Finding Contentment by Resting from Anxiety
“And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:28-34)
Last Sunday I touched on this passage to provide a closer look at God’s sovereignty in the context of the worship that we owe the Lord. I wrote, “God is the first cause of everything that occurs here and everywhere, which can and should be a tremendous comfort for those who belong to him.” But Jesus knows that being satisfied with less is one of the most significant trials and failures for Christians globally. We can learn to live with less, but we’re usually not content, and few people are joyful when stripped to the bare necessities that Jesus mentions here (easy work, basic food, drink, and clothing). It would be logical for us to find relief in having less of everything, and simpler food, for a more low-key life. It has taken me about a year to begin to think of coming home to eat (instead of going out), after a long day as more relaxing. I eat less, spend less money and time driving, and kick off my shoes when I walk in the door—relief! But we tend to stress ourselves with something special as a kind of reward, instead of finding rest special. I get why meal plans like Hello Fresh, Home Chef, and Plated are so popular. The food is selected, packaged with a menu and recipes, ready to turn into a healthy meal in the convenience of your home. Perhaps this is one way to remove anxiety from your life if you can afford it.
Now let’s get back to Jesus and his dissertation. John Gill’s Commentary reminds us that Jesus “was now preaching on the mount, in an open place; and as he could point to the fowls of the air, flying in their sight, so to the flowers, in the adjacent fields and valleys: which he would have them look upon, with their eyes, consider and contemplate in their minds, how they grow; in what variety of garbs they appear, of what different beautiful colors, and fragrant odors, they were; and yet they toil not, or do not labor.” (1) The Reformation Study Bible makes a good follow-up argument about the life of birds “The point is not that the birds don’t work, but that they don’t worry about the future and what it holds for them.” (2) Birds are working all the time, some to find nectar, some to find food for their young, others to make nests in the trees, and some to migrate. Lilies look passive but are always active in the process of using photosynthesis to produce the food they need to live. Birds, grass, and flowers spend all their time in survival mode while most of people can meet basic needs in less than half a day, in developed countries. The majority world’s general population is more attuned to the work required for basic life necessities of clean water, healthcare, basic food, and minimal clothing. These millions are much closer to understanding the biblical truth that God supplies our basic needs (which may be quite different than our “wants”).
One warning is clear from this passage: Worry is inconsistent with living by the gospel, in relationship and dependence upon Christ, since doubts distract and weaken our faith. Many of Jesus parables make this point; we hear “O you of little faith” often in his teaching sessions. Jesus calls you (and me) to always be “…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Is that what we are doing, to be content with God’s providence?
(1) JohnGill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Matthew 6 https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-6.html
(2) The Reformation Study Bible, Matthew 6:25-33 Note, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.