You and I are living in the midst of a pandemic. Are you worried about your physical health? Are you concerned about your financial well being? Listen to what Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 6:25–34.
Don’t worry about your life. Worry is pointless. Worry changes nothing, v.27. The term Jesus uses may be translated either as “life” or “height” (more likely the latter). In either case, worry will increase neither your stature nor your longevity. Your sovereign God provides food for the birds and you are more important than they. He meets the needs of the flowers, clothing them in a splendor that surpasses that of Solomon. Worry takes energy and gifts God has given you for dealing with today’s problems, and expends it on things that have not happened and may never occur. Note that Jesus is not denying the existence of problems and trouble, v.34.
You have something that the world lacks—so, don’t worry. Jesus focuses on basic areas of need: your life, including nourishment and clothing. Remember that Jesus was speaking in a day when many lived a more hand-to-mouth existence than we do, though we are moving towards an existential appreciation of their situation. There were no frozen or canned foods. The Gentiles (Jesus has in mind the nations, those who are strangers to God-—thus pagans) do run after such things. They focus their time and energy on the pursuit of these things, which become all important in their lives. Although God does dispense Fatherly compassion on mankind in general (Matthew 5:43–45), his fatherhood is tied in with his kingdom. It is seen most clearly in his saving work of sending his Son into this world. The pagans, lacking trust in the Father, turn the pursuit of nourishment and clothing into something far more important than it ought to be. Do not imitate them! “These
were the people for whom the petition ‘Give us today the bread we need for the coming day’ (v. 11) rang true each day, and it was the confident offering of this prayer to a ‘Father in heaven’ that was their essential safeguard against worry.” (R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 266).
Trust your heavenly Father. Depend on his provision. our Father knows your needs. The sovereign of the kingdom is also your Father. He is aware of your needs and is willing to meet them. He is also your Father in heaven. Unlike an earthly father, who might be unable to help his child, this Father is absolutely sovereign. Look at the birds. The care he provides for them reassures you that he is will meet your needs, for you are far more precious than they. Focus on the flowers. Recognize the incredible splendor with which God provides for them. Appreciate the complexity of photosynthesis and the other biological processes–all for a plant that is admired today, and mowed down tomorrow. This trusting dependence does not imply inactivity. (Though the birds may not have barns, they are not idle!) Jesus does not prohibit legitimate concern about the future, or taking steps to provide for yourself and your family. But anxiety and worry are not part of the process. “This reliance of faith is not confined to the critical moments of life, it is to be the abiding, characteristic inner disposition of the disciple with reference to every concern. To trust God for food and raiment is as truly the mark of the disciple in the kingdom as to depend on him for eternal salvation.” (Geerhardus Vos, The Kingdom Of God and The Church, p. 97).
Seek his kingdom and righteousness. Recognize the importance, the centrality, of God’s kingdom. Serving your King, furthering his affairs, has to be the most important element of your life. Seek God’s righteousness. Living your life to the glory of your Father in heaven has to be a higher priority than satisfying your needs. Your all-consuming desire must focus on your heavenly Father. As it does, you find that he provides for the other things that you might have worried about! Ironically, by worrying about them, by making them central, you end up in frustration. How can God use the anxieties you face? He can use them to draw you closer to himself. “[In this book] I’m going to reinforce a message that may sound counterintuitive in our world: anxiety is a spiritual tool in the hands of a mighty God. . . . [Y]our focus will fall on the status of your soul before an all-powerful, soft-voiced shepherd, leading you moment by moment, calling you to trust, pulling your neck gently with his shepherd’s crook, bringing you back into the fold, fixing your ears on his voice.” (Pierce Taylor Hibbs, Struck Down But Not Destroyed: Living Faithfully with Anxiety, p. 3). But by putting God first, your needs are met. If he has provided his own Son, if he has made you a citizen of his kingdom, if he has adopted you so that you can call him your Father in heaven, then he will certainly take care of smaller matters, like feeding and clothing you. Jesus does not guarantee that you will not face suffering. He does not promise that you will escape death. But he does assure you that even in the most difficult of circumstances, nothing will separate you from the Father’s love and care.
Yes, you do live in a pandemic. Take precautions. Be careful about your own life and the lives of others. Reflect the compassion and care of your heavenly Father as you deal with those around you. You do face the troubles of each day. But instead of being ruled by fear, see the Lord using these trials to draw you closer to himself.