22 He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Anxiety. People tell me it is all very well for Jesus to say that we should not worry about money and possessions. ‘What about our daily material needs – food, clothing, and a roof over our head?’ they ask. We need to consider the context of his words: he is making a commitment to his disciples, to those who follow him.
Think of the logic. Jesus tells us that to be preoccupied with the basics of human life, food and clothing, is to underestimate human worth. We are more than that the sum of our parts. There is a spiritual dimension to our existence. To be preoccupied and anxious about these things is to be blind to what makes our existence so special and precious.
Further, we need to consider the way God feeds the birds and clothes the flowers (12:24, 27). God does not work a special miracle each day to achieve this. Rather, he provides for them in ways that are consistent with the nature he has given to each. Birds have beaks to forage for food and a digestive system to benefit from it. For their part, flowers have a biological structure to harness the sunlight, the soil and the rain. ‘If God has taken so much trouble to provide for the needs of these transitory elements of creation, how much more trouble will he take with you?’ Jesus asks.
Furthermore, to worry about material things, is to overestimate human power: ‘You can’t add to your length of life’ (12:25). The irony is that worry about our lifespan can actually shorten it. Just as we can’t add to our years by worry, so we can’t guarantee success in all our financial affairs. There are too many variables.
‘Be assured,’ Jesus says, ‘that God your Father knows your needs; he cares for you and promises to provide for you for as long as you need it (12:28-30).
It is tempting to say that this is empty talk – like an election promise. Jesus is assuring us that as God has provided an environment where the needs of the birds and the flowers are met, so too as our heavenly Father, he has provided environments where our needs can be met. He provides the soil for the seed, the sun and the rain for the growth, and the human skill to harvest and harness the food we need. Anxiety about material needs puts blinders on our eyes and ignores God’s goodness and grace.
Jesus is making a commitment here to provide for the practical needs of his people for as long as we need them. ‘Don’t be anxious about your material needs,’ Jesus says (12:29). He is speaking not about wants, but needs. ‘Centre your life on God,’ he says (12:30).
‘Do not be afraid,’ he continues, ‘for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’ (12:32). Nothing we have now can be compared with the riches God has in store for his people. God’s great joy – something that makes him happy – is to give us the riches of his kingdom. ‘You may think you are hard done by now,’ Jesus says, ‘but one day God will give you everything to enjoy’ (12:32).
Jesus is not saying material things are evil: God created all good things for us to enjoy. Nor does he go on to say that we all need literally to sell up everything we have (12:33). His disciples didn’t. Yes, there are some who will be asked to do this – as we see was required of one young man (Luke 18). Rather, he sets out a principle: we need to learn to sit lightly to the things of the world. And if a situation demands it, we should be prepared to sell. There is more to life than a successful share or property portfolio. We are to put spiritual values at the top of our priorities. Instead of hoarding money, amassing wealth, putting it into more investments or more real estate, we should consider ways we can use it in the service of God.
You may want to consider:
- the three reasons Jesus gives for us not to be anxious about material things;
- the commitment he makes to provide for our needs: can God be trusted?
- the ask that he makes of each one of us – to put God’s kingdom first!
Let me encourage you to pray
© John G. Mason, Reason for Hope – 40 Days of Bible Readings and Reflections – 2016. All Rights Reserved.
- Comments on the text of The Gospel of Luke are adapted from, John G. Mason, Luke: An Unexpected God, Aquila: 2012