Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
The NIV and several other translations as well, have a subheading above this section of text: “Do Not Worry”. Interestingly, they also had a subheading above the last section (12:13-21): “The Parable of the Rich Fool”. Now there is nothing at all wrong with these subheads, in fact they are there to make it easier to find what we are looking for, you know what I mean; you’re looking for a certain parable, you know it’s right around here… oh there it is. Because of the handy tool of adding subheadings, we might assume that the passages are more or less unrelated, but in this case, and a number of others, they are not only related, but they are really part of the same statement: “Do Not Worry” is actually where Jesus tells us what He meant in “The Parable of the Rich Fool”.
You might be wondering how I know this, and that’s a fair question, so here’s the answer: See the first line?
Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry…”
Here’s how the narrative actually fits together: Jesus told the parable of the rich fool and then…
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry…” (12:21-22a)
In 12:21 Jesus was speaking to the crowds, then He turned and said to His disciples; “Therefore” and as you know any time you see that word, the speaker is drawing a conclusion from what he has just said, which in this case is the parable of the rich fool so… therefore the section under the heading “Do Not Worry” is the conclusion from the parable i.e. its meaning.
All this time, from 12:1 until now, Jesus has been teaching His disciples that they shouldn’t be overly concerned about the cares of this life, including being persecuted.
In this section, Jesus uses birds as an example to make His point. Our lives are more than food and clothing; God provides for the birds of the field and He will do so for you as well. A disciple is so much more important than birds… so why do we spend so much energy worrying about these things what good will that ever do?
Then He poses a question: Since we cannot add a single hour to our lives by worrying, why do we worry about other things?
It’s a complete waste of time and energy; a distraction from the things that are actually important.
Don’t roll your eyes just yet! There’s plenty more coming, including the larger point Jesus is trying to make…