Goals in life: to have or to live. 12:22-34


In a set sayings dealing with the relationship between living and possessing, Jesus reminds his disciples not to be preoccupied with the things of this world, but rather to focus on the kingdom of God and live a life that reflects this focus.

The passage

v22-23. Having just recounted the parable of the Rich Fool, v16-21, Jesus goes on to develop the truth that "life is more than food, and the body more than cloths." Possessions, this world's things, are not just limited to worldly clutter, but include the necessities of life. The point Jesus is making is that the goal of life is something more than just securing our earthly existence; such a preoccupation should not be the focus of our daily life.

v24-26. Jesus supports his point with a practical observation from life. Nature tends to provide for its own and since we are the apex of God's creation (it is designed for us), then it will tend to provide for us as well. His point is that nature generally works. He is not saying it will provide if we have faith rather than diligence. He is just saying that nature provides, it works, and often works irrespective of us. So why be preoccupied?

v27-28. We can be totally preoccupied with our creativity and still not exceed the beauties of nature. Yet, if God creates the profound beauty of a flower which fades in a moment, "how much more" will he clothe his children in a beauty that is eternal!

v29-30. Given that there is more to life than eating and drinking, it is foolish to make our daily provision the focus of our life. Only "the pagan world runs after such things."

v31. Jesus now defines the proper focus of life, namely to "seek first the kingdom of God." Jesus doesn't actually tell us how and where to seek. This he has done already on a number of occasions. "Repent and believe" is how we seek. Where we seek is from Jesus - "ask and it will be given, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you." We enter the kingdom when we ask, seek and knock - when we come to Jesus, believe in Jesus. This is the higher goal of life, and it is this we should be preoccupied with. As for the stuff of life, it usually falls into place of its own accord.

v32-34. When the kingdom is our focus, the ceaseless chasing after the material props that secure the illusionary immortality of existence fades in importance. We are able to put them aside, their power broken. This is because we have gained a treasure in heaven which provides an eternal security. Our "heart" being there, the things of this world grow increasingly dim.

Worldly mammon

Being a Christian and liking beautiful things is always a problem. In my case I like quite a few beautiful things. I love vintage cars, tractors, wind up gramophones, books, stamps, ....... There are a number of frustrations liking such things. My tastes outstrip my capacity to finance their acquisition. I am in the wrong profession to finance accumulation. The other frustration is that of balancing the desire to possess, with the desire to follow Christ.

My Portuguese stamp collection has gone through numerous selling and buying sprees. In puritanical moods, often overcome by guilt, I would sell off slabs of the collection. Then I would often go the other way and buy up big. These days my spending is way down. The few Angolan rarities left to acquire are beyond my means, so, problem solved - kind of!

The trick to a right-handling of this world's things is to understand clearly what Jesus is saying to us in passages like the one before us. A superficial reading of this passage would turn us into a monk. "Sell your possessions and give to the poor"; these are hard words. Of course, we don't do it and so end up guilty, osculating between self and service.

It is most unlikely that, in this passage, Jesus is giving us a rule to follow, a law to keep. Sometimes Jesus gives us hard and impossible rules which serve to remind us that we are rebels, unable to undertake even the simplest righteous act, and therefore in need of a righteousness that is not our own; a God-given righteousness. However, in this passage, it is likely that Jesus is setting before us an ideal, the true source of life, namely, the kingdom of God. To know Christ is to possess life eternal. Once we possess life in Christ, "worldly mammon" can take its proper place and we can start to be generous, rather than preoccupied with the business end of day-to-day living. So, let us alway remember, "life is more than food, and the body more than cloths."; "Life's essentials must not be life's mission, or determine life's attitude", E. Ellis.


Identify your most precious "worldly mammon" (job, family, car.....). Discuss how a strong personal faith in Christ keeps such "worldly mammon" in its proper place.

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