2012-11-25 Thanksgiving: Your Heavenly Father Knows | Matthew 6:25-34
This week we celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday. Thanksgiving is wonderful time to get together with family and friends, and give thanks to God. However, some people didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy a feast with others this year – maybe even some of you. Some people are homeless and can’t get to a shelter where often a feast is provided by wonderful people. Some folks are just too poor to have a feast on this or any other day, while others simply have no family or friends with which to get together. I remember my first Thanksgiving after moving to NC many years ago. I had only been there a few months, all my college-age friends had gone home for the weekend, and I didn’t know very many other people in my church yet. I wasn’t sure what I would do or who I would do it with. It was an empty feeling after having celebrated with my family for so many years. Fortunately, the couple who owned the mobile home I was renting noticed that I was staying around and invited me to join them for the meal.
However, food is not the main point of Thanksgiving, is it? The point is giving thanks to God for his many blessings over the past year, whether we are able to enjoy a feast or not. Sometimes, we get our priorities out of order don’t we? That’s what Jesus is teaching his disciples – and us – in this passage, how to keep our priorities in the right order especially when we experience troubling times.
Why do we sometimes let our thoughts become dominated by worry over even the basic necessities of life? It’s usually when we have just undergone some kind of catastrophe or drastic economic loss that we tend to worry. We’ve lost a job, we’ve lost our savings, or our car, or, like in the northeast recently, our house and belongings have been destroyed by a tornado or hurricane or fire. That’s when we are tempted to worry. As believers, what should we do, and how should we think and feel when we face such devastating losses? Today’s passage helps us in times like these.
Matthew 6:25-34 (ESV) ¶ “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 ¶ “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
In a time of trouble, first, we are told not to worry because worrying indicates that our lives are focused only on our physical necessities such as food and clothing.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Physical necessities point beyond themselves to things God considers more important. The point of food is to preserve life, not the other way around. Life, which is a gift of God, is more important than food. Beth’s dad had it right when he used to say, “Some people live to eat, but I just eat to live.”
Likewise, the point of clothing is to preserve the body from the elements. Some people say, “Clothes make the man,” but the truth is that the man – that is, his body – is more important than clothes. To God, life is more important than food, and the body is more important than clothing. If God has given us life and a body, will he not also give us food and clothing to preserve them?
To illustrate this point, Jesus gives us two word pictures from nature. First he says, 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
He is not telling us with this story that we don’t have to work! The birds don’t gather their food into barns, but they do have to go out and find it. What he is telling us is that we have a loving, caring, concerned, heavenly Father, who values us, his children, more than the birds which he himself feeds. God, who is the creator of all things, is also the sustainer of all things. Surely he will also feed us whom he values more than the birds. In Matthew 7, Jesus says, 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Mat 7:9-11 ESV) God, as our heavenly father, cares for us and will provide for our needs.
It goes on to say in v27 that worry not only doesn’t provide the food we need to keep us alive, it also can’t lengthen your life-span. 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? In fact, worry may shorten your life-span. In a word, worry doesn’t work.
His second illustration reminds us that if God’s care for his creation is so rich that he clothes the mere flowers of the field even though they do work at all, and he clothes the grass of the field even though it lives only a few days, how much more will he clothe his children, the apex of his creation, who work and live for many years?
28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Do you know what is the root of worry? It’s unbelief. He tells us right there – “O you of little faith.” Our unbelief keeps us from trusting in the care and provision of our loving heavenly father.
Instead of unbelief, and in light of God’s abundant care, Jesus’ disciples – you and I – should be characterized by a way of life that is qualitatively different from those who have no trust in his fatherly care and no goals beyond the material. Our awareness of God’s prior knowledge of his people’s needs and our reliance on it creates faith, which is the opposite of worry. God’s people should be characterized by a “calm confidence in our heavenly father” as we see in v31.
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
Because we have this calm confidence, this faith, not only should we REFRAIN from pursuing temporal things, we should REPLACE those pursuits with goals of far greater significance. We are to be a people whose goals are higher than mere basic necessities.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Here we are told to “make it your priority to find,” literally, “seek first,” God’s kingship and righteousness. Not the righteousness of justification, but a higher purpose in life in which our deepest wish is to live in God’s way. Seeking God’s kingship means the same thing – living under God’s direction and control, under God’s rule.
To seek first the KOG is, as DA Carson says, “to desire above all to enter into, submit to, and participate in spreading the news of the saving reign of God, the messianic kingdom inaugurated by Jesus.
What DOMINATES your mind? Is it fretting about your basic needs or is it spreading God’s kingdom as in Matthew 5:6 (ESV) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.?
If our focus is in the right place, our heavenly Father, who sees our desire to advance his kingdom will provide our basic necessities. I remember a time when I was fretting about some basic aspect of the music at a former church when God said to my spirit, “You concentrate on the people and I’ll take care of the music.”
The KOG in Matthew is more personal than KOH elsewhere. God as heavenly father is concerned for his people. “All these things” in verse 33 refers to our material needs. “Will be given you” refers to the Father who knows your needs, whose ways you follow, and will himself provide your needs. Notice it says God will provide “these things” not “all things.” God will provide our necessities in times of trouble not necessarily everything we could ever want or wish for.
Finally, in verse 34 we find a very practical point. We are told in proverbial form that worry about tomorrow is fruitless because it doesn’t work, it doesn’t make sense, it’s wasted effort, even in times of trouble.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
The word trouble here is something that from our point of view is evil, a misfortune, like the hurricane and subsequent flood, power outage and snowstorm that hit the northeast.
Today has enough trouble in it to fill our minds, and what we fear about tomorrow may never even happen. Implicitly this is telling us that today’s grace is sufficient only for today. If tomorrow brings trouble there will be new grace to meet it. Grace to meet our troubles is like manna. Israel was forbidden to gather any for the next day, except in the case of the Sabbath. If they did, by the next day it had rotted and was useless.
Grace for troubles is the same. God will provide enough for today. Tomorrow he will provide what is needed for tomorrow, so worrying about tomorrow is fruitless, a waste of time and energy. This verse may seem a bit pessimistic but it guards us against the misbelief that the Christian life is a bed of roses or a long picnic in the park. Jesus is saying, there will be troubles, there will be cares, there will be what feels like evil to us, there will be misfortune along the way, but God’s care and provision are assured when that takes place. So don’t waste your time and energy on it.
This week around the Thanksgiving table we heard several stories of some Stonebridge folks and some of their friends how God provided – even miraculously – in a time of trouble. Winifred and Dominic told how God protected Dominic’s family when he was about twenty years of age during the civil war in Sierra Leone when rebel forces shot through their front door and entered their home seeking to capture their father who was a prominent television broadcaster. Pinky shared how her life was spared when she was robbed at knifepoint. Pinky’s friend’s husband shared how he and his ten year old daughter were caught in a in a severe thunderstorm while camping at Oak Harbor State Park and how it felt to him that someone literally tapped him on the shoulder and told him “It’s time to go, Jim,” whereupon he and his daughter left their camper, jumped in the car and headed toward the camp entrance. When they returned only 90 seconds later, they found that a tree with a three and a half foot trunk had fallen across the camper they had just left and crushed it. And you could tell your own story of God’s provision in a time of trouble.
God does not promise we will be spared from trouble, only that he will provide for us IN our trouble, and that worrying about the troubles we MIGHT have tomorrow is fruitless.
Do you have trouble, misfortune, what feels like evil in your life right now? God knows, God cares, God will provide the necessities of your life if you maintain your focus on spreading the news of his saving reign through his Son Jesus. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep filling out applications and making phone calls to find a new job if you’ve lost one, just as the birds still have to go looking for their food.
But don’t let your mind and heart become DOMINATED by worry about how you will provide for yourself or your family. Let your mind remained dominated by the desire for God’s coming kingdom, trusting that the coming king will provide for his people in their time of need.
God often uses other people to do this. We heard a story this past week about twenty-seven students from a Christian high school in California who gave up attending a particularly important football event at their school, raised their own money and traveled to the northeast to help clean up the mess after the storm. Others from nearby cities and towns have gone and worked tirelessly to help. Others who can’t go send money through their church or the Red Cross. Others gather food for the homeless at Thanksgiving, others open their homes to those without any extended family. Others fill shoe-boxes, gather coats, boots and gloves for the needy in the winter. These are some of the many means God uses to meet the needs of his people in their time of trouble. He will help you too.
Take a lesson from Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Israel. When he looked at the misfortune that had befallen him, the evil that had been done to him by his brothers, instead of giving up hope, he chose to think and to say “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” Joseph knew in the end why God had allowed his brothers to sell him into slavery in Egypt – to preserve his family and the ancestors of our Savior Jesus from death through the food he could provide them. God provided for his people of that day, he will surely provide for his people – you and me – today. We may never know the reason why some troubles come our way. But we can trust – trust the opposite of worry – that God will provide if we keep as our first priority the spread of his kingdom.
I remember my second Thanksgiving in NC. I had become a Christian in the past year and again I was alone, but this time it didn’t matter so much because I knew I wasn’t really alone. I remember kneeling down in front of a purple upholstered chair in the living room of the old farm house I was living in at the time and saying a simple prayer of thanks to God. I was full. I didn’t need a big meal that year. Thanksgiving is not about food, it’s about giving thanks to the God who cares and who provides for even our most basic needs in our most desperate times.