Not to Worry

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Matthew 6:25-34 (Seek first the kingdom)

INTRODUCTION: We are working our way through the Sermon on the Mount, and today we are closing out the middle section on the Christian’s motivation. What should motivate you as a Christian? As we said earlier, all of chapter six can be summed up in two words: “God first.” When we do good works, we are to seek God’s approval over man’s approval. When we pray, we are to pray for God’s concerns before we pray for our concerns. When we store up treasure, we are to store up treasure in heaven rather than on earth. And now when we come to this section on not worrying, Jesus tells us we are to seek God’s kingdom first and all these other things will be given to us as well. (Read Matthew 6:25-34 and pray.)

This is one of the most beautiful passages of Scripture in the whole Bible. It has brought peace and comfort to countless believers over the years. We all struggle with worrying, but when you follow Jesus’ instruction in this passage you will not worry – about anything, anymore. Wouldn’t that be nice? Not to worry about anything? It is possible, but you need to follow Jesus’ instructions to get there.

Last week we talked about storing up treasures in heaven rather than treasures on earth – which raises the question: If I store up my treasures in heaven, what will happen to me here on earth? To which Jesus responds: “Don’t worry! When you put God first, God will take care of you.”

Last week’s passage ended with the words: “You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24) There are two ways we serve Money instead of God. The first is when we lay up treasures on earth instead of heaven. The second is when we worry about life instead of trusting God. The first is the problem of covetousness; the second is the problem of care. Jesus says the answer to both of these problems is the same: seek God’s kingdom first.

When Jesus told the parable of the sower and the seed, he identified the seed that fell among the thorns as: “the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22) There are the same two problems again: the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth. They are actually twin sides of the same problem, which is focusing on material things rather than the kingdom of God.

The key word in today’s passage is “worry.” Jesus uses the word six times in these verses. Three times Jesus gives the command: “Do not worry.” (in verses 25, 31, and 34) Worrying is not supposed to be an option for the Christian. Jesus doesn’t suggest we stop worrying. He doesn’t tell us he thinks it’s a good idea. He commands it. And so we need to obey.

The word translated “worry” here refers to “inner disquiet, anxiety, fretting.” It can also mean to be distracted or pulled in different directions. Jesus’ answer to the problem of worry is to focus on one direction. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Jesus teaches us three things about worry in this passage: 1) Worry is unnecessary for you as a Christian (vv. 25-30). 2) Worry is unworthy of you as a Christian (vv. 31-33). And 3) Worry is unproductive for you as a Christian (v. 34).

I. Worry is unnecessary for you as a Christian (25-30)

So let’s take a look at the first of these. In verses 25-30 Jesus teaches us that worry is unnecessary for you as a Christian.

   A. Life is more important than food, the body than clothes (25)

He gives several reasons for this, but the first is that life is more important than food, and the body is more important than clothes. Look at verse 25: “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 important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25)

There is a whole lot more to life than just food. There is love and work and family and worship and service and relationships. God has given us so many things to enjoy in life. And then there is so much more to the body than just clothes. There is health and rest and sleep and fitness and many other things as well. A person can die with a full table set before them, and the fanciest clothes in the world don’t help when your body is ill. Life is more important than food, and the body is more important than clothes.

Jesus’ point here is if God provides for the greater things, then certainly he provides for the lesser things as well. Who gave you your life? Who gave you your body? God did, of course. So if God has already provided the more important things, will he not also provide the things which support them? Worry is unnecessary for you as a Christian, because life is more important than food, and the body is more important than clothes.

   B. A lesson from the birds (26-27)

Jesus then proceeds to teach us a lesson from the birds. There are many lessons we can learn from nature. God intends for his creation to teach us about himself as the Creator. We see God’s providence all around us and for those who look closely enough we may even see a sermon in a stone. Here Jesus recommends that we engage in some holy bird watching. We read in verse 26: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26)

      1) Your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Well, aren’t you? Of course you are! Worry is unnecessary for the Christian because God takes care of the birds of the air. Here Jesus argues from the lesser to the greater. You are much more valuable than birds. And if God takes cares of the lesser things, then certainly he will take care of the greater things as well.

Psalm 145 says: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.” (Psalm 145:15) The birds don’t wake up worrying. They wake up singing! And then they go forth to find the food that God provides for them.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work or plan for the future. Jesus doesn’t say: “Don’t work.” He says: “Don’t worry.” Work is required for the Christian, but worry is unnecessary. The birds still need to go out and get their food. They just don’t worry about it.

Notice Jesus says it is “your heavenly Father” who feeds them. Christians have a unique relationship with God, not because of anything they have done, but simply by trusting in Jesus for salvation. As a Christian, you have been adopted into God’s family. He is your heavenly Father. There’s an old poem that goes like this:

Said the robin to the sparrow: “I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings rush about and worry so.”
Said the sparrow to the robin: “Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no heavenly Father, such as cares for you and me.”

The point is this: If you are a Christian, you do have a heavenly Father! And if your heavenly Father takes care of the birds, will he not also take care of you? Ultimately it is God who provides. Worrying about food is unnecessary for you as a Christian because God feeds the birds of the air, and you have a heavenly Father who takes care of your every need.

      2) Worry doesn’t change a thing.

And then Jesus adds one other practical consideration to this section on the birds. Worry doesn’t change a thing. Look at verse 27: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)

Can you do that? Can you add even one hour to your life by worrying about it? The answer of course is no. Worrying can actually shorten your life, but you cannot add a single hour to your life by worrying.

The fact of the matter is that your life is in God’s hands. He determined the day you were born, and he determines the day you will die. Some of us live a long life; some of us die sooner than others.

There is great wisdom in trusting God with the length of your days. David writes in Psalm 39: “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days.” (Psalm 39:4) And again in Psalm 139: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)

God is sovereign. Life and death are in God’s hands, and you cannot add a single hour to your life by worrying. As one commentator put it, worrying “accomplishes nothing except to put God out of the picture.” (Davies and Allison) Worry is unnecessary for you as a Christian, because worry doesn’t change a thing.

   C. A lesson from the flowers (28-30)

And then Jesus gives us another illustration from nature – this time a lesson from the flowers. Look at verses 28-30: “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28-30)

      1) God clothes the grass of the field. Will he not much more clothe you?

Jesus says, “See how the lilies of the field grow,” that is, “learn carefully from them.” There is a lesson Jesus want you to learn from the lilies. How do the lilies of the field grow? It is through no effort of their own, but simply by the providence of God.

And so Jesus teaches us that God not only feeds his creation. He clothes it as well. And how beautifully he clothes it! All of Solomon’s splendor does not compare to the beauty of even one flower in the field. Notice it is God who clothes them, not Mother Nature. All beauty in life and nature flows from God’s goodness.

But there is another lesson in the flowers that goes beyond just their beauty. Jesus also points to their temporary nature. They are beautiful, but they are also fragile. A flower can be trampled on or easily destroyed. Flowers don’t last as long as birds! And yet God still clothes them with beauty.

Jesus implies that God’s children also have a better future than the wildflowers. He speaks of the flowers being thrown into the fire. Anytime you see fire in Matthew, it is usually an image of eternal punishment. The reference to burn up in the fire is judgment language, and God’s children will not perish but have eternal life. We have been forgiven in Christ.

Once again just because the flowers of the field do not work does not mean that you should not work. Basically the flowers of the field can’t work, and yet God clothes them anyways. Will he not much more clothe you who are able to work? It’s just that you should not worry as you work. We read in Psalm 127: “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat – for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (Psalm 127:2) Worrying about clothes is unnecessary for you as a Christian because God clothes the grass of the field, and he will take care of you.

      2) Worry is incompatible with faith.

Jesus also teaches us here that worry is incompatible with faith. Look at the end of verse 30: “Will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30b) Earlier Jesus asked, “Why do you worry?” Now he reveals the answer to his own question. It is due to a lack of faith.

This phrase “little faith” is used five times in the New Testament – always as a rebuke, always in the gospels and always of the disciples (4x Matthew; 1x Luke). Little faith might be appropriate if we had a little God. But we don’t. We serve a great God who is worthy of great faith.

There is no need for worry once you understand how much your heavenly Father loves you. Worrying demonstrates a lack of faith and trust in God. Worry is unnecessary for you as a Christian.

II. Worry is unworthy of you as a Christian (31-33)

Worry is not only unnecessary for you as a Christian. Worry is unworthy of you as a Christian as well.

   A. The pagans run after all these things.

Jesus says it is unworthy of you as a Christian to worry about the basic details of life first of all because the pagans run after all these things. Look at verses 31-32: “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matthew 6:31-32)

Here Jesus presents the basic necessities of life once again – food, drink and clothing. And here Jesus teaches us that worry is a pagan thing. Pagans are materialistic. They primarily seek the things of this earth and especially those things that bring them bodily pleasure. It makes sense for pagans to worry, because they don’t have a heavenly Father to take care of them. But worry is unworthy of you as Christian, because you do have a heavenly Father.

It has been said that worry is practical atheism. You believe in God, but you don’t believe he will take care of you. Worrying at heart is a denial of God’s goodness. We should respond differently than those without God because we are different than those without God. God is our heavenly Father. Worry is unworthy of you as a Christian because it is the pagans who run after all these things.

   B. We are to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness.

Worry is also unworthy of you as a Christian because we have a higher goal in life. The pagans run after the basic things of life, but as Christians we are to seek first God’s kingdom and righteous. Look at verse 33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

The word translated “seek” in verse 33 is related to the word “run after” in verse 32. It means “to put forth serious effort, to strive for something, to try to obtain.” Just as the pagans put all their efforts into securing their bodily needs, we should put all our efforts into seeking God’s kingdom.

To seek first means that you make this the most important thing in your life. It is a matter of priorities. Just as Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer to pray for God’s kingdom first, so here he teaches us to seek God’s kingdom first.

We are not only to seek God’s kingdom but also his righteousness. This is the righteousness that Jesus spent most of chapter five describing: the righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees, the righteousness that has to do with the heart, the righteousness that only God can give.

   C. Your heavenly Father will provide all these things as well.

And when you do that, your heavenly Father will provide all these other things as well. This is one of the great promises in Scripture. When you seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness instead of the things you need in this world, you get both! You’re not giving up a thing. You’re actually gaining. But if you seek the things of this world, you do give up the kingdom of God, and that is the greatest loss imaginable. Seek things, and you miss the Kingdom. Seek the Kingdom, and all these things will be given to you as well.

One of the primary ways God meets our needs is through each other. In fact, this is one of the ways we store up treasures in heaven as we saw last week, by helping those in need. And so as you seek God’s kingdom first, not only will God meet your needs, but he will use you to meet others’ needs as well.

Look back at verse 32 for a minute: “Your heavenly Father knows what you need.” Anytime you worry, you are saying that God either does not know or he does not care or he is unable to provide. These are all unworthy thoughts of God. And yet Scripture tells you differently. We read in Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) And in Philippians 4:19 “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Worry is unworthy of you as a Christian because worry is pagan at heart. You are to seek God’s kingdom first, and your heavenly Father will provide all these things as well.

III. Worry is unproductive for you as a Christian (34)

1) Worry is unnecessary for you as a Christian. 2) Worry is unworthy of you as a Christian. And then finally 3) Worry is unproductive for you as a Christian. Look at verse 34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

   A. Worry has to do with the future.

There are two things Jesus teaches us from this verse. First of all, worry has to do with the future. Instead of worrying about tomorrow, Jesus says let tomorrow worry about itself. Don’t let worry about tomorrow rob you of God’s blessings for today.

This ties back to what Jesus said in verse 27. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27) Worry doesn’t change a thing. There is no sense worrying about the future, because worry doesn’t help. You can only live one day at a time. You can’t get to tomorrow without first living through today.

So leave tomorrow in God’s hands. He will give you all that you need for today. Plan for the future, but do not worry about the future. Learn to live in the present. Worry has to do with the future.

   B. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

And then the second thing Jesus teaches us in this verse is that each day has enough trouble of its own. That sounds kind of negative at first, like the bumper sticker I saw once: “Smile! Tomorrow may be worse!” But it’s not really negative when you think about it. Everyone has trouble in life, and Jesus just wants to make sure that you apportion it out. Don’t live through your troubles twice – first when you worry about it, and then a second time when you actually go through it. Why add tomorrow’s trouble to today?

God doesn’t promise you a trouble-free life, but he does offer you a worry-free life. God gives you the all grace and mercy you need for each day. Everyone has daily troubles, but as God’s children, we also have daily mercies. We read in Lamentations 3: “His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentation 3:22-23)

CONCLUSION: Why should you not worry as a Christian? Jesus gives you three amazing reasons in this passage. Worry is unnecessary for you as a Christian. Worry is unworthy of you as a Christian. And worry is unproductive for you as a Christian.

There is a very simple way to get rid of worry in your life. Seek God’s kingdom first, and all these things will be given to you as well.

1 Peter 5:6 says: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6) And he does! If you are in Christ, you have a heavenly Father who knows what you need and has promised to take care of you. Worry is incompatible with faith. Put your trust in God, and seek his kingdom first.

© Ray Fowler

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