“Keep seeking [God’s] Kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”—LUKE 12:31.
1. What difference is there between what we need and what we want?
IT HAS been said that man’s necessities are few, but his wants are infinite. It seems that many cannot see the difference between material needs and wants. What is the difference? A “need” is something you must have because your life depends on it. Food, clothing, and shelter—these are legitimate necessities. A “want” is something you would like to have, but it is not essential for everyday living.
2. What are some things that people want?
2 What people want may vary considerably, depending on where they live. In developing countries, many may simply want to have enough money to buy a cell phone, a motorbike, or a small plot of land. In wealthier lands, the urge may be to acquire a lavish wardrobe, a bigger house, or a more expensive automobile. In any case, herein lies a real danger—becoming ensnared by materialism, wanting more and more things, whether we need them or not and whether we can afford them or not.
BEWARE OF THE SNARE OF MATERIALISM
3. What is materialism?
3 What is materialism? It is a preoccupation with material things rather than spiritual riches. Materialism is rooted in one’s desires, priorities, and focus in life. It creates in us a yearning for a lot of material possessions. A materialistic person may not have a lot of money or make expensive purchases. Even poor people can become victims of materialism and can neglect seeking first the Kingdom.—Heb. 13:5.
4. How does Satan use “the desire of the eyes”?
4 Satan uses his world’s commercial system to seduce us into believing that having material things beyond our actual needs is necessary for the enjoyment of life. He is adept at appealing to “the desire of the eyes.” (1 John 2:15-17; Gen. 3:6; Prov. 27:20) The world offers every kind of material thing, from the superb to the absurd, some of which look very enticing. Have you ever purchased something, not because you needed it, but because it caught your eye in an advertisement or a store display? Did you later realize that you could have lived the rest of your life without it? Such nonessential things only complicate our life and weigh us down. They can ensnare us and distract us from our spiritual routine of studying the Bible, preparing for and attending meetings, and sharing regularly in the ministry. Remember, the apostle John warned: “The world is passing away and so is its desire.”
5. What can happen to those who use most of their energy to get more things?
5 Satan wants us to slave for Riches rather than for Jehovah. (Matt. 6:24) Those who spend most of their energy accumulating material things end up with a life that is, at best, shallow because it appeals to selfish gratification or that is, at worst, spiritually empty and full of grief and frustration. (1 Tim. 6:9, 10; Rev. 3:17) It is as Jesus described in his illustration of the sower. When the Kingdom message is “sown among the thorns . . . , the desires for everything else make inroads and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”—Mark 4:14, 18, 19.
6. What lesson do we learn from Baruch?
6 Consider the man Baruch, the prophet Jeremiah’s secretary. As Jerusalem was nearing its foretold destruction, Baruch began “seeking great things” for himself—pursuits that had no lasting value. However, the only thing he should have hoped for was to receive what Jehovah promised him: “I will let you escape with your life.” (Jer. 45:1-5; ftn.) God certainly was not going to preserve anyone’s material possessions in a city that was going to be destroyed. (Jer. 20:5) As we near the end of this system of things, now is not the time to amass more and more material things for ourselves. We should not expect that any of our possessions, regardless of how treasured or valuable they may be, will survive with us through the great tribulation.—Prov. 11:4, ftn.; Matt. 24:21, 22; Luke 12:15.
7. What will we consider next, and why?
7 Jesus gave us the best counsel for securing the necessities of life without being sidetracked, becoming materialistic, or creating needless anxiety for ourselves. He included this advice in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matt. 6:19-21) Let us read and analyze the portion that is recorded at Matthew 6:25-34. Doing so should convince us that we must ‘keep seeking the Kingdom,’ not things.—Luke 12:31.
JEHOVAH CARES FOR OUR MATERIAL NEEDS
8, 9. (a) Why should we not worry too much about the things we need? (b) What did Jesus know about humans and their needs?
8 Read Matthew 6:25. When Jesus told his listeners to “stop being anxious about [their] lives,” it was the same as telling them to “stop worrying.” They were anxious about things they ought not be anxious about. Jesus said to stop that—and for good reason. Needless anxiety or worry, even about legitimate concerns, can divide a person’s mind and distract him, shutting out the more important spiritual matters of life. Jesus was so concerned for his disciples that he warned them about this dangerous tendency four more times in his sermon.—Matt. 6:27, 28, 31, 34.
9 Why did Jesus tell us not to worry about what we will eat, or drink, or wear? Are not such things some of the major necessities of life? They certainly are! If we lack the means to obtain these things, will we not naturally be anxious? Of course we will, and Jesus knew that. He was well-aware of people’s day-to-day needs. More than that, he knew of the difficult conditions facing his disciples who centuries later would live during “the last days,” characterized by “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Tim. 3:1) Such conditions include unemployment, inflation, food shortages, and abject poverty that many experience. Yet, Jesus also realized that ‘life means more than food and the body than clothing.’
10. When Jesus taught his followers how to pray, what did he say should be most important in their life?
10 Earlier in his sermon, Jesus taught his audience to petition their heavenly Father for their physical needs, saying that they could pray: “Give us today our bread for this day.” (Matt. 6:11) Or as he put it on a later occasion: “Give us each day our bread according to our daily needs.” (Luke 11:3) But that counsel does not mean that our material provisions should dominate our thinking. In that same model prayer, Jesus gave priority to praying for God’s Kingdom to come. (Matt. 6:10; Luke 11:2) To put his listeners’ minds at ease, Jesus next highlighted Jehovah’s matchless record as a Provider.
11, 12. What do we learn from the way Jehovah cares for the birds of heaven? (See opening picture.)
11 Read Matthew 6:26. We should “observe intently the birds of heaven.” As small as those creatures are, they eat a lot of fruit, seeds, insects, or worms. For their body weight, they consume proportionately more than humans. Yet, they do not have to cultivate the ground and plant seed for food. Jehovah provides everything they need. (Ps. 147:9) Of course, he does not put the food in their beaks! They have to go and find it, but the food is there in abundance.
12 For Jesus, it was unthinkable that his heavenly Father would provide food for the birds but not take care of the same basic needs of humans. (1 Pet. 5:6, 7) He will not put the food in our mouths, but he may bless our efforts to grow the food we need or to earn the money to buy our daily provisions. In cases of need, he may motivate others to share what they have. Although Jesus did not mention providing shelter for the birds of heaven, Jehovah has provided them with the instincts, skills, and materials needed to make nests for themselves. Jehovah can likewise help us find adequate housing for our families.
13. What proves that we are worth more than the birds of heaven?
13 Jesus asked his listeners: “Are you not worth more than [the birds of heaven] are?” No doubt, Jesus had in mind that he would soon give his life in behalf of mankind. (Compare Luke 12:6, 7.) Christ’s ransom sacrifice was not provided for any other living creatures. Jesus did not die for the birds of heaven, but he did die for us so that we might enjoy unending life.—Matt. 20:28.
14. What can an anxious person never do?
14 Read Matthew 6:27. Why did Jesus then say that the anxious person cannot add even a cubit to his life? Because needlessly worrying about our daily needs will not help us to live longer. Instead, overwhelming anxiety is more likely to shorten our life span.
15, 16. (a) What do we learn from the way Jehovah cares for the lilies of the field? (See opening picture.) (b) What questions might we need to ask ourselves, and why?
15 Read Matthew 6:28-30. Who does not want to have nice clothing, especially when engaging in spiritual activities—sharing in the ministry or attending meetings and assemblies? Even so, must we be “anxious about clothing”? Jesus again turns our attention to Jehovah’s handiwork. In this case, we can learn a lot from the appearance of “the lilies of the field.” Jesus may have had in mind such lilylike flowers as gladiolus, hyacinths, irises, and tulips—all beautiful in their own way. These creations do not have to spin thread and sew or weave garments for themselves. Yet, their blooms are gorgeous to behold! Why, “not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these”!
16 Do not miss the point of what Jesus is saying: “If this is how God clothes the vegetation of the field . . . , will he not much rather clothe you, you with little faith?” Most assuredly he will! Jesus’ disciples, though, were somewhat lacking in faith. (Matt. 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; 17:20) They needed stronger faith and trust in Jehovah. What about us? How strong is our faith in Jehovah’s desire and ability to provide for us?
17. What might damage our relationship with Jehovah?
17 Read Matthew 6:31, 32. We should not imitate the people of “the nations,” who have no real faith in a loving heavenly Father who cares for those who put the interests of his Kingdom first in their life. Trying to accumulate all “the things the nations are eagerly pursuing” would damage our relationship with Jehovah. Instead, we can be ever confident that if we do what we are supposed to do—give spiritual interests priority in our life—Jehovah will not hold back what is good from us. Our “godly devotion” should prompt us to be content with “food and clothing,” or “sustenance and shelter.”—1 Tim. 6:6-8; ftn.
DOES GOD’S KINGDOM COME FIRST IN YOUR LIFE?
18. What does Jehovah know about us personally, and what will he do for us?
18 Read Matthew 6:33. Christ’s disciples must always make the Kingdom their first concern in life. If we do that, then, as Jesus said, “all these other things will be added” to us. Why could he say that? He explained in the preceding verse: “Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things,” meaning the necessities of life. Jehovah can easily anticipate our individual needs regarding food, clothing, and shelter, even before we become aware of them. (Phil. 4:19) He knows which piece of our clothing will wear out next. He knows what our dietary requirements are and what would be adequate shelter for us, given the size of our family. Jehovah will see to it that we have what we really need.
19. Why should we not worry about what might happen in the future?
19 Read Matthew 6:34. Note that for the second time, Jesus says: “Never be anxious.” He wants us to address life’s concerns one day at a time—fully confident that Jehovah will help us. If a person is unduly anxious about what may happen in the future, he may try to rely on himself rather than on God, and that can adversely affect his relationship with Jehovah.—Prov. 3:5, 6; Phil. 4:6, 7.
SEEK THE KINGDOM FIRST, AND JEHOVAH WILL ADD THE REST
20. (a) What is a goal you may set in Jehovah’s service? (b) What can you do to simplify your life?
20 It is futile to sacrifice the pursuit of Kingdom interests in order to maintain a materialistic lifestyle. Instead, we should pursue spiritual goals. For example, can you transfer to a congregation where the need for Kingdom publishers is greater? Are you able to pioneer? If you are pioneering, have you thought about applying for the School for Kingdom Evangelizers? Could you serve as a part-time commuter, helping out at a Bethel facility or a remote translation office? Could you become a Local Design/Construction volunteer, working part-time on Kingdom Hall projects? Think about what you might be able to do to simplify your lifestyle so that you can get more involved in Kingdom activities. Prayerfully consider the box “How to Simplify Your Life,” and begin taking the steps needed to achieve your goal.
21. What will help you to draw closer to Jehovah?
21 For good reason, Jesus taught us to seek the Kingdom, not things. By doing so, we need never be anxious about our material needs. We draw closer to Jehovah by putting our trust in him and not trying to indulge every whim or to buy every thing the world offers, even if we can afford it. Simplifying our life now will help us to “get a firm hold on the real life” yet to come.—1 Tim. 6:19.
^  (paragraph 12) To understand why Jehovah at times might allow a Christian to lack sufficient food, see “Questions From Readers” in the September 15, 2014, issue of The Watchtower, p. 22.