"Be not anxious for your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear." Matthew 6:25
"Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:32
In the parable of the man who said to his soul, "You have many goods laid up for many years," the Great Teacher warned the rich against eagerness in accumulating wealth. He then warned the poor against anxiety about securing the necessaries of life. Covetousness is of the mind, not of the condition. The poor may be as eager for pence as the rich for pounds. There is anxiety of the cottage, as well as of the counting-house; fretting care, not only that the barn be full, but lest it become empty. So our Lord admonishes all His followers not to be perplexed about earthly things. Take no fretting thought—be not anxious. For this He gives six powerful reasons, Luke 12:22-32.
1. Contrast the smallness of what makes us anxious—with the greatness of what God has already given.He bestows life without our labor or taking thought. We breathe when asleep as when awake, and the blood circulates and builds up the wasting tissues without our consciousness. Is not that life more than the food which supplies it, and that body more than the clothing that clothes it?
Sometimes the rich are anxious in their abundance, what selection shall be made for the feast—"what shall we eat?" And sometimes the crowded wardrobe causes anxiety as to which dress shall be selected for some occasion of pleasure or display—"with what shall we be clothed?" But many more are anxious about the empty cupboard—how to obtain food for their day's hunger, or clothing to shield the body from the cold. But if God gives life, will He not sustain it—and if He sustains the body, will He not clothe it? "The life is more than food, and the body than clothing."
2. God provides for birds and flowers—much more for us."Consider the ravens," so familiar to the disciples. Let us consider our own homely or beautiful musical birds—the blithe sparrow chirping in the hedge or city-street; the thrush as it warbles its glad matins and vespers, repeating each strain as loving it; the black-bird, with mellow plaintive tones; the lark upspringing to heaven, rapturously singing as it soars; the rustic robin cheering winter's gloom with its mellifluous sweetness, worthy to be named even with the nightingale, faithful summer-visitant, gladdening both darkness and day with its enchanting melodies. They do not sow nor reap nor gather into barns—yet God feeds them! He endowed them with that keen vision to spy their food, those agile wings to reach it, that sharp bill to seize it.
"He hears the ravens that cry, and satisfies the desire of every living thing." And will He not much more feed you whom He has more richly endowed—you who can, and therefore should, sow and reap and store, with all industry and prudence? But having done your duty in the exercise of such capacities, and having prayed to your Father who much more cares for you—should you be anxious, as if inferior to birds in trusting Him?
Consider also "the lilies how they grow;" (flowers in general, or specially the scarlet anemone—making the spring pastures of Palestine radiant with beauty). We may consider the flowers poetically, and listen to the wisdom or the music of their speech. The painter considers them artistically, and reproduces their forms and hue, so that in smoky towns we may be reminded of rural beauty, and in winter's dreariness of summer's loveliness. But we may also and chiefly consider the lilies as reminding us of God. "How they grow!" Who can understand all the mystery of the life even of a tiny flower? They "toil not," as men; "neither do they spin," as women. Their life is brief; flourishing today, and, as in the East, cut down to dry in the sun, and next day burnt up in the oven; and yet so graceful in form, so beautiful in color, the objects of so much thoughtful and tasteful care, "that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
And will God not much more clothe you, who can both toil and spin, and who have the same God who esteems you of far greater value, and has promised that you shall not lack anything that is good? Children's voices may reprove our anxiety as they sing—
I know who makes the daisies,
3. The USELESSNESS of anxiety.Who, by all his "worry, can add one inch to his stature"? By temperance in all things, and observance of the laws of health, we may add some years to our age. But not by anxiety. This shortens life. Some are anxious to increase their apparent height, but who can increase his real height by an inch? How small a thing it would be to add a little to length, either of life or limb, compared with the constant supplies of God for the body's life! "If you then, are not able to do even that which is least, why are you anxious concerning the rest?"
Anxiety is useless. It does nothing towards attaining its end. It hinders clear thinking, firm purpose, steady perseverance, final success. An old author says—"Don't fret about what you can't help, or what you can help. If you can't help it, fretting won't mend it. If you can help it, help it, and there will be nothing to fret about." Exercise caution, diligence, perseverance, prayer. "Work but don't worry." Then commit the result to God—"Casting all your care upon Him; for He cares for you."
4. It is heathenish to be "anxious for all these things."It is right to desire, work for, and enjoy them; but if we make them our supreme aim we lower ourselves to the level of idolaters—"for all these things do the heathen seek after." The nature of the particular idol does not constitute heathenism, but the idolatry which exalts anything above God. Alas, how many professed Christians are only baptized heathen! setting their affection on things of the earth; "lovers of pleasure, more than lovers of God;" indulging "covetousness, which is idolatry;" as if man's chief end were to please himself instead of "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." As if our clothes were more than our body—our money more than our mind—our things more than ourselves—what we think we have more than what we really are. "A man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses," but in what by God's grace he is—in faith, love, holiness, childlike trust. If eager chiefly for things of earth we are only like "the heathen."
5. Our Father knows our need.The Creator of the birds and flowers is our loving Father. Christ does not say that we can do without these things, and should not wish for them. He was more human than some philosophers—He is more considerate of our present needs than some Christians. He said that we have need of these things, and that our Father knows it—knows that we require food and clothing, the comforts of home and the solace of affection. "He who made the need, pledges the supply." The very need is evidence that He who caused it considers it. So in the higher need of the soul. If He implants the desire for what is good, He will help us to attain it. The longing for Himself is evidence that He has already given Himself. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."
6. If our Father gives us the kingdom—we may trust Him to provide all else.The disciples were few, feeble, poor, and exposed to the world's enmity. They were as timid sheep. But Jesus said, "Fear not." If a little flock, you have a great and good Shepherd, able to supply all your need, ever keeping watch, mighty to save. To Him you are precious. You are on your way to the kingdom. Though wanderers in a wilderness you will soon dwell in a palace—not as strangers, but as children of the King! It is your Father who gives it, and it is of His "good pleasure."
If so, will He not provide all needful things on the way? If a loyal subject volunteers in the army of his king, will not daily rations be provided? If a loving father urges his far-off son to come home, and prepares for his reception, will he allow him to perish by the way for lack of what his father could supply? Will not the love that gives the greater, give the less? "He who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not with Him also freely give us all things?" Little flock, you already realize the promise.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Christ now reigns in the heart, protecting and blessing all who obey Him. "We have eternal life." If then we possess the kingdom of heaven, shall we be anxious respecting the things of earth?
Let us then "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," assured that all these other things shall be added unto us. Not all that others have—not all that we may desire—but all that is really best. We may have large contentment—with small stores. The peace of God does not depend on plentiful gold. To have the will of God in heart and life; to "desire what He has promised, and to love what He has commanded;" to "hunger and thirst after righteousness" more than after riches, and thus to be filled, is to be rich indeed.
Worldliness can be driven from the heart only by the entrance of godliness—the baser passion must be conquered by the nobler; covetousness by contentment—anxiety by faith—selfishness by love—Mammon by God. A paramount desire to obtain the kingdom and become righteous, will counteract every base craving. Kings and priests of God, will not desire to be slaves of Mammon.
Jesus in Gethsemane, by His prayers and agony, showed how He loved those for whom He was thus securing the kingdom. He is now seated on that kingdom's throne. Let us not dishonor Him by distrusting Him about the lesser needs of the body. Come, O Savior King, into my heart, to rule there without a rival! All else I leave. My Father knows what I need. It is His good pleasure to give me the kingdom, and I may well be without anxiety respecting all things else!