Continuing from the previous lesson, as Jesus continues in Luke 12:22-23, Jesus’ statement here leads with “Therefore” (in a number of English translations). As a result, we should keep the previous account in mind (Luke 12:13-21) when thinking about what Jesus has to say here.
A quick search of the NIV suggests that there are 8 places where Jesus was recorded as saying, “do not worry”, whether not worrying about something specific, or not worrying in general. Now, some of these appear in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, so there could be some overlap of actual events, but the fundamental principle of “not worrying” seems pretty clear.
While this concept is pretty simple to say, this is definitely something that I don’t do a good job of obeying. I am an expert worrier. If there was an Olympic support for worrying, I might qualify for a sponsorship!
While preparing for this lesson’s original delivery, I found that I had previously underlined a sentence in a commentary that I was using for reference, and I think that it’s still a good point in light of the previous parable of the “rich fool”. The writer said, “Whereas greed is often the sin of the rich, worry is often the sin of the poor.” [Black, p.243]
As Jesus begins to illustrate this point in Luke 12:24-28, I think that we probably understand that plants and animals don’t worry – at least not like we do. They just do their thing, and take each day as it comes. According to the Lookout (cited below), “The Middle Eastern raven was an ugly, small, and cheap bird.” Even the stragglers of the bird kingdom and the uncultivated flowers (perhaps almost weeds!) are looked after by God. Living things that aren’t cared for by human beings are still cared for by God.
Yet, despite their not being worried about tomorrow, God doesn’t just provide for the ravens and wild flowers: He blesses them with life and purpose. Ravens brought food to Elijah. Lilies bring joy to us in their beauty. (Note also that barns are what the rich man in the preceding parable wanted to build. Ravens don’t need barns at all, since God provides for them. They have food every day, without saving anything up.)
In Romans 1:18-20, we see how things can be known about God that are evident from Creation. Maybe that’s why worry seems to attack us when we’re alone: driving on a long trip, lying in bed at night, or sitting by ourselves. However, if we can open our eyes to the amazing things that God is doing around us, even for plants and animals, it should become so much more clear to us that God’s provision for nature is just a sampling of what He can do for us (especially when we know that He loves us dearly).
It’s all well and good to hear what we should not do, though. The idea of “Thou shalt not” pervades many people’s ideas of religion, and even many people’s ideas of Christianity. The Ten Commandments tell us a number of things that we should not do.
Here, though, Jesus gives us instructions here on what we should do instead of worrying: we should “seek his kingdom”.
And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Luke 12:29-31 NIV
What does that look like, though? How do we actually “seek the kingdom” of God? Here are my thoughts, although I welcome your additions in the comments:
- We can look to the parables where Jesus told us what the kingdom of God is like.
- We can see the big picture, trusting God’s explanation of what we can look forward to after this life, and how we can influence eternity while we are here on this earth.
- We can ask God what we should be doing to seek His kingdom (in the way that He desires for us to do so at this time).
For more about what Jesus said here, read Luke 12:32-40 (some of which is considered in the next article).
And, by seeking God’s kingdom, we can still receive blessings from God. This isn’t an either/or arrangement, where we must somehow choose between our needs and the kingdom of God. When our priorities are right (seeking the kingdom of God), we can seek one and receive the other. When our priorities are wrong, though, we seek what we want, often at the exclusion of the kingdom of God, which is likely to result in our disappointment.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for May 8, 2022
- The Lookout, May 8, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Luke, by Mark C. Black. College Press Publishing Company, © 1996.