Matthew 6:25-34 NET
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. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? 26 Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? 27 And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? 28 Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! 30 And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? 31 So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.
Our English word “sidetrack” comes from the railroad industry in the 19th century. To move a rail car onto a sidetrack was to divert it from its connection with the other cars. It didn’t take long for that term to be used for anything that distracts a person from what he really should be doing.
The Pharisees were sidetracked. Even though they did all the things that Jesus commanded his disciples to do — give, pray, fast — they did it for human praise. God’s kingdom was not their purpose. They were too busy accumulating treasure on the present earth to invest in a future in God’s coming new earth.
In today’s text, Jesus reveals another thing that can sidetrack a person: worry.
We shouldn’t worry, because we are more important than what we worry about (25-27).
Jesus says we should not worry about our life, what we will eat or drink, or about our body, what we will wear. We know that bodies wear clothing, but we don’t usually say that our “life” is eating or drinking something. It’s a bad translation. The Greek word translated as “life” there is the word ψυχή. In the Bible, the word often means “neck” or “throat.” That is the more appropriate word to use here. We use our throats in the process of eating and drinking.
Incidentally, I think the reason the translators didn’t do this is that the Greek word ψυχή is often translated as “soul.” Lots of people think of a soul as an immaterial part of a human being — like a ghost inside the body. They can’t imagine an immaterial soul eating and drinking. So, the translators avoid the problem by substituting the generic word “life” instead.
Jesus used the word ψυχή because the throat is a good metaphor for the appetite. Hunger is a serious problem that we have to attend to regularly, several times a day. Jesus had talked about fasting in this same sermon. Voluntary fasting was a way to set aside time to focus on God. But what Jesus is talking about here is involuntary fasting: not eating because there is nothing to eat. Jesus instructs his apostles not to worry about where their next meal is coming from.
Everybody has to provide for themselves, and that includes planning regular meals for themselves and their families. Jesus is not telling us that we should just ignore this need. He is telling us that we should not spend all our time worrying about it. Worry sidetracks us from doing the things that our king has commanded us to do.
But Jesus goes on to tell his apostles why they don’t have to be sidetracked by worry. He tells them that their throats are more important than the food and drink they put down their throats. Their bodies are more important than the clothes they wear on their bodies. In other words, God loves them for who they are themselves — not for what they have.
To illustrate this, Jesus directs them to look up into the sky. Remember the last time you looked into the sky and saw a flock of birds flying in formation? What an awesome thing that is! It makes you wonder who programmed those things. Jesus told his apostles that those birds don’t plant berry bushes or build worm farms. But they are fed. Who feeds them? Note these words: “your heavenly Father.”
We shouldn’t worry, because we are more important than what we worry about. We shouldn’t worry because we have a Father in heaven who is watching over us, making sure that our regular needs are met. We pray to him for daily bread, so we don’t have to worry about where the next loaf is going to come from.
The next thing Jesus says is that worrying does not accomplish anything positive. He asks his apostles if any of them can add any time to their life span by worrying. He didn’t need to look around to see if either of them raised their hand. It’s a rhetorical question. They all know that worrying may take hours off their lives, but it never adds an hour to them.
We shouldn’t worry, because our heavenly Father knows what we need (28-32)
To illustrate what Jesus said about clothing, he directs their attention to the flowers of the field. They don’t plant cotton fields and build factories either. But even Solomon in his best royal robe couldn’t be decked out any better than the flowers. His point was the same: you are more important than the clothes you wear. You have a heavenly Father who will clothe you.
We have a Father who is looking out for us. That does not mean we have a Santa Claus in heaven and we can send our Christmas list to him. We don’t need a lot of toys. But there are some things that we do need. God has already demonstrated that he can be trusted to provide the bare necessities of life.
Look at that wild grass! Acres and acres of nothing but green. That shows you what God can do with only one crayon from the box. But Grass is temporary. It is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven. But if our heavenly Father goes to all the trouble to provide for that temporary grass, imagine what he will do to take care of your needs. You have the potential to live eternally.
Jesus says that “this is the will of my Father — for everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him to have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40). That means that if you are a believer, eternal life is your destiny. You are more than the grass which is clothed in green today and burns up tomorrow. You are destined to be clothed with immortality.
In light of that fact, it doesn’t make sense to worry about what we are wearing. If you have clothes, that should be enough. You shouldn’t waste time worrying about whether your clothes are new enough or fashionable enough. Jesus said that the “unconverted” pursue these things.
We shouldn’t worry, because we have a kingdom to pursue (33-34)
We, believers, have better things to do than focus on the externals. We have a kingdom to proclaim, a righteous life to live and a just society to build. Let the unbelievers worry themselves into an early grave. We have the gospel to preach.
After warning us not to get distracted by worry, Jesus redirects us to the right track. He says that we should pursue God’s kingdom and righteousness.” We pursue the kingdom by learning and obeying the commands of the king. Note that Jesus did not say that we are to simply wait for the kingdom. He says that we should pursue it. You have to chase something if you haven’t caught it yet. There is a sense in which we are already citizens of the coming kingdom. Our names are on the list. We have a permanent inheritance.
But if we want to secure our permanent inheritance, we need to live like sons of the Father from whom we will inherit. We are currently living in one of the kingdoms of this earth. The kingdom that is coming down from the sky is not here yet. We pursue that kingdom by living according to its rules. That is what the sermon on the mount is all about. If you want to live by someone else’s rules, it disqualifies you from the coming kingdom. That is why Jesus told his apostles to not follow the hypocrites. He said unless their righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, they will never enter the kingdom.
To make it clear that Jesus was talking about how we live our lives today, Jesus’ command here is that we should pursue God’s kingdom and righteousness. Now, there are two aspects to the meaning of the Greek word for righteousness that Jesus used here. The word δικαιοσύνη means the righteousness of justification internally, and justice externally. We are justified by faith in Jesus Christ and the results of that justification are the forgiveness of sins and positional sanctification. We are then called to represent God’s kingdom on earth today by seeking justice and fairness for others. Pursuing God’s righteousness means chasing both these things.
Worry becomes a problem when our worries keep us from seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness. But the solution to the problem of worry is not going to come by focusing on what we are worrying about. Jesus didn’t tell his apostles to get together in small groups and go through therapy sessions about their anxieties over eating, drinking, and their wardrobes. No, he told them that their worries were sidetracking them from their purpose. Their purpose was to pursue the coming kingdom, in their personal lives, and in society. He told them that if they would keep on track and not get distracted, then God would provide for their needs.
His final instruction on this subject was to remind them that they would face problems every day. But the solution to these dilemmas is simple. They should take life one day at a time, and not worry about tomorrow. If we focus on seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness today, we can avoid getting sidetracked by worrying about what might happen tomorrow.
“If we trust God rather than Mammon, we won’t worry about the necessities of this life. Worry about such things is sin, for it is an expression of doubt that God will do what he has clearly promised to do. Yet we frequently worry because of the weakness of our flesh. Here Jesus tells us how to deal with our worries. First he tells us not to worry about life, food, drink, or clothing, and then he tells us why we need not worry.
His first argument compares the greater to the lesser. If God has given you life, which is far greater than any material possessions, will he not provide you with the lesser gifts of food, drink, clothing, and shelter? Would it make any sense at all for God to give us life and then be unconcerned about sustaining that life? The obvious answer is No.
Then he compares the lesser to the greater. If God provides for the needs of the birds of the air, who don’t even sow or reap or store up food in barns, will he not provide for your needs? You have the advantage over the birds of being able to sow and reap and store up the fruits of the field in barns. You also have the advantage of being far more valuable in God’s sight. … Can you imagine that he will be less concerned about you than about the birds? Or look at the wildflowers. The lilies of the field do not labor or spin; yet God dresses them in finery that even Solomon in all his splendor could not rival. We can “labor and spin.” We have that advantage over the lilies. So why should we worry about having the necessary clothing? The grass of the field was used as fuel for cooking in areas where firewood was scarce. It was here today and gone tomorrow, and yet God also made the grassy fields a thing of beauty. Can we imagine that God has less concern for us? Impossible!
With these observations and reassurances in mind, Jesus gives us a word of advice that might well serve as our motto for Christian living day after day: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (verse 33). He is telling us to make his kingdom and his righteousness the number one priority in our lives.”
Albrecht, G J, and Michael J. Albrecht. Matthew. Milwaukee, Wis: Northwestern Pub. House, 1996. pp. 99-100.
“The delightful irony about slavery to God is that the master entrusts to his slaves the very wealth from whose bondage he delivered them (6:24, 33b; cf. 25:14-30); that persons preoccupied with God are able to enjoy earthly wealth; that those who ‘store up treasures in heaven’ can find pleasure in things others are hoarding on earth. God’s slaves — the Father’s children — now perceive wealth for what it really is, the handiwork and gift of God. They view life’s necessities with new eyes (6:22): besides being nourishing, meals are found to be tasty, one reason being food’s exquisite colors; a woolen coat is appreciated for both its warmth and its beauty; which helps to explain believers’ contentment with food and clothing (1 Tim. 6:8). Now, perhaps for the first time since childhood, they ‘behold the birds’ and ‘consider the flowers,’ and stand in wonder before the Creator’s endless wisdom and artistry.”
Chamblin, J K. Matthew: A Mentor Commentary. Fearn, Tain: Christian Focus Pub, 2010. p. 450.
“When Jesus says, ‘Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear, he is not referring to people who are destitute but rather to people who are relatively well-off. People should not make food and drink, one’s body or one’s clothes into idols or fetishes. Rather, Jesus says, ‘Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given to you.’ In Matthew’s gospel, seeking God’s kingdom and seeking justice (righteousness) are not two distinct quests. There is no authentic search for the kingdom except in a quest whose immediate goal is God’s justice: justice here on earth that makes a real difference in people’s lives, especially those who are poor.”
Fogarty, Philip. Matthew. Dublin: Columba Press, 2010. p. 38.
“In normal circumstances, our cushioned Western lifestyle leaves little scope for the sort of “worry” about basic provisions which this passage envisages. It is perhaps at times of economic catastrophe or of drastically changed personal circumstances that its message applies most directly, and that it becomes clear how far our essential priorities enable us to trust rather than to worry.”
France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids (MI: Eerdmans, 2007. p. 267.
“We hear Jesus say the only thing that casts out anxiety is trust. Like nonbelievers, we’ll find ourselves agonizing about our circumstances. But when that happens, we should review the choice that belief first presented to us: do you want God’s kingdom, or do you want to build one for yourself? We should then renew our decision to accept God’s kingdom [vv.31-33]. This spells out in detail the advice with which Matthew tells us both John the Baptist and Jesus began their ministries: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (see 3:2; 4:17). Turning away from self-absorbed anxiety, and turning to the kingdom, is what we must do day after day after day [v.34]. All we need will be put in our laps along with the kingdom [v.33b]. Good News!”
McCarren, Paul J. A Simple Guide to Matthew. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012. p. 30.
“There is a subtle transition from greed in 6:19-24 to anxiety in 6:25-34 (Gundry 1994: 115). These verses begin with a general prohibition against worrying about life. Two (or perhaps three; see the additional note on 6:25) staples of everyday life are singled out to explain what is meant by “life’—-what one eats and what one wears (6:25). God’s provision of food is then stressed in 6:26-27, and of clothing in 6:28-30, before the general prohibition against worry is restated in 6:31 and again in 6:34 (cf. Luke 12:22-31). Rhetorical questions underline the incompatibility of anxiety with faith (Matt. 6:25, 26, 30) and stress its impotence (6:27).”
Turner, David L. Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008. p. 198.
“Living totally without worry sounds, to many people, as impossible as living totally without breathing. Some people are so hooked on worry that if they haven’t got anything to worry about they worry that they’ve forgotten something. Here, at the heart of the Sermon on the Mount, is an invitation that surprisingly few people even try to take up. Why not learn how to share the happiness of Jesus himself?”
Wright, N T. Matthew for Everyone: Chapters 1-15. London: SPCK, 2004. p. 67.
“Some worries we bring on ourselves directly. According to one estimate, the average American family has $8,000 in credit card debt, and almost half of all families spend more than they make in a year.’ We have more things to spend money on and more ways to spend it than ever before. Our greed traps us in a cycle of worry and fear.
This is not what God wants for his children! God does not want us to be slaves to worry or to be trapped by our selfish desires. The life Jesus described in the Sermon on the Mount is a life characterized by trust and dependence rather than anxiety and greed. To live lives free from anxiety and greed, we must discover what is truly important. We must focus our lives on God’s way, rather than on gaining material things. As we trust God and focus on God’s way, God calls us to change our treasure, our outlook on life, and the kingdom we seek.”
Younger, Carol D. The Gospel of Matthew: Hope in the Resurrected Christ: Adult Bible Study Guide. Dallas, Tex: BaptistWay Press, 2008. p. 84.