The Heavenly Father's care. 6:25-34
While detailing the idealized law of the kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls on his disciples to have an absolute reliance upon God's providential care, a full confidence in his eternal grace, faith rather than doubt.
v25. Having exposed what "slave service to mammon" is all about, 6:19-24, we are now provided with a theological basis for a life dedicated to God rather than the things of this world. By means of a series of rhetorical questions Jesus develops this theology. The first rhetorical question draws out the truth that life is more important than things, or more particularly, a life lived to God is of more value than a life lived for things.
v26. The second rhetorical question draws out the truth that God's promised providential care for his children is due to their exceeding value. Disciples have no need to be anxious for their welfare (fear prompting wealth creation) for the Lord's eternal resources are boundless. The first illustration from nature supports this proposition - God provides for the birds so obviously he will provide for his children.
v27. The third rhetorical question draws out the truth that a disciples' life is in God's hands; all the security programs in the world cannot change the measure God has set for them.
v28-30. The fourth rhetorical question (in two parts, v28 and v30), draws out the point that since "God lavishes infinite pains on these things (wildflowers), brief though their span of life is: how much more will he care for his children?", Manson Sayings. Again, Jesus is drawing out the application that a disciple has no need to be anxiously focused on their welfare, an anxiety which prompts a provision-focused life ("the worry of the world and the deceit of wealth", 13:22), an attitude which debilitates ("chokes") faith. The intricate design-details of a flower should remind us that God has a design-plan for us, one far more amazing.
v31-33. Having established that God's providential grace toward the lower orders of creation assures his providential grace for the higher, especially for his children, the disciple is now told to put aside all their doubts and fears and replace it with trust in a loving Father - his eternal rule and covenant faithfulness ("his kingdom and his righteousness"). This is not a command to adopt a careless disregard for the provision of ourselves and our family, but rather to trust that God will pour upon us his providential care, a gracious kindness that will transcend the mundane requirements of daily living.
v34. In summary then, we need only concern ourselves with the troubles of today, for the future is secure in God's hands.
Put your trust in God alone
Have you noticed that birds actually work hard to feed themselves and their young, and at times, they do go hungry, even starve to death? Yes, it happens to humans as well; it happens to God's people. The simple fact is, there is little evidence that Jesus intended a literal fulfillment of this passage. So, what is Jesus talking about in this passage?
Jesus is addressing the issue of God's providential grace for his children, making the point that faith enables grace. The mundane realities of life, of birds and flowers, remind us of another reality, transcendent, eternal, amazing, .........
Of course, it is not possible to box-in the providence of God. All the "I prayed and Jesus did X" stories, can be counted with "I prayed and Jesus didn't do X for me. How come he did X for you and not me?" I want to tell you a strange story; make of it what you will. In my early ministry I was right into youth work - outreach youth programs, clubs, camps, ..... As the years went by I noticed that we were always set for transport, just enough seats for everyone who attended an outing. Even when a bus broke down, it broke down close to home; we were never stranded. On one occasion the engine seized on the return journey and we rolled the last couple of miles down to the church. Yes, camps were washed out, speakers failed to turn up, all the usual disasters, but for transport, it always worked. It just seemed to me that in the transport department we had divine help, and so rightly, or wrongly, I gave due recognition to Jesus as our Transport Officer.
For me, this experience said something of God's providential care, his merciful grace, but it is not the end of the story. Too many other things in life remind me of a world out of control and heading for a day of disaster. Like birds in spring, or wildflowers in a field, my Transport Officer reminds me of the day when he will transport me to glory!
So, here lies the truth, We can focus on the unpredictability and dangers of life, or we focus on its amazing order and beauty. Both are true, but when it comes to our eternal hope, it is the order and beauty of life that declares the substance of God's plans for his children. So, don't doubt, but believe, "O ye of little faith", and "the kingdom and his righteousness" will be yours.
Consider some of the ways that the Lord's providential care is ours.
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