We are looking at the end of Matthew 6, specifically verses 19-34 that deal with the subject of the believer and his material possessions. In these verses, Jesus addresses how the one who is a kingdom citizen should conduct himself in relation to material possessions. Verses 19-24 deal with luxury, and verses 25-34 deal with necessity - what we eat, drink, and wear. The first portion is directed more at the rich, those who tend to take their luxury and stockpile it for their own ends. The second is directed more at the poor who, due to their poverty and lack of substance, question or doubt God, and live in fear and anxiety about what they will eat, drink, and wear.
Now, being rich has its share of problems, just as being poor has its share. The temptation to the rich is to trust in riches, while the temptation to the poor is to doubt God's provision. But in both cases the Lord is saying, "I have a perspective for you. If you are rich or poor, your focus is to be on Me." For example, in verse 21 He says, "Put your treasure in heaven, because that is where I want your heart." In verse 33 He says, "But seek ye first the kingdom...." In other words, "Put your heart in heaven and don't worry, I will give you what you need." The focus of the rich in the world is to lay up treasures on earth (v. 19). The focus of the poor in the world is to seek after what they will eat, drink, and wear for clothing. If you are rich, pursue a heavenly investment; if you are poor, pursue the kingdom of God. When it comes to money and possessions, our focus is to be on God and not on possessions. We are not to grasp and claw after things, we are to seek God and allow Him to fulfill His promises and provisions to us.
The emphasis of verses 25 through 34 is on the subject of anxiety or worry. Three times in these verses, Christ gives the admonition, "Do not be anxious." We live in a society which is characterized by worry over material things.
In our world, stress is a way of life, and so many people are filled with anxiety about so many things. A Worth/Roper Survey last year found that among the things that produce anxiety in Americans are the following: making a wrong choice with major investments; having major dental work or surgery; being audited by IRS; speaking in public; being outdoors alone at night; getting fat; being pulled over for speeding; seeing one's spouse flirt; doing your own taxes; being caught in a lie by a close friend; having a credit card declined in public; and using a computer. I am sure the list could go on and on. Perhaps our anxieties have anxieties.
After the events of September 11th, it is safe to say that we are a nation with a great deal of anxiety. Six in 10 Americans worry about becoming a victim of terrorism. The current poll shows 60% of Americans saying they are either "very" or "somewhat" worried that they or someone in their family will become a victim of terrorism. So, Jesus' words are very practical to us today:
Matthew 6:25 (NKJV) "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
For those who are God's children by faith in His Son, Jesus says, "You are not to worry and be anxious." We have the great privilege to be able to live worry-free lives, unaffected by the pressures that bring anxiety to unbelievers. This is possible because we have a God who has guaranteed our provision. Therefore, we do not have anything to worry about regarding our needs. They have all been cared for by God.
Jesus said, "Do not worry" - this is a present imperative with the negative, a command forbidding worry about food and clothing. The command can mean that they must stop worrying if it is already happening. The word "worry" is from the Greek word merimnao, which means: "to be anxious about, to worry, be concerned for." We are all commanded not to worry about anything. Look at what Paul told the Philippians:
Philippians 4:6 (NKJV) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
"Be anxious for nothing" - the Greek construction forbids the continuance of an action already habitually going on. The word "nothing" is the Greek word medeis, it literally means: "not even one thing." Here Paul tells the Philippians not to be anxious - merimnao. This verb is the same one used by Jesus in the Gospels, "...do not worry about your life". What is forbidden in the gospels and in Philippians 4 is anxious care for one's self and one's own interest.
The word "merimnao," is also translated as "worried" in:
Luke 10:41 (NKJV) And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.
Jesus was not telling Martha she should not serve, but her anxiety was distracting her heart from serving in an acceptable way. She was overburdened and troubled about serving as though everything depended on her.
This word, "merimnao," is translated, "care" in:
1 Corinthians 7:31-32 (NKJV) and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away. 32 But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord; how he may please the Lord.
Over and over Paul tells the believers that he doesn't want them to be anxious.
Merimnao, anxiety, care, or concern can be used negatively meaning to be anxious or distraught over something; worry, in a negative sense, as we have seen in these verses. But it can be used positively for proper care and concern; worry in a good sense, (if you can use the word "worry" in a good sense).
Philippians 2:19-20 (NKJV) But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care [merimnao] for your state.
Timothy was Paul's son in the faith, and Timothy was a disciple of Jesus Christ. Paul said that Timothy was "like-minded". Tim was just like Paul, he had a love for other believers. He said that Timothy would "sincerely care for your state." The word "sincerely" is the Greek word gnesios, it means legitimate or genuinely. He has the heart of a true disciple. He genuinely cared for the Philippians. The word "care" is the Greek word merimnao, which means: "to be anxious, worried, or burdened in a serious way; to be troubled with care". Paul uses this same word in:
2 Corinthians 11:28 (NKJV) besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern [merimna] for all the churches.
Paul uses the noun form here. The care of the church was shared by Paul and Timothy. When you look at the context of this verse, it makes Paul's care for the churches quite amazing. Paul was anxious, worried, or burdened in a serious way, he was troubled with care for all the churches.
Timothy and Paul's anxiety was for the spiritual welfare of others, and that is biblical anxiety. Listen, believers, what we are forbidden to do in our own lives, be anxious, we are commanded to do for others:
1 Corinthians 12:25 (NKJV) that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care [merimnao] for one another.
This verse states our Christian responsibility for other believers, using this identical verb, merimnao. Christian love is seen in being anxious, deeply concerned for others. It's amazing how often we see this reversed. We find ourselves guilty of anxiety over our own interest to the exclusion of the well being of others.
Well, it should be obvious that Jesus is using the word merimnao in a negative sense. He is commanding us not to worry about our needs.
Listen to what Arthur Pink wrote about anxiety:
Not only is such anxiety wrong, but it is a sin of great gravity. It is not simply a constitutional infirmity which we may excuse, a mere trifle we need not be concerned about, but rather is it a foul iniquity from which we should seek cleansing. To be fearful about the supply of future needs, to be worried that we may yet be left to suffer the lack of temporal necessities, is to be guilty of wicked unbelief. It calls into question the goodness and care of our Creator. It manifests a lack of faith in His wise and gracious providence. And if we be Christians, it betrays doubt of our Father's love. And surely these are evils of the deepest dye.
Anxiety is unbelief! It is a failure to trust God to care for us. The way you deal with anxiety and stress is a reflection of your view of God. If you know God, if you know that He is omnipresent, omniscience, all powerful; and if you understand that He is on your side, why would you ever worry? He's Sovereign, and He's working everything out for your good and His glory. Everything that happens is for His eternal purpose. When you trust in him in all of your circumstances, you will not have anxiety. Your faith in God is the bottom line in your ability to deal with anxiety.
A knowledge of God is essential in the matter of peace and tranquility. The Bible is the revelation of God, so that in knowing Scripture, we come to know God. And in knowing God, we come to trust in Him. It's hard to trust someone that you really don't know. You can have peace in any situation if you know your God and understand His sovereign control and His sovereign purpose.
When Daniel was thrown into the lions' den, his theology, his knowledge of God gave him great peace. When he was in the lions' den, he was in utterly terrible circumstances. I can't imagine anything worse than being dropped into a pit with a bunch of hungry lions. But Daniel was at ease, relaxed; he probably laid down on a nice big furry lion and went to sleep. Meanwhile, the king, who was in perfect circumstances living in the Babylon palace as the greatest monarch in the world, couldn't eat, sleep, drink, or be entertained. Why? Daniel knew that in everything God was in total control. The other guy was a wreck because he had no sense of a divine controller, and the circumstances were beyond his control.
One of the major problems in the church today in the matter of anxiety is the wide acceptance of Armenian theology. Calvinism and Armenianism are at opposite ends of the theological spectrum. Traditional Calvinism, or Reformed theology, says "God is Sovereign." To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that he is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in heaven and on earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart his purpose, or resist his will:
Psalms 115:3 (NKJV) But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.
Armenianism says, in effect, that man is sovereign, and God is hopeful and helpful. You have got to find it in yourself to come to Christ, you've got to find it in yourself to stay with Christ. You've got to find it in yourself to accomplish your spiritual goals with the knowledge that God is hopeful and helpful that you will, because He would like to see you in heaven if you could work it out. That view comes from a misinterpretation of:
2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV) The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
The Armenians take this verse to mean that God wants everyone to go to heaven, but he obviously isn't strong enough to work it out because everyone doesn't go to heaven. Believe me, if God didn't want anyone to perish, then no one would perish. God is Sovereign, and he gets what he wants - "Our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases".
The Armenians also teach that God is helpful and given the right conditions on your part, he'll come along and give you some assistance. So man comes to faith in Christ, and he says, "It was pretty smart of me to trust Christ." Who gets the glory for his salvation? He does! His confidence in himself is never shattered, he feels that he gained his salvation, and he could lose it. All his trust is really in himself and not God. So God is not sovereign, He's hopeful and helpful. This is a man exalting theology that denies the truth of Scripture. Does Romans 9 teach that God is hopeful and helpful or that he is sovereign?
Romans 9:16-23 (NKJV) So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth." 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. 19 You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?" 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? 22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,
The Armenian doesn't understand the sovereignty of God, so he doesn't understand that every circumstance in his life is under the total control of God. Peace of mind comes from trusting in God, not in yourself.
C. H. Spurgeon said, "If you believe that everything turns on the free will of man, you will naturally have man as the principle figure in your landscape." This can really cause anxiety, because man is fickle, man is weak, so you have every reason to worry. Armenian theology is man centered and the cause of many of the churches' problems. The bottom line is that if you're trusting yourself, you're not trusting God. And if you're trusting in yourself, you are going to end up worrying, you'll be anxious and unstable.
Emit Fox said this, "What you think God is like will determine your whole life, that is the central question we all have to wrestle with."
A very helpful book on the nature of God is the book by A.W. Tozer, entitled THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE HOLY. Among other things that he says in the book, a significant statement, I think, is this one:
The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man's spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base, as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason, the gravest question before the church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.
He's saying the most important thing that a man has is his understanding of God, and the most important message the church has to give is the knowledge of God. And I think he's right.
To know God and all that God has revealed about Himself is the highest pursuit of life. God desires that we know Him. The Bible is so explicit about this. In Hosea, chapter 6, God, through the prophet, is rebuking Israel for their hypocrisy; they carried out the sacrificial system with hearts that were totally estranged from God, and he says this:
Hosea 6:6 (NKJV) For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
Men are to know God, and God desires that men know Him, this is meaning to life. This is what we're all about. This is our highest pursuit, and God's highest purpose for us.
How can we know God? Well, Solomon gave some wise information in Proverbs 2. He said:
Proverbs 2:3-5 (NKJV) Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, 4 If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; 5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God.
Solomon said, "There's only one way to really know God and to know all that's revealed about God, and that's to make that the pursuit of your life. If you're looking for money; if you're looking for success; if you're looking for something else, you'll not really discover all that there is to know about God." But, he says, "My son, if you seek God like silver and search for God as if for hidden treasure, you'll find the knowledge of Him." God wants us to know Him. God wants us to pursue Him.
Listen to what David says about knowing God and trusting Him:
Psalms 9:10 (NKJV) And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.
"Those who know Your name" - i.e., those who know God's character. To know God's character is to be able to trust Him. Do you know God well enough to trust Him? Do you know Him well enough to have such confidence in Him that you believe He is with you in your adversity even though you do not see any evidence of His presence and His power? Do you trust Him? God wants our trust. In order to trust God, we must always view our adverse circumstances through the eyes of faith. Faith pleases God. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him.
True peace and true freedom from anxiety can only be found by faith in God as the God of our life:
Isaiah 26:3-4 (NKJV) You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, For in YAH, the LORD, is everlasting strength.
Anxiety is unbelief, and without faith, we cannot please God. That is an important point to understand:
Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV) But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
He uses the aorist tense in the infinitive "to please". The idea is: "Without faith it is impossible to please Him at all."
We must come to Him in faith, believing He will provide our meat, raiment, shelter, and the other necessities of life. We must come to Him in faith, believing that He is God, that He does take notice, that He will even clothe the lilies and give the fowls of the air their meat, and we are of more value than they are. We must believe He will reward us with peace in our hearts if we diligently seek Him:
Matthew 6:25 (NKJV) "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
When the Lord says, "Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?" he is using what is called an a fortiori argument. It is an inference drawn from the greater to the lesser: an argument frequently made use of in Scripture. An a fortiori argument is one with the form, "If this, than how much more that?" The argument may be stated thus: the life is greatly superior to food, and the body to raiment, and since the Creator has bestowed the former, therefore much more will He provide the latter for their sustenance. We see use of an a fortiori argument in:
Romans 8:32 (NKJV) He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
God has already given us his best gift; how much more will he give us lesser gifts!
Romans 5:8-10 (NKJV) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Verse 9 says, "much more than" this is an a fortiori argument. If God has done the greater (verse 8), surely he will do the lesser (verse 9). Verse 10 also says, "much more" - now that we are reconciled, we shall be saved through sharing in his life. We are in Christ. We are accounted perfectly righteous, having paid the debt of sin and having fulfilled the law by our union with Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 6:25, the a fortiori argument is only implicit, because the form isn't present; but the thought seems to be something like this: He who provides us with life, with bodies, how much more will he also provide things of lesser importance like food and clothes! Therefore, the follower of Christ is not to worry about such needs, as basic as they are.
If God has given you life, will He not feed you? If He has given you a body, will He not clothe you? These are the questions Jesus is asking each one of us. The reasoning of Jesus here is that if God has provided the greater, will He not provide the lesser? Look what we read in:
Luke 12:25-26 (NKJV) "And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 26 "If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?
If you can't do the least thing to provide for yourself, why don't you trust God for all your provisions? "Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment?" If God has provided for the greater necessities, why can't we trust Him for the little things?
It is an argument based upon the infinite goodness and unchanging faithfulness of our Creator: God, Himself, has given us life and a body, and He does not stop half-way in His bestowments: when He implants life, He also grants all that is needful for its sustenance. When God gives, He gives royally and liberally, honestly and sincerely, logically and completely. Therefore, we may rest assured that when He bestows life itself, He is not going to stultify His own gift by withholding anything that is needful for our good and blessing:
Matthew 6:26 (NKJV) "Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
The manner in which the birds of the air are provided with their food is a most convincing and unbelief-rebuking demonstration of the superintendence of God over this world, displaying as it does in so many ways His manifold wisdom, His wondrous providence, His infinite goodness, His unfailing faithfulness, His tender care, His compassions which are "new every morning."
Birds have no planting program, no harvesting program, and they have no buildings in which they store up their goods. Those things are not characteristic of birds, "and yet your heavenly Father feeds them". In spite of no program for storing up food, birds still eat. God has arranged that their food is provided even though they do not go through all the processes needed for storing food. They are not worried about too much rain which will hinder them from getting their crops in the ground this year. That concept does not bother them a bit. But God feeds them.
This almost seems like an overly simple illustration. But what is the application? "Are you not of more value than they?" Are you not more important than a bird? The simplicity of it almost goes beyond us. So let me ask you, "Does not God provide for the birds?" "Yes", you reply. "Are you more important than the birds?" "Yes". Then the concluding question, "Do you think God will provide for you?"
We could use the same illustration with our own children, because they are important to us just as we are important to God. I feed my dog every day. Do you think my children are more important than my dog? Do you think I will feed my dog and let my children go hungry? Are we not the children of God? Does God not love His children? Do you think God is going to feed the birds and let His children go hungry?
Please note here that it is God who feeds the birds. It is not that the birds take care of themselves, scrounging for food. God feeds them. Scripture affirms this over and over:
Job 38:41 (NKJV) Who provides food for the raven, When its young ones cry to God, And wander about for lack of food?
Psalms 104:27 (NKJV) These all wait for You, That You may give them their food in due season.
Psalms 145:15 (NKJV) The eyes of all look expectantly to You, And You give them their food in due season.
Psalms 147:9 (NKJV) He gives to the beast its food, And to the young ravens that cry.
Here we observe God's special and particular providence. The dictates of reason would lead us to conclude that those creatures which are incapable of making provision for themselves and laying up store in summertime against the winter would starve during the cold weather when the ground is covered with snow; yet they don't! God meets the needs of His feathered creatures and feeds them in the dead of winter! Oh, how this should shame us for doubting His providence, how it rebukes our wicked distrust of His care, how it exposes the groundlessness and wickedness of our unbelief!
The next illustration is to help us understand that worry is pointless:
Matthew 6:27 (NKJV) "Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
Worry accomplishes nothing. There are two possible translations for this illustration, because the same word can be translated two ways. The word "stature" is used both of height and length of time. It is used to describe Zaccheus who was short in stature, and it is also used to describe adding to one's life span. A cubit is about eighteen inches. One possible interpretation for this verse is: If you worry, can you add eighteen inches to your height? Obviously not.
It seems to me that the New American Standard Bible gives the better translation by referring to a "longer" life span. The question is more likely: Can you lengthen your life at all by worry? Medical experts tell us today that worry probably shortens our lives and causes all kinds of physical problems to develop. In speaking of adding a cubit to your life span, Jesus is mixing metaphors as we sometimes do. After a birthday, we sometimes say, "I've passed another milestone." We have not really passed another milestone, because a milestone is a measure of distance. Can you add anything to your road of life by worrying? The basic statement Jesus is making is that worry accomplishes nothing.
Anxiety is worthless! There is zero value in worry. It does nothing good for us. An average person's anxiety is focused on: 40% - things that will never happen; 30% - things about the past that can't be changed; 12% - things about criticism by others, mostly untrue; 10% - about health, which gets worse with stress; 8% - about real problems that will be faced.
What are you accomplishing with your anxiety? Nothing positive. You cannot change life by your worrying. So, quite frankly, worrying is dumb. It does not do anything except make us miserable. This is another very simple example, but we need to stop and think about it. We accomplish nothing by our worrying, but sometimes we think we have to do something, so worry is what we choose to do. When you stop to think about it, there is no point to it.
Jesus tells us plainly that we shouldn't worry about our future needs. When we profess faith in God and live in anxiety, we show that we are not trusting God for our material necessities in our daily life. We are demonstrating unbelief. And unbelief is a sin. Remember, "Without faith it is impossible to please Him." Believer, if you are having trouble trusting God, you need to get to know him better - He is trustworthy!
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