Today we’re finishing our series ‘We’ve Got Issues.’ So far we’ve covered identity issues, relational issues, financial issues, and anger issues. Today we turn our attention to an issue, that I think is the most widespread issue of our time, both in and out of the Church. What is the issue? Anxiety.
Is it wrong of me to say I’m anxious about this sermon? I’m a bit anxious about this sermon because not only is there just so much to say on this issue, but I fear some of you might be expecting something from this sermon that I won’t do. Anxiety abounds in our world today and it takes many forms. There is such a thing as a physical bodily imbalance in some that causes one to be very prone to or to live in a constant state of anxiety. For such a person, biblical counseling as well as medical professionals should be sought out. This sermon, on this particular passage, does apply to some of that kind of anxiety, but it more so deals with the kind of anxiety in which one gets caught up in the things of the world over against the things of God’s Kingdom. Which is why anxiety tops the list of our issues in this small series we’re doing.
The pandemic season has made this clear. On one hand, many have been anxious about getting sick, about feeling sick, about being sick in a hospital, and about being so sick that death might truly be a possibility. This kind of anxiety has caused many to insulate themselves in a kind of self-made protective bubble allowing them to avoid anything and anyone that can make them sick. For many, this kind of anxiety has practically stopped them from living, from fear of a virus.
But on the other hand many have had anxiety for different reasons. Contradictory reports about Covid, political motivations, corporate greed, government overreach, mandates, and the loss of freedoms once enjoyed. For many, this kind of anxiety hasn’t caused insulation in a self-made bubble, but it has caused a continual vexation at the state of the world. Yet, ironically, though those who are vexed are in a very different place, this kind of anxiety has practically stopped these people from living as well, from fear over what government may become.
Simply put, anxiety is all around us these days. Maybe you fit into one of those options, maybe you’re in between them, or maybe you bounce back and forth. All in all, anxiety seems to be the source of the anger, the discontent, the financial woes, and the relational and identity issues occurring in the Church and the world. So, with all this in view, what are we to do? What do we need? Once again as I said last week, we need Jesus. So let’s go to Him, to His Sermon on the Mount, to hear His teaching on anxiety.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus does many things. He is mainly attempting to teach the disciples the true way of life as opposed to how they’ve been wrongly taught by the scribes and Pharisees. These religious leaders were only keen on a righteousness concerned with external obedience while Jesus, again and again, goes deeper than mere externals and addresses the heart of man regarding many issues of life. One of the issues He addresses is anxiety. We’ll pick up there, in Matthew 6:25-34.
Notice, a quick glance at this passage shows us that Jesus tells us three times to not be anxious. v25, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious…”. v31, “Therefore do not be anxious…”. And v34, “Therefore do not be anxious…”. Why does He do this? Well part of the answer is what comes immediately before this passage. In v19-24 Jesus is addressing the danger of laying up treasures on earth, the danger of hoarding these treasures and stockpiling all kinds of stuff here in this life. To remedy this problem, Jesus points us upward and calls us to serve Him, not money, and to lay up treasures in heaven. Our passage, v25-34, Jesus isn’t addressing the laying up of treasures on earth but is addressing our worrying and being anxious about all these treasures on earth to such a degree that these earthly things begin to master and enslave us. Which is as great a danger as stockpiling them. This can happen to the rich (who have an abundance of possessions to get caught up in) just as easily as the poor (who can be caught up in the lack of their own possessions). The aim of the devil is sneaky in this anxiety over the things of earth. He doesn’t care if you’re anxious about all the treasures you have or if you’re anxious about all the treasures you lack. The devil’s aim is to trap you right there with what is earthly and cause you to forget what is heavenly.
So, what’s the remedy for our anxiety? Once again Jesus will point us heavenward. How does He do that? With three ‘therefore’s.’ So see…
Therefore #1 (v25-30)
Just v25 first, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious 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?”
In v25 Jesus begins with His first command, “…do not be anxious about your life…” And by life Jesus means what we eat, what we drink, and what we wear. Interesting that He chose these three things isn’t it? It’s as if much of His own day cared about and was caught up in what our own day cares about and is caught up in. Look at the cover of any magazine or scroll through any social media long enough and it becomes quickly obvious that the world is convinced that our lives consist of these things alone: eating, drinking, and clothing. Jesus points this out us at the end of v25 by asking us, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” We know the answer, right? Of course life is more important than food and of course the body is more important than clothing. These are needs, for sure. Gifts from God to sustain us and to care for us, indeed. But to give them central place in our concerns, or to make them to sum and substance of our thoughts and worries, is not what the Lord intends us to do.
Having given us this command in v25, Jesus now goes on to deal with each of these in turn in v26-30 with lessons from creation.
In v26-27 there’s a lesson about provision from the birds of the air. “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
What do the birds teach us? In general they are cared for by God. It is our way as mankind to gather food, and to store up food until we need it. The birds don’t do this, they don’t store up any food, they just go get it when its needed. Smaller birds get worms, bigger birds get mice, and on and on. And yet, even though they don’t store anything up, God sees to it that they have food to eat, and by so doing God sees to it that they’re sustained. Yet, do not miss that while God does indeed provide for the birds, but He doesn’t drop food into their beaks. They work hard at it, which shows us that Jesus isn’t teaching us to be lazy here, or that we should just sit back waiting and watching for God’s provision. Not at all, while we work hard in daily vocations we must trust God’s ultimate provision for our needs.
This is where Jesus goes next in this lesson. He says as our heavenly Father cares and provides food for birds, how much more will He provide for us, who of much more value than they? Do we believe that? That we’re of much more value than birds to God? Why is this so? Certainly it isn’t because of our nature, we’re fallen sinners. So what is it? Our higher value comes solely from us being image bearers, male and female made in the image of God. Birds are God’s creation, but they’re not made in His very image. Yet, He cares for them. How much more will He care for us who are made in His very image? Do not miss this small transition in the passage. When Jesus begins speaking of how God cares for the birds and cares for us much more, it’s precisely this moment when He calls God our heavenly Father. See it Church. God is God to us and all things. God is Creator to us and all things. God is Sustainer to us and all things, but God is more to His children. God is Redeemer to us and Father to us who have come to Jesus in faith. And because He’s our heavenly Father, see v27, we shouldn’t worry about being provided for, because by worrying we add nothing to our lives. Do think that way about anxiety? That might be new for you. That anxiety is our attempt to add to the span of our life? I think most of us believe anxiety is more about a fearful response to life feeling out of control. There’s definitely truth to that, but Jesus tells us here that anxiety is about God our heavenly Father caring and providing for us and that when we don’t trust Him to do that we worry and by worrying we’re trying to add length to our life. Jesus doesn’t just say this, He asks us if we can truly add to our lives by worrying? The answer is a clear no. Whether you’re rich as Bill Gates or poor as Bob Smith at the homeless shelter, no one can add any amount of time to our lives by worrying. Rather, I think it’s been proven that stress and worry decrease the span of our lives.
And because Jesus knows we need it, He continues on in v28-30 with another lesson about provision from the lilies of the field. “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?”
Before it was food with the birds, now it’s clothing with the lilies and the splendor of Solomon. And it’s much the same point as before too. The lilies of the field don’t toil or labor to make themselves grow beautifully, no, God clothes them in a splendor more magnificent than Solomon could achieve with all his wealth and abundance. Since God does this to fleeting grass and flowers that’s here today and gone tomorrow, see the repetition (?), how much more will He clothe us? “O you of little faith” Jesus says. Be honest, does that describe you? One of little faith? Don’t all the problems and worries of life stem from and flow out of how little faith we have in God? If our faith is little, it doesn’t mean we have no faith, it’s just that we’ve placed a greater amount of faith in something else than we have placed in God. So where else does our faith lie, or in whom do we place our faith? Ourselves? Or our great strength to provide for ourselves? Our reputation as Christians? Our nation, our job, our family, our friends, our church? These are good things, but they all make bad gods. Our faith, our whole trust, assurance, security, well-being, and peace should be in our heavenly Father, for He always cares for us and sees to our needs. “Therefore…do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.”
That’s the first therefore.
Therefore #2 (v31-33)
This second therefore command against anxiety begins by reiterating what Jesus just finished saying in v31 in regard to our being anxious about eating, drinking, and clothing. “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” Jesus then, expands on this in v32 with a contrast. He says, “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” What is this? What does Jesus mean by ‘Gentiles’? The word is literally ethnos in Greek and it refers to the nations, the pagan heathen peoples of the world. This word is often used in Scripture, and is being used here, in contrast to the Jews, God’s chosen people. Basically, what’s being said here is that God’s people, who know God, aren’t to live like the pagans who don’t know God. What’s the difference between those who know God and those who don’t? v33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” While the Gentile pagans are characterized by seeking after and being worried about the things of this world, God’s people are characterized by seeking after, not the things of this world, but the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Why don’t we seek after the world? Because we know God is our heavenly Father who not only knows our needs, we know His goodness to us in providing for our needs. All of this of course means, if we as God’s people are caught up in anxious worrying about the things of this world, we may say we’re Christians but we’re really living like we don’t know God at all.
Think about this. Pagans know nothing about God. They know nothing about the riches of God’s glory revealed in Christ and applied to us by the Spirit. They know nothing of the depth and beauty of the Scriptures. They know nothing of the assurance the children of God enjoy throughout all of life. They know nothing of the gospel. They think everything happens by accident or chance, and so it makes sense for them to worry. Is it like this for us? Not at all! We know God, we’ve seen the glory of God revealed in Christ, we know the power of the Spirit, we’ve beheld God’s beauty in the Scriptures, and we enjoy a hefty assurance in all of life because of the gospel of grace! Worry fits the world like a tailored suit, but it doesn’t fit Christians at all. No, you know what suits us? Seeking the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness. Meaning, we seek after God: His ways, His heart, His mind as they’re revealed to us in His Word. We seek Him in study, in prayer, in praise, and in the fellowship of His Church. What is His and what belongs to His Kingdom defines our lives…rather than the things of this world. As we seek Him, and lean into Him, we trust Him to provide all the rest. That’s what v33 is getting at.
That’s the second therefore.
Therefore #3 (v34)
It all leads here. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Here we’re taught that anxiety presses in on us in the present moment and tempts us to look far beyond to what may occur in the future. Perhaps then we see the folly of anxiety. It’s suffering from far more than what actually happens to us in life. And all of the sudden we’re anxiously fearing what may happen because anything may happen! And yet, all along. There is the sovereign God, our heavenly Father. He will provide, and we can rest in that.
This is really the point of this sermon series as we work through all the issues we’re facing during this time. Jesus commands us to not be anxious, and to trust Him. Do you? Do you trust the Lord, or are you fearing a virus? Do you trust Him, or are fearing a heavy handed government? Either you believe Jesus, take Him at His Word, and will not worry about these things, or you will not believe what Jesus says here and will be anxious about many things. Where are you in this?
Psalm 112:1-7, “Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in His commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious, merciful, and righteous. It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.”
 Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1971) vol. 2, 107-108.
 Lloyd-Jones, 108.
 Martin Luther, quoted in R.T. France, Matthew – NICNT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2007) 268.
 R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon On the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom – Preaching the Word Commentary (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2001) 226.
 Lloyd-Jones, 119.
 John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries – Matthew (accessed via Accordance Bible software, 1.29.22).
 Hughes, 229.