honor God as King and conform your life to His righteousness, worry will always find you otherwise occupied. Victor Hugo said, 'Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones. And when you have finished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake!'
The logic to Jesus' prohibition of worry or anxiety is inescapable as He enforces the teachings in verse 27 with the question: 'And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to your life?' It is uncertain whether the last word in verse 27 should be translated 'span of life' or 'stature.' It can mean either. To add one meter to your height would be a remarkable feat, but you and I cannot do that. To add a period of time to your lifespan would be a great achievement in life, but all these are beyond our control. They are outside our competence. No human being can achieve this by himself/herself. Only God can do this for us (example, what God did for Hezekiah). Indeed far from lengthening your life, worry may very well shorten it. Therefore, just as we leave these matters to God, would it not be wise to trust Him for lesser things like food and clothes?
To drive His point home to us, Jesus uses birds as an illustration of God's supply of food (Matt. 6:26) and flowers to illustrate the supply of clothing (Matt. 6:28-30). It is good to take delight in nature because it can teach us so many lessons in life. Jesus is making the birds our schoolmasters and teachers. Martin Luther said,
It is a great and abiding disgrace to us that in the Gospel a helpless sparrow should become a theologian and a preacher to the wisest of men. Whenever you listen to a nightingale, therefore, you are listening to an excellent preacher. It is as if he were saying I prefer to be in the Lord's kitchen. He has made heaven and earth, and He Himself is the cook and the host. Everyday He feeds and nourishes innumerable little birds out of His hand.'
What Jesus is teaching in this text does not promote indolence. The fact that you are a Christian does not exempt you from earning your own living. You cannot sit back in an armchair, twiddle your thumbs, mutter, 'My heavenly Father will provide' and do nothing. You have to work. As Paul put it, 'If anyone would not work, let him not eat' (2 Thess. 3:10). Luther writes again, 'God wants nothing to do with the lazy, gluttonous bellies that are neither concerned nor busy; they act as if they just had to sit and wait for Him to drop a roasted goose into their mouth.'
Jesus uses birds and flowers as evidences of God's ability to feed and clothe us. But how does God feed the birds? God does not go out and pick food and throw them at the birds to feed on. Rather God provides in nature what and where the birds can feed themselves. The same thing can be said about the plants. Flowers do perform neither men's work in the field; nor women's work at home, yet God clothes them. God does not do this through any supernatural means, but through a complex process He has arranged in which they draw their sustenance from the sun and the soil. It is the same with human beings.
God provides, but we have to cooperate with Him. This teaching does not exempt Christians from responsibility to others. The fact that God is our provider does not relieve us of our responsibility to the poor or under-privileged. In addition believers are not exempt from experiencing trouble. It is true that Jesus forbids believers to worry, but to be free from anxiety and to be free from trouble are not the same thing. Jesus commands us not to be anxious, but does not promise that we shall be immune to all misfortune. On the contrary, there are many indications in His teaching that He knew all about calamity.
II. WORRYING ABOUT THE FUTURE IS INSENSIBLE (v. 34)
Planning for tomorrow is time well spent; worrying about tomorrow is time wasted. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference. All worry is about tomorrow, whether about food or clothing or anything else; but all worry is experienced today. Jesus explains that what you worry about happening tomorrow may not happen, so why waste time and energy worrying. Psychologists tell us that about 85 percent of the things people worry about do not even happen. Therefore, reserve the energy you use to worry about tomorrow for today because each day has enough trouble.
You only add to today's burdens when you worry about the future. All the anxieties you have about tomorrow will not change the outcome, and it will have enough anxieties of its own. The burdens of today are enough so let God take care of them. You must trust God for today without worrying about tomorrow. When you execute proper planning it can help to alleviate anxiety. Worry by contrast is consumed by fear and makes it difficult to trust God. Those who worry let their plans interfere with their relationship with God. Therefore, do not let worries about tomorrow affect your relationship with God today.
What Jesus is teaching us is a question of priority. To be a real follower of Jesus, you must settle the question of priorities. Your priorities as a believer and a disciple of Christ must be different from unbelievers whose priorities are comfort, security, money, fashion, and other material things. What Jesus is teaching is that the ambition of the secular humanistic world around us focuses exclusively on material things. Jesus is saying that our primary concern as His followers is about His kingdom. To seek first this kingdom is to desire as of paramount importance the spread of the reign of Jesus Christ.
The Kingdom of God exists only where Jesus Christ is consciously acknowledged. To seek it first is to spread the good news of salvation in Christ. In order to seek God's kingdom you and I must evangelize because the kingdom spread only as the Gospel of Christ is preached, heard, believed, and obeyed. There are several reasons why you are not to worry:
The same God who created life in you can be trusted with the details of your life (Matt. 6:25).
Worrying about the future hampers your efforts for today (Matt. 6:26).
Worrying is more harmful than helpful (Matt. 6:27).
God does not ignore those who depend on Him (Matt. 6:28-30).
Worry shows a lack of faith in and understanding of God (Matt. 6:31-32).
There are real challenges God wants us to pursue, and worrying keeps us from them (Matt. 6:33).
Living one day at a time keeps us from being consumed with worry (Matt. 6:34).
Instead of worrying about something that lies in the future, which is beyond your control, take time to praise and thank God for what He has already done for you yesterday and today. When you develop an attitude of gratitude, you begin to see things from God's perspective and that is what matters most in life. 'Gratitude unleashes the freedom to live content in the moment, rather than being anxious about the future or regretting the past.'