It’s pretty easy to say “Don’t be anxious about your life, about your food, about your clothing” in times of monetary surplus. Where the rubber really meets the road is during the hard times. True Christians are not to succumb to the sin of worrying and anxiety. If we do succumb then we need to fight, hate, and seek God’s strengthening grace as we war against it.
Here are some of my comments on Matthew 6:25-34:
“Because of this, I say to you, Do not be anxious for your soul, what you eat and what you drink, nor for your body, what you put on. Is not the soul more than the food and the body than the clothing?”
The statement “Because of this” refers back to the previous verse where Jesus said that one cannot serve God and mammōnas. Obviously sinful anxiety may — not necessarily does — give rise to other sinful states of mind such as covetousness, which in turn could lead to sins such as theft.
What follows is what some call an a fortiori argument. Since God provides us (true Christians) with bodies, then how much more will He clothe and nourish them. This, I think, is a general statement about God’s provision. I say “general statement” because God does not provide food and clothing in perpetuity, as if His elect were never going to die or be glorified. Clearly when His people die there is no provision being made for the body lying in the grave.
“Observe the birds of the heaven, that they do not sow, nor do they reap, nor do [they] gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Do you not rather excel them? But who of you [by] being anxious is able to add one cubit onto his stature? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They do not labor nor do they spin, but I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed as one of these. If God so enrobes the grass of the field (which is today, and is thrown into a furnace tomorrow) [will He] not much rather you, little-faiths? Then do not be anxious, saying, What may we eat? Or, what may we drink? Or, what may clothe us? For after all these things the nations seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Then do not be anxious for tomorrow. For the morrow will be anxious of itself. Sufficient to [each] day is its [own] trouble.”
Paul speaks of famine and nakedness in Romans 8. I think Romans 8:35 harmonizes beautifully with such “provision passages” as Matthew 6:25-33 and Philippians 4:19. It seems to me that the aforementioned passages address provision or lack of provision in different situations. From such passages as Matthew 6:25-33, Philippians 4:19, and the whole of Scripture, we see that God will provide for us as we seek first His kingdom and use the means He has provided (e.g., employment). The context of Romans 8:35 is much different. For the things listed therein go beyond God providing through something like the means of work.
Indeed John the Baptist had sought the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and was beheaded in prison for his unswerving faithfulness. John had not food and clothing “added unto him” because God’s promise of provision in Matthew 6:33 has a different context than the sword of Romans 8:35. Like John the Baptist, we would not be able to use the means of monetary sowing or reaping to provide for our family if compelled to kneel at a chopping block.
Matthew 6:25-33 teaches that God provides for birds who neither sow, nor reap. Does this mean we are not to work and remain idle by not sowing and not reaping? Not at all. The lilies of the field do not labor. Do we therefore draw the conclusion that we are not to labor? By no means. For other Scriptures give the admonition that if a man will not work neither shall he eat.
What is included in the word, “work”? For one thing, work includes the minister who continues “steadfast in prayer and the service of the Word” (Acts 6:4). Thus the minister SHALL eat because he DOES work — He LABORS in the Word. He also provides for his family and receives from those who have the financial means to give eagerly (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:12-15; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; 1 John 3:17).
Paul said that if a man desires not to work neither let him eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Obviously sitting idly is not seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness that all these things be added.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Even as it has been written, “For Your sake we are killed all the day; we are counted as sheep of slaughter.” But in all these things we more than conquer through Him loving us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).
Matthew 7:7-11 further states that to those who ask the same will be given (Matthew 7:7-8). Paul asked three times that the “thorn” in his flesh be removed. And what was the Divine response? “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul had petitioned God for ONE THING and received SOMETHING ELSE — this “something else” God had deemed entirely SUFFICIENT.