“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
This passage concludes with the oft-quoted verse, “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” I don’t think we often read this concluding verse along with the passage before it. If we do it seems clear that the kingdom of God is something altogether different from what Jesus has been talking about. I would like to challenge that idea.
Perhaps if we read the passage with the word “your” in italics, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink.” This then is in contrast to the kingdom (or kin_dom) of God and his righteousness. A kingdom is a social, communal entity. The worry Jesus is calling people to move away from is the overwhelming self-centered concern for their own interests regardless of the effects on others.
If we seek the reign of God, the right-ness or right relationship, over our own lives and those around us, then the result will be the kind of community we find in Acts 2 and 4 where “there was not a needy person among them” (Acts 4:34 cf Deut 15:4). This passage has usually been understood in a very dualistic sense. “Seek first things that are spiritual and God will care for your physical needs.” I find this reading nowhere in the text. This is imposing a Greek way of thinking onto the Bible (i.e. mind and spirit are good, but body and flesh are bad).
This verse is one of the first ones I thought of when I started this blog (and mentioned on my About page). I somewhat dreaded dealing with this text, but I hope I have been faithful in interpreting it in light of this series and what I know.