A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
Here’s a good question. A website follower wrote, “For some time I have been discussing and studying Matt. 6:25-34 regarding what the Lord promised to provide for the believer. Taken literally, it seems to say that we are promised food and clothes and that’s it. Of course that is a great deal if you do not have those things, but some argue that God has also included much more as well. I believe this but unfortunately, I can’t back this up with scripture. Can you help?”
First, let’s summarize the passage. In Matt. 6:25 Jesus said “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”
I think one thing He was telling us is that we should eat to live, not live to eat. A sufficient quantity of wholesome healthy food is really all we need. What do we gain by over indulging in food and drink that can actually shorten our life? And as long as we have sufficient serviceable clothing, what else do we need? What benefit is there in strutting around like a peacock? Life should be much more important to us than these things.
And we’ll close with verses 31- 34. “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
The first thing we can see here is that life is far too important to be spent worrying about the future, especially where the basic necessities are concerned. And the second thing is if we’ll focus on seeking God’s Kingdom and His righteousness He’ll see that these needs are met. Therefore worrying about them is unnecessary.
Earlier in the same instruction He had cautioned us against storing up treasure on Earth because it can be lost or stolen (Matt. 6:19-21). He said to store up treasure in Heaven instead, where that can’t happen. Many have also written asking how to do that, and the answer is in Mark 10:17-22. A rich young man had asked how to inherit eternal life. After the young man said he was already keeping the commandments, Jesus told him to sell everything and give it to the poor. Then he would have treasure in Heaven.
The two points to the discussion are that the young man was not happy with the answer because he had great wealth and was apparently reluctant to part with it. This proved the Lord’s point that we can’t serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). Excessive focus on material things will always get in the way of pleasing God. And the second point is that using our earthly treasure to help the poor is a way to build our store of heavenly treasure.
So far it doesn’t sound very practical. Many believe that if they don’t worry about taking care of themselves, then who will? Any if we give away all of our excess what will we do when hard times come?
This is where some of the Lord’s other promises come into focus. Remember, we’re talking about life here. And what did He say about life? “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
Does living from hand to mouth, having nothing to fall back on sound like a worry free abundant life? Hardly. So there must be more to this than meets the eye. And there is, because when you have the faith to live like He told you to, some other promises start to kick in.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)
When our actions demonstrate generosity, then we’ll be blessed generously in return. It’s a classic cause and effect relationship. Generous giving is the sign of an abundance mentality. It shows we know the Lord has made unlimited resources available to us so we don’t have to hoard what we have. We can share what we have with those who have nothing because we know there’s more where that came from.
This is a good time to refute the false teaching sometimes called “giving to get.” Although Luke 6:38 says our generosity toward others will determine the Lord’s generosity toward us, giving with an expectation of receiving is not being generous, it’s being greedy. True generosity carries no expectation of future reward, but is an expression of gratitude for rewards already received.
If our gratitude for having our needs consistently met in the past prompts us to give generously to help others meet their needs in the present, then the Lord will reward our generosity with more blessing in the future. But if we’re only giving to others because we want more for ourselves, the Lord, who sees our hidden motives, will not respond generously.
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19). Here’s a case in point. The church in Philippi had responded generously by helping to meet Paul’s needs, and he promised that the Lord would see to theirs in return. He was applying the principle of Luke 6:38.
You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. (2 Cor. 9:11)
This verse speaks of the escalating effect of Luke 6:38. As our generosity toward others increases, so does His toward us. But His generosity will always out pace ours so that after our giving, we’ll wind up with more than when we began. He does this so we can respond to more needs. The principle here is that we’re to be a channel, not a reservoir. We have to remember that His blessings are being channeled through us to reach others in need. As soon as we stop giving to the needs of others, we become a reservoir, storing up what we’ve been given, and the flow of blessings will stop.
But if we stay focused on giving we’ll discover that this promise contains benefits on both sides. As we become more generous toward others, benefitting them, we’ll be made rich in every way, benefitting ourselves, while enabling us to provide even more help to those in need. As you can see, this involves much more than just having our basic needs met. I think the phrase “rich in every way” includes financial, physical, and emotional security, good health, good relationships, and a much more fulfilling walk with the Lord, too. This is the answer to the question we began with. This is the kind of life we can expect.
The times in which this advice was given were not unlike our own. There was uncertainty all around. Israel’s former greatness was a distant memory and the very survival of the nation was in doubt. Individual freedoms were being curtailed and taxes were steadily increasing. Most people were living at basic survival levels. It was a time when people’s natural instincts were to hang onto whatever they could get.
Yet to these people both the Lord and Paul preached faith in God and generosity toward one another as the path to freedom from worry. It was good advice then and it’s good advice now. Selah 03-12-11