“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!”
There is something about those two little words, “do not”, that immediately cause many of us to recoil a little bit. It’s like…”Uh-oh, brace yourself. Here it comes.” I have often thought that if Matthew had maybe just combined the two words and changed one little letter, making “do not” into “donut,” it would have been a lot easier to swallow. But maybe that is just me. My father used to say, “If you want somebody to do something, just tell them not to.” Works every time. Those of us who are parents can relate, I’m sure.
Nevertheless. Jesus starts off this beautiful parable with those two little words, right up front. They are the chuckholes on the road to sanctification for most Christians. Do not fear. Do not be anxious. Do not worry. Do not judge. Do not be angry. How are you doing with all of these golden nuggets of wisdom? Me, not so well. Oh, I try. But I worry about giving into fear and so I become anxious over it..sometimes even angry. But don’t judge me, OK?
Seriously though, we all would agree I am sure, that it is hard to quit things like smoking or drinking, for instance. But I would say overcoming anxiety or fear is every bit as hard. Wouldn’t you? Maybe someday they will come up with an anxiety patch or a pill that lessens our urge to be fearful. They would sell millions, no doubt. I can see it now, commercials for “Couragra” (to give you courage) or “Anxietra” (to lessen your anxiety). I wonder what the side effects of these drugs might be. They should not cause rapid heart rate or suicidal thoughts, since that is part of what they would be trying to control, right?
“Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
This was my favorite part of this entire parable. I thought it was interesting that the first part of this statement was targeted more at the men and the second part, more towards the women (or am I reading something into it there?). You have to admit, though, how much time do we spend worrying about what we are going to eat (and when) and what clothes to wear, even to church, which by itself seems a little strange to me, since God looks at the heart, not our shoes or our hair or the lack thereof, in my case.
I think part of the problem, at least for me, is fully grasping the idea that what matters most is how God sees us, not what other men or women think. Oh sure, we say we don’t really care about what other people think of us, but our actions tell a different story. One of my favorite men of the Bible was John the Baptist. Now there was a person who really did not care much about how people viewed him. Matthew writes, “John’s clothes were made of camel hair, and he had a leather belt wrapped around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.” But people flocked to him anyway, to hear his message and be baptized by him. He was the one chosen by God to prepare the way for His Son, Jesus, the Savior of the World. Certainly, he could have dressed up a little bit, right? But all he was concerned with was obeying God, preparing the way for the One who had long been promised. His message was one of repentance. Outer appearance had nothing to do with it.
I think that if we could fully grasp one little verse, eight little words from Psalm 46, “Be still and know that I am God,” we would be miles ahead towards finding that peace and tranquility that God promises us. The New American Standard version doesn’t say “Be still..” it says, “Cease striving..” For me that hits the nail more squarely on the head. Sometimes I think striving might be my middle name. “Help me, Lord, to learn to be still, to cease from striving and doing things on my own, as if I might be bothering You, Lord, if I were to ask for Your help. Amen.”
So where might this simple, yet beautiful story fit into the bigger picture of things? I have dubbed the second discourse, or grouping for this book, which is taken from the Sermon On The Mount as dealing with a series of “Mounting Questions.” Well, I think it is no stretch to imagine that almost everyone gathered on that hillside that day was feeling a bit anxious, some maybe fearful and more than few might even have been angry with what they were hearing.
Here is this newcomer, someone who most of these folks knew very little about, telling them to relax. He’s suggesting that they should be more like the birds or the grass, in other words, “Don’t worry about your clothes, you are beautiful just the way God made you. As for food, just trust that God will provide that, as well. Sure, easy for Him to say. Should I just quit my job then, lie around in my pajamas all day and just wait for God’s food truck to pull up to the door, three times a day? How silly is this guy? He has no idea what my life is like. I wish it were that easy.”
To some, I am sure they felt like Jesus was talking down to them. But that was nothing new. Remember back in John Chapter Two, when He said the Temple would be destroyed and He would raise it back up in three days? Do you think there was some skepticism and anxiety, even anger, about that claim on the part of those who heard it, first hand? I would say, “No doubt.”
The words of Jesus Christ were not always perceived as gentle, loving or compassionate. But that was because, so many times, the hearers did not know or realize who was actually speaking to them, God Himself. God is love. He is not just loving or one who exudes love. He is love. He is made of 100% pure love, a love more pure than anything we will ever encounter in this world, that’s for sure.
Even when He seemed harsh or abrupt, His motivation was love, redemption and restoring what was lost in the Garden of Eden. But most did not see it. They took what they heard at face value and pondered how it might affect their everyday lives…food, money, clothes, reputation or even sex. It was all about the “here and now”.
Jesus was all about the “hereafter”.
The answers to their “Mounting Questions” required them to take a much longer view of things, far beyond the tips of their noses.
Sound familiar? If so, I believe you are right. Not much has changed in two thousand years. We just need to remember, as I talked about in my first book, “Unlocking Creation.” Fear and faith are polar opposites and there really is no middle ground. If you are not acting out of one, you are acting out of the other. It is a really good “rule of thumb.” Say to yourself, “Am I making this decision (whatever it is) based on faith and God’s Word? If I am not, I am acting out of fear.” That might sound like an oversimplification, but it really is the truth. Life is full of choices. Almost every minute of every day, we are making one kind of choice or the other. It’s either faith, or fear.
If it’s not one, it’s the other. Period.
Once we realize that, and train ourselves to know the difference, the road of life gets a lot less rocky.
(from the upcoming book,
“The Red Letter Parables”)