One of the greatest causes of worry today are our possessions and the inability to curb spending. We endlessly lust for more and place ourselves in debt. We are not content with food and water as God created it, but pay exorbitant prices for processed foods and sugar water. We believe in the pursuit of happiness and not the pursuit of the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Yet, only the pursuit of the things of God can bring lasting happiness. In Matthew 6:24-34 Jesus addressed our mixed up priorities. We have been deluded to believe that an itinerant preacher with no fixed abode was probably the saddest person on earth, yet Jesus claimed to be blessed beyond anything that materialism can offer. Consumerism goes hand in hand with worry. Pursuing the things of God helps us worry less.
It would have been an ideal vacation spot, every need supplied, idyllic and beautiful, delicious and wholesome natural foods constantly available, peaceful and serene. The good thing was that they never had to leave and yet they were dissatisfied and broke the rules. They were expelled and our world has been trying to return to the Garden of Eden ever since. The very reason that we take vacations is that our world does not satisfy. We seek a temporary escape from our daily worries, yet vacations end and we must return. In Matthew 6:24-34 Jesus taught us how to escape this world’s slavery to worry, seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness. The pursuit of shallow fashions and appetites cannot really provide lasting relief from anxiety. When our priorities are right, we can take a permanent vacation from worry.
In Matthew 6:24-34 Jesus said seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. What does that mean? It contradicts the view of some missionaries that food and shelter are the first priorities and that spiritual pursuits can only be taught once those basic necessities are met. For Jesus, teaching that God is provider of even primary needs, is an important first lesson. It is necessary, in a cynical world, to note that Jesus did not teach just pray and do nothing. His lesson here is rather that our priority in all that we do ought to be to seek to live under God’s rule, now, not just in the future. Jesus’ promise then is that when we do place God’s reign and his righteousness as the constant priority in our lives, he will provide all our basic needs.
Jesus suggested living a life of generosity. But, if we do so, who will provide for us? Jesus taught a secret ingredient to the generous life (Matthew 6:24-34) — don’t worry. We may be tempted to think that generosity is a luxury, that only those who have all the food and clothing they need or want can afford. We allow worries over such things to stop us from living life. Life is more important than attire and appetite. Fashion and dietary worries can so control our lives that we don’t really live. Are we slaves to worry? Jesus wants us to live free from the anxiety that troubles others. God values us highly. Look how he provides abundantly for wildlife. He will for us too. Why would God not provide for us! Worry never accomplished anything, but God can.
Why did Jesus say therefore don’t worry in Matthew 6:24-34? The word therefore implies that worry is a chief cause of our natural devotion to money. Jesus connects worry and faith. Maslow theorized that survival needs must be met before transcendent ideas can be entertained. Not everyone agrees with Maslow. Jesus challenged his disciples to a faith which transcends daily anxieties even before they are fulfilled. Most people today have willingly accepted a modern variety of slavery. We work so many hours or pieces, we take off only when the company says we can, and we take what they want to pay us, like it or lump it. Why do people stay? Because of the threat of loss of income, health care benefits, and indirectly self-esteem, marriage, home and status. Only faith can set us free from money worries.
Money is a necessary but dangerous commodity. Jesus highlighted its trap in Matthew 6:24-34. The peril lies in how we prioritize money. Do we serve money or does it serve us? We can tell if we are slaves to money by how many hours it takes us away from God and family, and if it asks us to compromise proper ethical standards and we give in. Do we love money? We can tell how much we love money if we have more passion pursuing it than the things of God and family, and if we idolize the rich and despise the poor. Are we devoted to money? We can tell how much we are devoted to money by comparing it to our devotion to God and family, and if our loyalty is to money ahead of God and family.