This teaching of Jesus from today’s passage was given because, “No one can serve both God and mammon“. I believe that Jesus is saying our heart’s basic nature is to give treasure-level value to one thing or the other, trusting that it will meet our needs. Our trust-wired natures give us no choices other than Him or the material world. I believe Jesus taught (in verses 22 and 23) that our choice dramatically influences how we will perceive reality (i.e.; the capacity for “light” and “truth” in our inner most selves). So, in light of that, here is Jesus solution stated emphatically in command form;
Don’t be anxious.
So, is Jesus saying in order to serve Him, we must simply manage our emotions? Do we really have choices in what we feel? Instead of choosing to manage our emotions directly, I believe Jesus is saying, “Please continue to listen to Me because I am going to give you a rationale and an alternative for your trust-wired hearts”. We may not be able to immediately choose how we feel but we certainly can choose what we think. Emotions will eventually follow thoughts. Here is the rationale Jesus offers;
Life, as Jesus defines it, is not associated with what we eat or wear. He is teaching that if we are preoccupied with external material things, we will miss eternal things. He didn’t say material things weren’t legitimate needs. He just said that He would cover those needs if we will only focus on life as He defines it. He uses “birds of the air”, “lilies of the field” and the “grass of the field” to illustrate life. These are all things that are inherently beautiful and vibrant that never ask, “Where have I come from? How do I look? How will I survive?” To receive life we must become as “the sheep of His pasture” – creatures radically dependent on Him alone.
The alternative Jesus gives us is to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness“. He promises that if we do this the external things will be made available. The kingdom of God is a big topic but we may know more about it than we think. We know that righteousness can only be sought by receiving it as a gift. The other thing we can learn about the kingdom is inferred by Jesus statement, “Do not be anxious for tomorrow“. The kingdom of God is the now-realm of Christ’s rule. He is always offering the grace for abundant life in this moment.
We must choose life. To taste Christ’s abundant life requires that we obey His commands which He tells us are not burdensome. We can undermine any victimhood delusions we may have as “anxious ones” by taking responsibility for our thoughts. That is a domain that God has entrusted to us as stewards and children of light. He instructed us through Paul to “renew” that domain. We must replace the thoughts this world has conditioned us with. Through our obedience to His counter-intuitive teachings we will learn a radical dependency on the Lord and as the hymn goes, “The things of this earth will grow strangely (and wonderfully) dim. Anxiety will be undercut as our hearts find their home (or treasure) in Christ.
For those who are reeling in emotional pain, wrestling with seemingly uncontrollable worries and it seems like things might just fly apart, Jesus says, “Trust in Me. I promise I will never leave nor forsake you.” I believe He would add, “There is a place within you where I dwell and this is where, together, by way of My life, we can expand My kingdom. Keep deferring your anxious thoughts to me. Don’t be anxious. Just trust Me.”
Father, may You succeed in awakening us to Your abundant Life – that eternal kingdom without end that is present even now within us. Where there is darkness remaining in us, come as the Light of the world to expose us and deliver us. Take vengeance on our enemy. Deliver us from every lie that has entangled us in this domain. May the Light within us grow progressively bright until that day when all will see the radiance of Your glory. Amen.