Thoughts from the Sermon on the Mount…
It is the epidemic of our day. It affects men and women, the young and the old, the rich and the poor.
Workers worry about their job. Parents worry about their children. Children worry about the future. Worry can cause sickness, depression, and broken relationships. In its severe forms, worry can cause panic attacks or require medication.
It is personally difficult for me to write a blog post about worry. I would never want to present myself as someone who has no anxiety and has it all figured out. I am benefiting no one if I only come up with “pat answers” that never address real problems.
I have close friends who have struggled greatly with worry and anxiety. Some have been frozen by panic and others have needed medication to manage stress. I have personally experienced the struggle with depression and anxiety for the last several years. I am not here to offer some glib retort about how I am so much better than everyone else.
But Jesus himself taught about worry, and not in sensitive and reassuring terms. Three times He repeats the command, “Don’t be anxious!” This is not a comforting pat on the back, this is a direct command for those who are worrying – stop it! Stop worrying about your food and where it will come from! Stop worrying about your clothes and what you look like to others! Stop worrying about the necessities of life!
There are very few of us who are so destitute that we have no food to eat and literally no clothes to wear. But we have our own anxieties that we all worry about. Will I pass this test? Can I provide for my family? How will I pay the bills? Will my children be safe? Is my sickness serious?
“The truth is, the believer is not immune to worry just because he’s been vaccinated by saving grace.” – Stephen Davey 6
Jesus uses examples from nature in the Sermon on the Mount to address the issue of anxiety. For both of these examples, he reiterates same two lessons: First, remember that God is our father and he will take care of us! Second, we are disobeying God when we don’t trust him!
Jesus repeats the command three times: “Do not be anxious!”
“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.
First time: Do not be anxious!
“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?
And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.
It is easy to despair of everything else in life when we cannot see past our needs, but there is so much more to life than food, clothing, or other necessities! Jesus says that He came that we might have “life abundantly” (John 10:10). He came to give us a full and meaningful life, not for us to be caught up in worry about how we will eat or to cover ourselves. God has so much more for us than this!
“He who has saved and cared for us thus far can be depended upon to undertake and provide for us to the end.” – H.A. Ironside 2
“If God has given you the gift of life, do you you think He is now suddenly going to deny Himself and His own methods, and not see to it that the life is sustained and enabled to continue?” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones 10
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?
Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!
Bible commentators point out that the region of Galilee, where Jesus was teaching, is on the migration path for several varieties of birds. 7 8 Jesus could easily have looked up and pointed to the birds flying overhead as he taught, using them as examples of how our Father cares for us. Luke’s account is even more specific, indicating that Jesus pointed out the ravens. The ravens were unclean animals (Leviticus 11:13-15) and were considered worthless, yet that is His point. God takes care of the insignificant, worthless animals.
We need not worry about food because God provides for even the lowest of nature. The birds don’t worry about their next meal. These animals have no knowledge of God, yet He takes care of them. We are much more important to God than birds! Therefore, since we know our Father takes care of the birds, we can trust him to take care of us!
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?
We spend a lot of amount of time worrying about things that we cannot control. We cannot make ourselves taller or shorter, and we cannot add a single minute to our life span! God has control and knowledge over every day of our life (Psalm 139:16) — we need to stop worrying and rely on Him!
“You cannot extend your life even by one cubit; therefore recognize the utter futility and waste of time and energy involved in worrying about these things.” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones 11
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?
Consider the lilies, 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, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!
I always picture Jesus looking over at a field of wildflowers as He gives the second illustration. These flowers do not work on their own, yet they are more beautiful than the greatest of mankind. The flowers have a short life and are destined to be burned in an oven, yet God takes intricate care of them. 16
The flowers are temporary and destined to be destroyed, yet God adorns them with incomparable beauty! If our Father gives such beauty to temporary weeds, he will give us even greater beauty. Even when we have such little faith!
O you of little faith?
O you of little faith!
We need to call attention to Jesus’ final statement here. He is not comforting us because of our own greatness, rather we are showing our lack of faith in Him.
We are telling God that we do not trust Him when we worry about our lives. Jesus used this same phrase, “O you of little faith,” in order rebuke to His disciples when they refused to believe Him. This was the same phrase He used when the disciples thought they were drowning with Him on the sea (Matthew 8:26), when Peter’s doubts caused him to sink instead of walking on water (Matthew 14:31), and when they failed to understand His teaching about bread (Matthew 16:8).
We are not just hurting ourselves when we worry — we are disobeying God!
“Worry makes us take sides with the Enemy in concluding that God is not capable in His promises and not worthy of our trust and our worship.” – Stephen Davey 6
“A little faith is a faith which does not lay hold of all the promises of God. It is interested only in some of them, and it concentrates on these.” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones 12
Second time: Do not be anxious!
Jesus repeats the command the second time, “Do not be anxious!”. He has used nature to show that He has complete control over our physical lives. But even more importantly, we need to live like we are in God’s kingdom, which has no room for worry.
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.
And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.
It is one thing for the lost unbelievers to to worry about their needs, but God expects more from His children. 17 God is not some distant being but He is watching over our every step. Our heavenly Father knows our every need and He has promised to take care of us!
We are God’s children and He knows our needs!
“The nations of the world who know not God may have no higher standards than these; but it should be otherwise with those to whom He has revealed Himself in grace and compassion.” – H.A. Ironside 3
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
God will take care of our lives when we concern ourselves with His kingdom. Seek God’s kingdom first, and He will take care of our needs.
“Nothing will ever divorce us from occupation with the passing things of time except the consciousness that our citizenship is in heaven and our portion is there.” – H.A. Ironside 3
Conclusion: Do not be anxious!
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
The birds and the flowers are two examples, but Jesus repeats the command to stop worrying at every time to remind us of this important point. Our Heavenly Father can and will meet our needs! Don’t worry about the necessities of life — God has that covered!
But God does not say to never worry. We know that Paul worried over his churches (2 Corinthians 11:28, Galatians 4:8-20) and they shared his concern (Philippians 4:10). But worry about our physical needs is a misplaced focus. God wants us to focus on His kingdom and He will take care of our physical needs.
When I was a child, my father used to read “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs” to us. Sometimes I think that is how we view the Christian life. We are afraid we are going to be burned at the stake or sacrificed to wild animals if we commit to following Jesus. Or, to take the modern equivalent, we are afraid that we might be called live life as a quadriplegic, be eaten by cannibals, or have some other great story of our suffering that we have to endure. After all, didn’t Jesus say that we will endure persecution?
But we are missing the point when we start sizing up our potential troubles against what it means to follow Jesus. Jesus says to seek his kingdom first and foremost. That means we need to stop considering what our life on earth is like. We need to live a life that transcends what is happening on earth. We are to be all about the kingdom of God! And He promises us, that when we are living our lives all about the kingdom of God, he will take care of our physical needs.
Some final thoughts to remember:
- This message is only for those who believe in Jesus Christ, and can call God their Father (Romans 8:14-15). These promises cannot be applied to those who do not know Jesus Christ.
- This is not a call to be lazy. Birds don’t sit around waiting for food to drop down — they need to hunt and gather. For more details, see 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, where we are warned against being lazy. If anyone does not work, he should not eat. Clearly, God has appointed us to work. The point here is that the focus of our work should be toward God and His kingdom.
- This message is directly related to the previous passage where Jesus teaches us to invest in treasures in heaven and not on earth (see here).
- Jesus’ final command in this passage is to not worry about what might happen in the future. We do not know what challenges and problems tomorrow holds, but that is outside of our worry. We do not know and we cannot control what will happen to our job, our children, or health tomorrow. Plan wisely (see Proverbs 6:6-11), but keep the worries out of your future. Worry about today, and deal with tomorrow’s worries tomorrow.
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” – Corrie Ten Boom
“Remember that he sees you as his child in the Lord Jesus Christ, and once and forever you will cease to be concerned and worried and anxious about these things.” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones 11
“Faith is refusing to be burdened because we have cast our burden upon the Lord.” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones 14
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
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References / Notes
 Stanley D. Toussaint, Behold The King, Kregel Publications, 1980, Matthew 6:19-34, pages 112-113
 H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Matthew 6, The Principles of the Kingdom, Part 2
 H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Address 46, Living without Anxiety, Luke 12:22-34
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Matthew 6:19-34, pages 23-24
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Luke 12:22-34, pages 178-179
 Stephen Davey, Strangled by Worry, Matthew 6:25-34, 9/28/2014
 Stephen Davey, Better than the Birds, Luke 12:6-31, 4/28/2013
 John MacArthur, Overcoming Financial Worry, Part 1, Matthew 6:25-34, Apr 20, 1980
 John MacArthur, Overcoming Financial Worry, Part 2Matthew 6:25-34, Apr 27, 1980
 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 10, Be Not Anxious, Matthew 6:25-30, pages 378-386
 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 11, Birds and Flowers, Matthew 6:25-30, pages 387-394
 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 12, Little Faith, Matthew 6:30, pages 387-394
 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 13, Increasing Faith, Matthew 6:31-33, pages 395-403
 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 14, Worry: Its Causes and Cure, Matthew 6:34, pages 404-413
 The term, “lilies of the field” is literally, “field lilies”. This was a generic term for local wildflowers in Jesus’ day. 8
 It was a common practice for the people of the first century to fill their ovens with dry grass. The large clay ovens were positioned over an open fire, and the cook would then burn the grass inside the oven, thereby preheating the oven with the flash fire. 7 8
 The term “Gentiles” is used to refer to the world of unbelievers. See the notes in the link here for more details.
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