25 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? 26 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? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 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? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
In the previous passage, Jesus emphasized that we must choose between serving God or stuff. That choice has another natural consequence—anxiety. If we have learned to seek and trust God first, then we’ll believe in God’s promise to take care of his children.
1. Consider His Word
2. Think About Eternity
3. Reflect Upon His Work
Like much of the Sermon on the Mount, this passage is about the sanctification of a believer. In these verses, Jesus especially spoke to the issue of worship and idolatry.
The glorious gospel woos Christians away from idolatrous striving and worry because the same God who has so wonderfully cared for their souls through Christ’s sacrifice will care for their physical needs as well.
Jesus said that “Gentiles seek after all these things” (v. 32) When Christians joyfully bow down to the one true and living God and forsake the worship of money, their lives become like a gleaming pearl against a backdrop of crimson. The strangeness of their lives is unmistakable and a living testimony of a life that has been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What is the fundamental difference between earthly ambitions and heavenly ambitions? The difference is obvious. That which is earthly will pass away, but that which is heavenly is eternal. Jesus told his disciples to lay up for themselves treasures in heaven, not treasures on earth where rust and moth destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
Charles Spurgeon said, “It is time that I am done with all butterfly-hunting!” What he meant was that pursuing earthly and temporal ambition is like hunting butterflies. When a child captures a butterfly, more often than not they destroy it because, though it may be beautiful, it is frail. Earthly ambitions fair no better. People chase after careers, investments, houses, clothes, vehicles, achievements, honor, fame, and power only to find that they crumble into dust in the end.
Not only that, but a butterfly hunt leads a child into dangerous situations and even if the thing is caught, it is crushed. Spurgeon concluded by saying, “My years are warning me that I may hope soon to be with Christ Himself, and see greater beauties than this whole creation can set before me. I am not ben on pursuing nothing but that which is eternal and infinite.”
Unbelievers ought to be pursuing these earthly things. After all, they have nothing more to hope for. Christians, however, claim to look forward to something that is beyond description and far greater than anything this world has to offer. If their hope is certain and their faith true, then they dare not bow down to the idols of this world.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed his disciples about what it means to live as a citizen of the Kingdom of heaven. He was preaching a message that can only make sense to and received with gladness by those who have experienced the saving grace of God in the marvelous gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our passage today is best understood with the previous section in mind. Remember that Jesus told his listeners to store up treasures in heaven, not on earth. He told them clearly that they cannot serve two masters; that they cannot serve both God and money. If we had to sum the previous section up in one command it would this: Don’t worship the idol of money.
1. Consider His Word (Matthew 6:25a, 31)
Christians are not owed more than the simple command of Christ. Many parents have had the experience of commanding their children to put on their shoes, take their plate to the sink, or turn off the television only to be met with a counter demand for more explanation. Parents expect immediate and unquestioning obedience from their children. God expects the same from Christians. Jesus deserved the same from his disciples. But, God in his mercy and grace bears with his children. He gives them more than they deserve because of his patience and mercy.
The cornerstone of Jesus’s argument against an idolatrous preoccupation with temporal needs is the authority of his Word. Jesus taught with authority throughout his ministry and did not have to appeal to someone else. This was in sharp contrast who the Pharisees and Scribes who appealed to external authorities to validate their teaching. Jesus taught on his own authority and it amazed those who heard him. This is a significant principle for Christians today. Every believer and local assembly must come to grips with the authority of the Word of Christ in their lives.
Why do Christians need the authoritative Word of God in their lives? Why is Jesus’s lordship over his people a kindness and mercy toward them?
Many Christians have had the experience of reading a story of Israel’s failure from the Old Testament and wondering how they could have been so hard-headed. After all, Israel had witnessed the power and deliverance of God. They had the Law and men of God who spoke on behalf of God. If anyone had what they needed to live in faith and obedience to the one true and living God, surely it was the Israelites.
They did not, however, have what they needed to live in perfect and perpetual obedience to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were hampered by their deceitful hearts due to their radical corruption they inherited because of the sin of their first parents. They were in desperate need of circumcision of the heart. They needed God to put his Spirit in them and remove their hearts of stone and give them a heart of flesh (Ezek 36:26).
The same spiritual disability that plagued the Israelites also plagues our neighbors. It plagues us, too. Is it possible for any one of us to cast stones at the Israelites for their grumbling for food and water in the desert when we flash anger at those close to us if the milk carton is empty in the fridge? The point is that the rottenness of sin has reached every nook and cranny of our hearts, minds, and bodies and when we read of the sin of the Israelites we may as well be looking in a mirror.
The constant refrain and summary statement in the book of Judges is that everyone did what was right in their own eyes. When we combine radical corruption with self-rule we end up with disaster. Thus, the need for authority. We need someone to tell us what to do. We need government and law. For the fallen world, governments are a part of God’s common grace toward all humanity regardless of whether or not they submit their hearts to God. For born-again believers, the reign of Christ is essential to a joyful, Spirit-filled life. The lordship of Christ is a great mercy and kindness to Christians. We cling to it, cherish it, and live by it. Milton Vincent said it this way: “According to Romans 6, when I obeyed the gospel call I was both declared righteous and ‘became a slave to righteousness’ at the same time. Quite literally, the righteousness that God credited to me became my master on the day I was converted! And now I am daily called by God to surrender the members of my being as slaves to do whatever this righteousness dictates.”
What happens when we have no king or faithful word of authority over our lives?
When we have no authority, no North Star to guide us, then we will do what is right in our own eyes. We will justify our sinful actions with all sorts of excuses and arguments. Christians must remember that Jesus is their King and their duty is to submit to him in every way in all of their lives. Of course, we fail at this because we still live in a fallen world and battle against the old nature. It’s for this reason that we must daily commit ourselves to submit to his lordship by submitting to his commands in Scripture. As we read, study, meditate upon and memorize the Word of God, we will be convicted of sin and renewed in our fervency to serve our reigning King. The Holy Spirit will enable us to reject our tendency to do what seems right in our own eyes and live in humble obedience to the Word of our King.
Application Question: Do you highly esteem the Word of Christ? Do you let it dwell richly in you? What are some ways that you can give God’s Word a priority in your life?
2. Think About Eternity (Matthew 6:25b, 32–33a)
One of the primary themes in the Bible is that there is so much more than what we can see. Christians aren’t materialists. Christians believe that they can see, taste, touch, and hold is only a small sliver of what is real. Furthermore, that which can be handled isn’t what they should give their attention to. Paul wrote to the Christians in Colossae, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Col 3:1–2).
Why is it right and fitting for Christians to give their attention and energy to “things above” and not to “earthly things”?
Jesus said, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (v. 25) and “the Gentiles seek after all these things” (v. 32). A life that is spent on gathering up all that one can on this earth is too small for the child of God. It makes no sense. It isn’t fitting. A Christian who gives himself to the world is like a child of a king who is found sleeping in the streets or playing in alleyways. Not only is it sad, but it is disturbing. It should not be so. A Christian who neglects things above for things of this earth is like a bride-to-be who fails to enter the sanctuary when the bridal march begins. Upon further investigation, she is found to be in a side room fornicating with an old high school boyfriend. It should not be so.
What positive command does Jesus give in verse 33? What is the essence of the command? What are Christians to do?
Jesus told his followers to seek first the kingdom of God. Let’s recall that this passage is Jesus’s follow-up to his teaching in verse 24, “You cannot serve God and money.” In verse 33 Jesus restates that command in this way, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” When we take these two verses together we can discern what Jesus intended here. He meant the following:
- God is to have the highest priority in our lives.
- We are to serve God.
- We cannot serve God and something else.
- If we serve something else, then we are not seeking God’s kingdom first.
The essence of this passage is worship. While it may seem on the surface to be about money, food, clothes, and worry, it is actually about the affections of the heart. It’s about the devotion, worship, and idolatry of Christians. Jesus is calling his followers to wholehearted devotion to God. This isn’t anything new, but the messenger and his authority is. God himself has entered the scene in flesh. God the Father is drawing people to his Son, and those that believe are called to live in a way that is congruent with their position in Christ. Jesus’s teaching has been with Israel since the beginning. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut 6:4–5). But, now God is doing a new thing in Christ. Now, he is giving them a heart to do carry this out (Ez 36).
Application Question: What is your heart drawn out to, things above or things on earth? Why? What can you do to cultivate a heart that is caught up in the beauty and goodness of God?
3. Reflect Upon His Work (Matthew 6:26–30, 33b)
Jesus, in his mercy, gave his followers a practical means by which to combat idolatrous worry about and striving for material things.
What does Jesus tell them about their physical needs?
Jesus told them that God is going to provide for them! How wonderful and gracious of our Lord to make this promise to his children. He told his followers that God himself will carry the burden of providing for them.
So, what should we do if we start to worry?
We should pray. In Philippians 4:6–7 Paul instructed the believers in Philippi to pray instead of worrying. Further, Jesus told us specifically to pray for our daily needs (Matt 6:11). We should replace worry with petition and prayer and thanksgiving. In other words, we should worship instead of worry.
Praying to God for our daily bread is no fool’s errand. Prayer isn’t some sort of Christian meditation in which we gain some sort of inner peace by releasing our concerns into the cosmos by verbalizing them. As Jesus pointed out, God is able and willing to care for his children. God hears prayer and he answers prayer.
When a Christian prays, he is bringing a request to the one true and living God, the one “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev 1:8). He is asking something of his Father. This is a God who delights in his creation and for whom nothing is too hard (Jer 32:27). We are praying to the one of whom Jesus said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt 7:11).
Is God trustworthy and faithful? Can he be depended upon to meet our needs? Or should we supplement what God can provide for us with provisions from another source?
Our prayers mean nothing if the one to whom we petitioning is unable to meet our needs. This fear, however, is quickly laid to rest when we read the Scriptures and also when we consider God’s provision in our lives up until this point.
God has promised to care for his children. Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” And God is faithful (Deut 7:9). If God’s Word promises he will care for his own and if God is always faithful to his Word, then we have a double guarantee that our prayers are not in vain. This, of course, doesn’t mean that God is obligated to give us what we ask. God is no vending machine. He is too good of a Father for that. He won’t give us a snake even if we ask for one thinking that we are asking for a fish.
For whom does God provide?
God provides for his creation. But, does he provide for all of his creation? How does God interact with and provide for those who are his children and those who remain under his condemnation for their sin? Psalm 145:8–9 says, “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” And Matthew 5:45 testifies, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” In other words, God cares for all his creation, whether they have willingly submitted to him or not. His kindness extends to all up to a point. This is God’s common grace. God’s common grace also extends to his children, but it goes far beyond that. Not only does he provide for the physical needs of his children, but he also blesses them with his presence, his friendship, the forgiveness of sin, and eternal life.
Application Question: Do you trust God with your daily needs or are you relying on yourself to provide? Are you a person of prayer or do you have the mentality, “if it’s going to get done I’ve got to take care of it myself”?
Jesus knew that this teaching was hard. It’s likely that his disciples had served money all of their lives. He knew that the question that would naturally come to their minds (and ours) would be, “If I don’t take care of myself, then who will?” Jesus’s aim in verses 25–34 is to comfort and encourage those who would follow him to serve and worship God alone and to trust him to provide for their needs. He commanded his listeners to not worry. His desire is that his followers would live a life of faith and obedience, not fear, worry, and self-reliance. This passage is an apologetic against idolatry.
Jesus’s argument consists of three parts. First, he commanded them to eschew a worrisome outlook on life. Jesus’s Word is authoritative and a command from his lips is reason enough to be obedient, but he graciously bears with the doubtful heart by continuing his argument. Second, he laid plain the reality that the child of God was redeemed for nobler purposes than the pursuit of that which will turn to nothing in the end. Christians have bigger fish to fry than a comfortable retirement. Finally, God himself has taken on the responsibility to provide for your material needs. Just consider what you already know about him and then trust him with your needs now.
- Would people closest to you say that you serve God or that you serve money?
- What do you find yourself worrying about most? Why?
- What is your heart drawn to? What excites you most? Do those things line up with God’s will and purposes for you?
- Do you truly believe that God is your provider and sustainer? Do you think that the fact that God is your provider means that you can be lazy?
Prayer of Response
Begin by confessing that you have found yourself serving money instead of God at times. Confess your need for forgiveness and the need for sanctification. Give thanks for Jesus your advocate with the Father. Ask God to help you identify areas in your life where you are worshipping created things instead of God.
 Charles Spurgeon, Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden.
 Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer, 21.