Sermon on the Mount

Overcoming Material Anxiety

Matthew 6: 25-34

Teaching t08361


Brief reminder of setting and main theme.

6:19-34 addresses the relationship between God's kingdom and material wealth (6:19-24) and material anxiety (6:25-34). Read 6:25,28a,31,34 to see this theme.

This is one of the greatest benefits of living in God's kingdom--we can be substantially and increasingly free from material anxiety, regardless of income level, market fluctuations, etc.

The first step toward this is distinguishing between anxiety and something else . . . 

Distinguish between material anxiety & responsible forethought

Responsible forethought is the ability to anticipate future material needs and take responsible action now toward meeting them. God commands us to exercise this, and rebukes those who lack this as "sluggards."

Material anxiety is forethought gone overboard, ruminating over what might happen, obsessing over things you can't do anything about, "assuming responsibilities God never intended you to have."

How easy is it to begin with responsible forethought, but step over the line into material anxiety! The root cause of material anxiety is not insufficient funds, but rather insufficient faith! What does faith look like in this area? This passage gives us three answers to this question . . . 

1: Faith is choosing to become a child of God

See 6:32. This whole passage is addressed to people who have become part of God's family, and who therefore have come under his material care. Runaways should be anxious because they have no one to take care of them. Have you become a child of God? (EXPLAIN HOW) This is the first step in deliverance from all forms of anxiety . . . 

But just because you are God's child doesn't mean you will be delivered from material anxiety. It is possible to belong to God and be under his care--and yet live like a runaway. That's why Jesus identifies the key issue (6:30b) as faith. For the Christian, material anxiety is the "trouble light" that signifies lack of trust in God. That's why Jesus spends most of this passage explaining the two ways to express and increase your faith in God in this area.

2: Faith is arguing with your anxious thoughts

Biblical faith is primarily right thinking, not mystical experience & mental passivity.

"The real trouble with 'little faith' is that it does not think . . . Faith, according to (Jesus') teaching in this paragraph, is primarily thinking; and the whole trouble with a man of little faith is that he does not think. He allows life's circumstances to bludgeon him. That is the real difficulty in life. Life comes to us with a club in its hand and strikes us upon the head, and we become incapable of thought, helpless and defeated. The way to avoid that, according to (Jesus), is to think. We must spend more time in studying his lessons in observation and deduction. The Bible is full of logic, and we must never think of faith as something purely mystical. We do not just sit down in an armchair and expect marvelous things to happen to us. That is not Christian faith. Christian faith is essentially thinking . . .

The trouble with most (Christians), however, is that they will not think. Instead of doing this, they sit down and say 'What is going to happen to me? What can I do?' That is the absence of thought; it is surrender, it is defeat . . . (But) faith can be defined like this: It is a man insisting upon thinking when everything seems determined to bludgeon him and knock him down in an intellectual sense. The trouble with the person of little faith is that, instead of controlling his own thought, his thought is being controlled by something else, and . . . he goes round and round in circles. That is the essence of worry. If you lie awake at night for hours, I can tell what you have been doing; you have been going round in circles. You just go over the same miserable details about (the situation). That is not thought; that is the absence of thought, a failure to think. That means that something else is controlling your thought and governing it, and it leads to that wretched, unhappy state called worry."[1]

That's why Jesus gives us mostly rational arguments in this passage:

A fortiori questions (6:25b; 26, 28-30)

“If God provided me with my physical life, he will provide me with the things needed to sustain it (until his purpose for my life is completed).”

“If God provides sustenance for his lesser creatures, he will certainly provide sustenance for me--his beloved child.”

“If God provides ‘clothing’ for transient plants, he will certainly provide clothing for me--his child destined to live eternally.”

“If God has provided salvation for me through Christ’s death, he will certainly provide for my material needs.” (Rom. 8:32)

Practical question (6:27) and statement (6:30)

But taking your thoughts captive in this area must be combined with another aspect of biblical faith . . . 

3: Faith is actively pursuing God's priorities

Read 6:33. This is the same thing as "laying up treasure in heaven" (REVIEW 3 AREAS).

"His righteousness" refers primarily to godly character through consistent participation in God's Word, prayer (especially thanksgiving) and fellowship with other Christians.

"His kingdom" refers primarily to serving others as Christ's representative by loving and sharing your faith with non-Christians, building up other Christians, praying for both, and giving generously (financially) to God's work.

Build a lifestyle around these priorities. Keep at them even/especially when you feel anxious. Short-term, this releases God's Spirit to break the power of anxiety and replace it with his peace. Long-term, this builds a personal history of God's faithfulness in your life.


[1] D. M. Lloyd-Jones, The Sermon on the Mount, Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1977), pp. 129,130.