In Matthew 6:33 Jesus said, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (ESV). Was Jesus promising his followers that as long as they put him first and serve him, he will always give them enough food? Or was Jesus only referring to spiritual provision (that even if the worst physical circumstances should afflict them, God will keep them spiritually alive and safe)? Cf. in Luke 21:18 Jesus promised that not a hair of his followers' heads will fall to the ground even though they may be killed for his sake.

The natural interpretation of Matthew 6:33 seems to me to be literal, because the context is about pagans running after literal food and clothing. But I am not sure.

  • Welcome to BH.SE! Please take our site tour. and check out what makes us different from other sites that study the Bible. We don't do 'Bible study'—we study the Bible. That means we stop short of application when answering questions about the Bible (which means we don't fully exegete the text in the religious sense of the practice). Questions should be focused solely on the text and not primarily on those things to which the text applies.
    – Dan
    Oct 20, 2014 at 15:22
  • I've edited this question to focus it on the interpretation of the passage in its original context and to its original audience. This is not the site to deal with its application to religious groups today - that is reserved for Christianity or other sites.
    – Dan
    Oct 20, 2014 at 15:23

3 Answers 3


The context of the verse is, indeed, literal food and drink. This is stated as "eat" and "drink" in v25, and then is compared by the instruction to look at the other things in God's creation, the birds, life-spans, clothing, etc. These are all natural things.

v30-32 also emphasize these things, as v32 indicates that this is, indeed, what the Gentiles are doing. Gentiles are not interested in truly "spiritual" things, so this must be the literal, earthly ones.

Was Jesus talking about Earthly food and drink? Absolutely.

Did Jesus promise it it to all who "put Him first" and "serve Him"? No, He said that those who "seek first" both "His Kingdom" and "His Righteousness" will have it added (annexed) unto them. Putting Him first is a given for all Christians (Matthew 10:37). But, only He is the ultimate judge of what "serving Him" really looks like, and whether what we think we are doing is really "His Kingdom". The issue is meeting what He means by the conditions, not what we think they are, which requires daily following Him (John 12:26).

  • Thank you. I agree Jesus was referring to literal food. However, I'm pondering whether it is valid to understand Jesus' words as "Care for what belongs to God and He will care for you". This is not exactly the same as a promise that God will always provide you with earthly food if you seek him first, but it leaves God the option to let one of his faithful servants starve to death through lack of earthly food because that is God's perfect will for that person in that situation. Is it typical of Aramaic idiom for an absolute statement to have implicit caveats & exceptions? Oct 29, 2014 at 14:41
  • I think that is a sufficient summary, so long as you don't forget the original. Simply from the rest of the New Testament you can conclude implicit caveats and exceptions. 1Cor15:27 quotes Psalm 8:6, which interprets "all things under his feet" with the implicit exception of the Father. Obviously, Jesus was naked on the cross, because it was God's will, and it was known to Jesus it would happen. But, this was not the "normal", it was a "season of trial", if you would call it that. He was dead for three days, and is alive now, and fully clothed (Rev 1:13). So, yes, it is always subject to God.
    – user6152
    Oct 29, 2014 at 23:02

The Idea in Brief

Jesus does not appear to downplay the necessities of life as normal daily concerns; that is, the Apostle Paul corrects such misconceptions in his second epistle to the Thessalonians. Instead Jesus is placing the priority of righteousness as the primary "need" for correct life and living.


The Apostle Paul admonished those people in Thessalonica who had taken an extremist view of the words of Jesus as found in Matt 6:25-34.

1 Thess 3:11-12 (NASB)
11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.

These people were "not worrying" about their food and clothing. That is, they were "not worrying about tomorrow" (Matt 6:34). In this regard, they had taken the most narrow view of the words of Jesus found in Matt 6:25-34.


Jesus then placed the priority on righteousness over the affairs of life. To restate the idea in the double negative: if one worries about food, drink, and the affairs of tomorrow (which then, in turn, exclude ones concern for righteousness and entrance into the Kingdom of God) then one has to face the prospect of losing ones soul at the end. Thus: "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" (Matt 16:26). When Jesus was confronted with the tragic accident that took the lives of 18 people and the massacre of innocents by soldiers of Pilate, his surprising reply was concerned less about the worries and injustices of this life and more about the salvation of the soul (Luke 13:1-5).


1. Question Restatement

Did Jesus promise literal food and clothing in Matthew 6:33 - by commanding not to worry about food and clothing?

2. Applies literally - to a very peculiar kingdom of only priests :

Jesus expected this commandment to be obeyed, somehow :

NASB, Matthew 28:19-20 - Go ... make disciples ... 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;

None of Jesus' commandments are "superficial only".

Jesus commands are NOT "Don't worry, be happy" (Bobby McFerrin).

Even "Love" comes with an action: "Love [unconditionally] as I have loved you, (John 15:12). Further, Jesus' literal explanation of the commandment would mean absolutely nothing - and wastes space on the page : where he reasoned that if God cares for even the birds, then how much more will he care for his people?

This commandment certainly requires trust (i.e., maturity in the Spirit), or at the very least "Dispensational" in an Eschatological sense :

NASB, Exodus 19:6 - and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”

NASB, Numbers 35:2 - 2 ... give to the Levites from the inheritance of their possession cities to live in; and you shall give to the Levites pasture lands around the cities.

NASB, Deuteronomy 18:2 - [The Priests] shall have no inheritance among their countrymen; the Lord is their inheritance, as He promised them.

NASB, Psalm 37:25 - I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread.

NASB, Revelation 1:6 - ... and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father ... (See also Titus 2:14, 1 Peter 2:9)

Conclusion :

Jesus argues that commandments should NOT be made of no effect, through traditional interpretations that they are "metaphorical", and can be observed "in heart only", (See Matthew 15:6).

I think Solomon would says that commandments are intended for all people, perhaps according to their maturity :

NASB, Ecclesiastes 12:13 - The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.

3. Disclaimer - No "Blind Leaps of Faith", in Scripture :

Please don't interpret this in the extreme, (like when people hear that word for "sorcery" is the same as "pharmacy" - in Galatians 5:20, Interlinear).

If faith is trusting the Word of God - through experience, and someone doesn't have this experience, then one should exercise an abundance of caution, making so-called "leaps of faith", because :

NASB, Romans 14:23 - and whatever is not from faith is sin.

NASB, Galatians 4:19 - My children [who are Christians], with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you

New Testament texts very clearly delineate Christians according to the measure of their faith, (Search for "Faith" in Romans 12), between "young Christians", and the "Mature" who have experienced the trustworthiness of God : those who can walk according to this commandment, by faith. (See also example of people trusting in God, because of his trustworthiness, in Hebrews 11, especially Hebrews 11:11.)

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.