Jesus warns His disciples not to become anxious about meeting the needs of life. Take no thought for tomorrow, what you will eat or drink or wear. This isn’t folly because the disciples trusts the Father to give all that he needs, and the Father comes through. The disciples who follows Jesus’ warning is able to devote his attention to the kingdom of heaven, which Jesus says should be the first priority.

These instructions take on fresh power in the light of the thesis of Sendhil Mullainathan’s recent book, Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much . Mullainathan’s studies indicate that people who are poor get obsessed with their need; all their “bandwidth” is used trying to figure out how to get the most out of each dollar, how to save here and scrimp there, where they will get tomorrow’s and the next day’s meals or rent payment. They become ineffective at work, if they have work, and ineffective in finding work if they do not. They just don’t have enough attention to give to anything beyond survival.

That’s a perfectly human response, but if Jesus is right, then that’s a misuse of our bandwidth. We should put those anxieties out of mind, seek the kingdom, and trust the Father to meet our needs. Even if poverty, the disciple of Jesus can look to others’ needs and to the purpose of the kingdom, precisely because his mind is not occupied elsewhere.

Thus “take no thought for tomorrow” proves itself one of the habits of highly effective people.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart