And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!—Matt. 6:28–30
Many of the people Jesus spoke to likely had little clothing to their name. So He pointed again to their surroundings, this time to flowers, to assure them of God’s concern and provision.
“The lilies of the field” may have been a general term used for the beautiful wild-flowers that graced the fields and hillsides of Galilee. Such decorations of nature make no effort to grow and have no part in designing or coloring themselves. The naked eye can see much of the amazing detail, shading, and coloring of a flower, yet under a microscope it shows itself to be even more marvelous and intricate than people in Jesus’ day could ever have imagined.
The simple point is that not even Solomon, one of most resplendent kings the world has ever known, could clothe himself like one of those little flowers growing abundantly on the hillside.
If Jesus told those who had but one simple garment not to worry about their clothing, what would He say to us? If God bothers to array the grass of the field with beautiful but short-lived flowers, how much more is He concerned to clothe and care for His very own children?
|Nature is indeed a constant reminder not only of the wonder and splendor of God, but also of His daily provision. Perhaps the radical policies of today’s green generation—a fervor that borders on and often becomes an idolatrous worship of the earth—can make us wary of learning from the world around us. But creation is a gift of God to us, designed to help us look to Him as our source.|
6:28–30 Next the Lord deals with the unreasonableness of worrying that we will not have enough clothing in the future. The lilies of the field (probably wild anemones) neither toil nor spin, yet their beauty surpasses that of Solomon’s royal garments. If God can provide such elegant apparel for wildflowers, which have a brief existence and are then used as fuel in the baking oven, He will certainly care for His people who worship and serve Him.
28, 29. Moreover, why be anxious about clothes? Consider the lillies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his splendor was not attired like one of these.
“Consider”—that is, notice carefully, study closely—“the field-lilies,” says Jesus, as he asks his audience, “Why be anxious about clothes?”. Exactly what kind of flower the Lord had in mind when he said “field-lilies” cannot be determined. Some guesses are: irises, narcissi, Turk’s cap lilies, and gladioli. Goodspeed translates “wild flowers” (“See how the wild flowers grow”). In the light of the context (note “the grass of the field.…”) it is very well possible that Jesus, instead of referring to any particular kind of flower, was thinking of all the beautiful flowers that were adding their splendor to the landscape at this time of the year.
“How they grow” must mean, as the context indicates: without any toil whatever on their part, nor any care being bestowed on them by any human individual, “how easily and freely, and yet how gorgeously.” Though the “lilies” do not spin a single thread, yet even Solomon in all his splendor—to which extensive reference has already been made; see p. 118 and p. 173—was not arrayed like one of these. Is not this true in at least this respect, namely, that Solomon’s finest apparel was at best but a mimicry and derivative of that which in nature comes fresh from the hand of God? Pristine beauty cannot be matched!
Yet the simultaneous outburst of flowers in the spring of the year just as suddenly vanishes: today these flowers are fully alive and adorn the fields; tomorrow this “grass of the field,” that is, this sum-total of uncultivated (in contrast with cultivated) plants, serves as fuel for the domestic oven, in a land where fuel was not plentiful.
The lesson is as follows: 30. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will he not much more surely clothe you, O men of little faith? There is a double argument here, as follows:
- from the less to the greater: If God provides for the short-lived grass, he will surely provide for his children, destined for eternal glory.
- from the greater to the less: If God decks the wild flowers with such very beautiful garments, then he will certainly clothe his children with the ordinary garments which they need.
Jesus calls his worrying followers “men of little faith.” The various passages in which he makes use of this description, in their context, are as follows:
Matt. 6:30 and its parallel Luke 12:28 (worry about clothes)
Matt. 8:26 (the disciples’ fear of drowning during a storm at sea)
Matt. 14:31 (Peter’s similar fear)
Matt. 16:8 (the disciples’ failure to remember the lesson they had received in connection with Christ’s miracle-working power).
Based upon these passages, it would seem that the description refers to the fact that those so characterized were not sufficiently taking to heart the comfort they should have derived from the presence, promises, power, and love of Christ.
Worry About Clothing
And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith? (6:28–30)
The third illustration has to do with clothing, using flowers as a model. Some of the people to whom Jesus spoke perhaps had little clothing, no more than one set of coverings for their bodies. He pointed again to their surroundings, this time to the flowers, to assure them of God’s concern and provision.
The lilies of the field may have been a general term used of the wild flowers that in great variety and beauty grace the fields and hillsides of Galilee.
Those beautiful decorations of nature make no effort to grow and had no part in designing or coloring themselves. They do not toil nor do they spin, Jesus said, stating the obvious; yet I say to you even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these.
Even the naked eye can see much of the amazing detail, shading, and coloring of a flower. Under a microscope it shows itself to be even more marvelous and intricate than ancients could ever have imagined. Yet even Solomon, one of the most resplendent kings the world has ever known, in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these little flowers which anyone there that day could have picked by the dozen.
It is an indictment of our day that we spend so much time, money, and effort to dress ourselves. Lusting after costly, stylish clothes is sinful, because its only purpose is to feed pride. The number of clothing stores we have today, and the vast amounts of clothes we find in them, is staggering. Many people have made a god out of fashion, and shamelessly waste money on expensive clothes they will wear but a few times.
Our worries today are seldom for necessary clothing. If Jesus told those who had but one simple garment not to worry about their clothing, what would He say to us?
Despite their beauty, however, flowers do not last long. Along with the grass of the field, they are alive today and tomorrow [are] thrown into the furnace.
Klibanos (furnace) is better translated “oven.” Such ovens were made of hardened clay and were used primarily for baking bread. When a woman wanted to hurry the baking process, she would build a fire inside the oven as well as under it. Fuel for the inside heating was usually composed of dried grass and flowers gathered from nearby fields. Once the fiower’s beauty was gone it had little use except to be burned up as fuel for baking. Then it was gone.
But if God bothers to array the grass of the field with beautiful but short-lived flowers, how much more is He concerned to clothe and care for His very own children who are destined for eternal life?
To be anxious even about things which we need to survive, Jesus says, is sinful and shows little faith. A person who worries about those things may have saving faith, but he does not have faith that relies on God to finish what He has begun. It is significant that each of the four other times Jesus used the phrase “O men [or “you”] of little faith,” it was also in relation to worry about food, clothing, or life span (see Matt. 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; Luke 12:28). “You believe that God can redeem you, save you from sin, break the shackles of Satan, take you to heaven where He has prepared a place for you, and keep you for all eternity,” Jesus is saying; “and yet you do not trust Him to supply your daily needs?” We freely put our eternal destiny in His hands, but at times refuse to believe He will provide what we need to eat, drink, and wear.
Worry is not a trivial sin, because it strikes a blow both at God’s love and at God’s integrity. Worry declares our heavenly Father to be untrustworthy in His Word and His promises. To avow belief in the inerrancy of Scripture and in the next moment to express worry is to speak out of both sides of our mouths. Worry shows that we are mastered by our circumstances and by our own finite perspectives and understanding rather than by God’s Word. Worry is therefore not only debilitating and destructive but maligns and impugns God.
When a believer is not fresh in the Word every day, so that God is in His mind and heart, then Satan moves into the vacuum and plants worry. Worry then pushes the Lord even further from our minds.
Paul counsels us as he did the Ephesians: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might” (Eph. 1:18–19).
28–30 “Lilies of the field” may be any of the wild flowers so abundant in Galilee, and these “flowers of the field” correspond to “birds of the air.” The point is a little different from the first illustration, where birds work but do not worry. The flowers neither toil nor spin (see Notes). The point is not that Jesus’ disciples may opt for laziness but that God’s providence and care are so rich that he clothes the grass with wild flowers that are neither productive nor enduring (v. 30). Even Solomon, the richest and most extravagant of Israel’s monarchs, “in all his splendor” (v. 29) was not arrayed like one of these fields. Small wonder that Jesus gently chastises his disciples as oligopistoi (“people of little faith,” GK 3899; cf. 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; and the abstract noun at 17:20). The root of anxiety is unbelief.
 MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 171). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1227). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 352–353). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 423–425). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 215–216). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.