“Surely life is more than food, the body more than
clothes” (NEB). In other words, there are more important things in
life to worry about than these. And this stands true of a vast number of other
anxieties which men allow to beset their souls, So at the outset Jesus bade his
followers get their priorities right. Effort there must be (1 Tim. 5:8; 2 Th.
3:8-10; Acts 18:3; 20:34). It is anxiety which is forbidden (Ps. 55:22: 1 Pet.
5:7; Phil. 4:6).Here the simple principle is implied: If God gives the greater
(life itself) will He not also give the less (the means to sustain it)? cp. Rom.
8:32. Later on (in v. 26) Jesus reverses this approach: If He cares for the less
(the birds and the flowers), will He not also care for the greater?
A glance at the birds and their carefree way of life should do
you good. Neither by instinct nor reason are they capable of making provision
for their future, much less of worrying about it. Nevertheless God provides for
them continually, even for ravens (Lk. 12:24) which in their carrion- eating
habits are hardly as attractive as the rest. Yet they are the first to be cared
for in His New Creation (Gen. 8:7). Jesus was surely drawing his illustrations
from Psalm 147: “He maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. He giveth to
the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry...The Lord taketh pleasure
in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy” (v. 8, 9, 11).
“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?” Jesus reminded his
hearers (Mt. 10:29). And, on another occasion: “Are not five sparrows sold
for two farthings?” (Lk. 12:6). These insignificant little birds were so
common and so cheap that if you bought two farthings worth an extra one was
thrown in for nothing. Yet, Jesus added, “not one of them (not even the
one which cost you nothing) shall fall on the ground without your Father”
(Mt. 10:29). During its care-free little lifetime that wee bird was fed and
clothed and housed by the blessing of God. “Ye are of more value than many
sparrows.” That unimportant creature did not come to its end except by the
will and control of God. But it did come to its end. And so will you. But your
entire life and destiny are in His hands. All is under His guidance and
control-and He knows best. All your planning and forethought, all your worry and
fret concerning the future can do no more than create one ripple in a mighty
ocean. Therefore relax! God is in control, and He knows best.
What good does worry achieve, anyway? “Which of you by
taking thought (by being anxious) can add one cubit unto his stature?” To
this the practical answer is: Who, besides a small boy wanting to be as
big as his dad, wants to be half a yard taller? The fact is that this
word for “stature” has that meaning in only one other place (Lk.
19:3). In other passages (Jn. 9:21, 23; Heb. 11:11; Lk. 2:52) it means
‘‘age” -- and living longer is the very thing that people do
However the word “cubit” continues to present difficulty. So it may be that the Lord’s point is really this: ‘Did you not grow from being much smaller without, filling yourself with anxiety over the process? God did it for you, providing all the food needed for adequate growth. So will He not now continue to provide for you? Of course He will!’
The Lord’s mordant question also asks: ‘When did worry ever help a man to health and long life? Doesn’t it always have the opposite effect?’ So from this simple commonsense point of view worry is mere folly.
Luke’s version adds: “If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why are ye anxious concerning the rest?” (12:26; Ps. 39:5). From the context it would seem that adding inches to one’s height or years to one’s life are what Jesus describes as “that thing which is least”. How drastically the Lord’s sense of perspective differs from that of all others! And worry is of no avail here. Then how can it possibly be worthwhile in more important issues-the issues more important even than good health and long life! The man who can learn this tremendous lesson is carefree for the rest of his days.
Next, “consider the lilies of the field, how they
grow”. The Greek word here bids the disciple “learn the lesson
well”. These flowers, lovely past describing in their frail mortality,
neither toil as men do, nor spin as do the womenfolk. Yet, “even Solomon
in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” When the queen of
Sheba comtemplated all the marvels of Solomen’s court, including
“his ministers and their apparel, there.was no more spirit in
her” (1 Kgs. 10:5). In more up-to-date language, it took her breath away!
And this was the splendour of Solomon’s ministers! Then what of
Solomon himself? Nevertheless, not only to the human eye but also to
God’s, the humble but bright beauty of the Galilee anemone is far more
lovely than Solomon. It fulfils to perfection the lowly role God has designed
for it. But not so Solomon. Yet its ultimate destiny is to be “cast into
the oven”. The commentaries which interpret this as allusion to the poor
firing their ovens with dried grass are about as far from reality as it is
possible to be. The suggestion that equates with golden corn in its harvest
loveliness ultimately being baked in the nation’s ovens is better, but
this leaves behind the original figure of the lilies. The most likely
interpretation comes away from the literal oven and pictures the charm of the
frail flower dried up and withered, made brown and brittle by the scorching
winds of fierce summer heat (ls. 40:6-8). Christ’s arguments fortiori is
once again irresistible in its simple logic: If God takes so much trouble over
the smallest things in His creation, is it likely that He will allow anything
untimely to befall you, His sons and daughters?
Amidst all this reasoning and persuading comes one brief but
searing word of rebuke: “O ye of little faith.” It was the
Lord’s only epithet of reproof for his disciples. The worst thing he can
say about them (in this age as in that) is that they are of little faith. And
since all justification is by faith, those who worry of write their own
reproach before ever the Day of Judgment comes.
This is so fundamental that Matthew records this mode of rebuke from the Master’s lips no less than five times. The other four are:
“After all these things do the Gentiles seek.”
This is only another way of saying: Worry is heathenish; it transmutes disciples
into heathen (Mt. 13:22 s.w.). The Israel of God re-assert their Gentile-ness
when they worry, whether the issue be big or small. To this day that truth still
stands. Members of the modern affluent society give plenty of thought to these
questions: “What shall we eat? What shall we drink? Wherewithal shall we
be clothed?” - but in a very different sense. However it is just as pagan.
Indeed, more so. When a child of God finds himself concentrating time and
energies on such minor things there is then serious ground for worry!
“Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all
these things.” And if a man knows that God knows, and still persists in
worrying about this or that, he as good as declares that God is not God. This is
But if God knows, that should be all sufficient, for He knows best. There is no better re-assurance. There are those who would water down the Lord’s words to meaning merely that God knows, but stands aside and lets events take their own course. This is an anaemic theology.
There is only one kind of worry that is permissible:
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these
things (about which you are given to worrying) shall be added unto you.”
Here the word “first” implies that it is not wrong to seek food and
clothes. It is wrong to worry about them. And there are much more important
things to seek after. Let it be noted also that concentration is to be on
God’s righteousness, not on one’s own (Phil. 2:13; 3:9; Jn. 15:4;
Ps. 37:3, 4). As long as the spotlight rests analytically on one’s own
spiritual flaws and failures there can be only discouragement, wretchedness and
panic. But if instead there be a deep appreciation of the Father’s
marvellous graciousness, compassionate loving-kindness and tender mercy, His
irrepressible providence and unmerited unearned beneficence-if these wondrous
attributes claim their proper share of one’s spiritual outlook, even this
worry flies out of the window (Mk. 10:29, 30). It has no place at all.
“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” As
who should say: Whilst the earth is full of, sinners, is there not enough of
evil today to I claim your attention without ruining yet more < your powers
of serving God by worrying over what tomorrow may or may not bring?
Here Luke adds a most reassuring verse which Matthew has quite unaccountably omitted: “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (12:32).
Some of the Lord’s “little flock” are even given to worry that they are only a small unimpressive group. But that is the way it has always been. The prophets’ repetition of the word “remnant” proves this. And Christ’s expression here is specially emphatic.
If indeed it is the Father’s good pleasure to “give you the kingdom”, then of course He will meantime “freely give all things.”
Well might Jesus peremptorily bid his disciple: “Be not therefore anxious for the morrow.” All worry breaks this commandment. It is a sin.
God cares for the birds to the extent of legislating on their
behalf: Dt. 22:6, 7.
Nor gather into barns. Contrast Lk.
Consider. s.w. Gen. 24:21; 34:1; Job. 35:5 - all
passages worth considering.
In v. 25: “Stop worrying”. Here the aorist means:
“No more, not even once.”
The evil thereof. in Lk. 16:25 material evil. So also
here? - or moral evil?
Good pleasure is a word which Old Testament uses for acceptable sacrifice. Here, the “little flock” makes itself an acceptable sacrifice, and in return receives the kingdom.