14th Sunday After Pentecost: The Answer for Anxiety
In Mathew 6:5-15, the Lord taught us to pray "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil."
The man who prays, "Thy kingdom come" is one who has set his mind and his affection and his desires on things above.
He's not one who has put on a dress of Christianity and holiness. His spirituality is not superficial. It goes right through to the very fiber of his being. He is more interested in laying up treasures in heaven than treasures on this earth.
A Christian's attitude to money is one of the clearest tests of his spiritual level, and of whether he is really longing for the kingdom of God to come or not.
Farther down in chapter 6 is where our Gospel reading comes from. It says, “No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat: and the body more than the raiment?”
According to the Gospel reading, what causes us to serve mammon or money? It comes from being, as the Douay Rheims bible says, solicitous for your life. That is to say we are anxious, or worried for how we are going to take care of our needs that we have.
But one of the greatest things about Jesus is that he does not want his people to be anxious. The main point of today’s text is that God does not secure his kingship by cultivating anxiety. On the contrary, the aim of God’s kingship is to free us from anxiety. God doesn’t need to keep us anxious in order to establish his power and superiority. Instead, he exalts his power and superiority by working to take away our anxiety.
If you have turned away from sin and are following Jesus as Lord in complete obedience, his will for you is that you not be anxious about anything, but that you enjoy deep serenity and peace and security. Jesus spoke these words in Matthew 6:24–34 precisely for you — to help you overcome whatever is making you anxious.
We need to be reminded that Jesus' kingship is not built on the anxiety of his people. He has made himself king over us for the very opposite purpose, namely, to take away our anxiety.
It is plain that the main point of this text is that disciples of Jesus should not be anxious. Verse 25: “Do not be anxious about your life.” Verse 31: “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’” Verse 34: “Do not be anxious about tomorrow.” So one thing should ring in your ears namely, “Jesus does not want me to be anxious.”
So we see Jesus telling us what not to do. But then we see Him saying what we should do. Namely, instead of being anxious, “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness” In other words, when you think about your life or your food or your clothes or your spouse or your job or your mission, don’t fret about them. Instead, hand over the situation to God and do his will with the confidence that he will work for you and meet all your needs. If you believe in the kingship of your heavenly Father, you do not need to be anxious about anything.I see at least eight reasons Jesus gives for why his disciples should not be anxious.
1. Life Is More Than Food and Clothing
The first is given in verse 25: “Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. ” Why? Because “the life [is]more than the meat: and the body more than the raiment” What does this mean?
Why do we tend to get anxious about food and clothing? Because we would starve to death if we had no food at all or we would not be protected from the elements unless we had clothes.
And to this Jesus responds: if you are gripped by anxiety over these things, you have lost sight of the greatness of life. Life was not given primarily for extension on this earth, but for something greater — eternity with God in the age to come.
We ought not to be anxious about food and clothing because food and clothing can not provide the hope of eternity in his presence. We get anxious about food and clothing to the same degree that we lose sight of the great purposes of a God-centered life.
2. The Birds Rely on God
The second reason Jesus gives for not being anxious is in verse 26: “Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they?” What we see when we look at the birds is not a lesson in laziness. They dig their worms and snatch their bugs and pad their nests with strings and leaves. But Jesus says it is God that feeds them. Birds don’t anxiously horde things for the day God’s quits providing. They go about their work as though when the sun comes up tomorrow, God will still be God.
The biggest difference between a disciple of Jesus and a bird is that we have the capacity of honoring God by our faith. And God values the exercise of our faith more than he values birds. So we should not to be anxious because the birds have taught us that God can be counted on to work for us tomorrow just as much as today.
3. Anxiety Is Useless
The third reason not to be anxious is in verse 27: “And which of you by taking thought, can add to his stature by one cubit?” The argument is very practical: anxiety doesn’t get you anywhere. It doesn’t do you any good. Whatever problem is causing you to feel anxious, you can be sure your anxiety will not lessen the problem. It will only make you miserable while you try to deal with it. So don’t be anxious. It’s useless.
4. God Delights to Adorn
The fourth reason Jesus gives for not being anxious is in verses 28–30.
“And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. And if the grass of the field, which is to day, and to morrow is cast into the oven, God doth so clothe: how much more you, O ye of little faith?”
When you look at a Lilly one thing you can come to conclusion about is that God delights to adorn things. But if his delight finds expression in adorning grass, that’s here today and gone tomorrow, then surely his delight in adornment will express itself in how he clothes his children!
But someone may protest: “God has not adorned me! He has not adorned the poor Christians of our land or overseas.” Are you sure? Very few of us are dressed like Solomon. True. But we couldn’t do our work if we were. I would only ask this question: Where have you ever seen a disciple of Jesus who did not have the adornment he needed to do what God had called him to do? Be careful. Do not measure the perfection of God’s provision by some standard below his calling. And do not forget that when we have finished carrying our crosses on torn shoulders in this life like Jesus, there will be kingly robes for us all.
5. Unbelievers Are Anxious
The fifth and sixth reasons why a follower of Jesus shouldn’t be anxious are given in verse 32: We shouldn’t be anxious about what we eat or drink or wear because “For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things.” Anxiety about the things of this world puts us on the same level with the world of unbelievers. It shows that we are really very much like the world in what makes us happy. And that should never be.
6. Your Heavenly Father Knows Your Needs
It also shows that we don’t think our Father in heaven knows our needs. Or perhaps we don’t think he has the heart of a loving Father. Anxiety shows that we are too close to the world and too far from God. So don’t be anxious — the world has nothing eternal to offer, and your loving heavenly Father knows your needs now and forever.
7. God Will Carry Your Burdens
The seventh reason not to be anxious, in verse 33, is that when you seek the kingdom of God first, he works for you and provides all your needs. It’s such a foolish thing to insist on carrying anxious burdens which God has promised to carry for us when we put his kingly honor first in everything we do.
8. A Portion for Each Day
The last argument in verse 34 says, “Be not therefore solicitous for to morrow; for the morrow will be solicitous for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.” In other words, God has appointed to each day its portion of pleasure and trouble. And as your days so shall your strength be. So don’t misappropriate God’s allotted troubles for tomorrow. Don’t bring them forward into today in the form of anxiety. Believe that God will be God tomorrow.
Jesus does not want his followers to be anxious. The more we put the kingdom of God first in our lives, the less anxiety we will have. Jesus came, lived, died, rose from the dead, in order that he might reign as King over an anxiety-free people.