Two Kinds of Ambition (Matt. 6:25-34)
In Matthew 6:19-24, Jesus addressed our values, the things we treasure. This leads quite naturally to the subject of anxiety, for if our heart is where our treasure is (v. 21), and if our treasure is something on earth that can be lost, then our hearts will always be restless with worry that our treasure might be taken from us.
Because God is a caring father, Christians are to live their lives free of anxiety.
For Jesus’ audience, it might have been easy to hear his teaching in verses 19-24 and assume that it was more directed at wealthy believers than those who were struggling just to get by. How could the poor among them be said to “serve money” when they hardly had any? But Jesus was condemning a mindset that put all its confidence in money. For the rich, this mindset might work itself out in endless accumulation, whereas for the poor it might mean constant worry about life’s essentials. It is to those who were anxious about having life’s essentials that Jesus now addresses.
Nothing feels more natural than to be anxious when things get tight financially. How can we not worry when we’re not sure we’ll have enough money for food, bills, school tuition, gas for the car, etc.? Because of this, it can feel a bit hollow to hear Jesus say, “Don’t worry!” But when we listen carefully to Jesus’ rationale for not being anxious, we see that what he’s saying is anything but shallow.
For one thing, life’s essentials (v. 25 - food, drink, clothing) are meant to serve us by strengthening us to focus on what life is all about, the kingdom of God (v. 33; see also 1 Tim. 6:19 and Luke 12:15). But when our thoughts are consumed by acquiring them, roles are reversed: no longer do they serve us, but we become their servants. The goal of life, Jesus says, is not to get more food and clothing. They are basic necessities that the Father will provide so that we can focus on what is most important.
Jesus uses two illustrations from nature to help make his point. First, look at the birds. Despite the fact that have no way to save and store food, God provides for them every day. Or take the lilies of the field. Not only do they not save, they don’t even work, and they only last for a season. Yet the result is the same: God causes them to flourish. And if God is so attentive to the needs of things which are far less valuable to him than his image-bearers and much more fleeting, then he will absolutely be attentive to providing what we need.
In these examples, we see worry for what it is: distrust. Jesus’ diagnosis is that when we’re overcome with anxiety, we have forgotten how much we matter to God our Father and how faithful he is to his children. Worry may make sense for those who don’t know God as Father (v. 32), but not for those who do, and it is therefore a waste of time and energy. Our energies are to be spent in the spread of the kingdom (v. 33), not worrying about whether our Father cares for us or not.
- What do you tend to get anxious about? Does Jesus’ command to not be anxious seem realistic to you? Why or why not?
- How have you seen God provide for your needs in the past?
- According to Jesus, what is the connection between our anxieties and how we view God? How can this connection help you to overcome anxiety in your life this week?
Matthew 6:33 – “‘But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.’"