The Lord Jesus spoke these words to a large group of people who had gathered around Him on a hillside near the Sea of Galilee. His audience was composed primarily of ordinary farming and fishing folks - unsophisticated, but knowledgeable in Jewish law and tradition. Under the taxation and tyranny of the Roman Empire, the people of Galilee were poor and oppressed, subject to the brutality of rulers who didn't share their faith or their values. Jewish zealots were active in Galilee, plotting to rid the country of the Roman soldiers who were stationed throughout the land. The common people must have been fearful and anxious about their basic needs: How will I feed my family if our heavy tax burden is increased? And their future: What dire fate will befall us if the zealots mount a rebellion against Rome?
Although our concerns today are somewhat different than those of Jesus' time, it's hard not to become anxious when we read our daily headlines. Is there anyone reading this who never worries? With the world in constant crisis mode, the news can fill us with concern for the future. Three times in this passage, however, Jesus told us not to worry - and He gave us two reasons why we shouldn't worry.
First, it doesn't help to worry. "Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" (v27). Will anxiety about your health add to the length of your life? No - in fact, stress may shorten your life. So it doesn't help to worry.
Second, there's no need to worry. "...your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (v32-33). Our heavenly Father knows our needs, and He loves us! If we're trusting Him and focusing on Him and His priorities rather than our own concerns, He will provide for us. As Nazi prison camp survivor Corrie Ten Boom once said, "Our wise Father knows our needs, and He will provide for us. Don't run ahead of Him!"
1. Faithful believers don't need to worry about basic needs.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?" (v25).
Our Lord used two illustrations from nature to remind us of God's compassion and loving care for the world He created. First, He reminded us that birds don't plant or harvest their food, because God has designed His creation to provide for their needed food every day. Birds are not like the man who built "bigger barns" so he'd have more than enough to supply his future needs. ( See Luke 12:15-21.)
Next, Jesus pointed His listeners to the flowers. Flowers don't spend time or money choosing outfits or buying clothes, but they're clothed more beautifully than King Solomon because God Himself clothes them. Our Lord's point was that if God takes care of animals and plants, how much more will He take care of His own people?
God's commitment to care for us is a great promise, but there's an important prerequisite: believers must first seek God's kingdom and His righteousness. If we're spending our lives in selfish pursuits, then we can't claim the promise, but when this prerequisite is met, God promises that He will provide for our basic needs. This promise is not a guarantee that God will give us everything that we want, but it is a guarantee that He will give us what we truly need.
2. Faithful believers don't need to worry about the future.
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (v34).
Are you worried about the future? Do you wonder, "What about my security?" "Will I have sufficient funds to meet my future needs?" "What about my retirement?" Jesus said, "Don't worry about the future! God will take care of that."
Verse 34 doesn't mean that retirement savings, pension plans and insurance are unbiblical, or that we shouldn't be thankful for Social Security. And it certainly doesn't give us permission to selfishly squander our savings and then expect the Lord to supply our future needs. However, if we follow our Lord's example by living uprightly, wisely and unselfishly every day, we can trust God for the future. He has prepared the best "security program" ever for His faithful people!
Writing to the believers at Philippi, the apostle Paul told them that God would supply all their needs (Philippians 4:19). Notice, this promise was given because of the support the Philippian believers had sent to help spread the gospel in Rome (v14-18). In fact, they were commended for their generosity on two occasions. 2 Corinthians 8:2-3 mentions that these faithful believers gave in spite of severe trials and extreme poverty. They weren't concerned about growing their retirement accounts - they were concerned about growing the kingdom of God. Because they were focused on God's priorities, they didn't need to worry about their own futures.
Psalm 16:8 says, "I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." If we put the Lord first in our lives, nothing will disturb our sense of well-being or security. He already knows the future, so we can have peace of mind about the days ahead.
3. Faithful believers will receive help in their time of need.
God may allow some faithful Christians to go through times of distress like famine, war, serious illness, loss of loved ones - perhaps even martyrdom - but this doesn't deny the principle that believers don't have to worry. God is in control. No matter what test or trial we may face, if we trust Him He will supply what we need in the midst of the trial.
Remember the Lord's presence with the men in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3) and Stephen's vision of Jesus at his martyrdom (Acts 7:53-56)? We can be confident that we will "find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). The Lord doesn't promise that special grace ahead of time, but He will supply what we need, when we need it!
Give thanks, and trust.
"Anything less than gratitude and trust is practical atheism." That's not a quote from the Bible, but verses 30 & 32 infer exactly that. People of "little faith" and "pagans" don't trust God, nor do they give thanks. When Christians worry, we're basically saying that we don't believe in a God who is reliable and trustworthy.
So what can we do when anxious thoughts creep in to poison our joy and peace as believers? How do we get rid of our doubts and worries? First, we can bring all our fears and worries to the Lord. 1 Peter 5:7 says "Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us to be thankful when we bring our requests to the Lord. When we turn our problems over to God, thanking Him for His love and care, His peace will guard our hearts and minds.
Second, we should remember what God has done for us in the past. We learn to trust the Lord for the future when we remember how He has been reliable and trustworthy over the long haul. Failure to remember will lead to anxiety about present problems and fear about the uncertain future. Recalling God's loving care, through good times and bad, helps to build a solid foundation of trust - and it's a sure antidote to the poison of fear and worry!
As the nation of Israel was about to enter the Promised Land, Moses reminded them of the Lord's past blessings: "Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years..." (Deuteronomy 8:2). Remember God's faithfulness! In the next chapter Moses encouraged them to trust the Lord for their future in an unknown land with fierce enemies: "Be assured today that the Lord your God is the One who goes before you..."
The same God goes ahead of us! Remember, give thanks, and trust.