He takes care of the birds

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is coming to a close and his conclusion contains some of the sweetest words in all of Christian history. Throughout this daily series, I’ve tried my hardest to show that Jesus was primarily concerned with our hearts and our intentions, the motivations behind our actions, and that Jesus had deep criticisms of the religious establishment of his day.

Throughout this series, I’ve tried to show that Jesus’ teachings on how to live a simple and honest life are still applicable to our lives today. I think that rather than continuing through the book of Matthew (which is a goldmine of proverbs and lessons from Jesus), I've decided to end the daily series on today’s post, the end of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. I’d encourage you to read all of Matthew at some point though. Jesus concludes:

“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? 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? 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?
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (6:25-34)

Whenever there’s a ‘Therefore’ in Jesus’ words, we should ask: “What’s the therefore there for?” Cheesy, I know—my New Testament professor Dave DeKlavon, the kindest, cheesiest person on earth—taught us that. In this case, the therefore is there to turn Jesus’ thoughts on money and on our possessions into concluding remarks. Jesus’ lessons about money in his great Sermon on the Mount are coming to an end and only a few statements remain before the sermon itself closes in Matthew 7.

In the last few days as we’ve dissected this wonderful sermon, we’ve listened as Jesus warned us not to make a master of our money and be enslaved to greed. We’ve heard as he exhorted us to store up the kind of treasures that won’t rust—the things of God. Now, Jesus ends his remarks on money by saying, “Do not worry about a thing.”

The birds of the air—they don’t worry about where their next meal comes from. They don’t make plan to sow seeds and they don’t plan to collect a harvest. They live each day, one day at a time. God takes care of the birds and they were only creations of his. You, the Bible says, were lovingly formed and fashioned—God spent time on you. How much more will God provide for you, the one he so lovingly crafted?

Jesus asks, “Which of you, by worrying, can add a single hour to your life?”—he knows, in fact, that worrying can dramatically reduce the number of hours in our lives. Stress can eat away at us like a virus. Anxiety can cause such enmity down even to our gut that we develop real health problems.

Letting go and trusting that everything will be alright is not just recommended, it’s vital to your health. Being well means being forgetful when it comes to your past embarrassments and anticipated future struggles.

Look at the flowers of the field, how they grow so tall and display such beautiful colors. Did any one of those wildflowers stand in front of the closet in frustration this morning, worrying about which pedals to put on? Nope! They grow beautiful and colorful as God made them.

The wildflowers are temporary—they’re here today but tomorrow they’ll be windswept chaff, trampled underfoot. How much more beautiful and more colorful do you think God will make you, who's not so temporary? So why worry about what you wear?

What am I going to eat? What am I going to drink? What am I going to wear? These are the temporary concerns of the lower self, the baser self, the self that’s impulse is to pursue consumption and leave behind waste. To worry about such things is to let your mind be distracted from higher-order thoughts like: What is my mission? How should I analyze this or that? and In what ways can make a difference today?

Such distraction keeps us from moving forward. For every ‘woke’ individual at any point there are millions who are only thinking, “Should I get the chicken or the pulled pork?” And then the woke individual himself or herself is not woke at all times—the baser self beckons and our minds descend to the stomach and all we can think about is what we're going to consume next. It's human nature.

You might feel as though you’ve got to worry about food—maybe you’re unemployed or maybe you’re the primary caretaker for the family. Jesus was speaking not to wealthy men and women when he gave this sermon, he was speaking to the poor.

He was speaking to the masses of working class Jewish men and women just outside of first century Jerusalem. These were people who were lucky to be able to buy a loaf of bread on two days’ wages. They were oppressed by a Roman regime to which all of their tax dollars flowed. They were often hungry.

Jesus’ exhortation, “Do not worry” is not just for people who have it easy. Sure, the wealthy person is less likely to have to worry about food but that doesn’t mean that the impoverished person has license to worry more. In all cases, universally, worrying about what we’ll eat or what we’ll wear demonstrates a lack of trust in God.

And the wealthy person, as we've seen, has his or her own trust issues. Remember what Jesus said in my post yesterday? Later on in Matthew 19 he says, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” That's because a rich man trusts himself, leans on his own abilities, and trusts his wealth to never fail him.

Jesus exhorts the wealthy as well as the poor to trust in God. Trusting God is the opposite of succumbing to anxiety. Jesus knows his audience, he knows how hungry they are. Nevertheless he encourages them: Trust God—you’ll be fed. Lastly, Jesus says that tomorrow’s troubles are for tomorrow. Don’t let them affect your joy or your sense of mission today.