Kingdoms, treasures, and worry
Matthew 6:19-34 is one of the Bible's most familiar passages about anxiety and worry. (Why not pause to read the passage right now?) Who is not familiar with the words "and which of you being anxious can add a single hour to his life span?" (v.27) or "therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink? or 'What shall we wear?'" (v. 31). When you step back from this passage you immediately see that it is much more than an examination of worry. It is really a detailed unpacking of the war between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of self. This is precisely why it says what it says about worry. It teaches us that behind every moment of worry is a war for the heart. This battle is about whether our hearts will be effectively and functionally ruled by the kingdom of God or the kingdom of self.
Because of sin, our struggles with the kingdom of self are so pervasive and seductive that Christ spends most of His time unpacking the dynamics of this kingdom (vv. 19-32). It is not until the first word of verse 33, "But," that we come to the turn of the passage and the call to life for the kingdom of God. Essentially, what Christ says is that the kingdom of self is driven by a pursuit of earth-bound treasures and anxiety-bound needs. The kingdom of self shrinks life down to a catalog of physical, experiential treasures and a list of personal needs. In this kingdom I live to make sure I acquire what I want and I fulfill my needs. Now before you say, "Well, Paul, I don't live that way!" let me ask you, how much of your worry in the last month had anything whatsoever to do with the kingdom of God?
I would encourage you to humbly permit this passage to be a mirror into which you look to see things about yourself that you would see no other way. Christ uses a very helpful word here for the things that capture our hearts: treasure. Think about this word. There are very few treasures in life that have intrinsic value. Most treasures are of assigned value. That's why the old proverb says, "One man's trash is another man's treasure." For example, why is a twenty-dollar bill worth twenty dollars? It's not because it contains twenty dollars worth of ink or paper. No, its value is assigned. In the same way you are assigning value to things in your life. It is impossible to be a human being and not do this. Jesus warns us to be careful of what we assign value to because what we name as our treasure will control our hearts, and what controls our hearts will control our behavior.
How does this connect to worry? The connection is obvious and powerful. Worry and rest always reveal the true treasures of your heart. You will rest the most when what you treasure the most is secure, and you will worry the most when what you treasure the most is at risk. What does your world of worry reveal about the true treasures of your heart?
But, in this passage, Jesus uses another provocative category - need. Your life is always shaped by what you tell yourself you need. If need means "essential for life," to call something a need is a significant heart commitment. If you are convinced that something is a need, then it seems right to expect that you will have it and it seems natural to worry that you may not get it. Perhaps one of the sloppiest words used by human beings is the word need. The vast majority of the things we call needs are not needs. And Jesus would argue that the things that are true needs our heavenly Father will graciously provide.
So the assigning of needs connects to worry in two ways. First, you will tend to worry when you've attached the vitality of your life to things you don't actually need and can't ever control. And second, you will tend to worry in the face of legitimate need when you forget your heavenly Father and His ever-faithful covenant love. Your Father is sovereign, wise, gracious, and powerful. He rules over all things for the sake of His church (Eph. 1:15-23). If He did not spare His Son, will He not freely supply us with everything that we truly need (Rom. 8:31-32)?
~Article by Paul David Tripp