Why Don't the Lilies Toil?
“…Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,”
Jesus, (Matthew 6:28b, ESV)
How do lilies grow?
Jesus says God “clothes the grass.” Now we’re talking about the lilies like clothing for the grass, and you may be wondering what this has to do with our anxieties. What do lilies and grass have to do with me and my fears?
First, have you ever looked over a beautiful field of grass and thought, boy I wish those flowers would stop spinning and toiling and just relax? You haven’t? I know we’re buckled down in the frozen season, but back when it was hot and my grass dying I remember praying for God’s rain. I prayed for an end to my toiling around hoses and for the bounty of heaven to bless me.
Similarly, Jesus points our eyes to something less important—grass and flowers—to show that He causes growth for them in the same way He does for us. Well, almost the same.
Sometimes grass and flowers are more beautiful than humans. Why? In a discussion on anxiety and clothing, Jesus again reminds us of our strength in Him.
“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.”
Jesus says the lilies are even more beautiful because they display God’s glory. They brought absolutely nothing to the table in this exchange, just as all good things are. Jesus’s use of “Solomon’s glory” is meant to be juxtaposed against the glory He made by decorating grass.
If Jesus can make something as plain as grass beautiful, what could He do for you? Is the problem producing anxiety related to whether I can create beautiful enough glory? Am I vainly building and crafting while the ones who wait on God are proven to be more beautiful?
Translation: the most beautiful “clothes” we can put on today are those found in God’s hand. Submit to His clothing for today and do not toil like an anxious flower, fearful that if you do not produce lilies, your field will be barren.
This whole discussion is after Jesus says: “which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (V27)
As ludicrous as pretending we are fields of grass trying to will beautiful lilies into existence, so too is it foolish to think the effort put into worrying will produce the answers and beauty we need.
Jesus says those fields will one day die. What about you?
“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?” (V30)
Do you have faith that He is able to clothe you with the protection you need today and forever?Don’t have little faith. Don’t be like Abram in Genesis 15-16, after God’s vision personally showed him all the lands that would be his, then once given time to show his faith, he “clothed” himself with a worldly plan to get what he wanted.
We do the same all the time, forgetting that the LORD, the Promise Keeper, offers Himself to all who believe in Him. We will not be ashamed—our glory will be God’s glory on display—when we clothe ourselves with God’s power.
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless…(Genesis 15:1-2)
Abram stumbled, as have we, but the answer he needed—the perfect clothing for the occasion—was faith and a rapt eye on God as His shield and strength.
And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:5-6)
God provides impossible strength and glory every day! Why not believe He can do the same for you? Don’t be those of little faith who toil like lilies to add a minute to their day. It’s a vain, wasted effort, which may cause you and those around you to suffer. Hagar can testify to that in Genesis 16, but so too can she testify of God’s strength in her time of need.
So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” (Genesis 16:13)
Mimic this faith and grow the way you were meant, with your eye toward God and a heart of belief, joyful and eager to watch Him show His strength.
That is one way I try to obey Jesus’s words: “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
The shocking reality is we can all appear beautifully in God’s eye. Our sins can be washed clean and Christ’s righteousness applied like fresh “robes,” drier fresh and smelling like Heaven. This transformation always starts with faith. Maybe first for your soul, then also for today.
And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness (Romans 4:5)
Cleanse the ungodly field of your anxiety today. Have faith in Jesus, the righteous maker.