Where is my heart?
What are my eyes fixed on?
What am I a slave to?
1. Two Masters
Objective Heaven, Provision earth
2. Other Points
a. Mtw 6:25
b. Mtw 6:26,28
c. Mtw 6:27
d. Mtw 6:32
e. Mtw 6:33
f. Mtw 6:34
The three passages which run through Mtw 6:19-24 are well summarised by the following one, Mtw 6:25-34 - notice the ‘therefore’ located at the beginning of both Mtw 6:25 and 6:34 which direct the reader’s thoughts back to the preceding passage and introduce a fitting conclusion to what has just been understood.
For the disciple, service to God and worship of the Father is tied in more with attitude than with external religious rites and liturgy which mask the intentions of the heart and display a kind of religiosity which the world often accepts as genuine but which God the Father sees to be empty.
This problem is specifically dealt with in the first three passages before Jesus goes on to balance His teaching by reminding the disciples that earthly provision won’t be lacking as they seek to do the will of God but that, only as they put His will first, will they find that all their needs are met.
Where is my heart?
Again, there is a natural progression of thought from Jesus’ instruction concerning earthly reward through the demonstration of one’s pious acts (Mtw 6:1-18) to a consideration of earthly possessions and riches that the disciple could be misled into thinking were evidence of the Lord’s blessing and so mistakenly place his trust therein.
The contrast between the previous passage and this one, however, is that, while the former gives glory and honour to the follower of Christ which cannot be quantified, the latter projects the glory and honour onto material objects which could give the believer a false sense of well-being and security.
As in other places in the Gospels, commentators like to think of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) as a compilation of various passages that were brought together from various times of Jesus’ ministry on earth and sorted into a more logical form as one specific discourse and the parallel passage here (Luke 12:33-34) is taken by some to be just that.
But it sits as the conclusion to the passage concerning the rich man who stored up treasure for himself rather than be rich towards God, spoken in reply to a request from an Israelite for Jesus to tell his brother to divide the inheritance with him.
We will look at this passage in a while when we consider Mtw 6:19-21 but it needs to be pointed out that the repeat of such teaching - albeit in a similar though not identical format - is not evidence that it was only spoken once and once only by Jesus in the course of His three year ministry to Israel, in much the same way as a minister who gives the same message from differing pulpits should be accused of only having given one message on one occasion at one place simply because of the similarity.
Jesus ministered wherever He went and adapted the Truth about the Kingdom of Heaven to fit both the situation He encountered and the people He met, repeating Truth where necessary to people who had not previously either heard or applied previous statements that He’d made.
Moving on to the passage in question, there are certain pieces of background information which need to be dealt with to illuminate the meaning and we will deal with these first.
The ‘moth’ mentioned by Jesus was the insect which destroyed clothes and garments and it is unlikely that the word is supposed to have been taken to refer to any other. Cansdale, who gives a good description of the features of the life-cycle of this moth that are relevant to us, comments that
‘Soon after emerging from the pupae, the female moths (one quarter to one half an inch long) lay their eggs among the clothes; hatching time varies with the temperature but the damage has, in effect, started before the moths are seen flying. The grub-like larvae make a silk-lined case, covered on the outside with debris, out of which only the head protrudes. They feed on a variety of fibres but clothes are seldom damaged if they are stored thoroughly dry and clean’
This insect wouldn’t spell disaster so much for the Israelite who had one or two garments and who was constantly wearing them but, for the individual who had amassed great stores of garments, he may find that, coming back to his collection after many weeks there were holes and patches on them that rendered them unusable through the work of the moth’s larval stage.
The word for ‘rust’ (Strongs Greek number 1035) means, according to both Vines and Kittels, ‘an eating’ and is never used in passages both within and outside the NT where it can easily be seen to mean ‘rust’, therefore alternative translations are often proposed which try and explain why the word occurs here.
The RSV has a marginal translation of ‘worm’ but there is little to be said for this alternative and it relies more on the word’s situation with the previous word translated ‘moth’ than it does on etymological grounds. Because the winged moth is being referred to, it is presumed that the larval stage, the worm, must also be described as this is the stage of the species which causes all the trouble.
Mattask suggests that the word could be used to mean
‘...“devouring by vermin”. Some commentators prefer this interpretation on the ground the stores in question would be more likely to consist of grain...than of material liable to corrosion’
while Matfran goes on to note that it
‘...probably refers to damage by rats, woodworm, etc...’
However, Matmor is probably the most accurate when he notes that
‘...it is the act of eating that is meant’
going on to point out that the word really refers to all sorts of decay in the natural world rather than specifically just to rust, the destruction of metallic substances through excessive corrosion.
James 5:1-5 appears to be a direct repetition of this passage with extra explanation and teaching included for the writer’s recipients. After warning the rich that miseries were coming upon them (whether this is meant to be taken specifically as referring to earthly tribulation or is projecting what will take place at the final judgment, is difficult to be definite about - but verses 3-5 point us toward the latter of these interpretations), he comments that
‘Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten’
seeming to combine both aspects of the ‘moth’ and the ‘rust’ of Matthew’s passage. This is probably the intention behind Jesus’ words also - not to single out just the destruction that is possible in this world by the action of the moth and the oxidation of valued metallic objects but to summate all the types of decay and destruction which can take place on earth.
Mathen rightly comments that
‘In all probability...the terms “moth” and “rust” represent all those agencies and processes that cause earthly treasures to diminish in value and finally to cease completely to serve their purpose’
The Scriptures make plain that the entire Creation is now subject to a ‘...bondage to decay...’ (Rom 8:21) through the sin of mankind and the degeneration that his disobedience towards God brought about. No matter that the clothes-moth is unknown in one’s area or that one’s treasures are made of diamonds, gold and platinum which almost never are subject to decay and destruction - the forces of the natural order (or ‘unnatural’ if one considers that they were not God’s original intention for the earth) are everywhere being evidenced with volcanoes, hurricanes, earthquakes common in many parts of the world which destroy unexpectedly along with fire and flood which can sweep away one’s lifetimes savings in the twinkling of an eye. And, even man’s own work can destroy what man has created through acts of war or in stock market crashes and the like. The list is endless when one considers how ‘treasure’ might be lost.
All treasure that is earthly, therefore, suffers from the same problem - it is transient, can be lost or destroyed and is no sure security and treasure in the life which is to come.
Again in this first verse, the RSV’s ‘consume’ (Strongs Greek number 853) is translated from the same word that ‘disfigure’ is in Mtw 6:16 where we noted that it more rightly means ‘to disappear’ or ‘to make vanish’. Here it retains its usual meaning of ‘disappearing’ and the meaning is that both ‘moth’ and ‘rust’ cause one’s earthly treasures to come to nothing when they have had their effect on them, strengthening the case that we proposed above that all types of decay and destruction are being summarised here in the phrase ‘moth and rust’.
Finally, the translation ‘break in’ represents a Greek word (Strongs Greek number 1358) which literally means ‘dig through’, though this latter translation would probably have not been understood by the modern reader of the NT had they not been able to research what life was like in the NT. Houses, being made generally of clay and rock material, found thieves digging through from an outer wall into a chamber of the house which may have contained known valuables. Although doors were not unknown, accessing a house from a quiet back wall was much safer and more secretive than smashing down the door located on a public street where there were many passers-by.
Today, the weakest point of a modern, western, house is either the door or the window - not the wall which is normally constructed from cement and bricks that would need serious attention should a hole try to made in them. While ‘break in’ does convey the sense of the word, it should be remembered that illegal house entry was normally done through a wall and not a door.
In the opening two verses of this three verse passage (Mtw 6:19-20), there is a contrast between placing one’s trust in earthly riches which can be removed by decay or misfortune (though Jesus is not saying that they will be, only that there is always a danger that they might be) and of doing the will of God on earth so that one’s treasure house might be seen to be not in transient objects but in pleasing the Father.
As Matmor perceptively notes
‘Everyone has some treasure, the main object in life. Jesus is asking whether that is to be the transient or the eternal and He warns that earthly riches may disappear’
The theme of heavenly reward is very real here and shouldn’t be lessened its force, but the prime reason for the disciple finding that Heaven is stored up with reward for him is because he has been concerned to disregard earthly treasure for the sake of doing what is right on earth that God might take pleasure in him.
But the danger, Jesus says, of doing such things is that one gets caught up with what is transient and so the follower doesn’t pay enough regard to the things which make for a true disciple. If we seek after material gain, we lose what spiritual gain we could have received because our hearts are tied up in them - the only effective way for the disciple to be free from earthly concerns is to forsake the love of what is transient for the things which are eternal and everlasting that, when all Creation passes away, the disciple might be found to be securely rooted in Heaven which remains forever.
Interestingly, the idea of laying treasure up in Heaven and of it being of more worth to the believer than any earthly gain, is mentioned both in the OT Apocrypha and the Mishnah. The former source finds Sirach 29:11 urging the reader to
‘Lay up your treasure according to the commandments of the Most High and it will profit you more than gold’
while the Mishnah (Peah 1:1) comments
‘...First-fruits, the Festal Offering, deeds of loving-kindness [that is, almsgiving] and the study of the Law. These are things whose fruits a man enjoys in this world while the capital is laid up for him in the world to come...’
Treasure is here associated with doing what the Law requires of the Israelite but Jesus makes no mention of how a believer may acquire such Heavenly treasure by specific examples of acts of piety or righteousness that the disciple could perform.
For Jesus, the point is not in what can be done to earn Heavenly reward but that the follower should make sure that His life is not set on earthly gain to the exclusion of what is eternal. If the disciple desires the things of God over and above the things of the world, then he will find that His ways are directed to do those things which are pleasing to the Father and so, automatically, store up great riches in the world which is to come.
That Jesus does not describe what He means by ‘treasure’ should not cause us to disregard His words here but should make us realise that, as Matmor notes, it is spoken of in this way simply to mean
‘...that which one prizes most, that which one values above all else’
and can therefore be applied to a great many situations - but the point is that the internal workings of the heart which fix themselves on treasure may be expressed by one in almsgiving where the intention is to please God and, by another, in almsgiving where pleasing man is of paramount importance to the giver (Mtw 6:2).
This contrast between two different types of treasure is brought out with equal force in a parable Jesus told in Luke 12:13-21 where the rich farmer is more concerned with a life of ease and prosperity and in storing up earthly treasure
‘...for himself, and is not rich toward God’
Jesus is not saying that every disciple who tries to save is going to find that he won’t be able to enjoy what he’s put to one side and neither is he saying that storing up great riches is a sure sign that death is imminent (!) but that, when a person is called to give an account of himself before God, all the earthly wealth is left behind and profits him nothing in the life to come.
Rather, as Jesus said (Luke 16:9) that the disciple should
‘...make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations’
Material treasure is good for advancing the Kingdom of God and to use to do the will of the Father with - but when the amassing of wealth is primarily concerned with self-preservation and self-love, man’s heart is shown to be against the will of the Lord.
To the would-be disciple who wanted to follow Jesus (Mtw 19:16-22) but who could honestly say that he had kept the commandments (though, it should be noticed that Jesus doesn’t mention ‘Thou shalt not covet...’ - which was the root cause of the man’s problem - until He proposes a solution and includes its meaning in His words), He said (Mtw 19:21)
‘...If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me’
because the man’s heart was in his wealth and, being in such a position, he could never have served Jesus had it remained. Unfortunately, it would appear that the would-be disciple was unwilling to shift the commitment of his heart from off earthly possessions onto spiritual ones (Mtw 19:22).
As we move onto Mtw 6:21, we need to notice here the change from the plural to the singular. In the first two verses, Jesus has been talking rather vaguely to the crowds and not bringing home the Truth to an individual level but, in 6:21, the application becomes more personal and Jesus uses the singular which immediately draws the disciples’ attention and applies the teaching to them.
Jesus concludes this short passage by teaching that the things that we take delight in are the things in which our hearts are established (where the heart should be taken to mean, as Mathag ‘...the centre of a person’s attention and commitment’).
Those things which we regard as being indispensable to us and our existence are the very things which keep us apart from the presence of God and from pure service to Him. They become gods which take the place of a whole-hearted commitment to the Father.
Mathen notes that
‘...if a person’s real treasure, his ultimate aim in all his striving, is something pertaining to this earth - the acquisition of money, fame, popularity, prestige, power - then his heart, the very centre of his life, will be completely absorbed in that mundane object. All of his activities, including even the so-called religious, will be subservient to this one goal’
This is re-echoed in Jesus’ words of Mtw 6:24 which follow quickly on from these three verses, but here Jesus is giving His disciples good reason not to go after earthly things because the entire Creation is now subject, through sin, to the ‘...bondage to decay...’ (Rom 8:21) and, therefore, even if it’s only on natural considerations, the disciple cannot expect to achieve very much when, once he’s died, all the things that he once prided will be no more and unavailable to him. Even more than this - when the things that a believer might go after could decay before his eyes in his own lifetime or be taken from him.
Although this reasoning has been the burden of Jesus’ words in the first two verses of this passage, nevertheless Jesus gives His disciples something to think about by insisting that they realise that the things they spend time doing and achieving and the things which they place their trust in are what determines where their desires are set.
As Mathag comments
‘...the one who piles up treasures on earth will have his or her attention and commitment necessarily turned to earthly matters rather than to the will of the Father in heaven’
With the advent of the video recorder, some of what Jesus was teaching here has largely been annulled for, in the old days, one had to choose whether to go to a Church meeting or watch the live coverage of the soccer match that everyone wanted to see! Of course, there is good reason for switching meetings to accommodate believers - God is just as pleased to share communion over the watching of a soccer match as He is in a group setting in a religious building - but, years ago, christians could be seen to be either preferring fellowship with God or doing that which their heart desired to do more. But I should point out that, in some churches I’ve been to, watching a soccer match would always be more preferable to what goes by the name of ‘worship’ when the christians gather together!
Finally, the sorts of questions a disciple should be asking himself - to see whether he is falling foul of Jesus’ clear teaching - should be along the lines of:
Is my heart’s desire to surround myself with material objects rather than to desire to do God’s will?
Is my heart in Heaven using earthly things to achieve Heaven’s objectives? Or is it on earth using Heavenly blessings to achieve earthly riches?
Am I seeking the Kingdom for God’s glory or seeking the Kingdom for my own benefit?
Although such questions don’t cover the full range of intentions here, they are, nevertheless, a start for the disciple who needs to address the problem that we all have from time to time of putting aside heavenly matters for the pursuance of that which is earthly and of no lasting value.
What are my eyes fixed on?
We come now to a very difficult passage which has caused a great amount of varied interpretation by different commentators who seem to have extracted the passage from its immediate context and so tried to interpret it without looking at the similarities in the message of the two passages which precede and follow it.
These two verses can only truly be understood if one considers the truths that Jesus surrounds them with and in the context of what the ‘unsound eye’ meant in first century Judaism, a phrase which is used elsewhere in the Gospels but which is often obscured by modern translations.
Mathag, commenting on the unsound eye of 6:22 writes that it
‘...is the evil eye of near Eastern cultures - an eye that enviously covets what belongs to another, a greedy or avaricious eye...’
This word translated ‘not sound’ (Strongs Greek number 4190) would better be translated ‘evil’, even though the RSV is attempting an interpretation by its rendering and making the unfortunate error of obscuring the meaning of the passage that it is seeking to explain!
This ‘evil eye’ is known to have been representative of covetousness, envy and meanness in ancient times and, because it sits inbetween two passages dealing with such issues, it is difficult to see why a different reading of a common phrase should be pressed upon the passage.
In the Apocrypha, for instance, Sirach 14:8-10 comments (my italics)
‘The envious man hath a wicked eye; he turneth away his face, and despiseth men. A covetous man's eye is not satisfied with his portion; and the iniquity of the wicked drieth up his soul. A wicked eye envieth his bread, and he is a niggard at his table’
Tobit 4:7 also speaks of being careful not to let one’s eye become envious when one is giving alms and, therefore, to shrink from giving away what belongs to oneself. It instructs the reader to
‘Give alms of thy substance; and when thou givest alms, let not thine eye be envious, neither turn thy face from any poor, and the face of God shall not be turned away from thee’
In the Mishnah, the use of the ‘evil eye’ is again evidenced, though the passage which conclusively shows that an evil eye is indicative of a lack of liberality will be reserved for a later exposition of the ‘sound eye’. Aboth 2:11 comments that
‘...the evil eye and the evil nature and hatred of mankind put a man out of the world’
while Aboth 5:19 talks about three things inside a man which prove that he is either a disciple of Abraham or a disciple of Balaam - a good eye being a characteristic of the former and an evil eye of the latter.
But even the NT uses a similar expression as occurs here for the ‘evil eye’ and the AV renders literally the verse Mtw 20:15 where the RSV consigns it to a marginal alternative, rendering it as
‘...is your eye evil because I am good?’
where the generosity of the householder is being compared to the mean-spiritedness of the workers who complain about the wage that was received by them. Mark 7:22 also has the RSV obscuring the literal translation of a phrase which it renders ‘envy’ (this time not even providing a footnote) which is, no doubt, the correct interpretation, even though it literally means ‘an evil eye’ which, if the Apocrypha texts are looked at above, can be seen to be correct.
The ‘sound eye’ (which occurs in the verse preceding) is probably the opposite of the ‘evil eye’ and may denote an attitude of generosity and selflessness which would cut against the feeling of envy which strives to obtain those things which others have in their possession. As Mathag comments, it denotes
‘...an eye that is not attached to wealth but is ready to part with it’
The only problem to this interpretation is that the Greek word employed which is translated ‘sound’ by the RSV (Strongs Greek number 573) means, properly, ‘simple’, though Kittels notes that it was developed to mean
‘open - that is, with no ulterior motive’
and goes on to comment that, if the context of the evil eye is correct, then the meaning in Mtw 6:22 is ‘pure’ where most commentators would also see ‘singleness of purpose’ as being the burden of the word. This does fit in well with both passages which sandwich it into the Sermon on the Mount and gives added depth to the contrast with the ‘evil eye’ which, if the disciple possesses it, would detract from service to God.
Additionally, Matmor notes that Lightfoot cites Terumoth 4:3 in the Mishnah as saying
‘A good eye yieldeth one out of forty...a middling eye one out of fifty...and an evil eye one out of sixty...’
though Danby’s translation (which is the one I have in my possession) uses the words ‘liberal’, ‘liberal in medium degree’ and ‘mean’ respectively. If Lightfoot’s literal translation is correct, this would be sufficient proof for saying that an evil eye - a description of greed and covetousness - had, as it’s opposite, a good eye which gave liberally and which Mathag summarises as
‘...a generous eye or the single [RSV ‘sound’] eye of discipleship [which] is the source of light; an evil, covetous eye is the source of darkness’
The point appears to be that the things that one strives for determines the spiritual health of the individual. Jesus has just been teaching concerning the need for the disciple to concern himself not with amassing earthly treasure but with heavenly and so the context of these two verses should be seen to be a continuation of thought - not only because of what they follow but also of what comes after, where the same sort of principle is being expounded and described.
In both 6:19-21 and 6:24, the disciple is given two options and urged to choose the right path. Here, in 6:22-23, that choice is likened to ‘looking’ and observing situations and receiving into oneself the decision that is made, as a response to what the life has regard for.
If the follower goes after earthly treasure, he receives into himself darkness but, if heavenly matters take up his attention, light enters his experience and floods his life.
But this passage has to do primarily with envy as has been noted above for, if the disciple is envious of others who have the possessions of the world, he will be tempted to go after those things which others seek and have in their possession. Therefore, says Jesus, don’t be envious of earthly treasure (6:19-21) and neither of amassing riches (6:24) but, rather, follow after the things which make for true righteousness in one’s life (6:33).
The main problem that will stop a disciple from going after the things of God over and above the concerns of the earth is the envy of others and of what they possess - and the disciple must disregard what he sees around himself, setting his sight on heavenly principles.
If the eye is not sound, therefore, if the life of the disciple pays attention to things which are set to produce an earthly reward, darkness will engulf them. Moreover, the danger is that seeking earthly matters will give the disciple a false sense of his spiritual state for he or she will think that his life is full of light when, in fact, they’re walking in darkness and cannot perceive the way of God clearly.
Mattask probably goes a little too far in his comments that
‘...if their spiritual sense is perverted by false philosophies and debased ethics, then the darkness that already exists in them through the inherent perversity of their nature becomes darkness indeed’
because he fails to see that Jesus’ main teaching is attributable to the need for the disciple to give up any concern that he has for earthly reward and finance, but Matmor’s
‘...a person may well think he has light, but to walk in darkness is to lack vision, to demonstrate that one has no light’
is vague enough to be able to summarise the principle. This weakness was evident in the Pharisees’ life and is taught by Jesus in John 9:39-41, a passage that is a play upon the two ceremonies of water-drawing and the illumination of the Temple at the Feast of Tabernacles when a man blind from birth is healed (see my notes at here).
Jesus speaks about His entry into the world being concerned with the judgment of the blind and the Pharisees ask Him whether He considers them to be blind as well as any others. Jesus’ reply is to state enigmatically their problem. He says
‘If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say “We see” your guilt remains’
That is, although the Pharisees thought themselves to be spiritually perceptive disciples of God, the light they thought they had was actually darkness and was blinding them into a false justification of their own service to God.
Finally, if the disciple would take this passage seriously and want to consider how he might follow Jesus’ teaching, so safeguarding his own spiritual life, the sorts of questions he should be asking himself are along the lines of:
Is my life focused on what will get me an earthly reward or on what will give me a heavenly one?
Am I consumed with jealousy and envy of those people who have material wealth and possessions and am I being tempted to go after them rather than serve God?
Do I have no regard for earthly wealth and am using my own finance to do what the Father wants me to do or am I withholding what belongs to me and striving to obtain more?
Am I consumed with light or has darkness engulfed my purposes so that I no longer can see the light of God’s will clearly?
However the passage is understood, it must relate back into the context of the heavenly treasure (Mtw 6:19-21) and forward into the slavery of the disciple (Mtw 6:24).
What am I a slave to?
This passage takes up a similar theme to that which Jesus taught in Mtw 6:19-21 (the sandwiched passage concerning the sound and unsound eye is important to understand in order that the context of this verse might be appreciated) and I will deal with both the similarities and dissimilarities below. But this verse is too easy to gloss over and ignore when certain phrases are either lessened in their meaning or applied to situations that are far from our own experience.
When Jesus, for instance, talked about ‘riches’ (mammon), he wasn’t speaking to men and women who had vast treasures stored away at home and who holidayed in the corners of the Roman Empire at their own expense! He was speaking to men and women like you and me - actually, who were poorer than you and I will probably ever be - who worked for a living and who often would have struggled to make ends meet or to find enough clothes for the new baby!
Therefore, to misguidedly think that these words must be for the ‘richer than us’ populace is incorrect and we need to think about the principles that Jesus here teaches as being directly applicable to us - not to the neighbour.
As we consider this short verse, then, let’s keep our eyes firmly on ourselves and not try to allow the meaning of His teaching to remind us of that work colleague, neighbour or guy down the pub who this verse ‘was really meant for’.
1. Two Masters
Perhaps it’s our modern, Western society that prefers to translate certain Greek words by terms such as ‘service’ rather than, as would have been understood by first century readers, ‘slavery’. The word here translated ‘serve’ (Strongs Greek number 1398), to me if not anyone else, tends to conjure up in the mind thoughts of gleeful service that has no obligations on the part of the server and that, should they decide that they no longer wish to serve, a change in one’s freewill is all that’s required to absolve oneself from any obligation that has previously been accepted.
While it is true that ‘serving’ God is different to, say, ‘serving’ satan (Gal 4:8), the bondage (‘service’) of fear because of the approach of death (Heb 2:15) or as a description of the Creation in its obligation (‘service’) to decay (Rom 8:21) - there is a necessary implication of obligation and slavery in the words that the translation ‘serve’ doesn’t convey.
Referring to the entire word group, Kittels notes that they all
‘...have to do with slavery. In distinction from parallel groups, they denote compulsory service’
and goes on to note how the Greek word was used in the LXX translation of the OT, normally in master/slave relationships. The work comments
‘Since the [word] group denotes restrictive service, it is the proper term for the relation of ruler and subjects, for it expresses both the power demanded on the one side and the subjection and bondage experienced on the other’
and notes that it is the word employed when Israel’s time of slavery in Egypt is being referred to and
‘...is the most common term for the service of God, not just in isolated acts but in total commitment. The group may also be used for service of Baalim or other gods...’
The force and meaning of this word group is brought even more to the readers’ attention when the Greek word translated ‘master’ is used (Strongs Greek number 2962), a word employed when the master/slave relationship is being taught on in Eph 6:5-6.
Although we may balk at the description here offered to us of there being just two choices of slavery open to the disciple of Christ, this is necessarily the implication in Jesus’ words also and the conflict between slavery to God and slavery to mammon is one that cannot be resolved sufficiently well to allow a harmonisation of each of the two services.
Indeed, love of one consequently promotes a hatred of the other. If one is obligated to follow after the things of God, it necessarily means that one is also absolved from being concerned about earthly matters and material gain (as Jesus will shortly go on to expound as a fitting conclusion to this entire series of thoughts - Mtw 6:25-34).
In one sense, this is an expansion of what Jesus has said in Mtw 6:19-21 where He instructed His disciples to devote themselves to doing what God required of them rather than to set their minds on earthly and transient wealth but, having said that, there the instruction was to make it known to His listeners that their delight and desire illustrated to them where the centre of their lives really was and what they were actually trying to strive for (Mtw 6:21).
Here, by contrast, Jesus isn’t giving the disciples a test to lay bear the intentions of their own hearts but instructing them that they have dire and serious choices to be made if they are to wholeheartedly follow after the things of God, because the acquiring of material possessions and gain is set diametrically opposed to the service of God.
As Mathag comments
‘...slavery requires absolute loyalty and commitment and, therefore, an exclusive commitment to a single master. In a similar way, discipleship requires undivided and absolute commitment’
Mattask seems to miss the point of the words when he comments that (my italics)
‘The accumulation of wealth is so absorbing an occupation that sooner or later money enslaves its victims and leads them to despise the God to whom they may have imagined they could render a limited allegiance’
for Jesus is not thinking of the hatred of God which ‘sooner or later’ will come about if the disciple’s interests are divided but that interests of material gain and the service or God are inherently against one another and cannot co-exist in the same life.
Material gain excludes service of God, it cannot be allied with it. Therefore it is not the case that eventually the materialist will come to hate God but that he already demonstrates this attitude by his commitment to acquiring riches regardless of whether he might repent and turn to God at some point in the future.
But, it must be noted, that the concept of ‘hate’ in the Bible doesn’t always mean the depth of feeling that is associated with our modern day use of the word and can mean something like ‘love less than’ where the passion of ‘love’ is being contrasted with indifference rather than proclaiming positive hostility (see, for instance, Luke 14:26 where the Pp in Mtw 10:37 shows the intended meaning).
Neither should the force of the word be overlooked in the context in which it’s used. Where there are two mutually exclusive attitudes of heart, the contrast of ‘love’ and ‘hate’ can rightly be used in the same sense as the intention of our labels ‘hot’ and ‘cold’. Devotion to one excludes the possibility of devotion to the other.
As Matfran notes
‘...a man could satisfactorily have two employers but not two owners’
Mathag, on the other hand, notes that, in Jewish writings (see Pesahim 8:1 where there is a comment as to whether a half-slave was allowed to eat of the Passover or not), it was noted that a slave could have two Jewish masters for there exists a discussion of how the slave might become a ‘half-slave’ if he was able to secure his freedom from one but not the other and of what should be done for him (Acts 16:16 may also indicate such a situation of joint ownership but the passage may mean no more than that the ‘owners’ were a husband and his wife) but, although this situation is noted, he concludes that the passage teaches that
‘...a slave with two masters can do justice to neither’
even though this is hardly Jesus’ point. He is not saying that neither will be served properly but that one will be served at the expense of the other continually. It isn’t that the person who goes after material gain will find that he can’t achieve it but that, by doing such a thing, service of God is automatically impossible. As Jesus says
‘No man can serve two masters...’
‘No man can serve two masters successfully...’
Mathag does conclude his comments that serving two masters is impossible to do, but that Jesus is talking about an incomplete service to two masters is not the issue here. As Matmor notes
‘...to be a slave meant to belong wholly’
It is not that men are rich which is the problem but that men devote themselves to the accumulation of wealth and so set their heart on it that’s the root cause of them not being able to serve God wholeheartedly.
Mammon (Strongs Greek number 3126) is presumed by Kittels to come from an Aramaic noun which means something like ‘that in which one trusts’ (as Kittels, Vines is similar) and that it is generally used in a negative way in Jewish writings in a wide variety of senses, though mainly by words that we would normally associate with money and possessions.
However, Matfran notes that, in the Jewish commentary (the Targum) on Prov 3:9, the text would run ‘Honour God with your mammon’ making somewhat more neutral the word’s use (he also cites Deut 6:5 where the word translated ‘mammon’ is not easily discernible from his quote and would, anyway, appear to be a misunderstanding of the text by the Rabbinic commentators).
Sanhedrin 1:1 in the Mishnah also contains the Hebrew word where the English word ‘property’ is used (as it is in Aboth 2:12 to translate the same word), a footnote pointing out that the word encompassed
‘...loans, inheritances, sales and the like’
The word ‘mammon’ is here being transformed into a personal master that is being served and honoured. It is striking that, although men and women think themselves free to choose what they want to do from one moment to the next, their lives (just as much as the christian) are the subject of a series of stimuli that determines their commitment by their reaction to certain premises and beliefs to an entire range of items.
To most non-christians, such a thought would be laughed at and the christian would be pointed out as being enslaved to various rules and regulations that cause him to behave in such a way in the society in which he lives. But, if a person believes that monetary gain and material wealth is the highest good in the world, they will, no doubt, go about seeking to obtain it - and, if enjoyment is the goal, pleasure will be sought.
For the christian, God is the object and concept (if you’ll excuse the analogy) that the life is conformed to - but each of us live our lives in accordance with a preconceived master that we endeavour to serve obediently. And, in the case of the pursuit of material wealth, God cannot be served at the same time.
It’s not that the problem is that men are rich but that men devote themselves to the accumulation of wealth and so set their heart on it that’s the root cause of them not being able to serve God wholeheartedly.
The word ‘mammon’ more rightly denotes, therefore, ‘materialism’ (see the following section for a brief discussion of the concept) in a great variety of applications rather than simply ‘money’ as we would take it to mean in our present day society. The person who amasses a large collection of, say, trinkets and who seeks their collection out to the exclusion of service of God is just as guilty as the one who seeks out a significant statement of credit in their bank account.
This must be noted here for it’s too easy for us to push the guilt onto other people who fall foul of our interpretation and so justify ourselves. There is nothing wrong with having earthly possessions but, when a heart is seeking them out, they are demonstrating that they have turned their back on God and on doing His will.
Having said that, we may surmise that, had Judas Iscariot laid these matters to heart and acted on them, he may not have been the one who betrayed Jesus - an action which appears to have been done solely because he saw monetary gain as of more value than serving the purposes of God in Jesus (John 12:4-6 shows his heart while Mtw 26:14-16 records the betrayal for a monetary payment).
Finally, as in the previous two articles, we offer a couple of considerations that the disciple should be asking himself - to see whether he is falling foul of Jesus’ clear teaching:
Do I serve God’s purpose or earthly objectives?
Is my life totally devoted to do God’s will or totally devoted to do God’s will only if it serves my purpose of receiving earthly riches (materialism)?
Am I set on acquiring earthly possessions in areas of my life or is my sole desire to follow God no matter what it might cost me materially?
We saw above how the Greek word translated ‘mammon’ is one which includes all manner of earthly possessions which will include money but not refer to it exclusively of all other material substances that men place high regard on.
It may sound strange but, even if a man should place his desire on collecting something that is of no intrinsic value to another, it can still be regarded as ‘mammon’ because it is remains an object that is considered to have very real value by the seeker.
The concept of ‘mammon’ is well harmonised with a proper understanding of our modern day equivalent ‘materialism’ and, perhaps because that word hits home too poignantly to our sensitivities, ‘mammon’ is by far the better word to be able to cloud the issue, the word ‘riches’ used by some translations making it sound as if it is only something like the Crown Jewels that are in mind!
It’s true to say, then, that we often limit our concept of Materialism to the accumulation of wealth or possessions which can be valued in terms of high monetary value, but the actual meaning goes much deeper than that. Perhaps we even like to think of only the really rich or those who surround themselves with many excessive objects of art or meaningless trinkets as being the really guilty before the Lord in this matter but, if we really grasped the underlying meaning of the word, we would soon discover that, for each believer, there is a warning that we would do well to heed.
Materialism, then, is the belief that only matter is real or important and so the rejection of spiritual things. It is the rejection of God for the possession of something earthly, the love for God substituted by the love for possessions. It is a devotion to and desire for earthly things and a rejection of all spiritual things that have no earthly profit or advantage. It is a trust in things that are transient but a distrust of God and a reliance on earthly possessions for security. Materialism is therefore an example of idolatry.
Jesus’ exclamation (Luke 18:24)
‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the Kingdom of God’
is not a condemnation of rich people but a warning. The rich young ruler was alright trusting in God so long as he had some sort of earthly security as well (Luke 18:18-30) but, when that was challenged, he had to make a choice between one or the other - either trust wholly in God or in material things.
Unfortunately, he rejected the Messiah solely for the possession of something earthly and Jesus’ words here should be taken as teaching not that it’s a sin to be rich but that it is a sin to seek security in anything material which is a product of God’s Creation rather than God Himself.
Mtw 6:24 which we have looked at above is paraphrased well by the words
‘You cannot desire both material things and spiritual things. Both desires cannot coexist for one is of the spirit and the other is of the flesh’
The Greek word for ‘mammon’ here (Strongs Greek number 3126) is related to a Hebrew word which signifies ‘to be firm, steadfast’ - hence, that which is to be trusted as being a sure, immovable rock. If we are to escape the grip of materialism on our lives, we must serve God and not put a false trust in our possessions - we need to kick away the crutches which cause us to feel secure in this life and rely solely on God for our support.
The prophecy of Zech 4:6 was given to the inhabitants of Jerusalem when they set about rebuilding the Temple. The Lord said through the prophet that they were going to achieve the rebuilding project (GNB)
‘...not by military might, nor in your own strength but by My Spirit...’
It was not to be by an army protecting them while they worked, neither was it to be in their own strength by being industrious and strong builders. It would only be achieved as the Spirit of God directed, enabled, empowered and shielded them.
Often - throughout the OT, in fact - Israel relied on their own armies, the strength of their fortresses and their own physical prowess to protect the nation instead of relying solely and wholly on God (Is 31:1-3, Jer 17:5-8). It is false security to rely on earthly things and the rejection of natural strength and ability will lead us ultimately to the realisation of the Sovereignty of God (Ps 44:4-8).
A believer must reject their trust in all earthly things and come to a total reliance upon God. When this happens, nothing that subsequently happens in the world will be able to affect the Church for, though it will still be in the world, it will no longer be a part of the world. God’s blessing of money and possessions, it should be remembered, is not something that should cause us to rely upon the abundant provision stored up but should only ever be the means whereby His people can get His will done in all the earth.
Objective Heaven, Provision earth
In the previous three passages considered on this web page (Mtw 6:19-24), it could be construed that Jesus is only speaking to His disciples about superfluous items to their own experience that aren’t the ‘must haves’ but the ‘like to haves’.
As such, for some disciples the temptation to go after extensive material possessions may not have been a very real threat to their life of service to God. Here, however, Jesus goes on to speak about life’s necessities - food, drink and clothing - and the need for the disciple to have the right attitude when they consider their daily requirements.
If the disciple has been paying attention to Jesus’ previous teaching here, they should have been able to surmise most of what He’s about to say, for the reality of ‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done’ (Mtw 6:10) in the follower means ‘daily bread’ (Mtw 6:11) being provided for them without having to anxiously seek for it to the detriment of serving God.
When the disciple has singleness of purpose towards heavenly things, God naturally provides all earthly blessings in order that they can fulfil His/their objectives.
The Greek word translated ‘anxious’ (Strongs Greek number 3309) occurs six times in this short passage and there can be no doubt as to the main thrust of Jesus’ instructions here.
The word group, according to Kittels
‘covers much the same range of meaning as the English “care”’
It would cause Jesus’ words to become rather strange if we were to just substitute the word ‘care’ for ‘anxious’ for we’d hear Jesus teaching His followers that they were not to
‘...care about your life...’
‘...why do you care about clothing?’
though, to some christians, this last statement would hit home with more truth than they would be comfortable with. While it’s necessary to find a pair of trousers that fit or a shirt that isn’t too garish (preachers please note!), the believers’ occupation with and pursuit of the fashions of the world tend to fall into the category of Jesus’ statement in the previous verse that a disciple cannot serve both God the Father and materialism.
Having said this, the best ‘interpretation’ of the care meant here must necessarily be ‘anxiety’ or ‘worry’ when one considers the context of the questions which surround it (the AV translates the opening phrase as ‘Take no thought...’ which implies that even forward planning would have been against the will of God. But this isn’t the case - it is the ‘worry’ of having provision that is foremost in Jesus’ mind, not the practice of some people who make sure they have enough food for days when the shops are closed!). It isn’t so much that the disciple shouldn’t care about food, drink and clothing, but that he shouldn’t find that his life is taken up with worrying about obtaining such things and so neglect necessary service of God and the seeking of God’s Kingdom and rightstanding with Him (or ‘doing what is right in His eyes’ - Mtw 6:33).
The same Greek word as used here was taken as the correct translation of the Hebrew word rendered ‘burden’ in Ps 55:22 in the LXX and it repeats Jesus’ teaching. It reads
‘Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved’
Here the teaching is a little different as it instructs the reader that all anxieties and cares should be given over to God, the ‘worries’ being in the context of problematical situations and people which come against the believer and which threaten his security.
This may be a very real worry for the believer when he sees his enemies starting to amass before him and the threat of quick annihilation grows with each moment in time, but Jesus’ words have primarily to do not with the attack of an enemy but with the supply of everyday items such as food and drink that we, in the West, take for granted.
Put us into a society where the food supply is not as secure as it is, for instance, in the UK and we would need to come back to Jesus’ words and take full stock of them. Even if we had much less money than we have now, the acquisition of clothing may be a problem to us as we see less excess available.
While there are certainly people who worry about the necessities in life, a believer living in a society who’s had to struggle to produce enough food for all the mouths dependent upon him would necessarily have to consider this teaching of Christ very carefully and allow the Truth to be applied to his own life.
Anxiety can cripple a believer into inaction in the things of God rather than settle them into a life of dependence upon Him whereby even the necessary things for daily sustenance are expected to be supplied to them. The believer, rather, should be so anxious (or, better, ‘so careful’) to do the will of God that the desire for natural provision becomes consumed in His service and is sometimes put so far down the list of necessities of the day that it is largely forgotten. I have certainly experienced - and on a fairly frequent basis along with many others - that when one gets absorbed in the things of God, food is often not necessary for the body until a much later time for He seems to sustain the follower while he is actively set about doing His will. And besides, with our large stomachs, do we really need to give in to those feelings of hunger?!
But anxiety over food can also result in the disciple’s restlessness and his inability to settle down to be at peace with both himself and others. In Sirach 42:9, where the noun is used, the text reads
‘A daughter is a secret anxiety to her father and worry over her robs him of sleep...’
and the thought is one of restlessness in the life of the person who is anxious and worried. This also bleeds over into the life of the disciple who finds that they can’t rest confident in the provision of God for, forsaking the promise, the believer’s life will strive for what needs he has and expend the best of his strength trying to obtain it.
To be anxious over whether God will provide for oneself is to lack faith in the sureness of God’s commitment to look after the needs of His followers (Mtw 6:30). If there is a confidence in one’s heart and mind that God will look after the disciple, it frees him from the anxiety which would propel him from giving too much attention to earthly needs which cut away from seeking God’s Kingdom (Mtw 6:31-32).
Instead of worry and anxiety, the disciple should go after the things of God (Mtw 6:33) and, as a natural consequence, he will find that all his earthly needs will be met. When a disciple puts the things of God first and sets himself to do the will of God above everything else, God will see to it that he has enough natural provision for every day life - so that there is no need to worry and be anxious over a provision that is a consequence of something which is much more important to do.
But Jesus is not condemning believers for providing both for themselves and for those who are dependent upon them. As Matfran comments
‘To forbid anxiety does not rule out a responsible concern and provision for one’s own and others’ material needs, nor does Jesus here forbid us to work...His concern...is with priorities and the essential message of this passage is “first things first” which means in fact “God first”’
The believer should not neglect the needs he has, but neither should his life be taken up with over-anxiety and concern as to how that provision might be supplied. For instance, if he has some pennies in his pocket, he shouldn’t think it against God’s will revealed in this passage if he was to go to the local bakers and buy a loaf!
But to live in a state of worry that he only has a few pennies in his pocket and that that can only buy one last loaf, so what’s he to do after the money’s gone? - that is anxious living where the mind and attention of the will is given over to negativity that denies the goodness of God and pushes the disciple into striving after what comes naturally if he would set his life to do God’s will. The natural consequence of Mtw 6:24 where God and materialism are contrasted is therefore to be found in this passage.
I work with a colleague who worries. Although not a christian, it’s doubtful whether she could ever find enough time to serve the Lord should she ever decide to follow Christ. Although she earns quite a respectable wage, she is constantly looking at how to cut money - and yet, at the same time, spends it on items that she considers ‘hobbies’ and ‘must haves’.
But her life is almost a personification of worry and anxiety and, if overtime is ever offered to the staff, you can virtually guarantee that she’ll be one of the ones who’ll come in and work as many hours as will be allowed her under the employment regulations.
I don’t know of any christian who’s in a similar state of mind as she is but she doesn’t help herself by thinking back to what could have been and the life that she used to live that was taken from her - instead of being able to transfer her worries onto Jesus and look to Him to supply each and every need she has.
And yet, the crazy thing about this situation is that, as far as I can see, there appears to be enough resource available to be able to live adequately! A christian should neither fall into the trap of anxiously desiring more when he has sufficient, nor worry when money gets tight and when circumstances change to the detriment of their financial position.
Though it can be appreciated that this lady cannot realise the goodness of God and so trust Him for all she needs, the state of mind which her life epitomises is one that it is too easy for the christian to find himself entrapped in. Natural provision is necessary but, for the believer, it only comes by forsaking the anxiety of its possession and turning, instead, towards doing the will and purpose of God.
2. Other Points
The main article on Mtw 6:25-34 is the preceding one but I noted in my own mind as I was writing it that I had failed to deal with some of the verses which need a word or two said about them. Then, after I’d put a few words together, I couldn’t place them into the article and still maintain the flow of thought!
So, although this section may appear to be somewhat ‘bitty’, the notes are intended to comment on issues that I have neglected above.
a. Mtw 6:25
Jesus proposes a question to the disciples that demands a positive answer. He asks them (Mtw 6:25)
‘Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?’
and is trying to get the disciples to come to a realisation of what their existence really is about. To strive to have enough natural resources so that they can never go hungry or ill clad? Or, perhaps relevant to modern day man through his development of the theory of evolution, to survive on this earth and to spread your genetic code into the next generation so that your line is guaranteed (the Jews were equally concerned to make sure that they didn’t die childless)?
But these are both natural considerations that hit at earthly needs and do nothing with regard to the afterlife and the things of God.
No, on the contrary, life is to be lived so that God is honoured and the body is to be used so that His will is done. Therefore, the sustenance of the body, and even the continuation of the genealogical line must take second place to doing the will of God. As it says in the OT in Deut 8:3
‘...man does not live by bread alone, but [he] lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord’
Doing the will of the Lord is of prime importance to the disciple and no amount of striving after the solution to or provision of earthly problems should ever get them away from that fact. Although both food and clothing are necessary, following God is of much more importance.
b. Mtw 6:26, 6:28
Jesus uses examples drawn from the observable natural world around Him to reason with the crowd. These aren’t parables in the sense that they both conceal and reveal truth (Mtw 13:11-17) but illustrations that substantiate His words and which the crowds would have been able to appreciate.
When He says ‘look at the birds of the air’ and ‘consider the lilies of the field’, Jesus is bidding His disciples to do just that and saying, in effect
‘Doesn’t even the natural world demonstrate to you not to be anxious about your daily needs?’
Jesus could simply have either commanded His followers not to worry or quoted Scriptures where God was recorded as providing the daily needs of His believers (such as Elijah in the wilderness - I Kings 17:1-6) but, as it is, He chooses to give them an illustration that they can always carry with them and which will be near to them in times when they begin to be anxious over the apparent lack of their resources.
Birds have no agricultural processes by which to supply their needs (Mtw 6:26) - so that their situation would be somewhat precarious for a man if he was in the same position - and yet they still have enough provision available to them simply because it is God who sees to it that there is enough available for them to eat.
Neither do the lilies of the field (Jesus probably means wild rather than cultivated flowers - note His use of ‘grass’ in 6:30) have the ability to produce garments for themselves by the processes which men and women use (Mtw 6:28) and yet their outer garments have more glory and beauty that they even surpass the proverbial extravagance of king Solomon.
Let’s get this need for provision in perspective, then. If God provides for the natural order by feeding the birds and clothing the flowers of the field (which God doesn’t consider to be of the same importance as the disciples), how will He neglect to provide for the needs they have? So why be anxious if God will make sure they have enough natural provision for the things they need to do?
There is an interesting parallel in the Mishnah which appears to be almost a carbon copy of Jesus’ teaching here. In Kiddishin 4:14, Rabbi Simeon ben Eleazar is recorded as saying (my italics)
‘Hast thou ever seen a wild animal or a bird practising a craft? Yet they have their sustenance without care and were they not created for naught else but to serve me? But I was created to serve my Maker. How much more then ought not I to have my sustenance without care?...’
The Rabbi is concerned here to show something other than what Jesus is instructing His disciples, but it does illustrate to us that the thought that life should be lived without anxiety and worry was known amongst the Jews (though how much the Rabbi’s words are dependent upon Jesus’ is impossible to determine).
c. Mtw 6:27
The Greek word translated ‘span of life’ (Strongs Greek number 2244) can mean either ‘age’ or ‘stature’ which gives reason to the RSV’s marginal translation ‘to his stature’. The probability is that ‘lifespan’ is in mind here as it seems difficult to imagine that Jesus’ hearers should be worrying over their height or weight (as we do in the present age but for wholly opposite reasons!).
Certainly, in Mtw 19:3, the word is rightly translated ‘small of stature’ when referring to Zaccheus and his inability to see Jesus because of the crowds but, here in Mtw 6:27, it is more likely to be referring to age and it is best to assume that it was common practice to be anxious over the number of years which would be lived out by the individual just as it is amongst many individuals even today.
Anxiety cannot lengthen the number of days which a man lives on the earth - though it is likely, from the evidence of modern medical science, that life may be shortened by excess worry - and, therefore, there is no need to be concerned with trying to stretch out the lifetime.
d. Mtw 6:32
The Gentiles mentioned here are probably to be taken as an example to the disciples for they represent the people who are without God in the world and who, therefore, have no way of focusing their attention on the goodness of God and of His faithfulness in providing for them.
The ‘non-Jews’ look for all necessary things (and much more besides) for their sustenance and survival and spend large amounts of time trying to obtain them - but, because the Father knows of the disciples’ needs, they can rest content that He will provide for them everything that is necessary without them having to be anxious over obtaining such a supply.
They will need to work where possible but, even if there be no employment, God obligates himself to look after those of His who go after the will of God.
e. Mtw 6:33
The reasoning has been leading Jesus to present the disciples with a definitive conclusion and principle which they can live out. This verse is none other than the first few phrases of the disciples’ prayer of Mtw 6:9-13 where Jesus has shown that, by praying God’s will be done on the earth, the disciple can go on, by declaring His commitment, to request those things which are needful to him in the past, present and future (see my notes here).
That was the declaration - but here is the necessity declared for the reality to come about in the believer’s life. It is not enough that the disciple simply states that He wants to see God’s will be done ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ but that he must actively set himself to seek out what it is that God requires of him and, as a consequence, provision will be granted.
This is yet another good reason to make people realise that the mundane repetition of the prayer of Mtw 6:9-13 will do nothing to bring about its reality if there is no application of Mtw 6:33! First (which, in Mtw 6:33, means ‘first in priority’ rather than ‘first in time’) comes the things of God - these are the things which are important to men and women (Mtw 6:25) which everything else must stand in the shadow of.
As Matfran notes here
‘The[se final words] call the disciple to an undistracted pursuit of his true goal, to which lesser (though legitimate) concerns must give way...’
and, Matmor, that
‘Jesus is clearly saying that the disciple’s first and best effort is to be directed toward God’s kingdom, not any personal needs’
f. Mtw 6:34
Some commentators see Mtw 6:34 as an addition to what Jesus originally said because it’s thought that it cannot be harmonised with what has just preceded it. Therefore Mattask comments that it
‘...has no parallel in Luke and was probably spoken in a different context’
but the verse gives good context to Jesus’ words and projects the anxiety that He’s been teaching about - which would have been present in many of the disciples’ lives - over what they might eat today into concern for provision for the future.
Maybe many could rest content in knowing that God had supplied all their needs that very day, and those with ‘packed lunches’ who sat listening to Jesus would have seen no need to take the words too much to heart. But Jesus goes on to impress upon His followers that they shouldn’t be concerned with what will be needed even tomorrow when they don’t see how they could possibly get what they’ll need.
Simply being content with serving God in the present day and leaving tomorrow’s provision in the hands of God for Him to supply it is what’s called for. If the disciple seeks to do His will, the provision will be there for them - but anxiety will not help them obtain food, drink or any other necessary items for their survival.
Matfran notes that
‘...God’s sure provision of our needs does not guarantee a life without problems. But they need not be multiplied by worrying about them before they occur...’
Even believers, then, must realise that following after God does not cocoon him away from the troubles and trials of life. But there are enough problems which arise in the present day that need dealing with and that the disciple must give his attention to, without contemplating any need of the following day (or days) and allowing himself to worry over them.
So, let that big meeting with the boss come around next week and deal with it then (though if you can prepare for it in the present it would be a good idea), but don’t waste time by fretting and being anxious as to what might happen - let the trouble that that day will bring be met head on the day it occurs.
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