“Take no thought…”

“Take no thought…”

The Great Sayings in the Gospels
Take No Thought
Matt 6:19‑34

Matt 6:19‑7:1
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. KJV

 

Introduction:

This is a passage of scripture filled with images, word pictures and literary devices, all used to make a single point: the child of God is to be obsessed with the Kingdom of God and the issues of service related to it.

In Vs.19, 20, the Lord uses the mental image of saving money and accumulating property to draw and analogy to the fact that those who serve God rightly are accumulating reward and acknowledgment in heaven to be awarded to them in the afterlife.

In Vs. 22, 23, He uses the human eye as an analogy for the perspective, the view, that we have of life and our part in it. “Light” is used to picture a right view of life and “darkness” to picture a wicked view of life. One holding the wrong view is said to be locked in profound darkness.

V. 24 compares life direction with service to a master by a slave. In it, He points out that it is impossible to have two primary objectives. One must choose a single path and leave the other behind.

Then, in vs. 25-34, the phrase ‘take no thought’ is used several times to make a point about core commitments and obsessions. This is a figure of speech call an ‘hyperbole’ which is an exaggeration or overstatement for the purpose of drawing attention or making a point. Normally, as here, an hyperbole so radically overstates an issue that it is obvious to the hearer that the literal interpretation cannot possible be the thing meant so one must look deeper to see the issue that is being pointed out.

The core thought in this entire section of the Sermon on the Mount is to be found in v.33: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” There are two things that are to be the primary interest and life-direction of the child of God, according to Jesus: (1) the kingdom of God, and (2) His righteousness.

There is also a principle stated that the Christians who invests himself in the things of God will find his investment safe and himself suffering no loss at all in eternity. In fact, Jesus states a general principle that the believer who follows His admonitions here will ordinarily be better off in this life than he would have been had he followed his own sinful and selfish interests.

Laying up Treasure, vs. 19-21.

There is an often stated principle in scripture that those who do good in this life in the proper way are acknowledged and rewarded for that effort in the life to come.

Jesus has already made several statements in this very message concerning the issue of reward for spiritual commitments and deeds.
Concerning Persecution:

Matt 5:11‑12
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. KJV

Concerning giving to the needy:

Matt 6:3‑4
3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. KJV

Concerning prayer:

Matt 6:5‑6
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. KJV

And, concerning fasting:

Matt 6:17‑18
17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. KJV

Sometimes He mentions ‘reward in heaven’ and sometimes He refers to open reward. As in the text that we are looking at this morning, the two are not necessarily separate one from the other. Quite often the reward of the saint is given both in the ‘here and now’ and in ‘the world to come.’ He who prays, for example, may receive both the request of his heart in this life and then be given acknowledgment in heaven for being faithful in prayer. The reward is often dual.

Jesus drew a comparison between the selfish and the unselfish pursuit of life. He who lives selfishly is said to be laying up for himself ‘treasures upon earth.’ And he who lives unselfishly is said to be laying up ‘treasures in heaven.’

Some people have taken an extreme view of this teaching and have come to the conclusion that we ought not save money, invest, or in any way accumulate wealth of any kind. This was behind some of the commitments to poverty made by certain groups within the Roman church long ago. Several of the orders of ‘monk’ were required to divest themselves of all earthly property, live communally with others, working for their own food and accumulating nothing. All excess earned was to be given to the poor.

Now it is absolutely true that a Christian might find himself called of God to such a life and that would be commendable indeed. Many missionaries over the years have lived just such lives. They have spent everything they had for the sake of the kingdom of God. Paul was a wonderful example of this kind of commitment.

The question has always been, though, “how does the ordinary Christian understand this teaching and live faithfully to it?” We know, of course, what the lifestyle is that is being taught against for we see it all around us every day. It is the life of living only for self, seeing how much one can accumulate for his own prosperity, safety, entertainment and retirement. This is a life lived without concern for God’s kingdom, the advance of the gospel, or any of the issues related to Christianity.

The danger of that life, Jesus rightly points out, is that such investments are subject to thievery. In His day, bands of robbers could wipe a man out in an instant, swooping down to take away whatever he had saved. Few places were completely safe from such thievery. Of course, we have lived to see their money stolen from places and investments considered safe. Bernie Madoff was considered so safe an investment that investment houses themselves gave him their money. But, sadly, much of that has disappeared like smoke.

The other danger will be pointed out in a later teaching session by Jesus. A man’s life may end suddenly and without warning. “Then,” He asked, “whose shall those things be?”

So here are the two boundaries of our issue: voluntary and abject poverty “for Christ,” and, complete selfishness, living only for one’s self and accumulating wealth to be used only on one’s self. It is quite obvious even to the casual reader of scripture and church history that neither of these represent the way that the church has understood Jesus.

There have been extremely wealthy people who have been real and legitimate servants of God (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, etc.), and there have been extremely poor people who have also been real and earnest believers (the prophets, Jesus Christ, John Baptist, Paul, etc.). The issue has not been how much they did or did not have, the issue has always been, “what is their attitude toward possessions?”

The laying up of treasure in heaven, as we have already seen, does not hinge on great wealth but on great service. The poor and praying saint will have treasure in heaven, as will the one who is persecuted for righteousness sake and the one who fasts in conjunction with his prayers. Now a rich person may do those things just like a poor one. Neither has an advantage over the other because of what he possesses or does not possess.

The advantage of the rich man in this matter is that he can help in some ways that a poor man cannot. He can provide needed items for the poor, assist in the publication of the Gospel, even finance others to go with the gospel into areas unevangelized.

For both rich and poor, as well as those in between, the issue is stated in v.21, “where is your treasure?” Where is your heart?

If the heart is set on things above, as the scriptures teach us to do, then our investments will be in those things pertaining to the Kingdom of God here on earth. If our heart is set on ourselves, then we will invest in ourselves. The formula is simple but the outworking of it is somewhat tricky for us.

An odd expression.

22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

This is one of those peculiar phrases that we sometimes see in the Word of God. We must remember that we are dealing with a culture unfamiliar to us and ways of expression that we do not use. This is Hebrew culture that is speaking, for the most part, Greek. It should not, then, surprise us to find oddities of speech and phrasing.

It is one of those statements that we ‘get’ even though the words fall strangely on our ears. Jesus is obviously talking about the subject of core commitments and values. The last issue before this statement deals with where our heart is. Singlemindedness, having our ‘treasure’ in the right place, making sure we are serving the right ‘master,’ is the topic and this statement must certainly apply.

One thing we notice is that we are talking about value systems, what is worth our time and effort? If we are looking on the world and on our lives with a ‘single’ eye, that means that we have not confusion as to the relative value of things. In such a condition, our heart is right with God, we are seeing things rightly, and our whole self, including our body is filled with the light of God’s truth.

An evil eye would be the opposite of a ‘single’ eye. It may see the value of spiritual life but it has other agendas and other things that are valuable to it as well. The effect of that sort of perspective on life is destructive and will ultimately plunge the individual into complete and profound darkness.

Obviously, then, it is crucial that every believer get this thing right, that we truly have a proper and working set of values. Else we are doomed to ‘crash and burn’ spiritually. One can almost hear Jesus saying that our salvation depends upon getting this right. Repentance from wrong value systems is a must for the child of God, or anyone who longs to be a child of God.

“Take no Thought”

I said at the beginning that we would be dealing with hyperbole here. I remember as a kid, growing up in a church in which every thing was to be taken literally from the Word of God, how it could be that a person would take absolutely no thought about what he would eat or what he would drink?

Surely, then, that would exclude church meals, because no one could take any ‘thought’ concerning food and drink, right?

And what about clothing? Would no one ever wear anything that matched? Would people be continually showing up places in inappropriate dress? Or maybe some would show up with no clothes at all! After all, Jesus told them to ‘take no thought’ concerning clothes.

The little allegories that Jesus gave here sort of play into that understanding, do they not? The birds do not ‘take thought’ of food, yet God feeds them. The flowers ‘take no thought’ concerning what they will wear, yet God clothes them. So, likewise, we are not to take thought concerning food and clothing, right?

I hope you see that this must be hyperbole, deliberate overstatement of the issue to make a point.

I would suggest here that what Jesus is actually speaking of is obsession and He is using the very opposite notion of obsession to make His point.

The Jewish diet and the Sabbath day caused the Jews to spend a lot of time thinking about food. The nature of the culture itself demanded it. No refrigerators, little means of preserving food, meant that daily trips must be made to the market or to the field to gather the food for the day. Meat had to be of a specific kind and prepared in a very specific way. It is no wonder that people would obsess about food and need to be warned.

Likewise, many of the obsessed about their clothing.

Matt 23:5‑7
5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. KJV

Not to bore you with details but there were certain things that some of the Jews added to their attire that made them seem more religious and some of them tried to outdo all others. They obsessed, if you will, concerning their clothing.
Others just liked to acquire new clothes because it was a status symbol. Jesus condemned both practices in His statement.

This does not mean that we are to come to church looking shabby unless there is no option. It means that such things as an obsession are displeasing to God.

The Alternative.

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. KJV

There is a saying that is popular in Christianity, “all things in balance.” But Jesus did not teach a ‘balanced’ approach to serving God. The kingdom of God and His righteousness were to be objects of first prominence, of obsession if you will.

In contrast to the person who wakes up worrying about breakfast, lunch, and dinner all at the same time, or the person who wakes up in a panic because they can’t choose which of a dozen outfits to wear for the day, the believer is to wake up pondering how he might serve God and make some progress in righteousness.

The ‘Kingdom of God’ is all of those things that are related to the furtherance of the gospel in our world and ‘His Righteousness’ is our conformity to all of the things that we are taught in the Word of God, beginning with the issue of having our heart right with Him.

The serious believer awakes in prayer and does not begin the day without serious interaction with God. He looks for opportunities to serve Him and deals rightly with those with whom he is involved all day long. The Word of God is never far from his mind and his heart is bent continually toward his Lord.

He seeks the advancement of the Kingdom and he seeks to be righteous in his conduct and he does it in a way that the world would call ‘obsessive.’

May God grant us all the grace to seek His Kingdom first and ‘take no thought’ concerning things that are irrelevant.

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By |2012-05-29T15:01:49+00:00May 13th, 2012|Great Sayings in the Gospels, Sermon Text|Comments Off on “Take no thought…”

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