Though it seems as if the rest of the chapter is a change of subject from verses 19-24, Jesus is still continuing along the same thought process. Though Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, his disciples live in the world and need to know how to handle the material world. Jesus first taught that his disciples should not value possessions enough to accumulate them. Jesus now teaches that his disciples should not value possessions enough to worry about them. The heart is Jesus’ overall concern. Though accumulating possessions and anxiety seem innocent on the surface, both harm our hearts equally. Verses 19-24 showed how accumulating treasures on earth causes money to become our master and steal our passion from accumulating heavenly treasures and serving the true Master. Verses 25-34 show how anxiousness for the things of this world weakens our faith and steals our hearts from seeking righteousness and the kingdom of God.
Do Not Be Anxious (25)
Though Jesus goes on from this initial principle to give us many reasons to not be anxious, we need to take a moment to understand this command. What kind of worry is Jesus commanding us to not have? Jesus is not commanding us not to stop planning and working. Many scriptures charge us to do hard work for our food and clothing. The command to stop worrying also does not mean we will not have cares or concerns. Our casual concerns are not worries that rest in our hearts and trouble us.
Jesus previous words concluded that we cannot serve both God and money. He begins his discussion of worry in verse 25 with the word “therefore.” Jesus is speaking about a worry and anxiety that cause our hearts to be drawn away from God and towards reliance on wealth. We can see the deepness of this anxiety in Matthew 6:31, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?'” Jesus is dealing with the heart problem of doubting God’s provision. Mild apprehension or concerns about the future turn into stress, fear, and full on worry. When we are anxious about our basic necessities, we put an undue focus on earthly provision. We pursue earthly riches to calm our fears.
We must recognize that our anxiousness about school, careers, health, the economy, and retirement accounts are dangerous anxieties that draw our hearts away from God. When we are anxious about the economy, great amounts of energy and time will be expended to try to make ourselves financially secure. We believe security is found in money! When we are anxious about our health, great amounts of energy and time will be spent hedging against every possible health problem. We become the thorny ground of Matthew 13:22 where “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and proves it unfruitful.” We believe the answer to our fears is found in our own strength or the accumulation of more cash. The powerful emotion of anxiety threatens to control the direction of our entire lives.
Fortunately, Jesus does not merely command us to not be anxious. He understands our anxieties. Anxieties are not solved by the words of Bob Marley, “Don’t worry, be happy.” There is no alternate universe where worries are literally solved by happy feelings. Jesus handles our worry in two careful steps. Jesus continues through chapter 6 giving us reasons why we should not worry. He concludes with showing us how spiritual things need to be our concern – not physical. In fact, he already hints at this in verse 25 as he chides us for our worry. “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
Reasons To Not Be Anxious (25-32)
Worry is pointless because the Father provides (26, 28-30): The first reason Jesus gives for why we should not worry comes from nature, as seen in verses 26-30. Jesus first asks us to consider birds. Birds do not sow, reap, or gather. They don’t have barns or refrigerators. Regardless, God always feeds them. Notice verses 28-30. Jesus’ asks us to consider flowers. They do zero work and only exist for a matter of days; yet, they are clothed more beautifully than the richest of kings. We sow, reap, and gather. We have industrialized systems in place to produce clothing at a cheap cost. We are smarter than animals. We live longer than the flowers. We were created in God’s image. We are more valuable than all plants and animals combined. Our heavenly Father has provided for trillions of plants, animals, and humans for thousands of years. Will our Father not also provide us food and clothing? Do we really believe his consistent and continual provision will not include us? Do we really believe God is not going to give us what we need? He did not create us to watch us die. He created us for life. He will provide. Jesus is quickly showing us that worry is a matter of trust. The control is in our Father’s hands.
Worry accomplishes nothing (27): Jesus’ second reason to not worry is a word of wisdom that reminds us of the uselessness of worry. Can you think of a time in your life where mental anguish and worry ever helped your problem? When does worry ever fix what we are worried about? Consider how much time we can spend being anxious about all sorts of contingencies. We make ourselves sick as hours, days, and years are wasted worrying about our future health and needs. This accomplishes nothing. Has worry ever paid your bills? Has worry ever produced food? We cannot even control how our day will run; we certainly cannot control our future. We cannot add one hour to the span of our lives no matter how intensely we worry. This should give us a sense of freedom from our cares. If we know how little power we have to control our future, we should stop worrying about it.
Worry shows our lack of faith (30): Jesus’ third reason to not worry is a grave reminder of the seriousness of anxiety. Jesus labels us as people who have little faith when we are worriers. Anxiety isn’t a personality quirk – though some struggle with it more than others. It is a lack of trust. Worrying about God’s provision expresses doubt in his love and power in our lives. Robert Mounce puts it in a helpful light. “Worry is practical atheism and an affront to God.” I think Mounce’s conclusion about worry puts the problem in perspective. We may attempt to wear the name of Christ and defend our faith vehemently. If we are plagued with worry and anxiety about life – our faith means very little in practice. We are practical atheists. What a serious charge to make against people who are supposed to be defined by trusting faith in our Father.
Worry makes us look like the world (31-32): Jesus’ final reason for why we should not worry is a disturbing fact about worriers. Seeking after food, drink, and clothing is what Gentiles do. Their lives are consumed with the cares of this world. This language would have rung true for a Jew listening to Jesus. Jews sought to distinguish themselves from the godless Gentiles. This makes sense – what else does a godless person live for? There is nothing else to seek except food, drink, and clothing. Without these things they are dead and meaningless. This should not describe a person of God. But how often it does! How frequently we appear no different than the world in our worrisome faithlessness. We worry as if we have no God to trust in. We worry as if we are pagans who cannot perceive meaning in life beyond physical sustenance and carnal pleasures. Worry and anxiety are for those who are without Christ! We have an amazing opportunity to shine bright Christian lights by our trusting attitudes. Displaying an attitude of trust when the world worries displays the confidence people can have by knowing our Father. Displaying worry and anxiety shows we do not know our heavenly Father. We must not distrust the Father like the world!
Seek First God’s Kingdom (33)
The simple truth given at the end of verse 25 is a good preparation for verse 33’s admonition. “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Our lives are about so much more than having our basic needs filled. Worrying about these basic needs distracts our hearts from what life is truly about. This is similar to how treasures on earth can distract from accumulating treasures in heaven. Worries about God’s provision causes us to act as if life is all about the filling of basic needs. Worries about God’s provision distract us from our greater purposes.
Christ offers us something greater to seek in verse 33. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” The urgency of our worry causes us to neglect seeking the kingdom of God and pursuing righteousness. Solving our anxiety seems too important. Jesus teaches us that the body was created to seek the kingdom of God. The body was made for righteousness. We are supposed to be consumed with the pursuit of the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Though food, drink, and clothing sustain and cover our physical bodies, we mistake these things for being more important than true food given by God. Being filled with and clothed with thoughts of righteousness are so much more important.
Notice the beauty of Jesus words at the end of verse 33. If we will first seek the kingdom of God and righteousness, “…all these things will be added to you.” Jesus does not despise our worry or our needs. If we will seek the important things first, he promises provision for our physical needs. Why be so consumed with filling our physical needs if he promises he will give it to us? Why be so consumed with worry? Jesus has been chipping away at our worry, but this is where it should ultimately vanish. The Father will provide so we can focus on what is most important. Obviously, contentment needs to be a ruling factor when we consider our Father’s provision. We should not expect his provision to always match with society’s extravagant expectations. As Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:8, “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” When we crave and expect beyond this, we get ourselves into trouble. We can enjoy what we have if we are content with the Father’s provision. We do not need computers. We do not need cars. But, the Lord has graciously blessed us with these luxuries. We must not turn this prosperous standard of living we currently enjoy into a baseline for our needs. We entered the world with nothing. We can be completely happy and free of worry with basic provision.
Instead, our “worry” and “anxiety” are to be for the things of God. We do not seek worldly things, but righteousness. The pursuit of righteousness is seen in simplicity throughout the Sermon on the Mount in Christ’s teachings. Consider the beatitudes. Jesus teaches us to hunger and thirst after righteousness. One who is truly hungry is consumed by the desire for food. If this is a description of our craving for righteousness, we will be consumed by our desire to be holy. It will consume our thoughts, reading, and actions. We are seekers of righteousness if we pursue an attitude of mercy. One does not treat others with mercy by nature. It is an attitude that springs from a renewed person who has personally experienced mercy and desires to show it even enemies. Christians are blessed if we seek purity of heart. We must seek to become the light of the world and to love our enemies. Each of these characteristics are developed by the grace of God through time and trials. If developing an attitude of mercy and a life of light is our direction, it will consume us. We will not have time for worry. Since our hearts will be filled with refreshing thoughts of righteousness, we will not be concerned about basic provision. We will not need to worry because we know the Lord will provide food and shelter when we seek him first. Our minds can be put at ease.
Instead of worrying about our lives, we can be freed to worry about the more important things. Consider if you have shown mercy in your words. Meditate on the word of God. Think about how your life can become filled with spiritual things, instead of more physical things. Consider the graciousness of God in your life. We cannot simultaneously use our minds to praise God’s generosity and worry about his provision! Worry and anxiety can so often spring from conversations with people around us who are also worriers. Be the agent of change in this faithless atmosphere. When others react with worry and anxiety, let your emotions and heart stand firm because the Lord has planted you. Speak with confidence in the Lord. Speak with trust.
When difficult situations arise, remember how God carried you through past times to give you hope for today. Ashley and I look back to our first few months of marriage for that confidence. We were broke! We were students with part time jobs living in a high crime neighborhood. We ate bean burritos for most of our meals. Our financial aid wasn’t coming through for school. But we made a conscious decision to place our trust in the right place. Ashley and I look back at that time as some of the happiest months of our lives. The Lord always provided. Between the two of us we had only 30 hours of work per week. Yet, we were able to pay for school and still have surplus. Christians constantly showed us kindness. Christians in Houston sent us an unexpected check for over $400. God was not going to let us go hungry then, and he will not let us go hungry now. We all have stories like this. We could have ruined those first few months by worrying about the Lord’s provision. That would have accomplished nothing. We have control over so little – especially not the Lord’s provision. This is why we must spend our energy seeking righteousness. We will not find righteousness in the worries of this world. We will find the Lord’s provision in the seeking of his kingdom.
Tomorrow Will Be Anxious for Itself (34)
Verse 34 is a fantastic way to close the book on our anxieties. We want to respond to all that Jesus says by saying, “You don’t understand! I have so much to do tomorrow! Tomorrow is Monday! I have this and that…” Jesus tells us to lay our concerns about tomorrow – or any day afterwards – to rest. We cannot control what tomorrow will bring. If the bread runs out tomorrow, we can deal with that tomorrow. We cannot solve tomorrow’s problems today. Allow your mind to be confined to what you need to focus on today. Let God take care of the rest. Today, we are commanded to seek God’s kingdom. Today, we are commanded to seek God’s righteousness. We cannot seek the Lord today if we are so concerned about tomorrow. Focus on what is important, not the future things that seem so urgent.