By Jerry Price
Focal Passage: Matthew 6:25-34
Merrill Tenney, my major professor at Wheaton Graduate School, often admonished those in his classes with this familiar statement: “Any text, taken out of context, is nothing more than a pretext.” He hammered that point home so often that it became ingrained in me and my fellow-students. So, it has become natural for me to ask: “What is the context of the passage under consideration?”
The tip-off in this passage is the word “Therefore” (literally, because of this) in Matthew 6:25. The word always points backwards. It indicates that what follows is related to that which came before it. In the preceding verses (vv. 22-23), Jesus indicated that a person can serve God or material things (“mammon”) — not both.
Jesus then says, “Don’t worry.” In fact, He says it three times (vv. 25, 31, 34). Why? Because worry is unnecessary to the one whose life is focused on loving and serving God. God knows far better than we do what our needs are.
And as our loving heavenly Father, He is committed to meeting those needs. But so often, our problem is distinguishing between needs and wants. We have a tendency to put almost everything in the need category. When, in fact, most of that stuff is really our wants. Why is that? It is because we so often lose focus on that which is of utmost importance — the reign of God and His righteousness in our life.
Jesus illustrates His point with two examples from nature — birds and flowers. Birds neither plant nor harvest what they eat. Yet God provides for them the necessities of life. My wife and I have been bird watchers for years. We have a feeder outside of our dining room window.
Unfortunately, I don’t always remember to fill it. But I have never seen a dead bird on the ground under the feeder (except one caught by a cat). If there is nothing in our feeder, the birds go elsewhere to find the food they need — either in nature or at another feeder where someone has been more diligent than me.
Then Jesus asks: “Aren’t you worth more than they?” The answer, of course, is “Yes!” But then comes the follow-up question: “Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying.” The answer is, absolutely not. You may shorten it by doing so — but not lengthen it.
The second illustration from nature is the wildflowers in the field. They provide nothing for themselves. Yet God supplies everything they need to grow and burst forth in glorious color to provide for our enjoyment. Even the splendor of King Solomon couldn’t compare to them. Again, the question is asked: if God takes care of them, won’t He do the same for us?
After again saying, “Don’t worry,” Jesus points out that food, drink, and clothing are the focus of the Gentiles (that is, unbelievers).
While it is true that those who are believers also need those things, we are not to focus on them because God will provide them. We are to focus on making the reign of God and His righteousness foremost in our lives. When that happens, God takes care of the needs that we have. So, there is no need to worry — about today or tomorrow.
One of my favorite verses of Scripture is Psalm 37:25 which says, “I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread” (NKJV). That is a promise I hold onto every day. B&R — Price, a retired pastor and denominational worker, is a member of First Baptist Church, Spring Hill.