28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
— Matthew 6:28-34
Last week we examined the exhortation in Proverbs that we should not wear ourselves out to become rich. Rather, as leaders of our homes, we should invest ourselves in the things that producing lasting treasure. In response, some might say, “I am not trying to get rich; I just want to put food on the table for my family, put clothes on our backs and a roof over our heads.”
Stated this way, worry can take on an almost noble character. “As the head of my home, I have to be concerned about the basics. I am not thinking about getting rich. I am just trying to survive.” It is a huge temptation for men to allow the responsibility of providing for their families crowd out responsibilities that are even more important.
Someone is probably asking—what is more important than providing for my family? Christ says later in Matthew that the most important requirement of life is to love God and your neighbor. So your labors for your family must be done in the context of loving God first. In our passage, Jesus puts it this way: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his and his righteousness." Providing for your family is certainly an important part of what it means to seek God’s kingdom, but it is not the major part.
We live in a world that is not stable. Jobs can be lost overnight through corporate mergers. The economy is uncertain. Our ability to work may be terminated around the next corner. Yet Jesus still says, “Do not worry about what you will eat or wear.” He will provide these things for you. He wants you, instead, to seek life that is truly life (I Timothy 6:19).
Here is one definition of worry: Worry is attempting to take responsibility for things that can only come from God. For example, God has commanded us as men to work and in so doing provide for our families (I Tim. 5:8). But in Matthew 6 Jesus is teaching that the food and clothing come from his hand. It is easy to think that as a man, I go out and earn a paycheck and that is what puts food on the table. God is so intimately involved in our lives that we easily lose sight of just how dependent we are on him. The apostle Paul tells the people in pagan Lystra, “God has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." So even though these people worked their fields and harvested their crops, God actually provided the food on their tables. If this is true for those who don’t know God, how much more true is it for those of us who do know him?
God has called you to work. But he takes responsibility to provide the essentials of life like food and clothing. We become worriers when we are dominated by taking that responsibility upon ourselves. Christ makes a direct promise that he will provide for our basic needs (vs. 33 above).
This passage helps you to determine your priorities. Even if you were able to acquire a large home, have plenty of clothes and food, have a substantial savings account and the resources to pursue the good enjoyments of this world that interest you, how long do these things last? Do they have value beyond the moment? Is it wise leadership to pursue things that, while good for the moment, can lose their value in a heartbeat? What is the value of these good things of the moment when you find out that your teenager has a sexually transmitted disease? What is it that will provide true stability for your family? This is what Jesus is urging you to pursue in his kingdom.
When we don’t have time to invest in our children to prepare them for the harsh storms of life that await them as teenagers, because we think we have to work long hours to provide food for the table, we are taking on a responsibility that belongs to God. We become worriers. Your teenagers will be thrown into a culture where sexual contact, masturbation, and pornography are the norm. The pressure to enter the flow of the culture is enormous. Language that is destructive to loving God is what will fill their minds at seemingly every turn. The music of the teenage culture powerfully points to self-gratification as the creed of life. How much time are you investing to prepare your children for this reality that awaits them? Are you depending upon your children being involved in soccer, dance class, music lessons, Little League and extra curricular activities to keep them from the dangers of the world? Fathers, are you perhaps thinking that your wife, or perhaps teachers at church and school, will be the ones to make a difference in your children while you work to put food on the table, clothes on their backs and a roof over their heads?
Parents, Christ has given the task of influencing your children to you. He has called you to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Is your relationship with your children so vital that they will look to you to help deal with the pressures of a teenage culture that will attempt to pull them away from God to the pursuit of satisfying their own desires?
Christ is calling you to exchange the effort that goes into worrying about things he has promised to give you for the pursuit of his kingdom. These thoughts again flow from considering the Godward orientation of your heart. Your children must have this Godward orientation as they face the attack of the culture around them. This begins with them seeing if first in you.
Whose kingdom are you pursuing? How much of your self-worth is tied to providing by your own hard work the physical necessities that God has promised to give us as we seek his kingdom and righteousness? Give this post some consideration and then let me know your thoughts.