Matthew 6 and the Financial Crisis

August 22, 2011

Thoughts on the current debate over the debt of the United States.

The turmoil in congress regarding the federal budget is unsettling for all of us. How are we to react when it has been so difficult for our country’s leaders to find a solution to such a crucial, potentially life-altering problem?  Will the solution really solve the financial problems that have been created?  What will happen now that America's credit rating has been downgraded?  These questions can leave us feeling frustrated and worried when their answers seem so elusive. However, Jesus gave us all the answers we need in the sixth chapter of Matthew.

In verse 8, he says that the Father knows what we need, even before we ask him. Therefore, it ultimately doesn’t matter that our senators and representatives can’t seem to figure out what we need. Just as the Father feeds the birds of the air (v. 26) and causes the lilies of the field to bloom in all their glory (v. 29), so too will he watch over us.

It is important to note, though, that this promise to watch over us is not synonymous with a promise to prosper America. Jesus was not speaking exclusively to Americans when he said these words. He tells us in verse 33 to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” We shouldn’t seek first the kingdom of America, or the kingdom of Westminster Theological Seminary, or the kingdom of [fill in the blank]. We should seek first the Kingdom of God, which transcends territorial boundaries as well as financial limitations. We should seek first his righteousness, which will do more to shield us from death than the most robust economy or any food or drink we could purchase.

When we seek first the kingdom of God, we affirm that our concerns are eternal and encompass more than just our immediate physical circumstances. The budget crisis has little effect on eternity. Powerful nation after powerful nation throughout history has crumbled. God’s eternal plan will be carried out regardless of whether the American economy recovers or not.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we as Americans shouldn’t hope for the best for our nation or strive to fix these problems. We certainly should; we just shouldn’t attach all of our hope to the results. Our ultimate hope lies in heaven, in our eternal union with and glorification of our Lord Jesus Christ. All events occurring on earth are meant to work towards that end, and anything truly good about our existence on this planet results from the implementation of that plan. As C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you will get neither.”

In verse 30, Jesus says "But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" Let us put our trust in the God who will clothe us, feed us, and provide for us, despite our little faith in the midst of financial woes.  And let us seek first his kingdom, and all these things, including freedom from financial anxiety, will be added to us.