Matthew 6:31-34

One of physical life's most distressing daily demands is determining what is important. Our lives are so hectic! Every day's demands require every ounce of energy we have and every minute of time we have. I do not know anyone of any age who lives life who has time and energy to waste. People of all ages declare they cannot possibly do "one more thing," and then they fit "one more thing" into their schedules.

If you are a typical person, it is highly likely that you have reprioritized your life on numerous occasions. Someone you love dies unexpectedly, and you decide that you will focus your life on things of true importance. New Year's Day comes, and you make resolutions that should help focus your life on things of true importance. A birthday or anniversary passes, and you are reminded that life is quickly passing by. With that reminder, you vow you will focus your life on things of true importance.

Our intentions are good. It is just that our intentions do not last long. A critical need arises. An emergency happens. Someone refuses to take "no" for an answer. Someone places expectations on you that you can either accept or feel guilty. Before you know it, the immediate crowds out the important. What we feel is "necessary at the moment" takes control of what we know to be "important in life."

When we realize what is happening, how do we react? Most of us react in one of these three ways (or all three): (1) we stress out; (2) we worry; or (3) we are filled with a sense of anxiety.

Jesus said that happens to us because we forget life's true priorities.

Matthew 6:31-34 "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

  1. To me, this great deceit disguises itself as the ultimate dream (or excuse): "Wouldn't it be wonderful to live at a time when 'life was so simple'?"
    1. There has never been an age when life was not demanding, uncertain, stressful, and filled with opportunities for anxiety.
      1. Commonly when we say that we wish that we could live when life was simple, this is what we mean: we wish we could live today's lifestyle in time when today's standards would permit us to live without that age's common problems.
      2. If we lived the lifestyles of the majority in any age, the demands of "then" would equal the demands of "now," the stresses of "then" just might surpass the stresses of "now," and there would be more reasons for anxiety in those communities than there is in today's American.
    2. For example, Christians can spend more effort "explaining away" Jesus' statement than understanding Jesus' statement by saying (and believing), "Life was so much simpler then."
      1. Really?
      2. Day began at sunrise with no running water, no plumbing, no electricity, no form of mass communication, no coffee, no cereal, and no milk in a box or plastic container.
      3. Security as we know it did not exist.
        1. There were few ways to protect what you owned, and stealing it was easier.
        2. Since few ways existed to preserve food, survival was an ever present issue.
        3. Your whole way of life was at the mercy of those who controlled the power, and that could change very quickly.
        4. Whatever happened, the average person had little say and did not factor in changes.
        5. Life was constantly at risk, and life expectancy was not nearly what it is today.
      4. Death was the ever present reality.
        1. If you got sick, you died.
        2. If there was a major crop failure, you died.
        3. If there was an invasion of your village, you stood a good chance of dying.
        4. If it served the purposes of the person in power, you died.
        5. Your life simply did not mean much to society or the world.
    3. The common issue has changed.
      1. Basically our issue is this: how can we protect our lifestyle and improve it.
      2. Basically their issue was this: how can we survive? (That included having enough clothes to wear and enough food to eat.)

  2. The greatest common reality never changed: life involves more than physical existence.
    1. God exists--always has and always will.
      1. Physical existence is just one area of existence.
      2. Physical life will end, but life will continue.
      3. Physical life is concerned about existence in this world.
        1. But existence is this world is not permanent.
        2. Living in a manner that is physically considered to be "living well" is no assurance that you will "live well" in the existence that is not physical.
      4. Total life is concerned about existence in God's world.
        1. That existence is permanent.
        2. "Living well" with God is not dependent on "living well" physically.
    2. You will continue to exist in God's world after you die.
      1. Your level of existence in that world depends on your priorities in this world.
      2. Your priorities now will determine whether life then is miserable or joyful.

  3. Consider Jesus' statement in Matthew 6:31-34.
    1. What were the common questions of anxious people who did not live by placing their trust in God?
      1. Their questions were physical survival questions.
      2. "How can we prevent starvation?"
      3. "How can we prevent death by thirst?"
      4. "How can we prevent death by exposure?"
      5. Those were everyone's pressing concerns--you would be stupid not to have those concerns.
    2. We need to clearly understand the question Jesus asked them.
      1. "If you trust God, why are these your priorities?"
      2. "These are the priorities of people who do not believe in God."
        1. In context, that is who the Gentiles were.
        2. Jesus was not merely talking about people who were not Israelites.
        3. The people of Israel said they knew and trusted God--they existed because God delivered them and made them a nation.
        4. Jesus asked why their life priorities were the same as the priorities of people who did not even know God?
        5. Those things represent their life's focus; they eagerly seek them.
        6. Why do you who trust God "eagerly seek" the same priorities?
        7. Why do you seek the priorities of the godless as though God is not aware of your needs?
    3. In what ways should the priorities of those who trusted God differ from those who did not know God?
      1. First, those who know and trust God seek to be under God's rule as a matter of priority.
        1. While the kingdom of God would certainly include the people who are God's church, to make a simple equation that declares "the kingdom of God equals our accepted concept of the church" does injustice to the kingdom of God.
        2. For generations these people were told to look for the coming rule of God.
          1. Many of them identified God's rule with the national concerns of Israel as a nation.
          2. God's rule would include the nations, not just Israel.
          3. God's rule would deal with spiritual realities; it was never intended to be a political force on earth.
        3. In Jesus' statement, those who are subjects in God's kingdom welcome God's rule in their lives.
          1. "Let God rule your existence."
          2. "Let God's rule in your life be your highest priority."
      2. Second, those who know and trust God seek to be righteous people, not by their definition, but by God's definition.
        1. Please remember that Jesus stressed the fact [early in this sermon] that their righteousness must surpass the righteous of the scribes and Pharisees in order for them to enter God's kingdom (Matthew 5:20).
        2. The primary objective of the sermon (Matthew 5,6,7) is to contrast the scribes and Pharisees' concept of righteousness with Jesus' concept of righteousness.
        3. In Palestine's first century Jewish society, the scribes and Pharisees were the standards and symbols of righteousness.
        4. Jesus stress was not on performance, but on priorities.
        5. He was not challenging them to "out do" the Scribes and Pharisees, but to follow different priorities.
      3. Jesus said if they would make their priorities (1) God's rule in their lives and (2) God's definitions and concepts of righteousness, God would address the issues that were the priorities of godless people.
        1. If they trusted God enough to make His rule and righteousness their first priority, God would see that they did not starve.
        2. If they trusted God enough to make His rule and righteousness their first priority, God would see they did not die of thirst.
        3. If they trusted God enough to make His rule and righteousness their first priority, God would see they had clothing to wear.
      4. Jesus said, "Do not waste life by letting your anxieties concerning the future control your life."
        1. "Anxiety (worry) changes nothing."
        2. "Anxiety about tomorrow will not eliminate the troubles of tomorrow."
        3. "Every day has its own troubles, and no amount of worrying will make tomorrow trouble free."
      5. Jesus is neither encouraging nor endorsing laziness and irresponsibility.
        1. He is not encouraging people to adopt a "happy-go-lucky" approach to life.
        2. He is saying the stresses and anxiety produced by worry are not the answer.
        3. As he asked in 6:27, which of your can add a single minute to your life by worrying?
        4. He is saying allowing God's rule to control your life and seeking to be righteous by God's definition is the answer.

  4. If you are a Christian, live your life well one day at a time.
    1. It is not the goal of the Christian to be more prosperous that godless people in order to prove that God is the key to physical prosperity.
    2. It is not the goal of the Christian to enjoy more physical pleasures than godless people enjoy in order to prove that God is the key to having the most fun in this life.
    3. It is not the goal of the Christian to live an irresponsible life in order to prove Christians can be irresponsible and God will take care of them.
    4. The Christian's goal is to let God rule his or her life transforming him or her in His righteous person. In that way the Christian demonstrates the key to a full life is faith in God, not anxiety.

For the Christian, there is an issue that reflects concerns that are much deeper that "what I should do and should not do." That issue is priorities. Godly priorities determine a Christian's behavior. If the priorities belong to God, the behavior will belong to God. The first Christian priority is the rule of God in "my life." If God's rule is my first priority, two things will be true in my life. (1) He or she will live by trusting God. (2) He or she will not waste life worrying.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 17 June 2001
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