Chasing More Than Plenty


There’s some Bible passages that make us really uncomfortable. There are verses that instantly strike conviction deep into our heart. We have done what we ought not and not done what we ought. But then, there’s some other passages that seem to be speaking about an area where we sense we’ve been faithful to obey. In those passages, we graciously find comfort and confirmation.

Unfortunately, there are some times where, due to our misunderstanding of the text, we mistakenly believe that we have been faithful to obey! How dangerous to think yourself a doer of the word because you haven’t even heard! I’m afraid that this has been my case in Matthew 6.

‘Take no thought,’ Jesus says (6:32). Not for what you will eat. Not for what you will drink. Not for what you will wear. In other words, not for the most basic material needs. In verse 34, he says, ‘Take therefore no thought for the morrow.’ Don’t fear that you will lack these things in the future.

Now, I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this verse. And I’ve always thought, ‘Check! Got that one down!’ To be honest, I’ve never had much of a problem stressing about the bare essentials of life! How holy I must be! I don’t worry about what where I will get clothes. I don’t stress about what I’m going to eat tomorrow!

However, Jesus’ point in this passage is not merely that stress is a negative thing (as if he’s just watching out for your blood pressure). Rather, his point is that believers have a good heavenly Father who will provide all their needs for them! His children shouldn’t worry about their future essentials, because their Father is good. Preoccupation with such needs is characteristic of the people who don’t know God.

But why don’t I worry about the bare essentials of life? Is it because I have such rock-solid confidence in the ability and goodness of my Father to provide? Or is it that I have absolute confidence in my own ability to provide? I’m afraid that a survey of my own heart has revealed that my carefree thoughts about the future have far more to do with the fact that I have some money in the bank, reliable transportation, gainful employment, and a comfortable house with a full pantry!

Jesus’ words have tremendous import for people in contexts where the bare essentials are far from guaranteed. The evidence of their faith in the Father is a worry-free outlook on the future, when their future – maybe even their next meal – is incredibly insecure! But for those of us whose futures seem secured, we would do well to remember that it is just as evil (and probably far more so) to take the necessities of life for granted than it is to worry about them!

The truth is, I worry about a good many things! But they just aren’t ‘subsistence worries.’ I quit worrying about food and clothes a long time ago to stress about things like ministry success, insurance rates, and upgrading my cell phone. If Jesus would condemn a poor person’s subsistence worries, what might he say to someone who has luxury worries! If worry about food is a characteristic of unbelievers, how much more worry about far more frivolous things!

Not only do I fail miserably in the ‘trust’ department, I have yet to consider the positive side of this command. Jesus doesn’t just say, ‘Don’t seek these things.’ He tells us in v.33 that we are to instead be seeking God’s kingdom. In other words, it’s not enough for us to conquer our fears about what we’re going to eat. God’s people are to make God’s kingdom the central pursuit of their lives.

In the same way that poor people strive after that next meal and this month’s rent, Jesus calls us to pursue his rule. That is, that he would be enthroned in every realm of my life. To the poor, Jesus says, ‘Pursue me, not the bare essentials; I am greater than your need.’ But what to the rich? ‘Pursue me, do not rest in your wealth; I am more than your plenty!’

I gave this passage some serious consideration recently as I thought about my new role as a father. What do I hope to instill in my little girl as she grows? In the West, we like a self-confident kid who aspires to great things. We like the self-assured child who isn’t a ball of worries. But God help us if we are teaching our kids to rely on themselves to build their own futures! To do so is to raise them as God-snubbing, stiff-necked rebels!

Instead, we must tell our kids about the goodness of the King. We must teach them to long for the King’s rule in every realm of their heart. We must teach them to chase… not after the essentials, not after luxuries, but after knowledge of God (a luxurious necessity, indeed!).

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