WHAT REALLY MATTERS COMES FIRST
PRACTICING YOUR FAITH
God’s dealings with people are always in harmony with his grace and his justice, hating evil and loving good. No gift of God is on the basis of merit, but on the basis of his faithfulness to his promises.
God’s reward is in harmony with his character
His graciousness Ro 4:4-5 See also Ps 103:10; Mt 20:14-15; Lk 17:7-10; Ro 11:6-7; Eph 2:8-10
His justice Ro 2:6-11 See also Dt 28:1-2 blessings for obedience; Dt 28:15 curses for disobedience; Ps 19:9-11; 62:12; Pr 13:21; 14:14; Jer 17:10; 32:19; 1Co 3:8; 2Co 9:6; Gal 6:7-9; Eph 6:8; Col 3:25
The reward of the ungodly
Ro 6:23 See also Ex 20:5; Dt 7:9-10; Pr 22:22-23; Isa 13:11; 26:21; 59:18; 65:6-7; 66:6; Eze 7:4; 9:10; 11:21; Hos 9:7; Zep 1:12; 2Th 1:6; Heb 2:1-2
The reward of the godly
God’s treatment of the righteous Ro 8:17-18 See also Ex 19:5; Ru 2:12; 2Sa 22:25 pp Ps 18:20 pp Ps 18:24; 1Ki 3:14; 2Ch 15:7; Ps 19:9-11; 58:11; Pr 11:18,28; 13:21; 19:17; 31:31; Isa 62:10-12; Jer 31:16; Mt 5:12; Lk 6:34-35; 1Co 2:9-10; Jas 1:25
The example of Jesus Christ Php 2:8-11 See also Heb 12:2-3
Apparent unfair treatment of the godly Ps 73:13-14 See also Job 1:1; 2:11-13; 9:29-31; Isa 49:4; Hab 1:12-13; Mt 5:10; 2Ti 3:12
Highly valued objects or accumulated riches. Treasure has at best only short-term benefit but can bring spiritual dangers. Spiritual treasure is of eternal value and comes from knowing and serving God.
The limitations of accumulated treasure
It is easily lost Isa 64:11 See also 2Ki 24:13; Jer 15:13; 17:3; 20:5; La 1:10-11; Hos 13:15; Ob 6; Mt 6:19; Jas 5:2-3; Rev 18:14
It is no security against God’s displeasure Pr 11:4 See also Job 20:20; Jer 51:13; Eze 7:19; Hos 9:6; Zep 1:18; Lk 12:16-21
It does not satisfy Ecc 5:10 See also Ps 39:6; Hag 1:6
The spiritual dangers of accumulated treasure
It can lead to pride 1Ti 6:17 See also Dt 8:13-14; Eze 7:20; 28:4-5; Da 4:30
It can lead a person away from God Rev 3:17 See also Job 31:24-25,28; Pr 11:28
It can lead to greed Lk 12:15 See also 1Ti 6:9-10
Acquiring it can lead to dishonesty Jos 7:21; Ps 62:10; Pr 21:6
It can lead to idolatry Ex 32:2-4; Isa 2:7-8; Eze 7:20; 16:17
PROHIBITION AGAINST PANIC
If, on the other hand, we put trust in God first, God will take care of the rest of life. This renders worry unnecessary. “Worry” is the key word of this entire section, since it occurs six times (vv. 25, 27–28, 31, 34 [2×]). The KJV’s “take no thought” is definitely misleading here. Christians must plan for the future, but they need not be anxious. Jesus illustrates his point by discussing the basic provisions of food and clothing.
To illustrate God’s provision of clothing, Jesus next directs attention to “the lilies of the field” (perhaps a reference to wild flowers and grasses more generally). “See how” is better translated “learn carefully from” (katamathete). Uncultivated vegetation does much less to provide for itself than do birds, yet God adorns it with beauty that at times surpasses the greatest splendor of human raiment (on Solomon’s wealth, cf. 1 Kgs 4:20–34; 7:1–51; 10:14–29). “Labor” (toiling in the field) and spinning (sewing clothing at home) probably refer, respectively, to the characteristic occupations of men and women in ancient rural culture. Yet plants prove even more fragile than birds and more short-lived than humans. People even picked plants and used them as fuel for the ovens in which they baked bread. If God lavishes such concern over the rest of his creation, how much more does he love us! Again, Jesus uses the characteristically Jewish type of reasoning—from the lesser to the greater. If the logic of his argument be granted, then worry can only result from a lack of genuine belief in God’s goodness and mercy. R. Mounce says, “Worry is practical atheism and an affront to God.” Anxiety characterized pagan religions, which were dominated by fears of a capricious and despotic deity who constantly had to be appeased. In its modern, irreligious garb, pagan anxiety displays a great preoccupation with physical exercise and diet without a corresponding concern for spiritual growth and nutrition.82 Verse 32a recalls the logic of 5:47; v. 32b parallels and recalls 6:8b.
Verse 33 brings this paragraph to its climax. When priorities regarding treasures in heaven and on earth are right, God will provide for fundamental human needs. Seeking first the righteousness of the kingdom implies obedience to all of Jesus’ commands and shows that the thesis of 5:20 continues to be advanced. Of course, the major problem with the promise “all these things [food, drink, clothing] will be given to you” is the contrary experience of many Christians throughout history who have suffered deprivation and even starvation. One possible solution to this problem is to reserve all guarantees for the age to come. “Will be given” does not specify when God will provide. To be sure, the fullness of the kingdom will eradicate all suffering for God’s people, but it is hard to see why Jesus would rule out worry in the present age if his promise applies only to a distant future. And if God’s kingdom has already been inaugurated, then believers should expect to receive in this age the firstfruits of its material blessings. Hence, v. 33b is probably to be interpreted in light of Luke 12:33 and Mark 10:30a, which presuppose the sharing of goods within the Christian community. When God’s people corporately seek first his priorities, they will by definition take care of the needy in their fellowships. When one considers that over 50 percent of all believers now live in the Two-Thirds World and that a substantial majority of those believers live below what we would consider the poverty line, a huge challenge to First-World Christianity emerges. Without a doubt, most individual and church budgets need drastic realignment in terms of what Christians spend on themselves versus what they spend on others (cf. 2 Cor 8:13–15).