Take therefore no thought for tomorrow: for tomorrow shall take thought of the things for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
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that is to say, the affliction, and the bruising thereof. Matthew 5:34 Is it not enough for you, to eat your bread in the sweat of your face? Why add the further affliction that comes of anxiety, when you are on the point to be delivered henceforth even from the former toils?
By evil here He means, not wickedness, far from it, but affliction, and trouble, and calamities; much as in another place also He says, Is there evil in a city, which the Lord has not done? nor any thing like these, but the scourges which are borne from above. And again, I, says He, make peace, and create evils: Isaiah 45:7 For neither in this place does He speak of wickedness, but of famines, and pestilences, things accounted evil by most men: the generality being wont to call these things evil. Thus, for example, the priests and prophets of those five lordships, when having yoked the cattle to the ark, they let them go without their calves, 1 Samuel 6:9 gave the name of evil to those heaven-sent plagues, and the dismay and anguish which thereby sprang up within them.
This then is His meaning here also, when He says, sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. For nothing so pains the soul, as carefulness and anxiety. Thus did Paul also, when urging to celibacy, give counsel, saying, I would have you without carefulness.
But when He says, the morrow shall take thought for itself, He says it not, as though the day took thought for these things, but forasmuch as He had to speak to a people somewhat imperfect, willing to make what He says more expressive, He personifies the time, speaking unto them according to the custom of the generality.
And here indeed He advises, but as He proceeds, He even makes it a law, saying, provide neither gold nor silver, nor scrip for your journey. Matthew 10:9-10 Thus, having shown it all forth in His actions, then after that He introduces the verbal enactment of it more determinately, the precept too having then become more easy of acceptance, confirmed as it had been previously by His own actions. Where then did He confirm it by His actions? Hear Him saying, The Son of Man has not where to lay His head. Matthew 8:20 Neither is He satisfied with this only, but in His disciples also He exhibits His full proof of these things, by fashioning them too in like manner, yet not suffering them to be in want of anything.
But mark His tender care also, how He surpasses the affection of any father. Thus, This I command, says He, for nothing else, but that I may deliver you from superfluous anxieties. For even if today you have taken thought for tomorrow, you will also have to take thought again tomorrow. Why then what is over and above? Why force the day to receive more than the distress which is allotted to it, and together with its own troubles add to it also the burden of the following day; and this, when there is no chance of your lightening the other by the addition so taking place, but you are merely to exhibit yourself as coveting superfluous troubles? Thus, that He may reprove them the more, He does all but give life to the very time, and brings it in as one injured, and exclaiming against them for their causeless despite. Why, you have received the day, to care for the things thereof. Wherefore then add unto it the things of the other day also? Hath it not then burden enough in its own anxiety? Why now, I pray, do you make it yet heavier? Now when the Lawgiver says these things, and He that is to pass judgment on us, consider the hopes that He suggests to us, how good they are; He Himself testifying, that this life is wretched and wearisome, so that the anxiety even of the one day is enough to hurt and afflict us.
Nevertheless, after so many and so grave words, we take thought for these things, but for the things in Heaven no longer: rather we have reversed His order, on either side fighting against His sayings. For mark; Seek ye not the things present, says He, at all; but we are seeking these things for ever: seek the things in Heaven, says He; but those things we seek not so much as for a short hour, but according to the greatness of the anxiety we display about the things of the world, is the carelessness we entertain in things spiritual; or rather even much greater. But this does not prosper for ever; neither can this be for ever. What if for ten days we think scorn? If for twenty? If for an hundred? Must we not of absolute necessity depart, and fall into the hands of the Judge?
But the delay has comfort. And what sort of comfort, to be every day looking for punishment and vengeance? Nay, if you would have some comfort from this delay, take it by gathering for yourself the fruit of amendment after repentance. Since if the mere delay of vengeance seem to you a sort of refreshment, far more is it gain not to fall into the vengeance. Let us then make full use of this delay, in order to have a full deliverance from the dangers that press upon us. For none of the things enjoined is either burdensome or grievous, but all are so light and easy, that if we only bring a genuine purpose of heart, we may accomplish all, though we be chargeable with countless offenses. For so Manasses had perpetrated innumerable pollutions, having both stretched out his hands against the saints, and brought abominations into the temple, and filled the city with murders, and wrought many other things beyond excuse; yet nevertheless after so long and so great wickedness, he washed away from himself all these things. How and in what manner? By repentance, and consideration.
For there is not, yea, there is not any sin, that does not yield and give way to the power of repentance, or rather to the grace of Christ. Since if we would but only change, we have Him to assist us. And if you are desirous to become good, there is none to hinder us; or rather there is one to hinder us, the devil, yet has he no power, so long as you choose what is best, and so attract God to your aid. But if you are not yourself willing, but startest aside, how shall He protect you? Since not of necessity or compulsion, but of your own will, He wills you to be saved. For if you yourself, having a servant full of hatred and aversion for you, and continually going off, and fleeing away from you, wouldest not choose to keep him, and this though needing his services; much less will God, who does all things not for His own profit, but for your salvation, choose to retain you by compulsion; as on the other hand, if you show forth a right intention only, He would not choose ever to give you up, no, not whatever the devil may do. So that we are ourselves to blame for our own destruction. Because we do not approach, nor beseech, nor entreat Him, as we ought: but even if we do draw near, it is not as persons who have need to receive, neither is it with the proper faith, nor as making demand, but we do all in a gaping and listless way.
And yet God would have us demand things of Him, and for this accounts Himself greatly bound to you. For He alone of all debtors, when the demand is made, counts it a favor, and gives what we have not lent Him. And if He should see him pressing earnestly that makes the demand, He pays down even what He has not received of us; but if sluggishly, He too keeps on making delays; not through unwillingness to give, but because He is pleased to have the demand made upon Him by us. For this cause He told you also the example of that friend, who came by night, and asked a loaf; Luke 11:5-8 and of the judge that feared not God, nor regarded men. Luke 18:1-8 And He stayed not at similitudes, but signified it also in His very actions, when He dismissed that Phœnician woman, having filled her with His great gift. For through her He signified, that He gives to them that ask earnestly, even the things that pertain not to them. For it is not meet, says He, to take the children's bread, and to give it unto the dogs. But for all that He gave, because she demanded of him earnestly. But by the Jews He showed, that to them that are careless, He gives not even their own. They accordingly received nothing, but lost what was their own. And while these, because they asked not, did not receive so much as their very own; she, because she assailed Him with earnestness, had power to obtain even what pertained to others, and the dog received what was the children's. So great a good is importunity. For though thou be a dog, yet being importunate, you shall be preferred to the child being negligent: for what things affection accomplishes not, these, all of them, importunity did accomplish. Say not therefore, God is an enemy to me, and will not hearken. He does straightway answer you, continually troubling him, if not because you are His friend, yet because of your importunity. And neither the enmity, or the unseasonable time, nor anything else becomes an hindrance. Say not, I am unworthy, and do not pray; for such was the Syrophœnician woman too. Say not, I have sinned much, and am not able to entreat Him whom I have angered; for God looks not at the desert, but at the disposition. For if the ruler that feared not God, neither was ashamed of men, was overcome by the widow, much more will He that is good be won over by continual entreaty.
So that though thou be no friend, though thou be not demanding your due, though you have devoured your Father's substance, and have been a long time out of sight, though without honor, though last of all, though thou approach Him angry, though much displeased; be willing only to pray, and to return, and you shall receive all, and shall quickly extinguish the wrath and the condemnation.
But, behold, I pray, says one, and there is no result. Why, you pray not like those; such I mean as the Syrophœnician woman, the friend that came late at night, and the widow that is continually troubling the judge, and the son that consumed his father's goods. For did you so pray, you would quickly obtain. For though despite have been done unto Him, yet is He a Father; and though He have been provoked to anger, yet is He fond of His children; and one thing only does He seek, not to take vengeance for our affronts, but to see you repenting and entreating Him. Would that we were warmed in like measure, as those bowels are moved to the love of us. But this fire seeks a beginning only, and if you afford it a little spark, you kindle a full flame of beneficence. For not because He has been insulted, is He sore vexed, but because it is thou who art insulting Him, and so becoming frenzied. For if we being evil, when our children molest us, grieve on their account; much more is God, who can not so much as suffer insult, sore vexed on account of you, who hast committed it. If we, who love by nature, much more He, who is kindly affectioned beyond nature. For though, says He, a woman should forget the fruits of her womb, yet will I not forget you. Isaiah 49:15
Let us therefore draw near unto Him, and say, Truth, Lord; for even the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Matthew 15:27 Let us draw near in season, out of season: or rather, one can never draw near out of season, for it is unseasonable not to be continually approaching. For of Him who desires to give it is always seasonable to ask: yea, as breathing is never out of season, so neither is praying unseasonable, but rather not praying. Since as we need this breath, so do we also the help that comes from Him; and if we be willing, we shall easily draw Him to us. And the prophet, to manifest this, and to point out the constant readiness of His beneficence, said, We shall find Him prepared as the morning. For as often as we may draw near, we shall see Him awaiting our movements. And if we fail to draw from out of His ever-springing goodness, the blame is all ours. This, for example, was His complaint against certain Jews, when He said, My mercy is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goes away. And His meaning is like this; I indeed have supplied all my part, but you, as a hot sun coming over scatters both the cloud and the dew, and makes them vanish, so have ye by your great wickedness restrained the unspeakable Beneficence.
Which also itself again is an instance of providential care: that even when He sees us unworthy to receive good, He withholds His benefits, lest He render us careless. But if we change a little, even but so much as to know that we have sinned, He gushes out beyond the fountains, He is poured forth beyond the ocean; and the more you receive, so much the more does He rejoice; and in this way is stirred up again to give us more. For indeed He accounts it as His own wealth, that we should be saved, and that He should give largely to them that ask. And this, it may seem, Paul was declaring when He said, that He is rich unto all and over all that call upon Him. Because when we pray not, then He is angry; when we pray not, then does He turn away from us. For this cause He became poor, that He might make us rich; for this cause He underwent all those sufferings, that He might incite us to ask.
Let us not therefore despair, but having so many motives and good hopes, though we sin every day, let us approach Him, entreating, beseeching, asking the forgiveness of our sins. For thus we shall be more backward to sin for the time to come; thus shall we drive away the devil, and shall call forth the lovingkindness of God, and attain unto the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.