17 August 2016

Matthew 6:25-34

“… do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.” (v. 25)

Psalm: Psalm 135:15-21


What does it mean to find your treasure in heaven and to serve the one master - God - with single-minded sincerity? Negatively, it means not being consumed by anxiety about the things that you need to stay alive. 'Worry' is a recurrent word in this passage. In fact, six out of its seven occurrences in Matthew's Gospel are in these verses. Of course there are plenty of situations in which worry would seem entirely reasonable. But Jesus isn't building up a logical argument here; instead he's using rhetoric to tell his disciples that they can, and should, depend on God's abundant provision. Looking at the world around us, at the birds that fly above us and the plants that cover the land, it should be a powerful reminder of God's providential care for all creatures. If the world is (to use a phrase from the reformer, John Calvin) the theatre of God's glory, then  the disciples of Jesus can be relaxed about their basic welfare and focus instead on the kingdom of God. Although the NRSV translation gives us "strive first for the kingdom of God" (v. 33), that doesn't mean that the disciples of Jesus are to construct the kingdom through their own efforts. It does mean that they are to nurture a deep and pressing desire for that kingdom, so that it becomes the very centre of their existence. When they do that, says Jesus, everything else will fall into place.

And what, you might reasonably ask, is this kingdom that Jesus talks about? It is, quite simply, the state of affairs where God's will is done "on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). And how do we know what that looks like? The rest of the teaching of Jesus gives us plenty of clues. The kingdom is a place where enemies are forgiven, the neglected are welcomed and the humble find themselves at the centre. The lives of outstanding Christians demonstrate that the words of Jesus can become a reality. Perhaps St Francis, with his appreciation of God's goodness in creation, his indifference to personal comfort and his dedication to living out the gospel (ie the good news) of Jesus, gives us the best-known example of putting these words of Jesus into action.

To Ponder

  • What are you most anxious about? How might the words of Jesus help you to deal with anxiety?
  • Spend some time becoming aware of the world around you, of plants and animals. What do they teach you about the goodness of God? 

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Richard Clutterbuck

Richard Clutterbuck is a minister of the Methodist Church in Britain but since 2004 has served the Irish Methodist Church as principal of Edgehill Theological College in Belfast. His ministry has been divided between pastoral appointments in North London and theological education in the South Pacific (Tonga), Britain and Ireland.