For the third time in this section Jesus repeats the command, "Do not be anxious." First he said, "Do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat or what you shall drink or what you shall put on" (v. 25). Then he said, "Do not be anxious saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?'" (v. 31). And now he says, "Do not be anxious for tomorrow." Sometimes when you listen to a sermon on Sunday morning the preacher will repeat a little catch phrase to help you remember the summary of what he said just in case you forget everything else during the week. So here. Even if you forget everything Jesus said about birds and flowers and barns and grass, he wants you at least to remember one thing: Do not be anxious.
When Jesus says, "Do not be anxious for tomorrow," I tend to connect that with what he said earlier in the Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread." To ask simply for our daily bread is a positive way of saying that we shouldn't be worrying about tomorrow's bread. It is a very humble approach to daily living, and it reflects a childlike relationship with one's heavenly Father. Just as he feeds the birds and all the creatures of the earth, so he feeds you. You open your mouth and he fills it. You may think that you have your week or your month or even your year planned, with enough money in the bank to give you that cushion just in case you lose your job. The illusion of providing for yourself is always before you, but in fact each day's provision comes directly from the hand of God. Anxiety about tomorrow comes from losing sight of that reality. Recognizing that it is God who "gives us this day our daily bread" helps you to rest in being provided for just for today. Let tomorrow take care of itself.
I think this way of thinking is one of the most difficult for me personally, but the challenge of it intrigues me. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I've been encouraged my entire life to be anxious for tomorrow. It's not just about laying the plans to make all my tomorrows financially secure. It's also about living for tomorrow's dreams, tomorrow's possibilities, and warding off tomorrow's dangers. Anxiety about tomorrow is considered the mark of maturity and responsibility. Thinking and planning for tomorrow is for the smart, ambitious people who dream big and have grand goals for themselves. And so in our wealthy culture we tend not to be anxious about literal daily bread so much, but about whether God will feed our hunger for meaning and worth and signficance. Everywhere I look I see people who are anxious about their tomorrows, whether their lives will amount to anything, whether they will make the difference they hoped to make, whether their lives are headed in the right direction.
About a year and a half ago a thirty-three year-old woman who attended our church succumbed to cancer. Though I can't remember her exact words, she said something like, "The life you live today is the life you will live everyday until you die." To me that is a very good application of Jesus' exhortation not to always be living under the shadow of tomorrow. What is the sum of your life going to look like when you are lying on your death bed? It's not the visions about tomorrow but the reality of today that will tell you. What was today like? Did you serve? Did you trust? Did you pray? That's your life right there. When you die that's the life you'll have to look back on.
Jesus is really saying that tomorrow is an illusion. We don't know anything about it at all except what our fears imagine. So don't fritter away today's moments with tomorrow's anxieties. Don't let visions of tomorrow's imagined success or failure rob you of the gift of today. You might die tomorrow and all your dreams about the future would go up in smoke. But today is real, and your relationship with God is real only in the todays of your life, not in the tomorrows. You can't know if you will trust God tomorrow but you can know whether you will trust him today. That's all he'll ever ask you to do anyhow.