A topic of significant importance is what should be the believer’s proper attitude to material wealth. Some say we should seek for them, others say not. Some suggest that we are called to material abundance, while others maintain that that could be a fatal exaggeration.
For this article, I would like to look at a passage familiar to all of us, I believe, in which Christ speaks about what a Christian’s attitude to material wealth should be. The Passage is Matthew 6, especially verses 19-33
When this passage is mentioned, often we easily run to verse 33. Naturally, predictably.
‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness’, the text says, ‘and all these things shall be added unto you’.
Many who hear about ‘all these things’ think of it as a sort of blank cheque God is sending them, that after seeking first the kingdom of God, they then may fill in the blank spaces with whatever their imaginations bring to them. Then, they reason, God is sort of bound to add to them all their imaginations suggest.
But a careful view of the context suggests otherwise. Rather than ‘all these things’ being a blank cheque, we find that Jesus was busy before that text filling in the blank spaces.
What is the Text Actually Saying?
Earlier on in this chapter, Jesus tells us to pray, not for abundance of material things, but for ‘our daily bread’ (v 11). Not manna for tomorrow, but only for today. Jesus here reiterates the wilderness experience, where the Israelite were given food for a day, because they were pilgrims. They, like us, were wanderers in a world not their own, and they were not to ‘lay up treasures’ here, where ‘moth and rust destroy’, and ‘where thieves break in and steal’.
Praying for our daily bread emphasizes our detachment to anything on earth. We are asked, not to pray for prime land or retirement mansions, but daily bread. Daily bread. I couldn’t think of anything that reveals utter dependence on God for the next hour than where your food is coming from. Not your fridge, not your bank (and I am not saying anything against these), but from God. A man who trusts God for a daily bread is not prosperous in the eyes of the world. But such a man knows detachment from material worries.
Jesus warns us about the enslavement of material things (v 24). He does say in fact that those who are preoccupied with riches serve Mammon, and thereby forfeit the honor of serving God, for ‘you cannot serve two masters’.
That is why He emphasizes to Christians not to “lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (19-21).
This context sets stage for ‘…all these shall be added unto you’. In this chapter, ‘all these things’ refer mainly to basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing. Nothing more, nothing less.
And of course, God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all we could ever ask or imagine. But that would be a subject of another text, not this.
The Christian and Contentment
The Apostle Paul mentions that godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim 6:6). That is the same point Jesus is driving home in this passage.
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry 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?” (v 25)
The society we live in is consumerist. It is driven by sight, and well-being is often measured in terms of how much one has materially. Materialism is the flagship of our generation. It has been that way ever since the fall. Those who measure well-being with material possessions do everything, including lying, cheating, murder to have and to maintain riches. But the Christian is not to be like that.
The Christian is told not to worry about your life, food and drink, clothing, and shelter. The reason Christ gives is knowing priority, and knowing God. He who gave you a body shall clothe you, for a body is more important than clothing. He who gave you life will feed you, for life is more important than food.
As you ask God for daily bread, He will give it to you, for He is good and He cares. But don’t let your love for food and clothing move beyond sustenance. When you measure your worth based on what you own, you are now serving mammon, you have forsaken God, you are not finding contentment in Him. And that’s idolatry. You can’t serve two masters.
All These Things Is not a Blank Cheque
So when Jesus mentions ‘all these things’ that will be added to you when you seek first the kingdom, He is specific as to mean food, shelter and clothing.
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (v 31-34)
But someone would rightly mention that the problem really is not with riches per-say, but with finding confidence in them. And I wholly agree. But I must quickly add, do not pursue riches. Do not. Do not measure your worth or significance based on material things. Do not deceive yourself that the gospel needs your riches, and use this to pursue them. You will fall into the snare of Satan, you will fall, the riches and their care will choke you up and render you unfruitful for the Kingdom.
Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and God will care for you. He will. Trust Him. Don’t be deceived by those who promise riches if you do A or B. They are liars. Work hard, work smart, be faithful, be content, trust God. ‘If riches increase, Do not set your heart on them.’ (Psalm 62:10).
Seek to live your life in the audience of one. Don’t try to impress anyone, don’t store up treasures on earth. Seek God and be content.