Much of Jesus’ chapter 6 comments focus on the development of Kingdom-centered piety for the disciple; beginning in v24, Jesus examines this pursuit in the context of our relationship with money.
That relationship can be a complicated one. On the one hand, we all need money—to provide food, clothing, shelter, to pay bills, taxes, to provide a sense of security, to enjoy life. But we also know there’s great tendency for money to become so much more. For various reasons, money can go from being a means to life to becoming the meaning of life.
Jesus cuts right to the heart of the matter and says “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” Devotion cannot be divided. Many have tried to parse their hearts amongst various pursuits, but deep down one is always a priority. As the physics principle goes, two objects cannot occupy the same space; when it’s the heart’s devotion, there can be only one. Jesus takes these general notions of dueling masters and specifies “You cannot serve God and wealth”.
The word Jesus uses here, Mammon, means more than just wealth. It is a term that visualizes money as a godlike personality whose wealth-wiles can have mastery over us, how we think, choose to use our time, how we value people in terms of what they can do for us. A mindset mastered by Mammon genuinely lives like “cash is king”.
It is okay to have an income, to make money, to provide. As a disciple it’s not wrong to be reasonably concerned about your finances and to take wise steps to address those concerns. But should those concerns begin to undermine our commitment to and contentment in Christ, those legitimate concerns have transformed into dictatorial masters over us. We have to choose.
Jesus knows, however, that choosing to follow him, worthwhile as it is, also has the potential to exacerbate anxiety and worry. Having decided to follow Christ in a way that does not obsessively seek out Wealth, the opportunity cost of all the money we might have had could begin to set our minds and hearts on edge. We begin asking questions. “Will everything be alright? Will we be okay? Will we be able to eat? Will we have clothing, shelter? Will we survive?”
These questions can very easily turn into nagging what ifs, knots in the stomach, trembling hands, unsettled minds, fear of the future, resentment of past choices, misdirected anger, paralyzing anxiety, and a waning passion for Christ. Knowing how our choice to prioritize God over Wealth could potentially stir up these overwhelming concerns, Jesus comments “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!”
To not worry about food and shelter goes against our grain. It’s an instruction that, admittedly, is difficult to accept. But there’s more here than just an instruction. There are questions. There’s imagination. There’s wonder. The thing about worry is that our mind is always racing, frantically moving in circles. Good questions, however, slow worry down. They give the mind something productive to ponder. And imagination, like food for an empty stomach, gives the mind something to feed upon, to be nourished by.
With his questions, Jesus wants to deconstruct this domineering understanding we often have that life is all about the materials. Like an older brother draping his arm around us, knowing better, Jesus’ questions hush our hurried worries. With his images, Jesus wants to fill up our understanding with the awareness and assurance of a caring Father. Like a visionary painting, Jesus’ images invite us to behold a reality resplendent with God’s glorious riches, worth, and redemptive purpose. Wonder feeds faith, making obedience joyful.
We are to “not worry then” about provisions as the world frantically does. Rather, knowing how our heavenly Father knows our needs, we are freed to follow after what God is setting before us in Christ. Thus Jesus ultimately emphasizes “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
His kingdom is the heavenly reign of God spilling into and transforming the realities of Earth through the redemptive work of King Jesus for the reconciling of humanity’s relationship to God, creation, and each other unto the renewal of Heaven and Earth. It is the good news Jesus proclaimed. It is the epitome of God’s plan for us all. It is the way of Jesus. As “all roads [led] to Rome”, the continuous seeking of Jesus always conducts us into Christ’s rule and realm, cultivating us into witnesses of the wonder God is continuously working out amongst this world. How do we bear witness?
His righteousness gives integrity to his redemptive words and works, and authority to his kingly rule. As we keep company with Christ, his righteousness is instilled in us, conforming our character to his, molding us into God’s witnesses.
Seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness first by following Jesus is a pursuit whose single-mindedness simplifies all other pursuits and weeds out our worry by enrapturing our attention with God-glorifying wonder. A heart so consumed with the majesty of God has no room for worry.
Does this mean we stop working to provide for needs? Of course not. It actually enables us to work more wholeheartedly, with a contented wonder-while-we-work mentality. It also frees our minds of the burden our heavenly Father has already promised to shoulder. “So do not worry about tomorrow” Jesus concludes, “for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Worry does not give hope for tomorrow, but God-wonder does foster joy for today. Thus the marvelous reality of God’s redemptive rule sets our minds and bodies into tranquil rhythms as we go forth living and working in ways that give witness to the wondrous work God is accomplishing in King Jesus.