Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
I. THE NATURE OF THE EVIL. We are misled by the word "thought," which has dropped one of its old meanings since the Authorized Version of the New Testament was issued. Christ is not depreciating an intellectual exercise, much less is he encouraging improvidence. What he really says is, "Be not anxious for your life."
1. The evil is in vexatious anxiety. If, after we have done all that is in our power, we fret ourselves with presentiments of possible mischief; or if, in the midst of our work, we let care about its issue take possession of our minds, we make the mistake our Lord deprecates.
2. The evil is concerned with bodily needs. The life, the food, the raiment. The idea is of being absorbed with deep concern for these temporal and external things.
3. The evil prevents concern for our higher interests and duties. Here is its greatest condemnation, not simply that it pains us, but that it injures us. Jesus does not advise freedom from anxiety merely on its own account, that we may have the satisfaction of being at peace. He sees that worldly anxiety fills the mind and heart,-and so keeps out thoughts of the great purpose of life. "The cares of this world" are tares that choke the Word. "The life is more than the food." We are to cast aside anxiety about food and clothes, that we may be free to "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness."
II. THE CURE OF THE EVIL. All deplore it; but few see how to conquer it. Some even regard the words of Christ as applicable only to an idyllic state of society - possible among the flowers and sunshine of Galilee in those old dreamy days, but quite impracticable in the busy, crowded West of to-day. Let us see if there are not permanent lessons in this teaching of our Lord.
1. The spirit of nature. Our Lord was preaching on a mountain, with flowers at his feet and birds above his head. His illustrations lay close at hand; but his choice of them was evidently suited to his object. He touches on the beauty and fresh life of nature, so that his very language is soothing. It carries us quite away from the fret and fever of life. If we would spend more time in considering the lilies we should be calmed and refreshed. Wordsworth re-echoes this wholesome lesson.
2. The analogy of the lower world. God cares for the grass that is enamelled with flowers in the spring, then scorched by the sun and burnt as fuel in the summer. He feeds the wild birds. Nature is wonderfully adjusted in its mutual ministries so as to support its most fragile creatures. If we can "live according to nature" we shall be provided for. This does not mean becoming savages - who are not in a state of nature at all. It means observing the laws of nature, as flowers and birds are bound to do, but as men do not.
3. The revelation of our Father's care. He knows our need. He does not despise it, or suppose that we can face it with Stoical indifference. Therefore we can entrust it to him. Faith is the great antidote to care.
4. The call to higher duty. It is wrong to waste our lives in anxiety. It is incumbent on us to give ourselves to the service of God. When we do this we shall find it easier to trust God. Then the evil may come; but we need not snatch at it prematurely. It can wait for its day, and when that arrives we shall find that as our day is so our strength will be. - W.F.A.
Take no thought.1. The question arises, Is not the Christian character a provident one?
2. All this is done to drive us to live by the day: to let the day's affairs fill the day's thoughts. See the benefit of this.(1) As respects our pleasures. How can a man enjoy pleasure when he has his mind disturbed about the future? We must dwell on it undistractedly.(2) As respects your pains. That which makes pain painful is the thought that it will continue.(3) As respects duties. The secret of doing anything well is concentration.
3. We should have only to do with the sins of the current day. As with our sins so with our cares.
4. The trouble which comes is very often not the trouble which we expected.
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)1. The Christian should live in quiet confidence in God.
2. This quiet dependence upon God is our happiness, usefulness, strength, security.
3. If this were wrought in our hearts as a principle, how energetic we should be in the exercise of faith in God.
4. The secret of getting through work is to take the work of the day and leave all that does not belong to it.
5. Although a man leaves all to God, and is happy in Christ, he is not therefore exempt from evil.
(J. W. Reeve.)I. THE PROHIBITION. If the text prohibits anxiety about gaining sustenance itself, it must much more condemn such a disposition of mind in reference to the luxuries or show of life, what a world of uneasiness is created by inordinate desire about trifles.
II. THE REASONS OR MOTIVES FOR DOING SO.
1. The first is derived from a view of the conduct of the Gentiles.
2. Another lesson for avoiding anxiety is this, "that our heavenly Father knoweth we have need of these things."
3. There is no advantage in excessive carefulness.Learn:
1. Christianity is calculated to make men happy.
2. Let Christians guard against a distrustful spirit.
(R. Robinson.)The word " thought " is here used in the antiquated sense of anxiety. In this sense it occurs in Bacon and Shakespeare, "Queen Catherine Parr died of thought." "The pale cast of thought."1. From the intrinsic superiority of the spirit or the soul to its material surroundings.
2. It is needless, as all men stand in an order of nature that they are sure to be supplied by a moderate exertion of their powers. A man ought to be ashamed if a bird can get a living and he cannot.
3. Anxiety does no good. The mind works more wisely when it works pleasantly. Anxiety distorts the future.
4. It brings men under the power of the imagination and phantoms, which they fight without pause, and upon which they spend their strength for nothing.
5. If a man is constantly looking to the future in despondency, where is faith in his God?
(Beecher.)I. The EVIL which we are directed to avoid.
II. The powerful CONSIDERATIONS BY WHICH THE SAVIOUR ENFORCES THE PRECEPT.
1. The power of God as displayed in our creation and preservation.
2. The care of Divine providence.
3. The futility of excessive anxiety.
4. The beauty of nature.
III. THERE REFLECTIONS.
1. The connection of Divine agency with the existence of all things.
2. This subject reminds us of Him through whom we have access to the Father.
3. Let us learn lessons of spiritual wisdom from everything around us.
(J. E. Good.)Appears to use a variety of arguments against over-anxiety.
I. He that gave the lesser gift will surely give the greater.
II. God cares for the lower creation.
III. Over-anxiety is useless.
IV. To be over-anxious is to arraign the Divine foresight.
V. To be over-anxious is to sink from the level of the Christian disciple to that of the heathen.
(Gordon Calthrop, M. A.)
1. The general course of nature is in favour of men.
2. That there is a Divine providence which employs the course of nature and gives it direction.
3. Fretting does no good, but uses up the nerve force needlessly.
4. It begets a habit of looking at the dark side of things.
5. The things we fear seldom happen.(1) A tranquil soul is indispensably necessary to anything like a true Christian atmosphere.(2) The chief ends of life are sacrificed to the unnecessary dust which our feet raise in the way of life.(3) What disagreeable company we make of ourselves for God.(4) This way of life, devoid of cheer, is bearing false witness against your Master.
(Beecher.)I. Anxiety is useless about things not under our own control. Duration of life, etc.
II. Anxiety is useless in matters under our own management. Anxiety will not furnish the opportunity of earning bread, or arm us with power — but the reverse.
III. Anxiety does not attract us to the notice of God. He cares for us irrespective of our carefulness. No promise is made to anxiety, etc.
IV. Anxiety is useless because Jesus bids you get rid of it. Trust Him and let the spirit rest, and be strong and glad.
I. There is no wise man who will lay out his time and thoughts about things he cannot bring to pass; no one debates but of things possible and probable, lying within the sphere of his activity.
II. That our food and maintenance nourishes us, and augments and enlarges the proportion of every limb, is not the product of our own care, but of God's blessing.
III. So it is with all outward concerns. From the Divine benediction which accompanies them, they prove good and useful to us. Not from our own care.
(Adam Littleton, D. D.)
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