Contingencies of a promise
What is the “Kingdom of God”? Anybody who takes even a casual glance at what Jesus taught about while on earth will be confronted with this reality: Jesus taught exorbitantly about the Kingdom of God. Practically every single parable he told was tied back to the Kingdom. As for what the Kingdom is, we will come back to that later; but one of the most fascinating things Jesus said about the Kingdom is contained in one of the most encouraging verses in all of Scripture.
In Matthew 6:31-33 Jesus states:
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
This passage ties intricately into the concept of the Kingdom, which we will get to in a little bit, but some preliminary exegesis is needed.
The “therefore” starting off these verses ties them to the preceding discussion on how we, as Christians, are to be storing up heavenly treasures, not earthly ones. As a consequence of our storing up these heavenly treasures, we’re not to be anxious about our lives; and we’re to remember how if God takes care of the animals, how much more will he take care of his children. With that context in mind – storing up heavenly treasures; If God takes care of the animals, how much more will he take care of his children – we come to these verses.
The structure of these verses deserves an initial appreciation. Verses 31 – 33 are structured in a “don’t do this (V31)…because of this (V32)…do this instead (V33)” format. Verse 31 tells us not to be anxious about what we eat, drink, or wear. “Anxious” meaning to be "troubled with cares". What we’re not to be anxious about – what we eat, drink, and wear – might not seem very impressive to us in industrialized nations. Depending on where we live and what we do for work, we may not worry about food, drink, or clothing due to abundance. However, we must appreciate this list from the context of the Ancient World. In the time at which these words were spoken, people were much more connected to their own production and acquisition of food, drink, and clothes. Sure, the richer members of Roman society didn’t have to worry as much, but the vast majority of people, the vast majority of the audience hearing Jesus speak these words, would recognize this list for what it was: the foundational necessities of life. Apart from food, drink, and clothing you would die, you wouldn’t be able to pursue your hobbies, not much else would matter. It is in the fulfillment of these basic needs of food, drink, and clothing that people are able to pursue other aspects of life. That is why Jesus’ statement to his disciples not to worry about those things is so revolutionary; it means not worrying about the foundation upon which lives are built.
Verse 32 tells us why we’re not to worry about those things. The first reason given is because “the Gentiles seek after all these things”. The word translated “Gentiles” was the Greek word ἔθνη which can be translated "nations, a people, or gentiles" depending on context and usage. In this context it is translated “gentiles” in the secular sense, meaning gentiles as in “not the people of God”. This is further made evident by the fact that this exhortation is directed towards Jesus' disciples. Verse 32 is saying that one reason why we shouldn’t be anxious about those foundational necessities of life is because that anxiety is characteristic of people who don’t know the Lord. The second reason we’re not to worry is because, “your heavenly Father knows that you need them all”. A point of interest is that the verb translated “knows” is in the perfect tense and can be more accurately translated “has known”. Consequently, one reason we aren’t to be anxious is because God has already known of our need for food, drink, and clothing! This is amazing in how it ties to the next verse.
Verse 33 tells us what we, as Christians, are to do instead. Verse 33 says, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” Let’s look at that amazing promise at the end, first! Jesus says that contingent upon our seeking of what he specifies, our foundational necessities of life will be taken care of; they “will be added to you” by the God who already knows of our need for them before we even knew. This brings us finally to where we’ve been trying to get since the beginning, the contingencies of this promise. Jesus says that the fulfillment of this promise is tied to our seeking of two things: “the Kingdom of God” and “His righteousness”.
As much as I would absolutely love to get into these two topics right now, I realize that if I were to do so, I wouldn’t be able to do either justice. So, in an attempt to accurately expound on these two contingencies of the promise in a way that is faithful to the text, I will discuss them in my subsequent postings.