“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? Look 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? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But 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? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6:25-34 ESV).
Last week, in Part 1, we examined verses 25 and 26. This week, we will examine verses 27 through 32. In verse 27, Jesus continues his argument with “And,” which connects verse 27 to verses 25 and 26: “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? Look 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?”
Understanding this, then, Jesus asks a rhetorical question: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27). This question is curious technically because the word “hour” is actually the word “cubit” which is a unit of measurement roughly 20 inches in length, and the word “span” is actually the word often translated “stature.” In other words, technically, you could translate this verse: “Who can grow your life 20 inches taller by worrying?” But, this doesn’t make sense because this is likely an idiom from the first Century and best translated as it is rendered here in the ESV. Regardless of the terms, however, the message remains the same: worry doesn’t help you in any way. Period. Why do I bring this up in our study of this passage? As ridiculous as the thought that 20 inches added to your height would benefit your life, a child of God worrying about you’re his needs is even more ridiculous. Think about it. How has your life ever been benefited by sinful worry? It hasn’t. Jesus’ rhetorical idiom forces you to see how ridiculous worry really is.
Then Jesus directs our attention to the summer field: “And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matthew 6:28-29). I absolutely love this phrase: “Consider the lilies of the field.” In times of extreme stress I have quoted this verse to myself, and it has comforted me. I love the language and imagery of this metaphor. The word translated “lilies” should not be confused with our domesticated flower called a lily. This is a wildflower. And, how do wildflowers behave? Do they toil? Do they work hard? Do they labor? Do they become weary? No, they just grow under the watchful care of their Divine horticulturist, God.
As referenced last week, this too is a cosmological picture of a Biblical worldview. As we consider the wildflower, we observe logical evidence of the creator of the universe. In other words, study the wildflower! Be amazed at the wildflower! Are you observing? Are you listening to the unspoken proclamation of the wildflower? Listen: God clothes the grass…in splendor.
In fact, the adornment of the grass is compared to one famous King of Israel: Solomon. Why Solomon? The Bible says that “King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom” (1 Kings 10:23), and “when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the LORD, there was no more breath in her” (1 Kings 10:4-5). God had blessed Solomon with great wealth and with that wealth he was apparently well-attired. But, “even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
Jesus then takes his metaphor to the most practical level: our everyday life. “But 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 6:30). Grass is temporal. We are eternal. Grass is cut, burned, and gone. God created his children to be with him forever. When we deny this reality, we sin. We worry.
Jesus confronts this sin: “O you of little faith.” This is actually one Greek word (oligopistoi) and is only used in the Synoptic Gospels and only used by Jesus when addressing his disciples. For example, Jesus uses the same word in Matthew 17:20 when he tells his disciples, “if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” To be clear, faith used here does not mean salvific faith. Jesus is not saying, “O you who have no saving faith.” Rather, “faith” here means confidence in God that he will act on our behalf. Look around you. Do you see the evidence of God’s provision? Allow the logical evidence that supports your Biblical worldview, also be a deterrent to your anxiety.
Trust God: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” (Matthew 6:31). “Therefore”: When we consider the evidence in nature, and we see how God abundantly provides, our logical response should be to trust God. In fact, when we display a lack of trust in God, we not only insult God, we also display characteristics of a pagan: “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matthew 6:32).
The word translated Gentiles here is more literally “the nations” (ethnē). Jesus is comparing worry over food and clothing as a characteristic of the rest of the world, but not God’s children. In fact, this same word is used in the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations (ethnē), baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). This is an important distinction and should lead us to ask why are we not to worry like those who do not have relationship with God? What harm does worry do? Considering “the nations,” I propose two answers: First, if we worry, it is obvious to the world that we are pursuing the same things the world is. But, we are not! As citizens of God’s kingdom, we are to pursue the things of God. This is to look radically different to the world. Second, our lack of trust denies God the worship that is due him. God knows our needs and desires to be glorified by meeting our needs, but is robbed of this worship when we worry.
D.A. Carson rightly confronts the issue of our witness to the nations when he declares,
Away with secular thinking. The follower of Jesus will be concerned to have a distinctive lifestyle, one that is characterized by values and perspectives so un-pagan that his life and conduct are, as it were, stamped all over with the word, “Made in the Kingdom of God.”
What if you applied this truth to all of your life? How would you study and take tests at school? How would you work at your job? What kind of books would you read? What kind of music would you listen to? What kind of movies would you watch? What kind of testimony would you send to the world if your life screamed: “Made in the Kingdom of God!” A day is coming in this nation, and may even be here now, when the greatest testimony for Jesus Christ will not be a Billy Graham crusade, but the distinctive life actions of a believer in the real world.
If you are a Christian, what is your life’s testimony? Is your life a life full of worry over the temporal stuff of this world? Is your lifestyle telling the story of who is your King? Take this time to examine yourself and the kind of message that your life is telling. If you are of more value than the grass, then consider how your life speaks compared to the unspoken proclamation of the wildflower: “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).