by Steve Hands
The coronavirus has not been with us very long, but already businesses are shuttering, jobs are being cut, investments have been lost, and lives are in danger. We grieve our losses and grieve alongside those who are losing so much. In the middle of our trouble it can be easy to wonder, if God cares about us so much, why is he letting us go through this? The difficulties and losses can make it hard to trust God, and we become anxious about what may happen to us next. As we face our present losses and uncertain futures, Jesus uncovers the harmful lies that are taking root in our hearts and reminds us of the love of God that never leaves us or forsakes us. As we explore Jesus’s teaching in Matthew 6:25-34, we’ll see that our lives are more than what we have, so we can be secure in the love of God, and we can seek His kingdom first in faith.
First, we see that our lives are more than what we have (Matthew 6:25-26). People who lived during the first century didn’t have job security, paychecks, or unemployment safety nets. They had very real concerns about whether they and their families would be able to eat tomorrow or whether they would have adequate clothing. And yet Jesus doesn’t begin by promising “God will give you all the food you need”. Instead he asks two theological questions: is your life just what you eat, and how much do you think God values you? In periods of severe need, we need to remember that our identity and security never rest in the things we own or lack, but in the value God ascribes to us.
Second, as we see that value, we can be secure in the love of God (Matthew 6:27-30). We spend so much time and effort trying to “add hours” to the span of our lives. Sometimes we do this productively through diet and exercise, healthy living, or even social distancing today. Sometimes, though, we spin our wheels in anxious thoughts, not accomplishing anything. But Jesus reminds us that what we need is not just an additional hour, nor even years of our lives, but eternity. Anxiety is not only unproductive, but also is a kind of “anti-faith”. As he points out the “little faith” we have when we spiral down into anxiety, we are taught to look forward to God to clothe us, both with what we need for today and tomorrow, and with eternal life (see 2 Corinthians 5:1-9). His blessing to us is not just adequate, but superabundant, just like how he decks out the lilies in their extravagant finery.
Finally, as we remember the value God has placed on us and the security he has purchased for us, we can continue to seek God’s kingdom first in faith (Matthew 6:31-34). As we suffer losses in this season, we are tempted to react like everyone else, fearful of the future, concerned for how we will provide for ourselves. But Jesus points out that to give in to these fears is to live as though we do not have the hopes we have in God (6:32). Instead, as we let Jesus’s reminders sink down into our hearts, we can seek God first, knowing that he has a purpose in this trouble, inviting him to show us what he has for us next that we couldn’t have imagined, and trust that he will add to us everything we need for his purposes in us. Following God doesn’t excuse us from all trouble, but the joy he sets before us provides the strength to set our anxieties aside and seek him first even as we suffer today’s losses (see also Matthew 26:36-45, Hebrews 12:2).
So, church, as we grieve with those who are grieving, may we not give in to the lie that God doesn’t care and won’t be there to help us through the future. Instead, as we look to Jesus our savior, may we remember the value God has placed on us and the security we cannot lose, and seek God first to find the courage to move forward in faith.