Jesus begins this passage with the word "therefore." This means He is connecting what He has just preached with the statement He is about to make. As we have covered in the last few blog posts, Jesus has addressed three specific spiritual disciplines: giving, prayer, and fasting. All three of these things are designed to help us trust God more. And that is exactly what Jesus addresses in this passage.
Jesus calls His followers to "not be anxious" about their lives. That is an easy thing to say, but a very difficult thing to do! Think about all of the doctors, counseling, medicine, books, etc. that we have in our culture that address the very topic of anxiety. It makes me anxious just thinking about the amount of anxiety in our world today! And yet, Christ tells us to not be anxious. Giving, prayer, and fasting help develop in us a trust for God, but it is not just sufficient to only "do" these things. These things help shape and conform us into the image of Christ. Christ is not just calling for outward duty, but for inward transformation.
He uses a couple of examples: birds and flowers. God feeds the birds. And God is the One who clothes the flowers ("lilies of the field") with their beauty. Jesus says that people are of much more value than birds (verse 26) and will be clothed by God more than flowers (verse 30). If God takes care of birds and flowers, of course, He will care for His people! One of the best ways that Christians can comfort themselves is to remind themselves of God's ability and sovereignty.
It can be easy to forget that our heavenly Father knows everything about us. We begin to wonder whether or not He really understands or sees. But Jesus reminds us that He does see in verse 32: "For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all." God knows. Jesus became human and is able to identify with all of our struggles. And yet. He calls us to prioritize His Kingdom: "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (verse 33).
The word "seek" in the Greek is a present imperative active verb. In other words, it gives off the impression of continual action. A good translation might be: "But continually seek first the kingdom..." This is not just a one-time thing. This is an everyday trust in God. This is an everyday battle for holiness and good works. This is daily taking up our cross and denying our own desires in order to follow Jesus. This is what the everyday life of a Christian should be marked by. How do you seek His kingdom and righteousness first? Start by looking at what Christ has called us to do in His Word and just obey. This isn't you trying to earn salvation. This is your response to the great salvation He has given you.
What does all of this have to do with not being anxious? The Bible seems to say, "everything!" Our trust in God's ability to rescue us and to bring us to be with Him has everything to do with our daily trust in Him. If God loves us enough to rescue our souls from Hell, bring us into His presence, and give us eternal life, how can we not trust Him to care for our daily needs (see Romans 8:32)?
Verse 34 ties it all in like this: "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Christian, what do you find yourself worrying about? Perhaps it's not money or clothes, but your electric bill, gas in your car, your mortgage, your kid's college, the future of our country, your job, etc. Whatever the concern may be, the principle is the same: take it to Jesus, focus on obeying Him, and trust your heavenly Father to take care of your needs. He is a much better provider than you are a worrier.