Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 6:31 “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What
shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?”
When we see in the Bible a “therefore,” we need to see what it is there for. Here it refers back to God’s provision for birds and flowers. Since God cares for even the least of His creatures, it is foolish for His most important creatures, His very own children, to worry about food, drink, and clothing.
Mungo Park, while exploring Africa, was beaten, robbed, and left naked by bandits. Regaining consciousness, he weighed the gravity of his plight. He was alone in the rainy season in a wilderness full of wild animals, 500 miles from his base. As he was about to give up and abandon hope, he noticed above him a lovely plant. Taking time to admire it, he decided, if God planted, watered, and perfected an unimportant plant in this obscure part of the world, then He could take care of him here, too. The thought inspired Mungo Park, giving him the will to live, to try to find help.
Park’s logic was sound. Worry is unnecessary and ridiculous for children of a heavenly Father like ours. Undue concern, crippling anxiety, and oppressive care should never disturb us.
Matt. 6:32a “(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:). . .”
Jesus here gives us another reason why we should not worry about stuff. To worry betrays our true self, proving our hearts still have a prechristian attitude toward things of this world. When Jesus spoke our text, “Gentiles” were in spiritual darkness outside the kingdom of God. Our Master’s meaning is clear. If we believers worry as unbelievers do, then we are viewing stuff as they do, and this is unacceptable. Jerusalem should not have the same value system as Sodom has.
We may claim to dwell on a plane above prechristians, but do we actually? How do we differ from our prechristian friends in handling problems? Faced with difficulties, do we respond the same way they do, using the same words, same tone of voice, and same attitude? Though we have rejected their unbelief and certain aspects of their lifestyle, have we possibly retained their mindset, their attitude toward things? Has being born again changed us at all in this urgent matter?
In essence, prechristians live for this world. The Talmud says, “Man is born with his hands clenched; he dies with them wide open. Entering life, he desires to grasp everything; leaving the world, all that he possessed has slipped away” (Polana, p. 263, quoted by Plummer). This is the tragedy of those outside Christ. Apart from Jesus, life can be summarized by the phrase, vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
To unbelievers, this world is their all, the focus of their thoughts and energy, even though they may have some vague notion of a future world yet to come. Socrates, one of the finest “Gentiles” ever, near death told a friend, “The time is now come that I must die, and you survive; but which is the better of these two, the gods only know, and not any man living, that is my opinion.” Unbelievers at best have merely hunches and guesses at what awaits them after death. They are obsessed with this world because uncertain about another, better world. They have a roof over their head, a warm bed to sleep in, a full refrigerator, and bulging clothes closets, yet their lives are full of stress, worry and tension. They preach an ulcerated sermon, “Keep stockpiling. It is our only hedge against future calamity.”
Christians have been given a better way of thinking. In all things, including our value system about this world’s stuff, Christians should differ from prechristians. We help the lost find their way by being not like, but different from, them.
Distinctiveness has always been Christianity’s winning ingredient. In the fourth century, the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate sought to eradicate Christianity. Fortunately he failed, largely because believers were living distinctive, attractive lives. Julian once told his officials, “We ought to be ashamed. Not a beggar is to be found among the Jews, and those godless Galileans (he meant the Christians) feed not only their own people, but ours as well, whereas our people receive no assistance whatever from us” (quoted in Carson). Another Roman official once wrote his superiors to make sure they wanted him to persecute Christians. He was hesitant to do so, because he felt they were producing the finest women in the empire. We Christians are most effective when we offer prechristians a viable, winsome alternative. More of the same will win none of them.
Matt. 6:32b “. . .for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all
Jesus here gives another mark to distinguish Christians from prechristians. The lost work and seek to accumulate, as if there were no God at all to help them. Even if they do seek to solicit divine help, their prayers focus on material matters.
Cicero, a well noted “Gentile,” bluntly confessed, “We do not pray to Jupiter to make us good, but to give us material benefits.” Cold and terse, but honest.
No other major religion shares our Christian concept of a loving, caring, parental, personal God. In the main, nonchristians often find themselves seeking to bribe and cajole an impersonal, uncaring god. Apart from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, all gods are “man-made gods inspired by Satan” (MacArthur). They are in essence gods to fear, dread, and appease. They demand much, promise little, and are undependable. Christians, though, serve a dependable, kind, benevolent, personal God who desires to know and love us in an intimate way. He wants us to enjoy Him. Knowing our God is supposed to be fun.
We have received the inestimable delight and indescribable joy of being allowed to call God “Father.” The same act which made us a child of God, and resulted in His requiring of us a certain code of conduct, also made God our Father, and resulted in His placing on Himself certain responsibilities to fulfill toward us.
The title “Father” is itself totally contradictory to worry in us. Our heavenly Father never stops thinking about us individually. His knowledge of each of us is as vast as His love for each of us. He knows our needs better than we do. Already knowing what we will need next week, He has begun preparation to fulfill them.
As a matter of courtesy, we often do not burden our closest acquaintances with all our personal problems. We sometimes keep our troubles to ourselves, but cannot help but think, if my dearest friends only knew all the details of what I am going through, they would come to my aid. Oh brothers and sisters, one Friend already knows all. Talk freely with Him, “casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 P 5:7). Since God cares, there is no need for us to lie awake at night caring. Let Him carry the load. His shoulders are big enough to bear it all, and His heart is big enough to want to carry it for us. Always keep two thoughts uppermost: God knows, God cares. I pray God will help us all enjoy being saved.