Matthew 6:25-34 (16)
Before we look at this passage, one that is so often taken out of context, we must remind ourselves of what precedes it because verse 25 begins with the important word ‘therefore’. ‘Therefore’ means in the light of, because of, or in view of, what has gone before – this is how you should or shouldn`t act. Jesus, in this Sermon, began by describing the character of the kingdom citizen who was to have a positive impact upon the world around. He next showed how the Law was being fulfilled when kingdom citizens lived in the light of who they were. He then moved to our ‘righteous acts’, giving, praying and fasting, done in response to God before ensuring that our hearts were set fully on the kingdom. He said we were to have a ‘single eye’, not distracted by other things, and here He continues that theme.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Matt 6:25)
A notice outside a church: ‘Why pray when you can worry and take tranquillisers?’ When Christians are asked what the Bible says about worrying, this will be the scripture they will often quote. But quoting it is not the same as living it and so often we will justify our worrying as our personality or prudent provision for the future. Jesus has just told us that we ‘cannot serve God and the things of this world,’ (vs. 24) but he knows that there are many things that will crowd in on our lives to distract us from that ‘single eyed’ focus on the kingdom. He doesn`t mention the things we tend to worry about: houses, cars, money, etc. but rather the basic necessities of life, food, drink and clothes, what Spurgeon calls the ‘worldly trinity’. Today`s, consumer orientated, society has made it seem that we need more than just the basics, ‘This is not just food, this is M & S food’. We could argue that these are important things which we cannot do without but His point is that they are not to be a distraction.
As this is the Sermon of the Kingdom addressed to kingdom citizens, not to the world of unbelievers, what can be more important than kingdom life in all its fullness. Anything else is of secondary importance. Jesus now gives two simple illustrations, taken from nature to show the foolishness of worry.
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matt 6:26-30)
‘Incidentally, Is this the scriptural basis for bird watching?’ (J Stott) Jesus is using what is called a lesser to greater argument. He says, ‘Look at the birds … see the lilies of the field,’ look how they are fed and clothed, then ‘how much more’ will your heavenly Father look after you.
Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows”. (Matt 10:29-31) A TV programme, last week, was talking about orchids that grow, flower and die in the most inhospitable places on earth and no one ever sees them. No wonder Jesus said ‘how much more’ will our heavenly Father care for us. This does not mean we do nothing but sit idly waiting for God to do it all. God provides the food but the birds have to work for it.
Some translations use the word ‘consider’ instead of ‘look’ which means to observe carefully and thoroughly and this suggests an approach opposite to continual worry and preoccupation: Do not worry, instead reflect on God`s care for His creatures. To worry does nothing but steal joy from daily living. There is also a larger issue here and that is the question of ‘faith.’ Having considered how God providentially looks after creation, then to imagine that He will not provide for us shows how small is our faith. ‘The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.’ (G Müller) To boast about our faith and then to worry means we are still concentrating on ‘mammon’ and not on God. When Jesus was sleeping in the boat, in the midst of a storm, and the disciples woke Him fearing they would all drown. He asked “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Matt 8:26) He then calmed the storm with a word. It is as though He was saying to them ‘I said let us go across the lake and that is where we are going and nothing will prevent us.’ This is what the kingdom citizen depends on: His abiding presence.
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matt 6:31-32)
If we let these things, and others like them, consume our thinking then according to Jesus we are no different to the pagans, the unbelievers, who do not know our heavenly Father and his bounteous provision. ‘Food and clothes are fine servants, but bad masters.’ Since we believe that God has saved us out of the kingdom of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of His dear Son, then surely we must believe that He is able and willing to provide for our needs. It is what Jesus told us to pray for. ‘Give us today our daily bread.’ ‘Incidentally, lest we allow the force of what Jesus says to pass us by through long familiarity, it might do no harm sometimes to check up on our finances and see how extravagant we are in our spending on food, drink and clothes, to mention just those examples Jesus took. Our findings might disturb us.’ (M Green)
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt 6:33)
Here is the positive injunction. This is not some casual approach but ‘a hungering, a thirsting, a seeking’ for the kingdom and to be clothed with the ‘righteousness of Christ’ must be our first desire. The Christian not only longs for the kingdom but lives in preparation for it now, in righteousness and holiness, everything else is secondary. “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and it is clear that we can carry nothing out. But having food and clothing, we will be content.” (1 Tim 6:6-8)
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt 6:34)
Even though I know the theology and that it is absolutely pointless to worry about yesterday or tomorrow this is an area I struggle with. This helped me. ‘Bishop William Quayle, awake at night, because of fruitless worrying, heard God say to him, “Quayle, you go to bed; I`ll sit up the rest of the night.” This symbolizes a matter of major importance in the cure of worry.’ ‘You can`t change the past but you can ruin a perfectly good present by worrying about the future.’ “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil 4:6)