Many teachers and agencies have devoted themselves to the task of alleviating the anxiety of man. Anxiety is dangerous. Really, of what value is it to worry about things before they happen? Knowledge often overcomes fear. The unknown causes man to fear and fret. Yet, despite all attempts to rid men of their anxieties, worry still persists.
In this passage Jesus counsels his people not to worry. He teaches us that worry is unreasonable and betrays a lack of Faith. He attacks the heart of the problem and his solution is the only one which is effective.
Our Lord here deals with the weaknesses which all men have in common. Nevertheless, what he says about worry is addressed specifically to his followers. Nor does the Christ seek to teach that we are not to be concerned about the necessities of life. The Bible commends diligent labor and condemns slothfulness. But, being concerned and being worried are two different things.
Men naturally worry more about the essentials of life than about anything else. Food, drink, and clothing are the needs of all men. These are the things of which Jesus speaks. Although food and drink are necessary, his people need not be anxious about them. Life is more important than food and drink. Neither need they be anxious about clothing for the body itself is more important than clothing. Though these things are necessary they are not most important. Are you going to worry about the less important things and be unconcerned about the most important? The God who created life and the body will also see to it that the things necessary to life and the body are given.
To make his teaching perfectly clear, Jesus now employs two examples. First he calls their attention to the birds. They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns. Of course, a bird would not be able to do any of these things. Only man has ability to do them. Yet, how can such creatures live? It is evident to everyone that they do live and the believer knows that God feeds them. The God who feeds them is your Father. If he feeds the birds don’t you think he will also fccd his children? Don’t you think he loves you more than the birds? Yet, though a bird makes no special provision for its needs, it doesn’t worry, while you, his child, able to sow, reap, and store away food, do worry! Again: consider the lilies, how they grow. These do not toil or spin. Of course not; they are not able to do such things. Yet Solomon in all his glory wasn’t dressed as they are! The clothing of king Solomon was beautiful, as beautiful as man was able to make it, but it could not compare to the beauty of the lily. The flowers of the field have a very short life. Jesus says they are but for a day. Is it not almost a waste to bestow so much care on these flowers? Yet, God clothes them. Is there any need for his children to worry about clothing if God so clothes the lilies of the field? To ask the question is to answer it.
Does worry accomplish anything? “Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life?” Older versions translated the last word: “stature.” However, linear measures were often employed to denote the length of one’s life (Psalm 39:5). No one is able to add one moment to the length of his life. Worry accomplishes nothing! It is utter folly.
Not only is it unreasonable to worry; it also betrays a lack of faith. To be anxious about food, drink, and clothing is not the mark of strong faith. That anxiety is typically heathen. The gentiles seek after these things. Their vision is restricted to the material things. They know not Him who feeds the birds of the heaven or clothes the lilies of the field. Then anxiety is quite natural. But, not for his children! Still, they worry! They are still of little faith. Still, their worries can be put aside because their Father knows that they need such things as food and clothing. That he knows is aU that is needed. Seeing he knows, he will supply.
The gentiles seek after the material things and it leads them to deep anxiety of heart. God’s people, on the other hand, should seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. By the kingdom which they are to seek is meant the manifestation of that kingdom, the rule of his grace, in their own hearts and round about them in every area of life. By his righteousness Jesus means virtually the same thing. The will of God is to be carried out. That is the true righteousness, not the kind displayed by the Pharisees. Those who seek these things first will not be troubled by anxiety. Jesus does not teach them to seek these things first, in the order of lime, and then to seek the material things later. If they seek his kingdom and righteousness, all these bodily necessities will be given them. They won’t have to seek these things.
This is perhaps the most difficult rule which our Lord has given us. It cannot be practised by those of little faith. Regardless of circumstances, we are to seek his kingdom and righteousness and trust that the bodily essentials will be given us. On the basis of the foregoing, we may come to no different conclusion. Complete trust in God is required. Anxiety finds no place here.
In conclusion Jesus summarizes his teaching in regard to this subject and gives his people a warning. Do not be anxious concerning the future. His people are to live by the day. “Give us this day our daily bread.” One may not load the cares of the morrow on himself today. When tomorrow has arrived, so that it has become ‘today’, it will have its own cares. Do not bring the cares of several days into one.
The conclusion of this chapter sounds pessimistic. Men often console each other with the ‘hope’ that tomorrow will be better. Jesus is more realistic. Nevertheless, there is no reason for his people to worry. It is humiliating, but also true, that the birds and lilies are to teach men! Man, the crown of creation, must now be taught by the lower creation. Sin has blinded him. It is not man’s wisdom that causes him to be filled with anxiety! If there is no reason for the child of God to worry, why does Jesus add these last words? Because he knows their weakness and danger. Every day the needs of man and the ‘evils’ of life will tempt him. Do not aid this process by bringing the cares of the future into the present.
A worry-free life is difficult to obtain. Those of little faith do not have it. It takes strong faith -faith which is able to seek first his kingdom and righteousness, trusting that the other things will be given. A worry-free life is an ideal. It can only be obtained by following the Christ and recognizing him as Lord.
Questions For Discussion
1. When does concern for the needs of the body develop into anxiety?
2. When our anxiety is relieved by the abundance of the things we have gathered ourselves, are we living according to the teaching of Christ in this section? Is there more danger for the poor to worry than for the rich?
3. Is our provision for the future by means of insurances etc. in keeping with Jesus’ teaching?
4. Does worry increase or decrease with age? How do you understand the process of sanctification in regard to this matter?
5. What does the seeking first of his kingdom involve?
6. Will a Christian ever be free from all worry in this life?