“Why Pray When You Can Worry?”

Matthew 6:25-34


By Jeremy Stopford, Semi-retired pastor

“25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 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?

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:25-34 (NKJV) [my emphasis]

If you don’t look it up, you won’t know what it means! Back in the old days there was a disease called “consumption.” I always thought it was “diarrhea,” but the dictionary advises otherwise. Today it is called “pulmonary tuberculosis.” I don’t know all the medical facts, but as the name implies, it was a wasting disease, destroying in particular the lungs. How horrible to die by suffocating little by little.

Yet today we are approaching a disease which could be called “spiritual consumption.”

Do you know it’s symptoms? Do you know anyone who has it? Do YOU have it? And if YOU have it, how do you get rid of it?

“Spiritual Consumption” first of all involves THE CONSUMING WORRY, as seen in verses 25 and 31. The old King James Version said, “take no thought” which has been translated above as “do not worry” in both these verses. A consuming worry is one which makes one perpetually uneasy, anxious, indeed – worried!

Sometime before I turned 13, my parents bought me a “sunfish” – that would be a sailboat which included on the deck a place for my two feet. I LOVED to sail! By the end of every summer, my red hair would have turned bleach blond! I remember when I was first learning how to sail, I would often capsize! The brilliance of the sunfish is that it readily uprighted, so capsizing wasn’t a big deal for the newcomer to sailing. But when one is first learning how to sail, one must learn quickly the most important rule about sailing: DON’T STAND UP! Standing up in a boat can cause an imbalance which can either cause great harm (why, the mast can hit you) or frustration (you might tip over!).

A consuming worry! What worries – like the possibility of tipping over a sailboat – can consume even the strongest servants of the Lord Jesus? The Savior describes this brilliantly. Simply put (verses 25-27), food, water, and clothing! Perhaps the modern word would be…STUFF! The Lord illustrates from nature – His creation (verses 26 and 28). The birds aren’t anxious, because they know they are fed by their Creator. The lilies of the field don’t work, because they know they are beautifully clothed by their Master – why even more beautifully clothed than Solomon, the wealthiest man ever to live in Biblical times. Even a thought of worry cannot help you grow an inch (verse 27)! That thought becomes verbalized in verse 31: “‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’”.

The “consuming worry” bottom line causes a person to be of little faith (verse 30): and that person does not look to God nor to His Word.

Secondly, spiritual consumption also involves THE CONSUMING SEARCH (verse 32): “For after all these things the Gentiles seek”.

Just who ARE the “Gentiles”? Initially, of course, they are in Scripture the non-Jews. 1 Corinthians 10:32 reads, “Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God…”. The “Greeks” in this verse are the non-Jews, or, as seen in many other versions, the “Gentiles.” So why would the Lord use the Gentiles in His message as concerning a “consuming search”? Because, as described throughout Scriptures, the consuming search of the Gentiles is…THINGS (again, as we say today, “STUFF”!).

The Bible gives at least three good instances – I’m sure there are more! – about being consumed with searching for STUFF! One passage should be very familiar, the other two perhaps not so much. In Luke 12:15-21, Jesus introduces His lesson with an overwhelming truth: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Verse 15). The farmer was a good farmer, a very productive farmer. He was so good that he desired to tear down all his barns and build bigger barns. That in itself is not bad – in fact, that might have been a wise move. EXCEPT there is one catch: his purpose was that his goods would give him an ease of life for eternity. He had no consideration for the Savior, nor for the brevity of life. In Acts 8:18-20, a follower of Peter named Simon lusted for the power of the Spirit which the disciples freely expressed. He wished to purchase that power with his money. His consumption was for the Spirit/salvation using earthly reason (and money!). Finally, 2 Corinthians 10:5 reads, “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”. Here, there were those who were seeking intelligence! On the surface, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But Paul was referring to those who sought intelligence rather than first seeking true faith in the Lord Jesus through the cross. In the end, what have they really gained? NOTHING!

Thirdly, spiritual consumption is defined as THE CONSUMING PASSION (verses 33-34).

The Lord Jesus say “SEEK FIRST”. This can be defined as “aim at, strive after, let these be your consuming passions above any earthly needs”. And just so there isn’t any guess work, He then tells His hearers (and US His listeners/readers) what to SEEK FIRST.

We are to SEEK FIRST His Kingdom (verse 33a). I love Colossians 3:1-3. When I was a freshman in a secular university as a new Christian, I sought out an on-campus Christian fellowship. That fellowship provided me not only memories but also a strong foundation in my walk with Christ in all the years to follow. One of the leaders of that fellowship was a senior named “Ray”. His life verses were this text in Colossians. Ever since I was under his leadership, I have called these verses “The Ray Principle”:

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

What did Paul say? SEEK (verse 1), SET (verse 2), and SETTLE (verse 3). Good true SPIRITUAL STUFF!

The Lord said not only to seek first His Kingdom. We are also to SEEK FIRST His Righteousness (verse 33b). The entirety of the Scriptures is our Heavenly Father pleading with His creation to seek first His way of doing and being right. His plea even goes to far as sending His one and only Son to the cross, “that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). We seek first His righteousness because He first seeks US!

We are not only to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. We are finally to SEEK FIRST His Day (verse 34). What does this mean? One can easily paraphrase this verse to say, “Tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Each day has its own troubles.” What guarantee do you or I have that today will not be your LAST??? So seek first His day. That means to seek first His Lordship for THIS day. He’s already taking care of tomorrow. Why, He’s already taking care of today!!! So seek first His day – His glory, His purpose, His goals for this day in your life.

As we close, LET’S BE PRACTICAL! To seek Him first means to cast on Him all our cares, as well as our cares for others (see 1 Peter 5:7). So what then should we do FIRST? You bet – PRAY!

I close with an amazing illustration which has repeated itself a multitude of times in my life – and I’m willing to wager (although I’m not a betting man) that this scene has been in your lives many times as well! I’ve lost my car key (or “fob” as it is in many cars today)! So what do I do FIRST? Well, I think through where I was the last time I remember seeing the keys. HELLO! If I knew that, I wouldn’t have to look for the keys! But nonetheless, I try FIRST to re-think my steps. And THEN? I re-trace my steps. I go from the car to the front door (the front door key is attached to the ring which holds the car key). Then I go to the kitchen where I often put the keys. And then I go to each room of the house, desperately looking for the aforementioned missing object. After at lest an half hour – or sometimes not at all until that EVENING – I end up in the bedroom. And what is sitting on the dresser next to the bed? Why, it is the car key! Oh I remember now! Before going to bed last night, I said to myself, “Self – since I forgot to leave my car key by the front door when I came home this evening, let’s start something NEW, Let’s keep the key on the bureau next to the bed. Thus the key will be the last thing I see at night, AND the FIRST thing I see in the morning!”. Well, that FIRST thing didn’t work, WHY NOT? Because Jesus said to seek Him FIRST!

Let’s covenant together to seek Him FIRST today!