The chief reason we are so preoccupied with our possessions and with acquiring more of them is that we worry about the future and do not trust God to care for us. This is why Jesus discusses worry. “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. … For the Gentiles [pagans; non-Christians] 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 as well” (Matthew 6.25-34).
Why shouldn’t we worry? Jesus gives three reasons, marked by a three-fold repetition of the word therefore in verses 25, 31, and 34. In each case, the “therefore” points back to what came in the verses immediately before.
First, You cannot serve God and worry too. Jesus’ first “therefore” picks up on the contrast between God and Money: “You cannot serve both God and Money.” To serve God you must trust God, and you are not trusting God if you are worrying. Do you remember the first answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism? “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” If that is an accurate description of what life is about and what our service to God means, it is clear that we cannot either serve or glorify God while questioning His ability to take care of us. We will be working hard to augment our possessions, and if we are doing that, we will not be serving God. Therefore, stop worrying.
Second reason, If you are worrying, you are overlooking God’s care of the rest of His creation. You do not have to be a great theologian or even a great Bible student to see that God cares for His creation – for the birds, the flowers, even the common grass of the field. But if He provides for the rest of His creation, don’t you suppose He will also care for you? He will, of course. So don’t worry. If you do, you are really slandering God in regard to His wisdom, knowledge, power, goodness, and providential care.
Third and finally, It is only by putting God first that we can be sure of anything. If we are created to know God and serve God, then the only ultimately successful course in life is to trust God and not worry. If God has created us and has redeemed us through the work of Jesus Christ, are we to suppose that He will fail to care for us? Of course not. He will take care of us. Therefore, make it your goal to seek God’s interests first and see if your physical needs do not come to you naturally and without any concern on your part.
You can’t do anything about the future anyway. The future is in God’s hands and will be managed perfectly by God whether you worry about it or not. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,” says Jesus, “for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Whenever Christians say that something is either right or wrong, or whenever they speak out against immoral or destructive behavior in another person, they are frequently told that they are not to judge, meaning that any behavior is right and that any attempt to deny that it is right is itself wrong. In fact, in our postmodern environment, the only acknowledged evil is claiming that someone else is mistaken.
Is that what Jesus meant when in Matthew 7.1 He said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”? Obviously not, because the last verse of the section in which He speaks of a false kind of judging requires judging, rather extreme judging, in fact. In order not to “give dogs what is sacred” or “throw your pearls to pigs” you must distinguish between what is sacred, and therefore of great value, and what is not. And you must even be able to identify the dogs and pigs! No, it is not the necessity of making proper judgments that Jesus is concerned about, but rather what we would call censoriousness, that is, judging the minor faults of other people without acknowledging and correcting our own perhaps even greater failures.
Is there a connection between this matter and what has gone before in Christ’s sermon? There may be. For one thing, the image of an eye with a plank sticking out of it is a particular example of the clouded eye Jesus spoke about in chapter 6. Again, there may be a connection by contrast. In the first two items Jesus mentions – the love of money, rather than the love of God, and worry – we are dealing with a disciple for whom material things are more important than spiritual things. But in the case developed here, we have one who has gone to the opposite extreme and has become fanatical or overly zealous about religious matters. This person has become judgmental of others without perceiving his own deep faults.
The verb for “judge” has exactly the same force here as it does in Romans 14.10-12, where Paul writes, “You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you look down on your brother or sister? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” If we believe what Paul said, we will turn from hypocrisy, enabling us to build others up rather than tearing them down.