Question: "Why should we consider the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:28)?"
Answer: In the middle of His great Sermon on the Mount, the Lord turns to the topic of anxiety or worry, encouraging His followers to trust in God as their provider. He asks His followers, “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?” (Matthew 6:28–30, ESV).
This section of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25–34) might be titled simply “Stop Worrying!” Jesus repeats the word worry or worries at least five times. The Lord had just finished teaching about wealth, contrasting temporary earthly riches with eternal heavenly treasure (Matthew 6:19–24). He drives home the point that true kingdom servants aren’t to live for transient esteem here on earth, but instead are to look toward heaven and the rewards being stored up for them in eternity. The purpose of this life, Jesus reveals, is to prepare us for the world to come.
Building on the theme, Christ teaches that the pursuit of wealth may be the single greatest rival for our devotion to God: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). The Lord desires our undivided loyalty and affection.
After addressing the topic of money, the Lord moves straight to worry, which is likely the next biggest contender for our time and devotion. Jesus tells His disciples, “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?” (Matthew 6:25). The faithful servant who is wholly committed to the King need not worry about everyday life. The essence of our existence is so much more than what we will eat and what we will wear.
Jesus uses food and clothing as general examples to signify our basic needs. We might just as easily insert “the rent,” “the power bill,” “the grocery budget,” or any number of everyday concerns that are a source of anxiety for us.
We should consider the birds of the air, according to Jesus. They don’t farm the soil or store their food in barns. No, their heavenly Father feeds them. “Aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are?” asks Jesus (Matthew 6:26, NLT). It does us no good to worry about our basic needs. Jesus asks, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (verse 27). Trusting God as our provider means believing He will take care of what we need. God has the power of life and death in His hands, and He will sustain His servants as long as they need to endure (Job 1:21; 33:4; James 4:12).
We should also consider the lilies of the field. They grow and yet don’t have to work to produce their clothing (Matthew 6:28). “Yet I tell you,” Jesus stresses, “that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these” (verse 29). The lilies of the field are here today and gone tomorrow, explains Jesus. If God cares so tenderly for short-lived wildflowers, how much more will He care for us who are of great value to Him (verse 30)? Not only does Jesus encourage us to trust in our heavenly Father, but He also affirms our great worth in God’s eyes.
Nearing the close of this section on worry, Jesus asks, “Why do you have so little faith?” (Matthew 6:30, ESV). Bible commentaries suggest that Jesus’ tone here is not condescending or scolding, but persuading and reasoning. He punctuates His main point with a penetrating question: “Do you truly trust your Heavenly Father?” Jesus encourages the disciples to look up and look beyond this life, just as Paul urges the Corinthians: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). If our priorities are in proper order, if we “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,” then “all these things” (our basic needs for this life) will be provided for us by the King (Matthew 6:33).
We should consider the lilies of the field because they remind us to trust our Heavenly Father to care for us and provide for our everyday needs. God loves us deeply and therefore will feed and clothe us. “In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind,” says Job 12:10. We don’t have to worry because our lives are in God’s hands. We should also consider the lilies of the field because they represent the fleeting nature of our time on this earth (see Isaiah 40:8). Our focus must remain on eternity and our real purpose in this life. And we should consider the lilies of the field because they call to mind how precious we are in God’s eyes.