Of all the things running in short supply today, it seems to me “common sense” is most at a premium, because common sense exists in such short supply. Good sense today is thin on the ground.
In His Sermon on the Mount, King Jesus is laying out the values and behaviors that must characterize authentic Kingdom men and genuine Kingdom women. Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:25-34 is grounded in exactly what we need – good sense. To be more specific, in this passage Jesus reorients our thinking along the lines of creation sense, kingdom sense, and common sense – all of which are greatly lacking in our world today.
The Sermon on the Mount is found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7. Today we come to the conclusion of chapter 6. As with Matthew chapter 5, so with Matthew chapter 6:
For Jesus, matters of the heart
are the heart of the matter.
External conformity to the letter of the law won’t cut it. God wants your heart, your love, all of you – heart, soul, mind and strength. Religious acts done to be seen and praised by people mean nothing. We live and serve our loving Father in Heaven. In our giving, our praying, our fasting – our everything – His smile is all we seek.
In Matthew 6 the focus is on the pursuit of True Treasure – Treasure that lasts not just for now, but for all eternity. What do you think? Is there such a thing as “Eternity”? Or is now all we’ve got? Do we live only for now, or do we live forever? If we live forever, why are so many of us living only for now?
Jesus said, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Treasures on earth perish, spoil, and fade. Moths, vermin, and rust devour, and thieves break in and steal. But treasure in heaven is secure not only for now but forever, for all eternity.
So what do you treasure most? When Jesus talks about treasure, He’s talking about our day to day pursuits, priorities, and passions. To what does your mind wander in moments of idleness? Of what do you speak when work and family responsibilities are completed? To what well does your heart return time and time again for respite and refreshment? When all is said and done, will any of it matter? Will what you’re pursuing today matter tomorrow? Will it matter 1, 10, 100, 1,000 years from now? If not, maybe it’s time to stop wasting your time chasing the wind.
If the constant killing in the Middle East, the shootings on our streets, the horror that transpired in Paris, the floods and tornadoes down south or the recent downing of the Egypt Air flight confirm one thing, it’s the truth of Ephesians 5:15-16:
Ephesians 5:15-16 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
“Making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Somehow I don’t think most of the ways we fritter away our free time qualify as “making the best use of the time.” Somehow I don’t think most of the ways we frivolously spend our finances qualify as “laying up treasure in heaven.” Surely James 5:1-3 applies to American Christians today as much as it applied to any Jewish Christians in the first Century Roman world:
James 5:1-3 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days.
Is that all we’re doing? Laying up treasure in a world that’s seeing its last days? Tis the heart of foolishness.
In Matthew 6:19-24, Jesus presented us with three choices:
1) Two Treasures: Treasure on Earth/Treasure in Heaven?
2) Two Visions: Things of Earth/Things of Heaven?
3) Two Masters: God / Mammon (money, possessions)
In Matthew 6:19-24, the basic choice is between God and material things.
In Matthew 6:25-33, the basic choice is between faith and worry. I wonder, are you weighed down by anxiety, worry, and fear? How would you like to be unshackled, unburdened, and free? Six times in today’s passage Jesus uses the word for worry or anxiety. Three times He commands us not to worry, not to be anxious.
These three commands form the basic the outline of the passage. The first is tied to an argument from creation, the second to the kingdom, and the third to common sense. We’re going to invert the order just a bit for the purpose of our study.
In these verses, we see that disciples of Jesus live by faith one day at a time. They are care-free and kingdom focused.
1. Creation Sense: If your Father cares for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, how much more must He care for you?
Matthew 6:25-30 25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 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? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Notice a few underlying truths:
1) The Creator is a personal God.
2) The Creator is a providential God.
3) The Creator cares for His creation.
4) The Creator is our heavenly Father.
5) The Creator values humans more than animals (“How much more…?”).
Some people today deny this last point, and we all need to be reminded that God cares more for us than for any other part of His creation. There are some who care more about the quality of care (or lack thereof) provided for livestock than they care about the lives of unborn babies. We are created in the image of God. He declares the man and the woman “very good” (Genesis 1:27). We have been given charge and dominion over creation (Genesis 1:28), not to abuse it but to subdue as best befits God’s creation design and as best benefits us as the crown of His creation. The cross of Jesus Christ is the best example and demonstration of God’s great love. It was for you and me and all of humanity that Christ gave His life so that we might live. God loves us far more than any other aspect of His glorious creation, and the cross is proof of His great love.
When we look at nature, we see how God provides for the animals, in this case, the birds. It doesn’t generally rain worms from heaven, so birds have to work for their daily provision. But when they work, they find food. Our Father is the Creator and sustainer, and He provides. Generally speaking, when we work we eat (2 Thess. 3:6ff). We don’t need to worry because God the Creator cares for us, and we can cast all our cares upon Him, because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). We don’t need to be anxious because God the Creator is our loving Father who makes provision for our needs. If he cares for the birds of the air, how much more must He care for us?
When we look at nature, we see the beauty of the wild flowers in the field. On a fine summer day, the flowers stand tall in all their colorful, resplendent brilliance. The Creator’s paint brush draws from a palate the likes of which the wealthiest earthly king has never known in all his finery. Yet quickly the flowers dry out and, in Jesus’ day, become fuel for oven fires. If our Creator God cares for the flowers of the field, if our heavenly Father clothes them, how much more must He care for us? How much more will He provide clothing for us?
In our world today and within the heart of each one of us, there’s a great battle being waged between Fear and Faith. Which dominates your life? Which do you feed more than the other?
I get a kick out of acronyms, and sometimes they are quite instructive. Consider these acronyms for “fear” and “faith,” each of which is instructive in its own way.
False Evidence Appearing Real
False Expectations Appearing Real
Face it. Explore it. Accept it. Rise above it.
Firmly And Intimately Trusting Him
Forwarding All Issues To Heaven
Full Assurance In The Heart
Forsaking All I Trust Him
Of course, just as fear has many objects, so faith can have many objects. The only faith that matters is faith in our heavenly Father and His Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ! Sadly, some have faith in their riches until their fears are realized when their riches fade away. Some have faith in other people, self, health, beauty, career, the government, possessions, pleasures, education – you name it – none of it will prove faithful in the end.
There is only one who will always prove faithful. In this life and the next, our loving Father will never let us down! He has promised to never leave us nor ever forsake us. The Good Shepherd sticks by the side of His sheep. Always and forever, His presence is His promise!
The command of King Jesus is clear, and it is not optional: Do not be anxious. Do not worry. This doesn’t mean “take no thought,” at least not in how we understand the phrase today. We’re talking about saying “no” to self-centered, counter-productive worry and anxiety, not legitimate care and concern.
The basic difference between sinful worry and God-honoring concern is simple:
Worry immobilizes us to inaction. Concern mobilizes us to action.
Philippians 4:10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.
2 Corinthians 11:28-29 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?
Unbiblical worry immobilizes us or prompts us to fear driven actions. Biblical concern moves us to act in accordance with our faith.
Jesus is not commanding us to be careless, but he is commanding us to be care-free. Careless disciples are reckless and do great harm to the cause of Christ. Care-free disciples are not weighed down by the concerns of this world. They are free to live out kingdom values as they live for Christ the King.
2. Common Sense: Worry accomplishes nothing, and the things we worry about may never even come to pass.
ESV Matthew 6:27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
(KJV: add one cubit to his stature – 18 inch to height; clearly a metaphor meaning much the same thing in either translation)
There are so many things we’re afraid of:
The fear of flying
The fear of heights
The fear of the dark
The fear of rejection
The fear of intimacy
The fear of failure
The fear of public speaking
The fear of death
All of these things are real, and all can be scary. But when a healthy awareness or concern turns to fretful fear or immobilizing anxiety, Jesus prescribes a little common sense:
Worry accomplishes nothing.
Can worry add a foot to your height? Can worry add an hour to your life? It’s no good to worry. It’s no good to fret. It’s no good to be fearful. It’s no good to be anxious. Just as “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20) so worry won’t accomplish anything for the kingdom of God.
Matthew 6:34 34 "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Not only does worry accomplish nothing, the things we worry about may never even come to pass.
How many times have you feared and fretted and spent anxious nights tossing and turning in bed worrying about some future event or circumstance that never even happened? We may not be privy to the future, but our loving heavenly Father is. The same God who provides for our needs knows what the future holds in store. We may not know what tomorrow holds, but we know who holds tomorrow!
There’s nothing wrong with planning for the future. It’s foolish not to.
Proverbs 6:6-8 6 Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. 7 Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, 8 she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
Even ants plan for tomorrow! As the Life Application Study Bible reminds us, “Planning for tomorrow is time well spent. Worrying about tomorrow is time wasted.”
From creation sense and common sense, Jesus now moves to:
3. Kingdom Sense: Christ’s disciples are care-free because they are kingdom focused.
Matthew 6:31-33 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Food, clothing, drink – Doesn’t get much more basic than that. Some of us worry that we might struggle to afford that massive spread of food that has become the traditional American Thanksgiving feast. Some of us worry that we won’t be able to buy our kids all the toys and electronics they want for Christmas. Some of us worry about car payments, rent, mortgages, health insurance, college loans and credit card debt.
Jesus boils down the basic needs of body and life to three: food, drink, and clothing. Paul echoes:
1 Timothy 6:8 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
“Gentiles” in verse 32 is more a religious designation than ethnic discrimination. As in verse 7, Gentiles pray to impersonal and impetuous gods who are childish and petty and not even real! We pray to a Father who loves us, a Father who provides for us, a Father who knows what we need before we even ask Him.
While the Gentiles are seeking the things of this world, what does Jesus command His disciples to seek?
Matthew 6:33 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Seek First the Kingdom of God”
As taught in the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Your Kingdom come.” We long for the day of Christ’s return and the establishment of His kingdom upon the earth. We are prepared for His coming, and yet, in the context of the Sermon on the Mount, the emphasis here is on bending the knee and submitting to God’s sovereign rule and reign in the here and now. First and foremost, we are servants of the King and seekers of the Kingdom.
“…and His righteousness”
“His righteousness” describes the ethical and behavioral demands of kingdom life. It’s not speaking of a positional righteousness or legal right standing with God but rather living the kind of life God requires in the present age. Before even the basic necessities of life, the disciple of Jesus Christ seeks to live rightly in obedience to Christ as King.
“And all these things will be added to you.”
Our Father will provide what is needed for the mission before us. Our food is to do the will of Him who sent us. Our drink is to accomplish His work. Our clothing is the character of Christ Himself. Our shelter is the Shadow of the Almighty.
Dr. Michael Vanlingham of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago writes, “God so demands His people’s undivided attention that He promises to provide their necessities so that they will not worry about them and can fully concentrate on Him” (Moody Bible Commentary, 1464).
Are you living a carefree and kingdom focused life?
Disciples of Jesus live by faith one day at a time. They are free of burdensome cares. They are single-eyed and focused on the Kingdom of Heaven. As Coach Taylor would say, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!”
Disciples of Jesus are driven by creation sense, common sense, and Kingdom sense.
1) Creation Sense: If our Father cares for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, how much more must He care for us?
2) Common Sense: Worry accomplishes nothing, and the things we worry about may never even come to pass.
3) Kingdom Sense: Christ’s disciples are care-free because they are kingdom focused.
Conclusion: “The Holy Spirit called an audible.”
The other day, as I was studying this passage and preparing to put thoughts down on paper, the Holy Spirit called an audible. Do you know what an audible is? In football, it’s when the quarterback scraps the planned play at the line of scrimmage. Something about the way he’s reading the opposing defense doesn’t look right – perhaps they’re perfectly positioned and prepared to stop the very play the offense has planned. So the quarterback will call an audible, and right there, just before the play begins, the plan changes.
I had planned on teaching this text under the title “No Worries,” focusing on worry and anxiety as psychological maladies for which our text provides a cure. If you struggle with worry or anxiety, than this text is for you. So also is Philippians 4:4-7, which tells us to be anxious about nothing. That text provides prayer, petition and thanksgiving as the key to conquering anxiety and experiencing the peace of God.
But here in Matthew 6, Jesus’ emphasis is different. These verses help us with our worries, but the anecdote provided here is not so much an elixir for anxiety as it is a cure for distraction. The worries and anxieties of which Jesus speaks are problems for disciples not just because they produce an unpleasant psychological state, but because they distract us from Kingdom priorities and righteous pursuits.
Matthew 6:25-34 is a simple call to Keep first things first. Worry is useless, for it is God who will provide what we truly need. Our focus must be on the mission of God, the call of Christ, the agenda of the kingdom, the paths of righteousness.
First Things First!
Matthew 6:33 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
We’re far from perfect, but since the time we were both 12 or 13 years of age, my wife Tanya and I have been seeking God’s will for our lives. Even as young teenagers, we believe that Proverbs 3:5-6 was written for us.
Proverbs 3:5-6 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
As we both followed the Lord’s leading, our paths led us to Chicago…
In Chicago, our paths led us to each other…
Our paths led us to Montrose Baptist Church…
And here we are today!
Each step was taken in faith. Each new path meant leaving an old path behind. I have no idea what tomorrow’s path may hold, but I know my Father is the mapmaker. Jesus is my guide. The Spirit is my constant companion. And all of you are fellow sojourners along the way!
So no matter what stage and season of life we may be in, let’s be sure to keep first things first. Our loving Father in heaven will provide for the daily needs of those who seek Him before anyone or anything else (Yes, God must be our BAE!).
Our calling is to walk by faith one step at a time, care-free and kingdom focused, taking one day at a time. Unencumbered by the materialistic cares of our prosperity obsessed culture, we are like treasure hunters seeking first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness. That which we seek, we know we shall find, for He who promised in faithful.
We are confident yet not reckless.
We are carefree yet not careless.
We seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.
Let’s keep second things second so that we can keep first things first.