25"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?
26"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? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If 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?
31"So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?' or `What shall we drink?' or `What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
In this section, Jesus speaks on worry and anxiety. Jesus not only tells us why worry and anxiety are both unnecessary and futile, He also gives us a godly remedy for and an alternative to worrying, by which we shall gain, without worrying, the very objects about which we were worrying. Jesus ties this teaching to the previous section by beginning, "Therefore...". In that section, He warned us, "You cannot serve both God and Money" (Matt. 6:24). So here, by saying "Therefore...", He is saying that we cannot serve God if we are constantly in a state of worry, and that to worry is, in effect, to serve the god of Money.
Jesus begins: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear" (vs. 25). As we study this teaching, we must remember that Jesus lived in a society where hunger was a much greater concern than it is now, for most of us who are reading this. So, if the command not to worry was appropriate then, it is even more so now. And yes, note this, Jesus is giving us a command: "Do not worry." Jesus' disciples are not to live a life of worry. It is a disservice to their Master. To worry is to belittle all the great things our Lord and Master has given us.
Jesus next gives us some reasons why it is unnecessary to worry. First, He says: "Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?" (vs. 25). Jesus is making an argument from the greater to the lesser. God has given us the greater things, life and a beautifully created body, so He will also give us the lesser, food to sustain life and clothes to protect the body. "It is truly no small offense we do God, in not trusting Him to supply us with food and clothing, as though He cast us into the world without any heed. When a man is firmly persuaded that God clearly sees the state of our life--of which He is the Author--he will have no doubt that, in fact, He considers its necessities very well."
A second reason not to 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?" (vs. 26). Jesus now gives us an argument from the lesser to the greater. God provides for the lesser things--the birds of the air--and so He will certainly also provide for us, who are "much more valuable" to Him. "If it were firmly fixed in our minds that by God's hand nourishment is brought to the birds, it would be easy to take hope for ourselves, for we are founded on His image, and are reckoned among His sons."
Make no mistake: In the sight of God, in whose image we have been made, we humans (just as Jesus has said here) are "much more valuable" than the birds of the air, or any other living creature (contrary to the beliefs of many). We have been favored by God on earth. Look around! Which species has dominion over the earth? As David said, thanking God for man's dominion: "You made [man] ruler over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds and beasts of the field; the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas" (Ps. 8:6-8). In the beginning, God commanded us to have dominion over the earth: "[F]ill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground" (Gen. 1:28). Yet, despite this dominion over the animals that we have been given, we foolish humans must here be taught by them. "We behave so shamefully that a feeble sparrow must stand in the gospel as doctor and preacher of the wisest of men, and daily hold forth before our eyes and ears, teaching us to trust God, though we have the whole Bible and our reason to help us."
Jesus chooses wisely the example of the "birds of the air". Through them, we have an example of how God provides for His creatures. Even though birds have not been given the ability to "sow or reap or store away in barns", yet they are fed by God. But note well: God provides for the birds through the industrious labor of the birds themselves. Birds do not just sit around and wait for God to drop food into their mouths, but rather, they busily search for and gather their food. So also, God provides for us through the talents and the abilities He gives us, that we might work for our food and, in so doing, valuably contribute to society at the same time. Thus, the point of Jesus' teaching is not that we do not need to work for our sustenance, but that we need not worry about our sustenance because God will see that we have the opportunity to work for it.
Jesus gives us yet another reason why we should not worry: "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" (vs. 27). Certainly, worry accomplishes very little. And far from lengthening our lives, as we know from today's medical sciences, worry is much more likely to shorten our lives. Implicit in all this teaching is that, as David realized, "My times are in Your hands" (Ps. 31:15). God will feed us, clothe us, and take us home when He chooses. Our worrying will not lengthen our lives. And we will not die until God has determined that our work in done.
Jesus further teaches: "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor 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?" (vss. 28-30). Jesus moves on to talk about worrying about clothing. Again, He uses an example from nature, "the lilies of the field", which God clothes with splendor greater than Solomon's. So again, we can learn from that which is much less valuable in the sight of God, that we too shall be clothed. I dare say that many more of us worry more about the "splendor" than the clothes themselves. And if worrying about clothes is wrong, certainly worrying about splendor is sinful. But God is gracious. He gives us not only clothes, but promises that we shall be clothed with "much more" splendor than the lilies of the field, and even with more splendor than Solomon in all his glory. We will receive the clothes here on earth, and the splendor in heaven, when we join our Lord to live in eternal glory.
Jesus continues: "So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?' or `What shall we drink?' or `What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them" (vs. 31). Worry, Jesus suggests here, is unworthy of a Christian: it is a pagan activity. "As they see it, they must seek the supply of these necessities by their own efforts and out of their own resources. Anxiety is natural for them. But worry should not characterize God's children." Pagans either see no God, or believe in an unconcerned God who sleeps in heaven. All the onus of life's responsibilities and troubles is upon themselves. We believe in a caring, loving God, who not only created us, but also remains concerned for us. He made all, and knows all, and so He can certainly help us through life's difficulties. He went to great lengths to reconcile us to Him, even sending His own Son to die for us, and so will He not also feed and clothe us?
Again, God is not a God who is aloof and unconcerned about our welfare, for as Jesus says, "...Your heavenly Father knows that you need [these things]" (vs. 32). What a blessing! God knows our needs. He personally knows what each and every one of us needs. In fact, He knows what we need better than we do! God also knows what we don't need. I dare say it is in this that most of us have a problem with God's providence: when He denies us things that we don't really need.
Next, Jesus gives us a remedy for worrying, a productive alternative to worrying: "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (vs. 33). "Our Lord does not simply command us to avoid worldly anxiety, but gives us something positive to do instead, as a means of precluding it." We are to replace worrisome fretting with an active pursuit of God's will. Let God do the worrying, you do the serving. By "first", Jesus does not mean "first in time", but "first in importance". "Jesus is clearly saying that the disciple's first and best effort is to be directed toward God's kingdom, not any personal needs." If you are primarily occupied with seeking God's will and serving Him, you won't have time to worry about the others things.
Jesus enumerates two things to "seek first": "His kingdom" and "His righteousness". These are almost synonymous. To seek "His kingdom" is to be submissive to God as King, seeking to do the things that He wills, as well as battling to expand His kingdom. To seek "His righteousness" is to obey His law completely, including the teachings on true righteousness given by Jesus here in the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus concludes this section: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (vs. 34). This almost sounds like a worldly teaching, kind of a "Don't worry, be happy" philosophy. But Jesus' teaching, "Do not worry", is in the context of faith that God cares for us today, and will care for us in the future. Moreover, this life is full of trouble, and "each day has enough trouble of its own." Thus, to anticipate future troubles by worrying about them today is to double them. Blessedly, though troubles visit us daily, so does God. By His grace we will pass through the troubles of this life, enduring them, learning from them, being strengthened from the journey, until we enter into His kingdom and glory forever, where we will never again hunger or thirst, where we will be led to springs of living water, where God will wipe away every tear from our eyes (see Rev. 7:16-17). May the Lord be praised!