Occasionally Jesus says something hard to understand. The reasons are many. Sometimes it’s due to the hearer; the heart is hardened (Mark 6:52) or you don’t want to hear him (John 8:43). At other times it’s because things are hidden (Luke 9:45). More often than not, at least for me, sometimes you just don’t get it (Luke 2:50). This certainly isn’t a recent phenomenon. Others who didn’t understand Jesus included his disciples (Mark 6:52) and even his parents (Luke 2:50).
In Matthew 6 Jesus says something that I understand. I just don’t get it. “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34, King James Version).
It’s that whole “take therefore no thought” that throws me. How do you do that? It seems to me “taking thought” of tomorrow is human. The apostle Paul certainly took thought of tomorrow, “I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while” (Romans 15:24). And Jesus himself was looking ahead when he said “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day” (Matthew 20:18-19). There are quite a few tomorrows in there.
In this case the difficulty is solved by translation. What the King James translators meant by “take therefore no thought” modern translators clear up by “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (English Standard Version).
In July 1916 C. S. Lewis was a young and feisty eighteen year old who was very uncertain of the future. He was waiting to hear about entrance into Oxford but also knew he would be joining the Army and World War I. Though not yet a Christian Lewis echoes Christ’s sentiment when he writes to his good friend Arthur Greeves,
“I have learnt by now that whatever plans you make in this world, everything always turns out quite differently, so what is the use of bothering?”1
Did Lewis make plans? You bet. Did he realize being anxious didn’t help? You bet.
I get it. I just need to do it.
1. Walter Hooper, ed., The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis: Family Letters 1905-1931, Vol I (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004), 205.