“And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:28-33).
This is one of those beloved, dog-eared, heavily highlighted pages in many of our Bibles. Most of us who have read any amount of Scripture know at least part of this passage. We probably remember moments when these words pulled us through a hard time.
Jesus tells us to “consider” the lilies. According to Strong’s Concordance, the word used there is katamanthanō. It means “to learn thoroughly.”
Some other instances where that word is also used in the New Testament are:
“On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13).
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:32-35).
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘and they shall all be taught of god.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father” (John 6:44-46).
Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need. Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful (Titus 3:13-14).
Why Does Jesus Ask Us to Consider the Lilies?
It’s interesting to me that Jesus instructed people to turn their attention to nature to learn aspects of God’s character and the ways He works. I have often felt the Lord use nature or time in the garden to speak truths into my heart or tangibly remind me of truths that need freshening in my perspective.
Jesus pointed to the lilies and the birds to press into our hearts, or cause us to “learn thoroughly,” that He is the Creator and Sustainer of all life, from the smallest of creatures to the greatest.
Our family, perhaps like yours, has gone through exceptionally lean and stressful seasons financially. The simplicity of this verse has been one of the verses we have pressed hard into:
“Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33), just as they are added to the birds and the flowers. There were long seasons of waiting for His provision to rescue us, but He always has most graciously cared for us in the end.
While our world has been turning every which way, many of us have experienced financial pressures. Many of us have wondered where work would come from or how to stretch the provision we had around the needs of life.
As I have prayed for wisdom to know how to prepare for what is ahead and respond to the circumstances of the moment, this passage has been a sustaining comfort.
How Much More Does Jesus Consider Us Than the Lilies?
God sees the smallest creation and He most assuredly sees you and me. He will provide and care for us as we trust Him. All the worry for our basic needs won’t add a thing to our lives and in fact most often robs the sweetness out of life.
This verse flies in the face of the “God helps those who help themselves” mindset. God tends to those who trust in Him. God provides for those who put Him and His kingdom first. Sometimes that provision comes in a variety of ways, but He is always faithful to His children.
Earlier in the same chapter of Matthew, Jesus warns us about focusing too much attention on money. Reminding us that earthly treasures succumb to worldly decay but promising the everlasting wealth that comes when we store our wealth in Heaven.
He goes on to define storing treasures in heaven as “having a good eye,” which is a Jewish cultural expression meaning that a person is generous, they have an eye to do good to others. God will tend us even more graciously than the birds and flowers because we are His children.
And that peaceful assurance can propel us to find ways to be generous to others, to seek His kingdom before we seek our own comforts.
I recently read a book about changing the world and the main point of the book was that generosity changes the world! Everyone can find a way to be generous or have a “good eye.” In that way, we set our treasures in heaven and seek first the Kingdom of God.
We’ve been through seasons where generosity was sought very creatively and perhaps not as easily as other seasons. Sometimes, it is easy to be generous with your time or money. Other times it is a real sacrifice.
What Does Consider the Lilies Mean for Us?
And in those seasons when you know the basics aren’t covered but seek to bless another along the way, I have always seen the Lord come through gloriously. Sometimes it was an endurance-building wait, but He has never disappointed me!
So next time your attention is captured by a flower, remember Jesus exhorting you to trust Him with your concerns and also to be generous. Don’t let the worries of “making it” darken your generosity toward others, because the treasures given away are the ones we keep in the end.
For further reading:
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/panaramka
April Motl is a pastor’s wife, homeschool mom, and women’s ministry director. When she’s not waist-deep in the joys and jobs of motherhood, being a wife, and serving at church, she writes and teaches for women. You can find more encouraging resources from April here and here.
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