“So don’t worry about these things by saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:31-33 NLT
Sounds nice, right? These words are some of Jesus’ most famous. But they also raise some important questions. How should we understand Jesus’ words when one in five of us lack adequate housing, and 800 million people worldwide lack access to food and clean drinking water?
I don’t think these facts are evidence Jesus doesn’t know how the world works, or that He overestimates the Father’s ability to provide. Instead, I think Jesus is challenging us to understand what it means for God to provide enough.
I’m not saying someone without housing, food, or water has enough. Throughout the Bible, God sees when people lack basic needs and provides. God led Hagar and her son, Ishmael, to water in the desert. He fed Elijah while the prophet was on the run. And God tested his people—the Hebrews—by giving them more than enough.
Here’s how that last story went: God had rescued his people from slavery in Egypt, but later, the Israelites accused God of bringing them into the wilderness to starve.
In Exodus 16, God responds by saying:
… “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way, I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.” Exodus 16:4 NIV
God would provide more than enough food for the Israelites, but they were only supposed to take enough to meet their needs each day. God didn’t want them to starve—He loved them—but He also knew hoarding wasn’t good for them. So this was a test and an invitation for the Israelites to trust God would meet their needs. Some of them struggled to trust God at first, but eventually, they came to believe that He would continue providing for them day after day.
God showed his people it’s better to only take what you need, even when you have the opportunity to take more. But why?
The author of Psalm 112 writes about how God will provide wealth to people who trust Him. But that wealth isn’t for luxury. Instead, God expects His people to live generously and give to those who have less. This is one of the ways God provides our world with enough.
Paul spoke about wealth and generosity in 2 Corinthians, when he said:
… God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” 2 Corinthians 9:8-9 NLT
So what does “God will provide” mean?
He provides us with what we need.
What if you don’t have what you need? It might come from others.
What if you have leftovers? They’re for sharing with others.
How are they shared? Freely and generously–just like God, who provides for people everywhere and wants everyone to have enough.
So let’s go back to Matthew 6. Jesus wasn’t naive or overestimating the Father’s ability to provide. Instead, He was inviting us into a better way of living, regardless of our financial situation. A way that invites us to rely on God through one another. Jesus invites us to remember that everything belongs to God, and that every person deserves to live with dignity.
We catch a glimpse of what the world would look like if we all lived with Jesus’ trust in God in Acts 4. It says:
All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. Acts 4:32-35 NLT
As you continue to consider generosity, imagine what your community could look like if we all lived this way. What would happen if all of us trusted that God would provide enough?
For more on generosity, check out this episode of the You’ve Heard it Said podcast: