In a famous passage in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that we ought not to worry about food or clothing. But this doesn’t seem to be borne out by Paul’s experience.Jesus tells us that as God provides for the birds and the lilies, and we are much more important than they, he will therefore also provide for us:
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? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clother like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you–you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. [Matthew 6: 25-33, NRSV]
In closing, Jesus says clearly that if we strive for the kingdom of God then God will feed and clothe us.
The apostle Paul certainly seems to be someone who strived for the kingdom of God. In 2 Corinthians, he reluctantly compares himself with other Christian leaders, listing the sufferings that he has endured in labouring as a minister of Christ:
“Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman–I am a better one: with far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters…” [2 Corinthians 11:23-26, NRSV]
What Paul endured in God’s service is certainly impressive. If that doesn’t count as striving for God’s kingdom, then it’s unclear what would. Yet Paul goes on to say that God did not feed and clothe him:
“… in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked.” [2 Corinthians 11:27, NRSV]
So although Jesus says that God will feed and clothe those who strive for his kingdom, Paul, who strived for God’s kingdom, says that he often went unfed and naked. Who was wrong, Jesus or Paul?
N.B. All posts are written in a style sympathetic to the claim of Biblical error, even in cases where the author ("Errancy") disagrees with the claim. See the About page for the site's philosophy.
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