(2009 – 7)
One of the biggest concerns in our lives is money. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the concern becomes corrosive when money becomes the principal thing. Jesus taught more about money than any other topic—more than he taught about heaven, hell, the new birth, hypocrisy, worship, loving one’s neighbor, or the great commission. But he never taught that money is evil. He said, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed” (Luke 12:15), and “You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24). And the apostle Paul, a faithful disciple of Jesus since they met on the Damascus Road, warned that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (I Timothy 6:10). It is covetousness, or greed, not money itself, that corrupts peoples’ souls and often ruins their lives. Trust in God and contentment with the necessities of life is the fundamental teaching of Jesus and his disciples toward material wealth (Luke 12:13-21; I Timothy 6:5-10).
The Necessity of Money…and Work
To say that money is one of our greatest concerns is not to say something necessarily negative about human beings. In fact, money—or some system of bartering or otherwise obtaining provisions for life—is essential for survival. All of us should be concerned about money to some extent, since each of us needs to pay our way in this world. I was struck a while ago when I re-discovered several warnings in the apostle Paul’s letters concerning those who considered themselves believers yet did not earn their own living. This seems to have been a considerable problem among some early Christians (I Thessalonians 4:11-12; 5:12-14; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; see also Acts 18:3; I Corinthians 4:12; 2 Corinthians 12:13-15). Paul gave the early Christians this rule: “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
Most people in Jesus’ day, and most people today, instinctively know that they need to work on a regular basis to support themselves. A small percentage are quite wealthy and need not work in the traditional sense, but they still need to manage their assets wisely and regularly. Another small percentage are lazy and decide to opt out of the work world, and become a drag on their families, friends, and society. Generally, however, we know that we need to work and that we need money to live decent lives.
The Foolishness of Worry
Because many of us, perhaps most, have limited resources, we very much need the words of Jesus about worry recorded in both Matthew 6 and Luke 12. Just like the disciples, we tend to be anxious about our financial needs, even though we usually do not, as in their case, experience the literal, day-by-day uncertainty about tomorrow’s food—or even today’s (“Give us this day our daily bread,” Matt. 6:11).
In Luke 12:22-30 Jesus warns us six times about worrying and anxious striving. “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear” (v. 22). “And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them” (vss. 29-30).
The Promise of Almighty God
After teaching how God feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field, Jesus presents the words that have encouraged millions of believers for two thousand years: “Instead, strive for his [your Father’s] kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (v. 31).
These are incredibly comforting words, but they are also stern words. They contain a twofold exhortation—not to worry, and to strive for God’s kingdom and righteousness. The result is not something we have to do anything about—just receive the blessings: “all these things will be given to you as well.” However, there are conditions to this remarkable promise as there are in the classic words of Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV). Just as Romans 8:28 is often stated without careful thought, so are Luke 12:31 and Matthew 6:33. The qualifying elements in these promises are not meant to frighten us away or discourage us, but to prompt us to love God and strive for his kingdom. In fact, this is why Luke 12:31 is followed immediately by these amazing words: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (v. 32).
As we strive for God’s kingdom, God is pleased to give us his kingdom, and that kingdom will include our daily food, drink, clothing and necessities of life. God is not promising next week’s food or the money for next week’s electric bill today, but he is obligating himself to meet your daily needs. He is not promising all of our wants, however, but he is promising our needs—and his kingdom, forever!