Sermon on the Mount

Those of you who know me well know that I struggle with understanding God’s role in suffering. Every time I hear Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount I am hung up on one section in particular – Matthew 6:25-34… Jesus is telling us not to be anxious for anything, and specifically mentions what we eat, drink, and wear.
“…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? … ”
Being here in Africa raises this problem for me again – certainly these starving children are more important to God than the birds! Why aren’t they being fed?
…”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? Therefore do not be anxious saying ‘What shall we eat and drink?’ or ‘what shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”
There are numerous people here and in other African countries who proclaim the name of Christ but do not have food, drink, or clothes…

Does anyone understand this? Questions have already been raised by Ruthie like “why does God let them live in such a broken down place?” or by Rebekah, ” why isn’t God taking better care of His children?”

I would love to hear your thoughts…


3 Responses to “Sermon on the Mount”

  1. 1 Scott January 31, 2009 at 4:42 am

    I guess since I am the Pastor in the family (Jake’s degree doesn’t count, it’s only an MAR! Just kidding) so I should be the one to field this question. In a nut shell…I don’t know. I don’t know why God allows some nations to suffer and others to prosper, at least monetarily speaking. But, I think the real indictment lies not with God, but with man, Christians in particular.

    As you read Matthew 6:25-34, make sure you also read 1-24. Those verses establish the context for 25-34. If you notice, 25 starts with the word “therefore” which means the argument is based on the verses preceding. In summary – We should give to the needy for the needy’s sake, not to proclaim how great we are (1-4) – We should pray not in pride, but in humility, knowing it is God who hears us and that is what really matters (5-15) – Fasting should be private, not public…again no pride (16-18) – and finally we should value the wealth of heaven over the wealth of earth (19-24). Therefore, based on these things just said, God provides for the world, the way He provides for the animals. (25-34)

    I would say the primary way He does that is through the generous, humble giving of people who pray, fast and value the Kingdom of Heaven over the Kingdom of this world as evidenced by their sacrificial lifestyle (read 1-24 again). The indictment is not against God, who gave His most important commodity (Jesus), but rather us (Christians) who will not sacrifice a night at the movies, or buying that 4th study Bible so that a South African might eat. 1-24 need to be obeyed and taken seriously, not metaphorically, to make 25-34 a reality.

    Now could God supernaturally provide? Of course! Like with Elijah and the ravens. But that is not how He typically works. For some reason (another question with no good answer) He has bound himself, to a certain degree, to humanity. Ours is the responsibility to share the Good News. Ours is the responsibility to clothe the poor, feed the hungry, bind up the sick, cast out the demon. Can God do it without us? Yes. Absolutely. Will He? Not usually. Does that make Him less loving? No. It makes US less loving. He has given this world all it needs: trees for food, animals for clothing, intelligence for multiplying all of it. WE abuse it, fill it with pride, and hoard it. The fault is ours.

    I think the passage has a tinge of eschatological (end times) flavor to it as well. What Jesus says is sometimes true NOW in this world. My friend Ron has 4 kids under 8 and has been laid off 6 times this last year. God has provided in amazing ways for his family, primarily through sacrificial, generous Christians. This passage is sometimes true, NOW. But there is coming a day when it will ALWAYS be true. 100% of the time.When He returns. Until that day, WE have a responsibility to bring the Kingdom of God to bear on the kingdom of this world. Now. We do. Us. God does His part, we fail in doing ours.

    That’s all I have to say about that…

  2. 2 Luke & Cat Sweigart February 3, 2009 at 12:17 am

    This is the third time I’ve started to write this, maybe I’ll actually post this one. I just wanted to let you know that God has put it on my heart to pray that you will see Him in big, different, huge ways while you are in Africa. I don’t know how that relates to your struggles. Your heart must literally ache when you see the hungry kids. It would be hard for anyone, but for you, the Great Empathizer (I don’t mean that as an insult at all), it must be even more difficult. I don’t have any answers, I just wanted you to know that I’m praying for you and our entire family is praying for your entire family’s safety.

  3. 3 Bob Augustine February 7, 2009 at 4:04 am

    After seven trips to the Reino de los Ninos (Kid’s Kingdom) orphange in Maneadero, Mexico, I can appreciate the sentiment of your post. Without diminishing the severity of the situation(s), time is a major component in this dialog. God is outside of time, and luckily can see the end to the side of eternity we currently reside in. There will come a day when the effects of the fall will be completed, and such suffering will hopefully not even be a memory.

    “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

    God allowed Israel to stay in bondage for 400 years in Egypt, but delivered them to demonstrate His sovereignty and power over the nations. It is this idea we need to keep at the forefront of our thoughts as we go to the nations to proclaim His Kingdom and near return.

    We will continue to pray for the family as well as those whom you will cross paths over the next six months.

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