Matthew 6: 25-34
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
How do we understand this story today? We know that bad things happen, people are hungry, homeless, and endure destructive poverty. It seems that today and throughout history, people have needed to worry. Certainly in our lives today, there is plenty to worry about.
Typically, readers of this passage have one of three possible reactions. One response is that we assume this passage doesn’t apply to us today. In the past, as told in Bible stories, God appeared to intervene more directly in people’s lives. God produced food (manna) in the desert for the Israelites fleeing slavery in Egypt. God talked with Elijah, Moses and others. So maybe God took care of people in the past in ways that don’t happen today.
A second way we commonly interpret this passage is metaphorically or spiritually. It describes real characteristics of God, but it doesn’t describe our physical, material reality. God feeds us spiritually. God quenches our spiritual thirst. In this view, the passage is not to be taken literally. We don’t need to worry about our spiritual life but we definitely might need to worry about our physical life. Food does run out and people do go hungry. Homes do go into foreclosure. People lose their jobs. The car breaks down and there is no money for expensive repairs. Bad things happen, and in times like these, God is with us spiritually, but we really do need to worry.
A third interpretation is to understand Jesus is saying that while we may need to worry about things today, the future is uncertain so we shouldn’t be worrying about it.
Maybe there is a fourth way to look at this passage. Let us first recognize that God does provide all we need, on the spiritual level but also in the physical, actual, day-to-day, practicalities-of-life sense. This is as true today as in the days of Jesus. We are surrounded by God’s abundance, freely given to us. God gives us the sun, the rain, and the land to grow our food. God gives us raw materials, minerals, and sources of energy to make the things we need. God gives us brains to figure out ways to make life easier and strength in our bodies so we can act in the world.
And on top of all these practical things, God also gives us beauty – of the flowers and the trees, the birds and the sunset. God gives us the beauty of each other. We lack for nothing. We don’t need to worry. God provides for us, abundantly.
But how do we use God’s abundance? Do we create the things we need or a lot of other stuff? Do we grow nutritious food, enough for all, or is much of our farm land producing crops that are turned into foods that make us sick? Are we building affordable housing for everyone, or McMansions for some? Is everyone paid a livable wage, or do some people have unimaginable wealth? Are we producing things we need or lots of stuff we want? Do we focus on sustainability and good stewardship of the abundance God has given us, or something else?
Today we know that billions of people around the world and tens of millions in the US are suffering from hunger, homelessness, unemployment, lack of health care or good education, lack of clean water or sanitation. Millions even billions of people are in pain. They are worrying constantly. They need to worry. They should be worrying. There is little help for them. In many places including in the U.S., everyone is pretty much on their own. As individuals we often do care for our neighbors. But as a society, too often we support the idea of rugged individualism and pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps.
Insight into the meaning of this passage comes in the last lines. Jesus says, “Do not worry, saying, ‘what will we eat?’ or ‘what will we wear?’ …God knows you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Strive first for God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, seek first the reign of God, and then all we need will be given to us. In the reign of God, on earth as it is in heaven, we love our neighbors. No one needs to worry because we share God’s abundance and care for each other.
God provides for all our needs. But not even God can provide for all we want. If we love God, love our neighbors, and love and care for God’s creation, then we can live into God’s reign, here on earth, now. We would have all we need and no one would need to worry.
- Does God care for creation, the birds and the animals? Does God provide them with food and all they need?
- Does God care for people? For us?
- Consider our food, housing, transportation, electronic equipment, and all that we have. Where does it come from?
- Does God provide all we need?
- Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink.” But people are hungry. Do they need to worry? Do we need to worry?