What Does it Mean to "Consider the Lilies of the Field"?
“And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin.” (Matthew 6:28)
The anticipation of Spring is upon us, yet in some places the ground is still cold and hard. As I write this, streets and neighborhoods around the world are increasingly desolate, as we battle a global pandemic. In these moments, it’s essential to remember God is sovereign. He isn’t surprised, and He knows what tomorrow will bring. The assurance of His faithfulness and grace will begin to break through the ground in pops of color in every variety. Though the world seems like a frightening place, we can know, just as the Lord adorns the flowers and initiates the regrowth of Spring, He is sustaining and providing for us. In the most difficult moments of worry or anxiety, God faithfully reminds us to "consider the lilies of the field".
These verses are excerpts from the Jesus’ most well-known sermon, The Sermon on the Mount. The ESV translation of Matthew 6:25-34 is titled, “Do Not Be Anxious.” The apostle Luke recorded Jesus’ words as well: “Consider the lilies, 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” (Luke 12:27 ESV). We can trust God’s provision. The proof is in the beauty and compassionate care He has for all of creation. How much more does He love and sustain us, created in His image?
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What Did Jesus Mean When He Used the Phrase “Consider the Lilies?”
“The lilies spoken of in the New Testament were probably the scarlet marathon (Lilium Chalcedonicum) or “red Turk’s-cap lily,” which comes into flower at the season of the year when our Lord’s sermon on the mount is supposed to have been delivered,” Easton’s Bible Dictionary explains, “It is abundant in the district of Galilee; and its fine scarlet flowers render it a very conspicuous and showy object, which would naturally attract the attention of the hearers.” Jesus often spoke in parables and visuals those around Him could understand; in this instance pointing to a beautiful flower they could probably see while He was speaking. Jesus never spoke to confuse anyone, but so that all would hear and understand. If we stop to consider how beautifully God clothes the flowers in the fields, we will recall His care over us. Considering the lilies reminded them, and reminds us today, how close our God is.
Christ faithfully leads us through each day’s concerns and challenges. His very presence emphasizes the importance of our obedience to God’s word. “Toiling away out of fear for the future is not the same thing as God-glorifying labor” (“The Antidote to Worry”). God’s Word looks out for our best interest. As we were created to honor Him, He faithfully guides us to the path of a full life in Christ. “There is scarcely any one sin against which our Lord Jesus more largely and earnestly warns his disciples,” explains Matthew Henry’s Commentary, “…than the sin of disquieting, distracting, distrustful cares about the things of life, which are a bad sign that both the treasure and the heart are on the earth.”
Faith trusts in the providence of God. “The point here is that you are eternal,” explained John Piper, “and the grass and the lilies last for a day. Yet God clothes them more beautifully than Solomon.” Providence is God’s divine care of all creation, “omnisciently directing the universe and the affairs of humankind with wise benevolence.” In this part of Jesus’ sermon, He begs His listeners, and us, to consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air—simple elements of nature that function instinctively. “God never simply sees without acting. He is God. He is not a passive participant in a world that exists without his sustaining it,” Piper continues.
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What is the Context of the “Lilies of the Field”?
Why lilies? “The lilies that form the decorative floral motif of Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 7:19; 7:26) are probably water lilies or the lotus,” Harpercollins Bible Dictionary explains, “The reference to ‘lilies of the field’… probably refers to the common crown anemone or windflower. This poppy-like flower, which is not a true lily, blooms brightly and profusely in the spring through the hilly country of Bible lands.” Jesus preached on a plethora of life application during what we now call The Sermon on the Mount, including fasting, treasures in heaven, prayer, giving to the needy, loving our enemies, retaliation, oaths, divorce, lust, anger, salt and light, His fulfillment of the law, judging others, The Golden Rule, building our house on the rock, The Beatitudes, and more! Worry is included in this rich sermon full of virtues that are crucial to living our lives to the full. His word on worry is an ethical matter.
The original Greek word for "consider" in the context of Luke 12:27 means, "to perceive, remark, observe, understand; or to consider attentively, fix one’s eyes or mind upon.” Matthew used similar vocabulary, which translates “to learn thoroughly, examine carefully; or to consider well.” Jesus pointed out a flower commonly found among the people He was talking to, but challenged to look beyond its beauty to consider and observe it. The flower, though beautiful, was frail and fleeting. It bloomed from a bulb, dormant through the winter months and then quickly forced its way through the earth to bloom in a very short time. The outward beauty of a flower is temporary, but the bulb of an annually blooming flower like the one Jesus pointed to remains.
Worry stems both from what we see and cannot foresee. Jesus pointed out a flower that blooms every year. We, too, experience seasons of blooming and seasons that strip our outward beauty. But the bulb remains in the ground. In fact, over time it multiplies to produce more flowers. God is unmoved, yet always moving in our lives, whether we are in full bloom or not.
How Should Christians Interpret Jesus’ Teaching of the Lilies?
“The Sermon on the Mount is in effect King Jesus’ inaugural address,” the NIV Study Bible explains, “explaining what he expects of the members of his kingdom.”
The NIV Study Bible explains, “There is no doubt that Jesus (and Matthew) gave the Sermon as a standard for all Christians, realizing that its demands cannot be met in our power.” The Apostle Peter wrote, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever’” (1 Peter 1:22-25 ESV). We are meant to glorify God with our lives. When we allow worry to steer our thoughts and actions, we are not living the fullness Christ died for us to live. God is bigger than every worry, and we must be obediently faithful to trust and obey His command to release them and live.
“Worry is unbelief,” wrote Pastor Rick Warren. He also defines worry as unnecessary, unhelpful, unnatural, and unreasonable. Lilies, and fields of tulips, are beautiful sights after a dark and cold winter. Their beauty surpassing King Solomon who had access to every luxurious and beautiful piece of apparel and possession. And we are more beautiful still. “The root of the lily or tulip, as other bulbous roots, is, in winter, lost and buried under the ground,” explains Matthew Henry’s Commentary, “yet, when spring returns, it appears, and starts up in a little time; hence it is promised to God’s Israel, that they should grow as the lily.”
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How Does “Considering the Lilies” Encourage Christians Today?
“Consider the lilies” encourages us to trust in the providence of God. Jesus did not neglect to acknowledge the difficulty of life. He promised, “In this world, you will have trouble.” He knows our tendency to panic and worry about days ahead only God held the answers to. By no means is this a call to ignore the treatment of anxiety and depression when necessary. Our sovereign God has provided a way for those suffering from those ailments to be comforted and healed. We must be aware of and obedient to the wisdom He is faithful to provide.
God is sovereign over our worries. By prayer and obedience to His word, we can hand them over to Him. By the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, the Holy Spirit lives in every believer. In Christ, we have the power to choose freedom from worry. It is a daily discipline. Sometimes, moment by moment. Consider the flowers and realize your great value and worth to the Creator.
The Sovereign Cure for Worry
All Jesus has to do is point to the lilies, and suddenly, I’m already feeling this HUGE burden fall from my shoulders. Thank you for your peace, Lord! These are trying times we live in. We can’t possibly promise anyone we won’t worry about a thing. But we can choose to believe Jesus’ words. We can plant a bed of tulips or lilies in our yards, stick a picture of one up on our desks or as the wallpaper on our phones, and obediently hand over one worry after another.
There’s no reason to be chained down by them when Christ died to free us from them. The victory is ours. It may not look or feel like victory, but neither did the cross. Day by day, consider the lilies. Don’t just look at them. Consider them. Oh, how He loves us. Jesus coming down to earth to die on our behalf is the greatest expression of love of all time. He is risen! He will return. The pain and pressure of this world will fade away. Hallelujah! Come, Lord Jesus.
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A Prayer to Consider the Lilies
Praise You for this day, and Your purpose for it. This is the day You have made, we will rejoice and be glad in it. You are sovereign, God. We are not. You know what tomorrow will bring. We do not. You go before us and behind us. You are our Creator, Sustainer, and Provider. You are Healer and You are Peace.
Father, we are living through historically tumultuous times. May we put our confidence, our trust, in You. For You do not change, shift, or leave us. You are steady, firm, and calm. Compassionate and just, You know the best path for us. In the fallen world full of sin we live in, we will have trouble. There will be hard times. There is a very real evil in this world. But Jesus overcame the world.
Christ, You defeated death. When we gaze upon the lilies, the tulips, and the first green hints of growth this Spring, let us remember Your providence, Oh, God. As we prepare to celebrate Easter, may the sacrifice Christ made for us on the cross give us the courage we need to carry our own daily burdens. You promise Your yoke is light, but easy was never guaranteed. Crosses are uncomfortable. As the bulbs of annual flowers sit steady and sturdy under the ground until You say it’s time to bloom, so will we sit sturdy, steady, and patient in our faith as we lean into You until You say it’s time to bloom again. And amidst the dark worry that threatens to blanket the brightness, we will shine in the midst of it, knowing Spring is coming.
In Jesus’ powerful name we pray,
Megtrong> writes about everyday life within the love of Christ as an author, freelance writer, and blogger at Sunny&80. Her first book, “Friends with Everyone,” is available on amazon.com. She earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay at home and raise her two daughters. Besides writing, she leads a Bible Study for Women and serves as a Youth Ministry leader in her community. She lives in Northern Ohio with her husband, Jim, and two daughters.
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