ŇTherefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?Ó Matthew 6:25,26.

 

 

ŇTherefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?Ó Matthew 6:25

 

Our Saviour Christ having forbidden the practices of covetousness, and prevented such objections as the corrupt heart of man might frame to excuse itself therein, doth here strike at the very root of covetousness, and seeks to remove the cause thereof; to wit, distrustful and inordinate care for the things of this life, though they be things necessary, as meat, drink and clothing; and in this argument He proceeds to the end of this chapter. Now this verse depends upon the former, as a conclusion inferred upon all that He had said before concerning covetousness from the 19th verse, to this effect: Seeing they that seek earthly treasures, neglecting the heavenly, do want the single eye of spiritual wisdom, to discern of the true treasure, and also are themselves servants unto mammon; therefore I say unto you disciples, be not careful (no not for things needful) immoderately, and in a distrustful manner. And here again He meets with another pretence of a covetous mind, wherewith it pleads for the service of mammon; to wit, that the things they seek for are things necessary, without which they cannot live. Hereto Christ answers, Yea, but I say, you must not seek, no not for things needful to your life, immoderately and distrustfully.

 

The Exposition.

I say unto you.

That is, I, that am you master, upon whom you depend for all heavenly instruction and direction in all things needful both for your souls and bodies, I say unto you. By this He would prepare them to attention and reverent observation of His commandment following, as being a matter of great importance, whereon depends the life of all obedience, in relying on GodŐs providence. In regard whereof we also must with all good conscience mark the same.

 

Be not careful for your life etc.

Lest we should mistake ChristŐs meaning, we must know that there be two kinds of care: a godly moderate care, and a distrustful carking care.

 

1. The moderate honest care is enjoined us by GodŐs commandment, (Prov. 6:6). Wisdom sends the sluggard to learn diligence and providence for things needful, of the little ant or pismire. And Paul saith (2 Cor. 12:14), Fathers must lay up for their children. And (1 Tim. 5:8), He that provideth not for his own, especially for them of his family, is worse than an infidel (1 Tim. 5:8). So that there is a lawful care even for the things of this life. Now the practice of it stands in two things:

 

(1) First, in the diligent walking in a manŐs lawful calling, dealing uprightly and justly therein with everyone, minding only to get things honest and necessary in the sight of all men,

 

(2) Secondly, in leaving the success and issue of all our labour and endeavour to God, for that belongs to Him. We must use the means soberly and honestly, and leave the blessing to God.

 

This godly care Moses sheweth notably in leading the children of Israel out of Egypt; for what God commanded him to do, that he did; he goes which way God sends him, although he met with many crosses; and useth the means that God calls him unto, leaving the issue to God. As appears notably at the Red Sea, when they were at a wonderful strait, having the sea before them, the Egyptians behind them, and woods and mountains on each side; yet being commanded to strike the waters with the rod of God, he shews notable trust in GodŐs providence (Exod. 14:13), Fear not (saith he), stand still, and behold the salvation of our God. And when Abraham at GodŐs commandment went to sacrifice his son (Gen. 22:7,8), Isaac asks him, My father, where is the sacrifice? Abraham answers with words of faith, My son, God will provide. And thus David went to fight against the Philistines to Keilah at GodŐs commandment (1 Sam. 23:2), though his own men discouraged him from it. Whereby it is plain that he relied on God for the issue of the battle. Now this godly moderate care is not here forbidden, which hath respect to obedience in the duty, and for success depends upon GodŐs providence.

 

2. The distrustful care is that whereby men trouble themselves about the issue of their labours; and when they have done the work, do not rest therewith, but vex themselves about the success; not relying on GodŐs providence for the blessing, but only on the means. This distrustful care (for our better discerning of it) hath these effects:

 

(1) First, it oppresseth the heart, making it exceeding heavy and pensive for fear of want. Where this fear is, there is this distrustful care; for this argues a man dares not trust God, but would have the success of his labour out of GodŐs hand in his own.

 

(2) Secondly, it allureth and draweth men to use unlawful means to get worldly things, as lying, fraud, injustice in false weights, measures etc.

 

(3) Thirdly, it makes men weary of GodŐs worship, it distracts their minds in prayer, and hearing the Word; and (as Christ saith, Luke 8:14) it chokes the Word that it brings forth no fruit. For when the mind is wholly set upon the world, there is no respect to the matters of God. And this is that care which is here forbidden, even a distrustful carking care, which as the Greek word signifies, divides and distracts the mind, by troubling and perplexing it about the issue and success of our endeavours.

 

The Use.

That which Christ here forbids His disciples, is the common sin of our age and time, not in a few persons, but in many. For though this distrustful care be the disease of the heart, yet it shews itself by actions in the life.

 

(1) For, first, what is the cause of so little fruit of the Word preached, as may everywhere be discerned? Is not (among many other) this worldly care our special cause? This we may see in the parable (Luke 8:14), for the seed that light among thorns, which choked it, is the Word preached to a heart possessed with worldly cares. Let these men observe themselves, and they shall find that they can neither pray, nor hear the Word, nor meditate therein, without manifold distractions from these worldly thoughts.

 

(2) Secondly, there is no trade or calling without its conveyances of craft and deceit, though it do not appear so much in one calling as in others; and hard it is to find them that make conscience hereof, when gain and profit may come thereby; which comes from this distrustful care in menŐs hearts; whereby they doubt of GodŐs blessing answerable to their desire, in the use of lawful means only.

 

But sith Christ forewarns us of this sin, we must beware it take not place in our hearts. And for the avoiding of it, we must follow the counsel of the Holy Ghost in Scripture (Psa. 37:5), Commit thy way unto the Lord, and trust in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. Which is oft commanded to us (Psa. 55:22), Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall nourish thee. And (Prov. 16:3), Roll thy work upon the Lord. (1 Pet. 5:7), Cast all your care on Him, for He careth for you. In all which places we have a most worthy instruction to this effect: Not exempting men from doing the duties of their calling, but teaching them that when they have done their endeavour, in the diligent, sober and upright use of means, then they must leave the event and issue for good success to the blessing of God. Thus the tradesman, whose living stands by buying and selling, must be careful and diligent about his business, without deceit or lying; and in so doing, refer the success of his bargain to the blessing of God. And so must the husbandman plow and sow, and leave earing and harvest to GodŐs providence. This is the apostleŐs counsel (Phil. 4:6), Be nothing careful, that is, after a distrustful or distracting sort (as the word signifies), but in all things let your requests be made known unto God with giving of thanks. Where it is to be marked that distrustful care is opposed to prayer and thanksgiving, as a hinderer thereof, and therefore our care must only be to use the lawful means moderately for any blessing, and then to pray to God for good success and blessing, relying wholly thereon, that when it comes we may give Him thanks.

 

But some will say, it is hard for flesh and blood not to be careful of success; how then should we be able to leave it wholly to God? Answer: We must lay to our heart the blessed promises of God, made to them that depend upon His mercy and goodness, and labour to live by faith thereon, (Psa. 127:2), It is vain for man to rise early, and to lie down late, and to eat the bread of sorrow (meaning, while he trusts to himself, or in the means), but God will surely give rest to His beloved, which serve Him, and trust in Him, in the use of means. (Psa. 34:10), The lions do lack and suffer hunger, though every poor beast of the field be a prey to his teeth, but they which seek the Lord shall lack nothing that is good. If we had no more promises in the Bible, yet these were sufficient to cause us to rest upon His providence in the sober use of lawful means. Again, this must be considered: how we shall rely upon His mercy for the saving of our souls in the time of temptation and hour of death, that dare not trust in His providence for the things of this life?

 

Question: But what if all things go cross with men (will some say), may I not then stick more to the means? Answer: Nay, rather cleave the more to God, for if the blessing were in the means, men would not be so often crossed. God knoweth what is good for thee better than thou thyself, and therefore rest contented with this providence, though He cross thine expectation for outward blessings; want is many times better for GodŐs children than plenty, and affliction than peace and prosperity; as David found (Psa. 119:67,71). And therefore God lays it upon them. Did not good Josiah fall before Pharoah Necho (2 Chr. 35:22-24)? Which he should not have done, but that God would chasten him; for not regarding the words of Pharoah Necho, which were of the mouth of God (v.22), persuading him not to fight against him; and also (2 Chr. 34:28) that he might be taken from seeing the evil to come. And was not HezekiahŐs heart puffed up in the time of peace, insomuch that (2 Chr. 32:25) wrath came upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem. Therefore learn to depend upon GodŐs providence in the moderate use of lawful means, and whether He give thee blessing, or take them away, bless His name; for it is good for thee it should be so.

 

And thus much for the main commandment.

 

Now, further, mark in the words, how Christ distinguisheth between life and the body; and applieth meat and drink to life, and raiment to the body. And yet we know that apparel serves to preserve life also, especially in cold countries. But Christ doth distinguish them for just cause; for though in cold countries, apparel serves to preserve life, as well as meat and drink do; yet the first and more general use of apparel is another matter; to wit, to hide the shame of nakedness, which the sin of Adam brought upon it (Gen. 3:7,21). For before their fall, the man and the woman were both naked, and were not ashamed (Gen. 2:25).

 

Here then we learn that the proper and main end of apparel is for the body, to cover the shame of nakedness that sin hath brought upon us; which is so great, that if necessity would permit, both hands and face should also be covered. The consideration whereof, as it shews their immodesty and want of shame, that lay open the nakedness of their breasts, or other parts of their body more than need requires; so it teacheth us never to be proud of our apparel, but rather humbled and abashed when we put it on or look upon it, for it is the cover of our shame, and so an ensign of our sin. The thief hath as good cause to be proud of the bolts on his heels, or of his brand in the hand, or hole in the ear, as we of our apparel, for as these are badges of misdemeanour, so is apparel a badge of our sin. And on the other side, that we may have comfort in this ordinance of God for our bodies, we must labour therein to express the graces of God in our hearts; as modesty, sobriety, temperance, frugality, and such like.

 

Is not the life more worth than meat, and the body than raiment?

Our Saviour Christ, having given commandment against the immoderate care for things needful to natural life, lest the same should pass away without effect, doth here begin to enforce the same with divers arguments; the first whereof is in these words, taken from the creation, wherein God gives life and the body, which are better than food and raiment; from whence Christ reasons for His providence thus: The life is better than food, and the body than raiment. But God by creation gives life and body. And therefore will He much more give food and raiment for their preservation. Seeing God gives the greater, we need not to doubt but He will afford the less.

 

In this reason Christ teacheth us to make right use of our creation; namely, by the consideration of it, to learn confidence in GodŐs providence for all things needful to our natural life, (Job 10:8), Thine hands have made me and fashioned me, and wilt thou destroy me? Where Job persuadeth himself of preservation, because God created him; and (1 Pet. 4:19), Let them that suffer according to the will of God, commend their souls unto Him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator. Because God is a faithful Creator, therefore in death we must rely upon Him. Experience teacheth us that every workman is careful to preserve the work of his own hands, if it lie in his power; why then should we doubt of this in our Creator, who is almighty?

 

 

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?Ó Matthew 6:26.

 

These words contain ChristŐs second reason to dissuade His disciples from distrustful care for things needful, drawn from the consideration of His providence over baser creatures than they were, for needful provision.

 

The reason standeth thus: If God provide for the fowls of heaven, then much more will He provide for you. But God provideth for the fowls of heaven, and feedeth them. Therefore much more will He provide for you.

 

The first part of this reason is here confirmed two ways: First, because the children of God have means of provision, which the fowls of the heaven want; they sow not, neither reap etc. Secondly, GodŐs children are better than fowls, and therefore He will not suffer them to lack, sith He provideth for baser things than they be. Both which are so sensible and familiar, that they may induce any man to depend upon GodŐs providence, without distrustful care.

 

Christ in propounding this reason, bids us Behold the creatures, that is, take a serious view of them, look upon them, wisely, and with consideration, as the word signifieth. Whereby we may learn that every child of God ought seriously to consider the works of God (for that which we must do to the fowls of heaven, we must do to all the works of His hands), and therein labour to behold the wisdom, justice, goodness, love, mercy and providence of God. This is SolomonŐs lesson (Eccl. 7:13), Behold the works of God; and Job (Job 36:24), Remember thou magnify the works of God which men behold. Why did God make the creatures distinctly one after another, in six several days, and take a particular view of them all after He had made them, with approbation of their goodness, and also sanctified the seventh day for an holy rest, both by His own example and express commandment? Undoubtedly, among other causes, this was one: to teach us to consider distinctly of all the works of His hands; and among other holy duties, to meditate on the Sabbath day, on the glorious works of our Creator. This was DavidŐs practice (Psa. 19), he resembles the heavens to a great book, wherein a man may read the glory of God. And in the contemplation hereof did he exercise himself upon the Sabbath days, as we may see in the psalm which he penned for the Sabbath (Psa. 92:4,5), I will rejoice in the work of thine hand. O Lord how glorious are thy works. And they which are negligent in this duty are here called to attendance by our Saviour Christ.

 

But what must we behold in the fowls of heaven? How they neither sow, nor reap, nor carry into barns etc. That is, they use not the means of provision that man doth, which shews they have not that care which man hath. Man may lawfully be careful to use these means, for God ordaineth them for manŐs provision; but the fowls of the heaven go not so far to have care of any means. And this privilege of man to the means doth strongly enforce ChristŐs dissuasion against distrustful care; for the fowls wanting such means are free from that care.

 

Question: How then are they provided for? Answer: They expect for food at GodŐs hand (Job 38:41), The birds cry unto God, wandering for lack of meat. (Psa. 104:21), The lions roaring after their prey, seek their meat at God. (Psa. 145:15), The eyes of all wait upon God, and He giveth them meat in due season. (Psa. 147:9), He giveth to beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry.

 

Question: But how can unreasonable creatures cry to God? Answer: They do not use prayer as men do, but yet they are said to cry unto God, and to wait on God, because by a natural instinct given them by creation, they seek for that food which God ordaineth for them, and are contented therewith; so that by these phrases God would teach us that they depend upon His providence wholly for provision, and rest contented therewith.

 

Here then we are to observe that the unreasonable creatures, made subject to vanity by the sin of man, do come nearer their first estate, and better observe the order of nature in their creation, than man doth; for they seek for that which God provideth for them, and when they receive it are content; but man is deeply fallen from the state of his creation, in regard of his depending on GodŐs providence for temporal things; though he have the use of means which the fowls of heaven want, yet his heart is full fraught with distrustful care, whether we respect the getting or employing of earthly things. This sheweth that man is more corrupt than other creatures, and more vile and base in this behalf than brute beasts; which should humble every one of us deeply under the serious consideration of our sins, that have so depraved our nature that we are more rebellious to the law of our Creator , and more distrustful of His providence, than the brute and senseless creatures.

 

And yet our heavenly Father feedeth them.

In these words is touched a forcible reason whereby Christ would persuade His disciples, and in them all believers, to depend upon GodŐs providence without distrustful care. God (saith He) is your Father, yea, your heavenly Father, and you are His children, therefore depend upon Him. For if earthly fathers will provide and give good things to their children, much more will your heavenly. In this reason also is touched a means and way whereby a man may come to rest upon GodŐs providence. In the Word of God, there be two kinds of promises: some of everlasting life and salvation by Christ; others, or inferior gifts and blessings concerning this life. Now if we would rely on God for temporal blessings, we must first labour to lay hold by faith on His spiritual and eternal promises; get assurance of thine adoption in Christ, and labour to know and feel that He is thy heavenly Father; and then thou wilt easily depend upon His providence for temporal blessings. If thou be once persuaded truly that He will save thy soul, how canst thou distrust Him for provision for thy body? If a kingŐs son know his father will make him heir, he will not doubt but he will afford him food and raiment in the meantime.

 

Feedeth them.

That is, the fowls that neither sow, nor reap, nor carry into barns. Here we may observe GodŐs special and particular providence; for in reason those creatures that make no provision for summer, should starve in winter, wherein the earth affordeth no such means of nourishment as it doth in summer; and yet experience teacheth that they are for the most part fatter, and fitter for the use of man in winter than in summer. What argueth this but GodŐs special providence attending upon the silly fowls of heaven, and feeding them in the dead winter? Oh then, how should any child of God distrust His providence; will He feed birds, and neglect His own children? It cannot be. And yet this must not nuzzle an idle person, or bolster him up in the neglect of lawful ordinary means for his provision; for God would have every man to eat his own bread, deserving His provision by diligence in the duties of some lawful calling; for he that will not labour should not eat (2 Thess. 3:10). Howbeit we may here learn, when all means fail (without our default) yet still to rely upon GodŐs providence; for He feeds the fowls in the dead of winter, and we are better than they.

 

Lastly, is God so merciful to the poor fowls of heaven, to provide for them? Then must we that profess ourselves to be GodŐs children shew ourselves to be like our heavenly Father in exercising mercy towards all GodŐs creatures. God is the Saviour of all men, but especially of them that believe (1 Tim. 4:10). And we must be followers of God as dear children, extending mercy to the poor of mankind, because they be our own flesh; do good unto all, but specially to them that be of the household of faith. This is needful to be urged upon our souls, for in times of dearth men grind the faces of the poor (Isa. 3:15) by hard bargaining; the rich take advantage of poor mensŐ want, and so make themselves fat by sucking the blood of the poor.