Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 6:31-34

Matthew 6:31-34

So then, dont worry saying, What will we eat? or What will we drink? or What will we wear? 32 For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.
(NET Bible)

The mentality of discipleship

The intrepid adventure traveler found herself high in the Canadian Rockies clinging to a rock pinnacle beside a gorge that dropped away for 1700 feet. Safety — if it existed at all there — was fifty feet across the gorge, over a rope bridge featuring wooden slats about two feet apart. The secret to crossing, she later said, was to ignore the gorge and the spaces between the slats and to focus only on placing her feet and hands carefully for every single step. After an eternity, she was across.

Following Jesus is not always safe. Are you up to the challenge?

It is important to remember that Jesus is teaching his disciples on a mountainside in rural Galilee, and a crowd of potential disciples is listening to what he said. The people Jesus is addressing are either part of his itinerant ministry or thinking about joining it. They are not wondering how they will eat and drink in the normal course of their previous lives; they are trying to figure out how they will live if they start or continue following Jesus. Jesus says, Dont be concerned about it!

Those already committed to Jesus are saying, What will we eat? (6:31). Those contemplating discipleship ask, What would we eat? (6:31). But Jesus gives two reasons to set aside such practical questions: 1) God-fearing disciples should not face the future like Gentiles, and 2) the Father already knows what the disciples need (6:32).

The assurance that the Father knows what the disciples need is not merely a generic statement about Gods care. Jesus says the Father knows that you need them all (6:32, ESV), referring back to food, drink, clothing and other necessary things. The Fathers care for the disciples is not some half-hearted effort that figures two out of three is good enough!

Matthew 6:33 gives the top priority for Jesus disciples: But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. No other English translation uses pursue in translating 6:33, for the simple reason that it does not work! We are to seek Gods kingdom and righteousness, not chase them. On the other hand, the statement that Jesus disciples are to seek these things above all is outstanding.

This ringing command of 6:33 meant most to those listening to Jesus. The days when Jesus walked the earth were not like other days before or since. Jesus spoke of this special time using two metaphors that brought out its vibrant possibilities. In Matt. 9:14-15, Jesus likened his days with the disciples to those of attendants to a bridegroom at a wedding. In Luke 23:31, Jesus warned the daughters of Jerusalem that his death when the wood is green did not bode well for the dry season to come after. It was especially during this epoch-making time that the disciples had to cast aside ordinary lives to follow Jesus wherever he led. We too must make crucial choices!

Of course, the decision to follow Jesus meant that nothing in a disciples life would ever be predictable again. Where will Jesus take us? What will we eat? How will we live? It was in that psychological context that Jesus told them: So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own (6:34).

To be clear, I am saying that Matt. 6:33-34 had a particular force for Jesus actual audience that we do not fully share. Only they could follow Jesus in a literal, physical way. We must also use his commands to guide our figurative walk as we too follow Jesus in our day and time.

Focused on the goal or the obstacles?

The path to which Jesus summons us does not always look safe. Will we focus on each step we must take or spend our time shuddering over the gorge below?

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need (Matt. 6:33, NLT).

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 6:25-30

Matthew 6:25-30

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isnt there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? 26 Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Arent you more valuable than they are? 27 And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? 28 Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! 30 And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, wont he clothe you even more, you people of little faith?
(NET Bible)

The interaction of faith and worry

Perhaps lifes biggest temptation is to go it alone. Some choose to go all out for their own interests, no matter what the effect on others. Such people often rise to great power bearing names like Stalin, Hitler and Mao. Maybe they become princes in hell after a wealthy life on earth. Maybe not.

Jesus calls us to humbly follow him and trust in the care of the Father. If we live as Jesus directs, we will likely not be wealthy, but we will serve in heaven after a life of Gods blessing. Which path are you on?

One important word in Matthew 6:25 is therefore. All of 6:25-30 is controlled by the principle that you cannot be a slave to both God and money (6:24). One challenge for us is to determine the logic that justifies the use of this word therefore. We will get to that logic after a little preparation.

Jesus first commands his disciples not to worry — or to stop worrying— about their lives or their bodies. On a practical level this concern is shown by the scramble for food and clothing (6:25). The disciple is assumed to have chosen slavery to God, and so his clothing and food become Gods problem. Just as God feeds the birds, will he not much more care for the faithful disciple (6:26)?

Further, worry is futile (6:27). Jesus has a way of cutting right to the heart of an argument. He very simply asks who in the group can add even a single hour to their life by worry. David Turner explains that this questions power lies in its absurdity; worry can even shorten life.[1] If worry is impotent, why worry?

Next Jesus turns attention to clothing and challenges his disciples not to worry (6:28). Since the flowering grasses were commonly gathered to feed the fires of bread ovens, it was astonishing that God would clothe them in such splendid colors (6:28-30). Jesus argues from the lesser (wild grass) to the greater (Jesus disciples). If God clothes the flowers, he will certainly clothe his own!

In all his assurances to the disciples, Jesus looks back to the history of Israel. After bringing the people out of Egypt, God fed them in the wilderness of Sinai for forty years. Further, when the Israelites stood on the shores of the Jordan River, Moses reminded them that for all those years God had kept their clothing and their shoes from wearing out (Deut. 29:5).

The phrase you people of little faith (6:30) translates a single Greek adjective that is used only by Jesus in describing the disciples (Matt. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; Luke 12:28). Jesus consistently pressed his disciples to raise their faith to a higher level. Like many people today, the disciples too frequently found reasons to doubt Gods care.

R.T. France points out how Jesus words applied to his first disciples: In the specific situation of Jesus first disciples the issue was one of direct . . . importance: their itinerant and dependent lifestyle made questions of daily provision constantly relevant.[2] When James and John left their fishing boat to follow Jesus, they were no longer earning a living. Jesus had called them to follow him and assured them of the Fathers care.

This biblical text does not mean that Christians should walk away from their jobs and trust God to feed them. Indeed, Paul says that anyone who is unwilling to work should not eat either (2 Thess. 3:10). We are to work to care for our own families (1 Tim. 5:8).

Since we cannot be a slave to both God and money, we should be slaves to God. Craig Keener wisely says, In the end, Jesus teaches here, wealth does not matter, but Gods blessing does, and he will provide it.[3]

Seek Gods blessing!

If you or someone you love is regularly consumed by worry, then you know how difficult and unpleasant that can be. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you (1 Pet. 5:7, NLT).

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] David L. Turner, Matthew, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2008) 199.

[2] R.T. France,The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007)266.

[3] Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999)236.