At first reading, Matthew 6:25-34 seems simple and straightforward: Don’t be anxious. God knows what you need and He will take care of you. The tricky part is figuring out exactly what we should not do and what we can expect God to do.
The entire Sermon on the Mount has been about one topic: Who will be accepted by God and receive a place in His kingdom?
- Matthew 5:1-16: Jesus tells us those with saving faith are blessed who will receive a place in the kingdom (the Beatitudes).
- Matthew 5:17-48: Jesus says your righteousness must be different than the kind the Pharisees have to enter the kingdom of heaven (the Antitheses).
- Matthew 6:1-7:11: Using several examples, Jesus warns his listeners to avoid the self-deception of the Pharisees.
- Matthew 7:12-29: Jesus concludes there are 2 paths. One path leads to life and the other to destruction. You must be the type of person described in this Sermon to be on the right path.
In this third section Jesus challenges those who are worldly. Worldliness is not being too materialistic. Worldliness is being too concerned with the things of this world. The hypocrites look for the rewards of this world, rather than what God has promised in heaven.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? – Matthew 6:25
- The Greek word translated anxious (Strongs G3309) has several nuances. It basically means to be concerned about something.
- We often talk about the concerns or cares of this life. For example, I have to work now to provide food for the future. Such concerns are not necessarily bad.
- Sometimes our concerns for this world cross the line into an unhealthy mental burden. In those contexts, this word is usually translated “anxious” or “worry”.
- Compare other uses in 1Corinthians 7:32-33; Luke 21:34-36; Matthew 13:22.
- There is danger in letting our legitimate concern for our physical needs turn into a distracting fear.
- Food and clothing represent the inner and outer things we need to sustain our lives.
- It is appropriate and right to work for a living. Jesus is not warning against planning for the future. Jesus is warning against letting concern for your physical welfare overwhelm you such that you forget the promises of God.
- God gave us this physical life for more important purposes than merely sustaining our physical existence. He gave us this life as our opportunity to seek and find Him.
25Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? – Matthew 6:25-37
- Jesus did not say, “don’t bother God with these kinds of requests.” He said, keep these concerns in perspective.
- How should we expect God to handle our physical need for food? Look at His creation. He created birds who have no way to store or produce food. He knows their need for nourishment and He provides for them.
- Generally speaking, God created His creatures to need food and He sustains them.
- Worrying about it gains nothing. Worry distracts us and blinds us to the reality of God’s goodness and His promises.
28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? – Matthew 6:28-30
- Jesus doesn’t comment on how God gave birds feathers to keep out the rain. He comments on how clothing makes us look. We wear clothes to make ourselves presentable to the world.
- As creator, God demonstrated that He is concerned with beauty. God made us with the desire to present ourselves well. Like food, He provides for us.
- Jesus uses this phrase “O, you of little faith” in situations where his disciples have lost sight of who God is (e.g. Matthew 8; Matthew 14).
- When you are in situations where you are tempted to become preoccupied with your physical needs, remember who God is.
31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matthew 6:31-34
- Working to provide for you needs and your retirement is appropriate and right. Worrying about it such that you forget the promises of God is the problem.
- In this context, Gentiles are people who have not had the opportunity to know God the way the Jews have. Jews have the Old Testament scriptures and their history with God. Unlike Gentiles, they have some idea of His character and promises.
- Matthew 6:33 is his main point in this section. Our priority should be seeking the true riches found in heaven. Concerns about our physical needs fall into perspective behind this priority.
- Work today to take care of your needs for tomorrow, but don’t let worry about tomorrow blind you to your hope in the promises of God.
- Do today what needs to be done today and don’t worry about the 1000 things that can go wrong tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, you’ll see the actual problem in your path and tackle it.
- Worrying about tomorrow is pointless. It is fine to plan and prepare for the future. But attend to what you have to do today and deal with tomorrow when it comes.
Concern vs Worry
- Concern is an appropriate response to providing for our physical needs both now and in the future.
- Worry is a mind-numbing fear over the future that blinds us to the promises of God.
- I am NOT suggesting that the pressures and trials of this life have no emotional affect on us.
- Consider the example of the Apostle Paul (2Corinithians 11:24-28). Externally he suffered a great deal. Internally he felt suffered emotionally for those he ministered to. But he did not let that worry blind him to the promises of God.
- Consider Jesus in the garden (Luke 22:39-46). Even though he was sweating blood, he did not loose sight of the promises of God.
- Faith is not emotional numbness.