In Jesus’ teaching on worry, Philip De Courcy writes, “Jesus prescribes a reassessment. He asks, ‘Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?’ (Matthew 6:25). And then he directs them to “Look at the birds of the air.” Why? He explains, “Your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (v. 26). Then he adds,
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow . . . and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (vv. 28–30)
His argument is simple: worry arises when we put high price tags on the wrong things. In essence, Jesus corrects his listeners for overvaluing the temporal and undervaluing the eternal. They were worried about food and clothing instead of about their life and walk with God. So they needed to reassess their values. They needed a fresh understanding of what God treasures, and they needed to be convinced of their own value to God. If they really grasped these, they would cease their fussing and fretting. To this end, Jesus applied logic.
From the Greater to the Lesser
In the tradition of a Jewish rabbi, Jesus employs the standard “how much more” argument. He argues from the greater to the lesser in regard to life and food, then he turns that argument on its head and argues from the lesser to the greater in relationship to man and the surrounding creation. He wants his listeners to see that some things are more important than others and to believe that they themselves are most important to God. Why should they worry when they are valuable to God, when their heavenly Father has promised to take care of his children? If God gave us life, will he not give us the things necessary for life (v. 25)? Why would he give us life, but not give us food to sustain it? Why would he give us a body, but not provide clothes? If he does the greater thing, will he not do the lesser thing? Of course he will! This principle became clear to me many years ago in a jewelry store in Belfast, when I purchased my wife’s engagement ring. After I shelled out the money, I asked the lady behind the counter, “Do I get a box with it?” After first looking at me as if I was the village idiot, she then smiled and said, “Yes, sir. Of course! You’re buying a ring. We’ll give you a box.” It was as if she was saying, “Since you’re spending this amount of money, we’ll pay the five bucks for the pretty little box to put it in, for you to give to your sweetheart.” The one included the other. What jeweler wouldn’t give you a cheap box if you bought an expensive ring? It’s the same argument that Jesus makes here. If God gives us life, will he not also give us what is necessary to live that life for his glory?
From the Lesser to the Greater
Then Jesus reverses the argument, moving from the lesser to the greater. He draws from the surrounding creation and says, in effect, “Hold on a minute, guys. Here you are worrying about what you’re going to eat, but look at the birds of the air. They’re not worried about what they’re going to eat; your heavenly Father feeds them. And you guys are worried about what you’re going to wear? If you’d just look at the meadows and consider the beauty of the lilies, you’d recognize how God has graced his creation with a splash of color. The beauty and the appeal of these far outweigh Solomon and all his splendor! The flowers don’t worry, yet God clothes the field. Even to the grass he gives color—grass which is going to be cut down tomorrow and used to fire up the ovens so the women can cook. So tell me this: What is more important? The birds or you? The lilies of the field or you? Look at the created order and stop worrying!”
And even though mankind rebelled against God’s rule, thus turning the good into bad, God did not abandon them. Even at the point of departure God made the promise of redemption (Genesis 3:15). Even now, God is redeeming sinners through the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ, and sealing believers with the Spirit until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). The redeemed community of believers are the apple of his eye, his treasure, his particular people. He says, “Don’t you get it, guys? The God who takes care of the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field: are you not worth much more to him than they are? Are you not much more valuable than one of them? Yes, you are! You need to reassess your value system.”
If God takes care of the lesser creatures, will he not take care of the greater? Man is the crown of God’s creation (Psalm 8). At the end of the sixth day, God made man in his own image to have fellowship with him and to reflect God’s glory: Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)
[This post is excerpted from Philip De Courcy’s new mini-book, HELP! I’m Anxious, which includes personal Bible study application projects.]