Be Careful What You Choose
As Jesus warns (“be careful”) about seeking the approval of people, he continues and warns against the danger of seeking the acquisition of wealth as well. We find this from verse 19 to verse 34. Jesus here warns against two ways, wealth and materialism can come in the way of seeking true righteousness: first, by way of our wants (vv.19-24), and second, by way of our needs (vv.25-34).
Do Not Worry for Wants
Concerning the second obstacle – our needs – Jesus tells us not to worry. In verse 25, he says, “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.” He then goes on to talk about how God feeds the birds of the air and clothes the flowers of the field.
In reading these verses, we must be very careful not to misunderstand Jesus’ words. Note that: Jesus does not say, “Do not think.” He does not say, “Do not plan.” He does not say, “Do not save.” He does not say, “Do not invest.” He does not even say, “Do not work.”
He says, “Do not worry.”
God Knows our Needs
Jesus’ point in this regard can be further understood by thinking about what he says about the birds and the flowers – about how God feeds them and clothes them. God feeds the birds of the air not simply by literally stretching forth his hands, but by providing fruits on trees and fishes in rivers, which the birds themselves will have to seek out.
Similarly, God clothes the flowers of the field not by literally clothing and colouring them, but by providing the sun above and the soil below, which the plants themselves will have to draw upon. In the same way, God provides for us resources within – which maybe our mental and physical capacities – and without – which may be natural or unnatural resources around us. We are to draw upon these resources for our subsistence, sustenance, welfare, and comfort.
Put God First!
We also must remember that these words of Jesus with regard to our wants and needs apply both to the rich and the poor. It is not just the rich who can be greedy and materialistic; poor people can be equally greedy and materialistic, if not more. One can also be rich without being materialistic. It is also not just the poor who are anxious about these things; rich people can be equally anxious, if not more. One can also be poor without being anxious.
Jesus concludes this chapter by commanding us to seek first the kingdom of God and the righteousness of God. To seek God and his righteousness first is to make this our most important priority in everything. In our lives, God and his righteousness first; in our families, God and his righteousness first; in our ministries, God and his righteousness first; in our business, God and his righteousness first; in our profession, God and his righteousness first.
We should remember that if we are not seeking God and his righteousness first, chances are we are not even seeking it second or third or fourth. If we are not seeking God and his righteousness, first of all, we are probably not seeking it at all.
Jesus’ warning with regard to our wants is that we should not be greedy and materialistic. His point here must not be misunderstood. Jesus is not against us possessing wealth, but against wealth possessing us; he is not against wealth in the hand, but against wealth in the heart; he is not against wealth as our servant, but against wealth as our master. As he puts it, “No one can serve both God and money.”
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