[This sermon is one of a series entitled “Sermon on the Mount, Concentrating on the Beatitudes,” which is being preached on Sunday mornings by Pastor Tim Senter.]
When discussing verses 32 and 33 last week, we looked at an effort we can undertake. We considered that we should strive to achieve the Kingdom of God. Equally, we found that it is impossible for us to attain such perfection to enter heaven’s gates. Therefore, the Savior is provided for our reconciliation, our salvation. With His sacrifice on the cross, we find redemption for our wrongs, a propitiation for the wrath of God set against our sin. What a joy it is to know we can have an intimate and ongoing relationship with God even when we are inherently at odds with Him. We considered deep differences between the believer striving for the Kingdom of God under Christ Jesus and that of unbelievers who strive only to please themselves, or worse yet to keep up with the Joneses. We found that we are far different from the rest of God’s creation, as well as being far different from the lost souls around us. We considered two aspects of life. One was the misguided and unenlightened life of the unbeliever lost in a lack of contentment – never happy, always seeking that which they do not have. The other was the life of the contented, the happy ones – people who are entirely pleased with what they have and who they are in this life, because they look more intently to their continuing or eternal life. When considering the former, we found that life was empty because it was never capable of being fulfilling. When considering the latter, we found that that life was fulfilling because it began filled with the Spirit of God and eternal life and will never empty.
It might seem that further discussion concerning the values one should place on the things of life is senseless after verse 33. You might even wonder what a preacher can say about this subject that has not already been said. Regardless, here we are spending an entire sermon on this one verse. The reason, folks, is that with the last nine verses (25-33–you may want to keep this link open for reference) being dedicated to the subject of worry or anxiety, the Lord saw fit to speak two more sentences; therefore it must be a very serious problem with mankind. Please look at Matthew 6:34.
After some prayer and consideration, clearly there is no better introduction for this scripture than that given by Lloyd-Jones. This is what he wrote:
“In Matthew 6:34 our Lord brings to a conclusion the subject with which He has been dealing in this entire section of the Sermon on the Mount, namely, the problem which is created for us by our relationship to the things of this world. It is a problem that confronts us all. It does so in different ways as we have seen. Some people are tempted to be governed by worldly possessions in the sense that they want to hoard and amass them. Others are troubled by them in the sense that they are worried about them; it is not the problem of super-abundance in their case, but the problem of need. But, essentially, according to our Lord, it is one and the same problem, the problem of our relationship to the things of this world, and of this life…
Here, in this verse, He brings this consideration to an end and He puts it in this particular form. Three times over He uses this expression, “Take therefore no thought.” It is so important, that He deliberately states it like that three times and in particular with regard to the question of food and drink and clothing; and he works out the argument, you remember, with regard to these matters. Here is the conclusion of the whole subject, and I am sure that many, when they first read this verse in it’s context, must have felt almost a sense of surprise that our Lord should have added it. He seems to have reached such a wonderful climax in the previous verse, the thirty-third, where He has concentrated His positive teaching in the memorable words, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Anxiety can manifest itself in any number of physical symptoms. High pulse rates and a pounding heart are two such conditions. Excessive sweating, stomach disorders and shortness of breath are also possible effects. Muscle tension, headaches and fatigue are other such symptoms. You can get so worried about things that it immobilizes you. Depression and anxiety have the same relationship that high blood pressure and kidney failure have. They exacerbate each other. People get so worried over things that they develop panic attacks, which are periods of intense fear. Insomnia as well as cardiovascular and pulmonary jeopardy are not the only dangers with panic attacks. Individuals can get so fearful that they endanger themselves in an attempt to escape their troubles.
People have sometimes been called worrywarts. These individuals are actually suffering from anxiety and treatable as such. Insomnia, stomach upset, restlessness and fatigue are a result of this disorder. This is the mildest type of anxiety. Frankly, this type of worry normally develops from the everyday functions of life. People are caught in vicious loops of concern to the point that they are consumed with their own fears:
- Will I get to sleep; I need to because I have so much to do tomorrow.
- Will I be able to get up in time for my job because I have not been able to get to sleep?
- Now it is two AM and I will never get enough sleep.
- I am going to be a frazzled brainless individual tomorrow because I cannot get to sleep.
- Will I get that job done on time?
- Have I forgotten something on the job or did I get everything right?
- I know I messed something up because no one is perfect.
- I think I forgot to put that one little code in.
- I think I forgot to attach that one wire.
- I think I forgot to put that one gasket back on.
- I am not sure that you can drive in that weather, I know I cannot.
- How can I expect to survive driving in this awful weather?
- What if we run into a snow bank and are stranded?
- There is no food in the vehicle to tide us over when we are stranded.
- We will probably freeze to death before we are found.
- I am not sure if I packed an emergency kit so I better pull over and inventory it.
- I am not sure that the emergency kit will keep me warm until I am rescued.
- I am afraid of getting injured.
- I am afraid of starving.
- I am afraid to die.
- I am afraid…
- I fear…
As you can see, this kind of anxiety feeds upon itself and promotes more anxiety. All of these examples deal with normal daily needs in what might be dangerous situations. The problem is that instead of considering planning and putting forethought into an event, these individuals paralyze themselves and cause their own anxiety to increase because of their fear. These fears are not rooted in actualities, but possibilities. These folks are focused so much on things and worried about them that there is no concern for reality. They concern themselves only the things they can imagine might be wrong. Those imaginary problems do not have to manifest themselves in reality, they simply have to be mentally conceived. These fears are so consuming that they disrupt normal functions such as sleeping, eating and just relaxing. One web page on this subject reported comments such as, “I can’t get my mind to stop…it’s driving me crazy!” and “I can’t sleep – I just feel such dread … and I don’t know why!” These folks cannot sleep or relax because they worry about things they can do nothing about, or about things that are not that vital to their lives, or anyone else’s.
This teaching all boils down to one very important thing. Anxiety over tomorrow adds unnecessarily to your yoke. We are so pompous and arrogant that we actually believe we can change the outcome of life’s events, even when they do not yet exist. We believe we can actually control life’s normal events, but control is an illusion. You might think that these fears are based in knowledge that one is unable to control the situation. It is just the opposite. People think they can control the situation and when something challenges that pride, the lost soul has no way of dealing with reality that they are not in control. Face it, what has worrying ever gotten anyone? Nothing. Planning, contemplating needs and organizing for contingencies can be fruitful. However, after that is done, move forward.
Anxiety, fear, worry and any concern that troubles your spirit to the point that it interferes with your worship is sin. It really is that simple. If you are so consumed with maintaining the things of life that you give God no time, you live in sin. If you are so consumed with your job or business that you skip out on worship, this is sin and must be eradicated from your life. Jesus is telling us not to worry so much about things – even the bare necessities for the next day. Today has enough challenges to it that we need not worry about the things of tomorrow…today.
I. Leave tomorrow for tomorrow (Verse 34a)
In closing this section of scripture we should consider the entire context while looking at this one verse. Jesus is summarizing His teaching from verse 25 to this point. In verse 25 we are admonished to “take no thought for your life.” Our first concerns are quite naturally self-preservation. Most of what we do daily involves concern for our lives. What we eat, drink and wear are not just daily concerns, but repeated daily considerations. Our Lord tells us that life is far more important than a few crumbs or a cloak. In verse 26 we see that our concerns for our livelihood are foolish. We should be exercising childlike faith instead of worrying. After all, birds have no faith, no concerns, and no anxieties – yet they are fed, clothed and housed. Verse 27 gives us a rather commonsensical challenge. Can worry really accomplish anything? In a rather obvious example, the Savior points out that we are not in control of many things in life. The point? It is not to push us to an attitude of fatalism, but to point to our dependence upon the Father for all things, and show us we can rely on Him. Verses 28 through 32 Jesus describes the clear differences between simple faith and one that is worked out in the world. The lost think that they can engineer faith and belief. However, God even cares for the parts of creation that cannot think for themselves and His plans are far more glorious and valuable than anything man can contrive. It is hard to admit that we are not important, that we are not the focus of the world, that the world does not revolve around our little lives. This is exactly the admonishment we find in verse 33 – seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. With this background, we consider our Lord’s next few sentences.
We find again here “take no thought.” This is the word “merimnaō” (to worry, to be concerned) which comes from the word “merimna” a word we would translate “worry.” We have been warned not to worry three times and challenged to trust in the Father and seek only His kingdom. We find the very direct question: Who, by “taking thought” (worrying), can succeed in any given endeavor (including the bare necessities of life, let alone making yourself grow taller)? That is foolishness.
Now we come to consider not just needs today, but our future. We should plan for things. Planning is appropriate for every endeavor. God planned His creation and initiated it in stages to execute the perfect plan (Gen 1). He expects no less from us: plan, and execute the plan. Planning and organizing ourselves for service is one thing, but toiling about these concerns and worrying about those plans to the point where we disrupt our lives is sin. Worrying about tomorrow is a waste of time and energy.
There are times when the two practices (worry and planning) can cross paths, but they should be rare. When we are planning or implementing a plan for something that may influence many lives, there is cause for concern. There are also circumstances where it is difficult to discern between an appropriate or inappropriate level of concern. The best guide for determining whether you have crossed the line from appropriate concern to unbiblical worry is if your worry interferes with your relationship with God. This can manifest itself in many ways. You could be so anxious about things that it keeps you up and you are unable to worship on Sunday. You can be so concerned about your animals, your home, your car or any other possession that you stay home from church to feed, clean or care for these things. Any time you are so concerned to get something done instead of giving God the day He requires (Ex 16:29-30) you have made a new idol in your life. That thing that is so important to do on Sunday instead of being in the Lord’s house, instead of witnessing to that person or instead of making that visit is a bane to you and God will judge you for it (Jn 16:8-11; 2 Cor 5:10). Barring some life threatening event, on Sunday you should worship the Lord and trust Him for the rest of what happens around you. Many have recently experienced large quantities of rain and other precipitation. This has resulted in very high water and flooding in some areas. There is cause to react to this with trepidation and, since much of the damage and flooding took place over the weekend and into Monday, there would be cause to stay home from church and sand-bag areas around your property. Moving life stock to higher ground and other necessary things to preserve your investment this investment and your livelihood is prudent and moving quickly to do so is equally necessary. After all is said and done, the water will have its way and regardless of the outcome, being worried about it will do nothing to improve your situation. Faith and prayer (two forms of worship that you can do while working) will do wonders though (Jas 5:16b).
The second test is whether the anxiety is bothering you physically or emotionally. If your relationship with God is being affected, you can guarantee that you are also suffering physically and/or emotionally. Your relationship with God is paramount. It guides you through life, helps you make decisions and is your guidepost for relationships with others. Inappropriate anxiety about events that have not and may never manifest themselves will disrupt all of these things.
Worrying about tomorrow also steals from our time today – if we are so caught up in what we need to do tomorrow, there is no time to enjoy things today. Someone once wrote about taking in the “joys of the road”…not missing all the little things when cruising down the road on a trip. We sometimes get so focused upon our destination, or upon the white lines passing by that we never look beyond these obvious things to see the great treasures around us. My daughter was elated just recently as she saw her first moose up at Sinks Canyon. She was the only one to see it. I was focused upon the road and others were looking inside the cab of the truck. Amanda however was taking in everything and saw the moose. How important is that? They are not common and it was a goal for my two granddaughters who were with us. Six and 5 years old, they agreed that there were three goals to visiting Nana and Papa in Wyoming – to go camping and hiking and to see a moose. We get lost in our own little world when we need to be looking at what wonderful things God has for us to see. Being so absorbed with events that have no current impact can cause us to ignore what is happening right around us. These fears can have direct effect upon, and even endanger us. What joy can we have in holding a child, holding a grandchild or ministry of the word today if we are consumed with tomorrow?
Wiersbe once wrote, “the average person is crucifying himself between two thieves: the regrets of yesterday and the worries about tomorrow.”[i] He goes further to note that planning and saving for the future are profitable and godly endeavors (2 Cor 12:14; 1 Tim 5:8); but doing so as a concern that robs one of the fruits of today is a failing enterprise. If one continues to toil on tomorrow when the events are only suppositions, he will find himself in a perpetual loop unable to catch his own tail. Today may require planning for tomorrow. Plan and worry not, or worry and plan not. It is your choice; however, we recommend planning.
Clarke also makes a good point with respect to worrying about tomorrow when he notes:
“The future falls under the cognizance of God alone: we encroach, therefore, upon his rights, when we would fain foresee all that may happen to us, and secure ourselves from it by our cares. How much good is omitted, how many evils caused, how many duties neglected, how many innocent persons deserted, how many good works destroyed, how many truths suppressed, and how many acts of injustice authorized by those timorous forecasts of what may happen; and those faithless apprehensions concerning the future! Let us do now what God requires of us, and trust the consequences to him”[ii]
The scripture says, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” Think of each day as a scroll of paper to be written on. Each scroll is blank until unveiled and the ink applied. There will be days when no ink is applied. There are days where copious amounts of writing take place that are so furious that one cannot imagine a hand moving that quickly. Regardless, the pen will not touch the paper until the event arrives and the paper will not be unfurled until the day begins. Therefore, why concern yourself with what might be written. It is sufficient to have quill and ink ready (plans to write), the day will supply the paper and the words (events and their effects). No one will sneak into the roll and write something unsavory before the sun crosses the hour in which it happens. Do not fear what you do not know; worrying is senseless and fruitless.
One aspect of this scripture is that Satan may have plans for destruction and death. Only God knows the future, and whether it is affected by Satan or not. Guessing the Father’s desired outcome is never recommended. Every time Satan has tried, he has failed and we are not as well informed or powerful as he. Therefore, why should we presume to be? Work through the day today giving it your best for every moment. When that day is finished, look at the next. Deal with every day individually.
II. Deal with today, today (Verse 34b)
An interesting word is used for “evil.” It is “kakia” which translates to difficulties, badness, evil, wickedness or a hateful feeling. We could call this an emotional evil – a heart felt hate. This is pure wickedness inherent in the construct of the heart that manifests itself in worry. This evil seeks to destroy the worrier. Phillips commentary describes this word as,
“[embracing] not only the calamities and afflictions of life, for the word’s roots point to the origin of these things in sin.”[iii]
A day at a time is all many can handle. Addicts recovering from alcohol and drug abuse use “a day at a time” to describe their battle with addiction. There are times in these recovery efforts that it is hour by hour. This is the attitude conveyed here. There is another sense to this in that as one thinks about the things of tomorrow, concerns themselves with them today and sees them as paramount in their lives now. They may see the things of tomorrow as insurmountable. This truly is the evil in our emotional makeup that can ruin one’s constitution, ambition or overall outlook. People in this state work hard to depress themselves. In the case of addictions, this evil desire to drink or get high eventually destroys the one with those desires. This desire destroys itself by destroying the vessel in which it exists.
Today has enough problems in itself, do not compound them with things that are not happening, or may never happen. For all you know, you may be taken home in the night by the Lord and never again have to worry about the things on this earth.
Worrying today for the things of tomorrow shows little faith in God. It shows that one is trying to piece together his or her existence without God because worry or concern is an attempt to control those things. Worry and concern of this magnitude does not “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” It does not live by faith. There is no trusting in the Lord’s provision or His will. There is no belief in His ability to care for you. You are the child, He is the Father and Father always knows best. When you are paranoid about things, you deny God His fatherly position, authority and love for your welfare.
Probably one of the most poignant notes on this whole text comes from Blomberg:
“there are enough non-Christian sources of evil for believers (most notably the persecutions predicted in [Matt] 5:10-11) that Christian self-centeredness ought never compound the problems of fellow believers who live in poverty.”[iv]
Christians suffer increased persecution from a wider variety of societal leaders. This is true even in our nation today. This societal alienation was recently highlighted in a documentary, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” The host (Ben Stein) is a television celebrity who is not even a Christian. Yet, he clearly depicts the tactics used by academia today to stifle any exploration of intelligent design. The tagline reads,
“He [Stien] contends that professors from around the United States are being fired from their jobs for promoting, or even exploring the possibility of, intelligent design as an alternative to Darwinism.”[v]
Science is not the only area where Christians are persecuted. In the public arena, religions with clear terrorist, murderously anti-Semitic, racial and sexist doctrines such as Islam are being accepted into societies and given special legal privileges while Christianity, Christian tenets – and worst of all, the Christian Trinity[vi] – are attacked with impunity.[vii] In France, police are instructed not to enter certain parts of large cities where Islam is prevalent for fear of their endangerment.[viii] England is facing some of these same invasions into their sovereignty as they, in true Chamberlainesque[ix] (and Obamaesque) fashion, permit Muslim courts to operate within Britain, exercising Sharia Law parallel to the British Legal system.[x] With these encroachments on freedom and sovereignty already materializing in other nations, we should plan for tomorrow, but not be worried.
If we are fearful for these things in our nation, we do not trust God and we do not know His word. He tells us that Christians will become less and less – numerically and influentially – not more and greater. Less godliness will prevail and more godlessness and hate shadow our future. We see these things taking place in both secularism/humanism and Islam as they slowly permeate our society. Our children have the religious tenets of secularism/humanism either forced upon them in the name of tolerance, or outright demanded of them in order to succeed or be accepted themselves.[xi] Simply put, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” There will be enough of our world’s evil tomorrow without worrying about it today. Deal with today and move past these challenges.
As a Christian you have a tremendous differentiation between yourself and the world. The world will continue toward destruction as described in our scriptures. Where the people of the world have nothing else to fight for or trust in, the Christian always faces the world with God on his side. The worldly have nothing on which to lean for true acceptance, support, love and – above all – eternal life. As our world becomes more and more violent and less and less hospitable for all people, the Christian has recourse and stands with the Father and His Son, who will always be there. [xii]
Ladies and gentlemen, you have a redeemer who is yours. You have salvation that no one else has. You have God who abides in you. You have all things available to you. All you need is a little faith. All you need to do is believe. If you believe and you live in faith, you need never fear tomorrow.
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, An exposition of the New Testament Comprising the Entire “BE” Series,
vol 1. (Victor Books: Colorado Springs, 1989), p28.
[ii] Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Public Domain, text from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library http://www.ccel.org Formatted and corrected by OakTree Software, Inc. ver 1.0 – link to Matthew 6:34.
[iii] Phillips, John, Exploring the Gospel of Matthew, An Expository Commentary, (Kregel: Grand Rapids, 1999), p121.
[iv] Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew, The New American Commentary, New International Version, (Broadman: Nashville, 1992), 127.
[v] Kevin Miller and Ben Stein, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Nathan Frankowski Dir. Premise Media, 2008.
[vi] 1 John 2:23 says if you deny Christ, you deny God the Father as well, therefore if you attack Christ Jesus, you attack God the Father, and the Holy Spirit.
[ix] This word developed from the ineptitudes of Arthur Neville Chamberlain and how he delt with international relations as a descriptive of liberal political naiveté with respect to true evil and its existence on the world stage. Much the same could be said about our President Carter and our current President and his cohorts in leadership.
[xii] As governments, societies and peoples of the world become more liberal in ideology, they will willfully and actively promote more chaos in society therefore destroying societal cohesion. As society deteriorates, people grope for true leadership. This happened in Rome as it fell, in Germany in the 1930’s and since “progressive” man ignores the true lessons of history, it is currently happening in the United States. Unfortunately, because of the desperately sick heart of man (Jer 17:9) and their position in direct opposition to God intellectually (Rom 8:7) they will reject the truth (Christianity) and grope for another answer that appears pure (Islam) but only leads to destruction. Interestingly, people, just as do children, want structure, rules and a sense of boundaries. Satan is supplying this in Islam. In this way, people will make the truth a lie (Rom 1:25). No civilization currently under Islamic law thrives by any standard. The people are oppressed, creativity is stifled, governments are totalitarian, liberty is non-existent and daily-life is at a first century level of maturity at best. Consider the fact that loss of life in any natural disaster (earthquake for example) is always exponentially greater in totalitarian governments than any other. Where other advances in technology do exist in the Muslim world, they are seen as evil and the true Muslim (convert or die – Taliban or Sunni Muslim fundamentalist) will expend all life to eradicate the technological and societal advancement. Chamberlain did not and neither Carter nor Obama currently understand this truth in Islamic ideology.