“On account of this I say to you: Stop worrying regarding your soul, as to what you might eat or what you might drink; nor for your body, as to what you might put on. Isn’t the soul more than food and the body more than clothing? Look to the birds of heaven, for they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you much better than they? So, who of you by worrying is able to add to his lifespan a single cubit?
And concerning clothing, why do you worry? Learn from the lilies of the field, how they grow. The do not toil nor spin. Yet, I say to you that not even Solomon in all of his glory arrayed himself like one of these. So, if God thus clothes the grass of the field, being alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, won’t He much more for you, O Little believers?
Therefore, never worry saying: ‘what might we eat’ or ‘what might we drink’ or ‘what might we clothe ourselves’? For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. So, start seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Therefore, never worry concerning tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Every day has sufficient trouble of its own.”
The connection between practical everyday righteousness (6:19-7:12) and righteousness performed to God (6:1-18) is now taking shape. It does little good to fast (6:16-18), an act by which one devotes total attention to seeking God, if one’s life is divided in attention and loyalty (6:19-24). Likewise, it does little good to pray (6:5-15) if one fails to trust God in their day-to-day living (6:25-34). It is also noteworthy that, like prayer and fasting, there is a connection between the previous section dedicated to singular focus (6:19-24) and these verses addressing the disciples trust in God (6:25-34). Jesus’ opening words “For this reason” (NASB) or “on account of this” (διὰ τοῦτο) points back to the previous paragraph with emphasis on Jesus’ statement regarding God and Mammon. It is because a disciple’s focus must be singularly directed to serving God exclusively that Jesus now exposes three aspects of a common practice that betrays a lack of trust: namely, worry. Jesus commands His disciples to repent of the unbelief that is worry (vv. 25-30), calls them to replace worry with faith and obedience (vv. 31-33), before summarizing His command with some practical, if not comical advice (v. 34).
Worry Expresses Faithlessness (vv. 25-30)
After connecting this thought to the teaching regarding single focus (6:19-24), Jesus first exhorts His disciples to repent of their worry (v. 25) and then proceeds to provide two illustrations that show that worry is both useless (vv. 26-27) and indicative of unbelief (vv. 28-30).
Exhortation: Worry Must Cease (v. 25)
“On account of this I say to you: Stop worrying regarding your soul, as to what you might eat or what you might drink; nor for your body, as to what you might put on. Isn’t the soul more than food and the body more than clothing?”
As in v. 19, Jesus uses the negated present imperative (μὴ μεριμνᾶτε). The meaning is more than a command not to worry but rather is a command to cease worrying. The implication is that this is something that the disciples are currently guilty of and must stop. While it is true that the present imperative could be understood as a command not to start worrying, the fact that Jesus (1) uses the same form as v. 19, (2) asks them why they worry (v. 28), and (3) calls them men of little faith (v. 30) indicates that this is a call to cease and desist rather than a warning not to begin.
To worry (μεριμνάω) is not necessarily an evil thing by itself. The term indicates an attitude of concern or care (1 Cor. 7:32-34; 12:25; Phil. 2:20) but when given to excess leads to anxiety (Matt. 10:19; Lk. 10:41; 12:11; Phil. 4:6). There is an obvious connection between to object of one’s concern and the object of one’s focus. Of the 19 uses of this verb in the New Testament, six of them appear in these five verses which follow Jesus’ teaching on single heaven-directed focus.
In calling His audience to repent from worry, Jesus brings two areas of concern to the forefront: the soul (ψυχή) and the body (σῶμα). There is no need to spiritualize this text or to overthink it. Jesus refers to the soul as that which marks life. It was after God formed man from the dust and breathed into him the breath of life that he became a living being or soul (נֶפֶשׁ/ψυχή Gen. 2:7). The body is a natural extension as the physical vessel that contains life. All earthly treasures (v. 19) stem from one’s focus on the basic necessities of life. On a foundational level, life is sustained by food and drink. The body likewise is protected and preserved by clothing. The connection to the creation account continues when we remember that it was God who took the initiative to both feed (Gen. 2:8) and clothe (Gen. 3:21) Adam.
The rhetorical question presents Jesus’ initial case in a classical argument from the greater to the lesser. The Greek adjective πολύς usually translated as “more” (NASB, NKJV, ESV) is not conveying quantity (the body consists of more than food and the body consists of more than clothing), for food is not actually part of what makes life nor is clothing part of the body but is placed on the body. Rather, the adjective communicates quality (the soul/life is greater than food and the body is greater than clothing). The point again circles back to God as first Creator and then as Sustainer. If God can bring life and create the body (the greater) then is He not also able to sustain the life and body that He created (the lesser)? This rhetorical reasoning sets the tone and provides the structure for the next several verses containing Jesus’ illustrations (vv. 26-30).
Illustrations: Worry is Impotent and Faithless (vv. 26-30)
Two illustrations from nature follow: the birds (vv. 26-27) and the flowers (vv. 28-30). The fact that Jesus is preaching in the open likely made these illustrations all the more effective. While both illustrations advance Jesus’ point that God who creates is also the God who sustains, yet they are not redundant. Jesus uses the birds to illustrate that worrying is pointless and accomplishes nothing. By transitioning to the flowers, Jesus points out that worrying is sinful as it expresses unbelief. The rhetorical questions at the end of both illustrations continue to circle back to God’s initial creation by arguing that God is certainly more interested in providing and sustaining man whom He created in His image.
The Birds: Worry Accomplishes Nothing (vv. 26-27)
“Look to the birds of heaven, for they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you much better than they? So, who of you by worrying is able to add to his lifespan a single cubit?”
Jesus begins with an aorist imperative from βλέπω (look!). By drawing His audience’s attention to the birds, Jesus transforms the greater-to-lesser argument to a lesser-to-greater argument. Unlike man, who not only plans ahead but actively works to secure food by planting a crop, harvesting, and then storing the crop in barns, the birds live from hand to mouth. The point is not that idleness is superior to industry, for the birds are certainly not idle and man was created to be industrious (Gen. 1:28; 2:15). The context of worry and anxiety is in view. The birds show no sign of worrying about the future and they fair none the worse for it because your heavenly Father feeds them. The rhetorical question draws again from creation. Is not man placed over the birds of the air? Could it be that the birds exhibit more faith in God’s provision than man who is made in God’s image? The point being pressed is the futility of worrying, for man worries while he works while the birds worry not at all. Yet at the end of the day, both eat. What was accomplished by worrying? This point is driven home in the next verse.
There is some discussion regarding Jesus’ choice of words here. Ἡλικία, the term translated as “life” (NASB) or “span of life” (ESV) is also translated as “stature” (NKJV). The question is whether Jesus is speaking about the length of one’s life or the height of one’s stature. This is compounded by Jesus’ use of πῆχυς, translated variously as “hour” (NASB, ESV) and “cubit” (NKJV). While it is true that both Greek terms literally indicate a physical measurement (height, cubit), it is better to understand Jesus as using these terms metaphorically to refer to the length of one’s life for several reasons.
First, the use of physical measurements, particularly with the use of ἡκιλία, to refer to length of life is not unprecedented in Scripture (Job. 29:18; Jn. 9:21, 23; Heb. 11:11). Second, the birds are brought up to illustrate what Jesus has already said about food, that which sustains the soul or life (v. 25). Third, it is difficult to understand the connection between food and height while the connection between food and life is easily understood. Finally, the addition of a “cubit” (πῆχυς) to one’s life/stature (ἡκιλία) seems to be a small matter. A cubit is the length between the tip of a man’s fingers and his elbow, a running average of about 18 inches. It is difficult to imagine a growth spurt of 18 inches being a small thing, or even a desirable thing for that matter. “Who except a dwarf or a child would want to be half a yard taller?”
The point is that worrying accomplishes nothing. Man cannot add to his years by so much as a minute for his days are numbered by God. If God has already determined the number of our days, then any lack of food will not cause “premature” death nor will an abundance somehow secure additional time on earth. Therefore, to worry is utterly pointless and accomplishes nothing.
The Flowers: Worry Doubts God (vv. 28-30)
“And concerning clothing, why do you worry? Learn from the lilies of the field, how they grow. The do not toil nor spin. Yet, I say to you that not even Solomon in all of his glory arrayed himself like one of these. So, if God thus clothes the grass of the field, being alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, won’t He much more for you, O Little believers?”
Jesus’ transition from birds to flowers is marked by His accusing question about clothing. Thus, as the birds were connected to food and the life that food supports, so the flowers will illustrate clothing’s support of the body. Another aorist imperative initiates this illustration, but the sense is more emphatic. Jesus uses a verb from μανθάνω (to learn) which shares a root with the noun disciple (μαθητής). In short, Jesus doesn’t just direct the disciples’ attention to the flowers, but commands them to learn from them.
It is impossible to know the precise species of flowers Jesus has in mind as κρίνον seems to be a generic term for flower or even blossom (Ex. 25:31-34; Num. 8:4; 1 Kings 7:19, 26). Again, Jesus is speaking in the open and is therefore likely referring to the abundant wildflowers in bloom. What Jesus wants His disciples to take notice of is how these flowers grow. What does the flower contribute to its transformation from spindly sprout to its beautiful bloom? Nothing. They never undertake the work and toil of transforming raw material into cloth (toiling and spinning), yet each individual flower is arrayed in more splendor than King Solomon ever was.
The reference to Solomon is interesting. By every account, Solomon’s reign was the high-water mark of the ancient kingdom. The reference to Solomon’s glory (τῇ δόξῃ αὐτοῦ) includes more than his wardrobe. This de facto son of David was the wealthiest, most powerful, influential, and prominent king ever to sit on Israel’s throne (1 Kings 10:1-29). He was also one who suffered from divided attention and thus turned away from Yhwh (1 Kings 11:1-8). The comparison between Solomon and the lilies of the field is not only a comparison of splendor, but also of faith. This connection to trust is brought out in the following verse.
There is no doubt expressed in “if”. This first-class conditional statement assumes that God does in fact clothe the grass with splendor even though it is here today and gone tomorrow. The use of “today” (σήμερον) is likely a reference to “today’s bread” in v. 11. The beautiful flowers can be scorched to the point of being suitable tinder for the baking oven in the course of a single afternoon. But disciples are not grass, they are children of God. Is not there an expectation that God will care for those whom He calls sons? The expression “you of little faith” translates a single adjective (ὀλιγόπιστος) that literally means small-faith and is used almost like a proper name. Jesus calls His audience small-believers or wanting-trusters. Their worry betrays a deficiency of faith.
Jesus uses this term 5x in the New Testament, four of which are in Matthew’s gospel. The term is always used by Jesus to describe the disciples after some panic attack regarding their safety, provision, or a frustrating lack of understanding. Jesus does not say that they are faithless (ἀπιστία/ἀπιστέω) but that their faith is small and is lacking. How can one trust God to clothe the flowers in splendor yet worry about going naked in this world? This second illustration then adds to the first. To worry is not only futile, but it is an expression of unbelief and must be repented of.
Worry Exchanged for Faith (vv. 31-33)
After commanding His followers to repent of worrying (v. 25) and demonstrating the impotency (vv. 26-27) and faithlessness (vv. 28-30) of worrying, Jesus now calls on His audience to choose between worry and trust. This call comes in the form of two exhortations: A summarized exhortation not to worry (vv. 31-32) followed by an exhortation to start trusting (v. 33).
Exhortation not to Worry (vv. 31-32)
The exhortation in v. 31 repeats the objects of concern or worry from v. 25. Yet, this verse is more than a simple inclusio as it is followed immediately by two significant theological reasons not to worry in v. 32.
Exhortation: Never Worry about Physical Needs (v. 31)
“Therefore, never worry saying: ‘what might we eat’ or ‘what might we drink’ or ‘what might we clothe ourselves’?”
The conjunction οὖν (therefore) draws an inference from all which precedes. The conclusion to all that Jesus has stated so far is don’t worry. Rather than an imperative, Jesus uses the negated subjunctive (μὴ μεριμνήσητε) which utterly prohibits worrying. The sense is therefore: never worry. According to Jesus, there is no such thing as a justifiable reason to worry regarding the basic necessities of life (food, drink, and clothing). The logic is inescapable. If one is never to worry about these things, then what else is there to worry about?
Jesus is not concerned with secondary side-effects of worry (lack of sleep, stomach ulcers, irritability, etc.) but goes straight to the heart of the problem. Worry is never to be tolerated in disciples because worrying is primarily a theological issue.
Explanation: Worry is a Theological Statement (v. 32)
“For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”
The Greek of v. 32 contains two γὰρ clauses and thus provides not one, but two reasons why disciples of Jesus Christ are never allowed to worry about life’s essential necessities. The first reason is because these are the worries that consume the Gentiles. By mentioning the Gentiles (ἔθνος), Jesus directs attention back to v. 7 where He prohibited the disciples from praying as the Gentiles do. Just as building prayers filled with flattery and flower platitudes is more pagan than it is Christian, so is worrying over food and clothing. Christians must never worry because this is a line of distinction between believers and pagans.
The second reason again draws our attention back to Jesus’ teaching on prayer, this time to v. 8. Those who follow Jesus are never to worry because their Father knows that they need these things. To worry is to doubt that God is either (a) able to provide, (b) understand that they need provision, or (c) cares whether they live or die. Jesus has already proven that God is able to provide with His greater-to-less argument in v. 25. The God who creates is certainly able to provide. He also addressed God’s care for His children in both illustrations of the birds and the flowers. His children are certainly more valuable than the birds who He feeds and the flowers that He clothes. The only logic reason left open is whether God is actually aware that His children need to eat and be clothed from the elements. Perhaps God is mighty and kind but is just stupid. Nothing could be further from the truth. If God knows what His children need before ever they ask (v. 8) then certainly He knows that they need these things.
Putting these two thoughts together, Jesus makes the point that to worry is to make a theological statement about God. To worry is practical paganism. This is why believers must never worry. Yet, with all of this talk about what believers are not to do, Jesus cannot conclude before giving positive instruction. What is a believer to do in place of worry?
Exhortation to Seek Kingdom Righteousness (v. 33)
“So, start seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
The present imperative ζητεῖτε (seek) carries the perfectly mirrored idea to Jesus’ opening thought in v. 25. He commands His disciples to stop worrying (μεριμνᾶτε) and now calls them to start seeking. This seeking is defined in terms of priority, the prize to be sought, and the accompanying provision that is promised.
The priority of this command is expressed by the adverb πρῶτος (first). The term can indicate either a sequential order (seek the kingdom and righteousness first, before seeking other things) or it can indicate a position of prominence and importance (prioritize the kingdom and righteousness above all else). Given that (1) this call follows a detailed discussion of singular and undivided focus (6:19-24), and (2) the command is presented as the antithesis and replacement of worry, which is an all-consuming activity, it is impossible to think of Jesus as suggesting that seeking the kingdom and righteousness is simply the first thing to be sought before going off and seeking other pursuits. The point here is of ultimate priority. The Father’s kingdom and righteousness are to be the single prize to be sought after.
The prize of the Father’s kingdom and righteousness is placed in contrast to these things; namely what men might eat, drink, and wear. The pagans early seek (ἐπιζητέω) these things while Jesus commands His disciples to seek (ζητέω) the Father’s kingdom and righteousness. This may appear to be an ambiguous statement if Jesus hadn’t already spent 78 verses defining and expounding upon the kingdom and the Father’s righteousness.
By referring to the kingdom in relation to the Father, Jesus connects this call to His model prayer (v. 9). To seek the Father’s kingdom begins by seeking to enter it. Jesus has already clearly defined who belongs to the kingdom (5:3-12) and described the purpose of their sojourn as they wait for it (5:13-16). The pursuit of righteousness begins by hungering and thirsting for it (5:6). It is defined as being superior to the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (5:20) and must extend past external showmanship to internal change (5:21-48). Righteousness has further been demanded as something that is performed for God’s approval rather than man’s applause (6:1-18). In other words, to seek the Father’s kingdom and righteousness is to believe that God will establish His kingdom in His time through His Messiah and to submit the whole of one’s being to Him. Simply put: seeking His kingdom and His righteousness is to trust and obey. Trusting in God’s kingdom and God’s King and conforming our lives to His righteous standard must be the all-consuming priority of the disciple.
The provision that comes with this prioritized prize is amazing. By all these things Jesus clearly means the cares and concerns of eating, drinking, and clothing. Believers are to concern themselves with trusting God and obeying Him because He will add these things to the believer. The term translated as “add” (προστίθημι) is the same verb used in v. 27. It is impossible for a man to add an extra length to his life, but he can trust God to add what is needed to his existence if he but trusts and obeys.
The future tense is interesting (προστεθήσεται) because Jesus has normally used the future tense to convey eschatological realities. This would certainly make sense here given the exhortation of heavenly treasure over earthly treasure is the backdrop to this section. Also, we know that the kingdom will be a time of rest, free from the worries of this present life. The force is certainly eschatological but that does not mean that this promise is devoid of meaning for those who remain on this earth awaiting the coming kingdom.
Jesus states that these things will be added but He shrewdly omits how these things will be added. In the kingdom, God will very actively provide for His people. In this interim that we presently occupy, God chiefly provides for His people through His people: the church.
Worry Eliminated from Focus (v. 34)
“Therefore, never worry concerning tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Every day has sufficient trouble of its own.”
This final “therefore” (οὖν) summarizes the whole section. In conclusion: never worry about tomorrow. The same negated subjunctive (μὴ μεριμνήσητε) from v. 31 appears again with the same nuance. Because Jesus promised that God will add all that is necessary for believers’ lives in the future, He prohibits any worrying about the future; i.e., tomorrow. Jesus’ rationale is as comical as it is practical.
Jesus literally personifies “tomorrow” as a worry wart of sorts. There is no reason to worry about tomorrow because “tomorrow” does all the worrying for you. What sense is there in both of you worrying? It is important to note that Jesus says nothing of the Father worrying for us because God does not worry. Because He is in sovereign and absolute control of all things past, present, and future, God does not worry. The worrying here is absolutely undertaken by “tomorrow”. “Father time may be a nervous wreck, but the heavenly Father never is.” The point is a comical restatement of Jesus’ first illustration with the birds: worrying accomplishes nothing. Why worry about tomorrow when “tomorrow” does all the worrying for you?
The final statement draws attention back to the task at hand. To worry about tomorrow distracts from today. Why worry about tomorrow as if today was so carefree that trouble needs to be borrowed from tomorrow. This day has sufficient trouble to occupy our thoughts, time, and trust.
 Quarles, Sermon on the Mount, p. 259.
 John Broadus, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, An American Commentary on the New Testament (Forgotten Books, 2012), p. 148.
 Osborne, p. 250.
 Lenski, p. 282.
 Broadus, p. 149.
 Lenski, p. 282.
 Quarles, Sermon on the Mount, p. 271.
 Broadus, p. 151.
 Lenski, p. 287.
 Quarles, Sermon on the Mount, p. 283.