Anxiety and Fear (Luke 12:22-34)

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2008-06-08 10:39.

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Just as one’s making the acquisition of riches the all-consuming desire can lead to spiritual ruin, so can undue anxiety about one’s obtaining the essentials for sustaining life. Therefore, Jesus admonished his disciples not to worry about food and clothing, “for the soul is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” One’s soul or life as a person involves more than just having food to eat, and the body is more than an object to be clothed. There is more to life as humans than merely existing to eat and to wear garments. (Luke 12:22, 23; compare Matthew 6:25, where the same thoughts are recorded.)

Jesus exhorted the disciples to consider the ravens. These birds do not sow seed, harvest crops, or own structures for storing food. Nevertheless, they do not suffer want, for “God feeds them.” Through God’s providential care, the birds are able to find food. The disciples would have been able to answer Jesus’ rhetorical question about their worth, acknowledging that they were of far greater value than birds. This should have given them the confidence that the heavenly Father’s concern for them was such that they would be able to procure life’s necessities. “By worrying, who among you,” asked Jesus, “can add a cubit [about 18 inches] to his life span?” The disciples were fully aware that anxiety could not increase the length of their life for the briefest period. If, therefore, they could not do something as insignificant as adding a minuscule fraction to their life span, why, then, should they worry about the rest? (Luke 12:24-26; compare Matthew 6:26, 27, where the same thoughts are expressed.)

As for clothing, the disciples should take note of how the lilies (common flowers) grow. They do not labor nor spin (spin nor weave, according to another manuscript reading). Nevertheless, Jesus, who had seen the splendor of King Solomon’s garments, could say that this wealthy monarch was not as impressively attired as the lilies. These common flowers of the field quickly fade and may on the next day, when dry, be tossed into an oven to start a fire. As God has so beautifully arrayed the short-lived blooms of common flowers, would he not much more so clothe Jesus’ disciples, especially since they are very precious to him? God’s Son referred to the disciples as those of little faith, suggesting that they tended to worry despite the abundant evidence of his Father’s providential care for the creation. (Luke 12:27, 28, which verses repeat the thoughts found in Matthew 6:28-30)

Jesus instructed the disciples not to make what they are to eat and drink the prime object of their seeking or obtaining nor were they to worry. Life’s essentials were the very things the “nations of the world” (the people without knowledge of God) did seek. Their efforts to obtain life’s necessities completely consumed them. The disciples, though, were to remember that their heavenly Father knew what they needed. This should have encouraged them to seek God’s kingdom, confident that all that they truly needed would be given to them. (Luke 12:29-31; note that this is a repetition of Jesus’ earlier teaching [Matthew 6:31-33].)

For the disciples to seek God’s kingdom would mean for them to have an earnest desire to have him as their Sovereign, submitting themselves to do his will, looking to him to bless their efforts to obtain life’s necessities, and maintaining faith in him as the one who would aid them in their time of need. Just as the birds do what they can to find the provisions available to them, Christ’s disciples demonstrate themselves to be willing and exemplary workers, conscientiously using their God-given abilities to make a living. At the same time, they avoid giving in to unproductive worry, as that would call into question their faith in God’s ability to care for them.

In an unbelieving world, disciples of Christ may face difficulties and hardships. At the time Jesus taught his disciples, they were very few in number. The majority of their fellow Israelites had not responded in faith. Being greatly outnumbered, they may well have been apprehensive about what the future might hold for them, especially as they became more aware of the kind of hostility that was directed against Jesus. He, therefore, admonished them not to be afraid. While they appeared to be just a “little flock” of sheep surrounded by many unbelievers, the heavenly Father, in his good pleasure, wanted to give them the kingdom, making them part of the realm where he is Sovereign and granting them all the associated blessings. (Luke 12:32)

In keeping with what God had in store for them, they should focus on giving to those in need. Instead of acquiring extra possessions, they would be selling possessions and, with the funds obtained therefrom, relieve the plight of the afflicted. In this way, they would be making purses for themselves that did not wear out with use, for the heavenly Father would look favorably upon their generous and rightly motivated giving. The record of giving would come to be like a treasure deposited in heaven, which the Most High would richly recompense. This treasure is secure, for no thief can steal it and no moth (in its destructive caterpillar stage) can ruin it. The hearts of the devoted disciples or their affections and desires would be where their treasure is, centered on their heavenly Father and pleasing him. (Luke 12:33, 34, which passage parallels Matthew 6:19-21) For those whose treasure is on earth, their thoughts and actions are not ennobling. They merely exist to eat, drink, and engage in some temporary form of merriment.