What does it mean that 'sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof' in Matthew 6:34'?
The expression "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" is a biblical adage found in the Sermon on the Mount. The full verse reads, "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, KJV). In other words, we should concentrate on present-day troubles because today has enough worries of its own.
When Jesus said, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof," He was pointing out a fact of human existence. In a fallen world, every day has more than enough trouble of its own. It is unwise to add to today's trouble by worrying about tomorrow's trouble. Corrie ten Boom stated a related truth: "Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength" (Jesus is Victor, Fleming H. Revell Co., 1985).
When we remember that "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof," we avoid the foolishness of anticipating future troubles—troubles that may not even come to pass. None of us know the future, so to worry about it is pointless. Besides, no matter how much we worry, our anxiety can never prevent trouble.
To understand the importance of Jesus' message that "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof," let us review the immediate context of Matthew 6:24–34:
In Matthew 6:24, Jesus addresses the issue of divided loyalty. It is impossible to serve two masters simultaneously because we will love one and hate the other. Thus, we are faced with a choice. Will we serve God or money?
In Matthew 6:25, Jesus commands His disciples to not become anxious about material needs, such as food, drink, and clothing, because life is more than these things (cf. Matthew 4:4; John 4:13–14; 6:48–50).
In Matthew 6:26–30, Jesus presents an argument against worry. If our Heavenly Father feeds the birds of the air, then He will do the same for us (Matthew 6:26). And if He clothes the lilies of the field, then He will certainly put clothes on our backs (Matthew 6:28). To think that God would do these things for plants and animals and leave His children without is to have a shameful opinion of Him. Indeed, it displays a lack of faith (Matthew 6:30).
The reason believers worry about their needs is that we do not understand our value before God, nor do we comprehend how much He loves and cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Worrying, however, does not accomplish anything (Matthew 6:27). We cannot change our circumstances through worrying, nor can we add years to our lives. So, instead of worrying, let us trust in Him who works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
In Matthew 6:31–32, Jesus reinforces the command to let go of worry and anxiety about material needs. The Gentiles (or unbelievers) seek after these things, but our Father is aware of our needs and will take care to provide for us.
In Matthew 6:33, Jesus establishes the top priority for all believers. Before asking God to meet our material needs, we should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (cf. Psalm 27:4). This means that we should devote our lives to doing the will of God (Philippians 4:8) rather than being preoccupied with money, food, and clothing. In doing so, "God will supply every need of [ours] according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).
In Matthew 6:34, Jesus reminds believers to live in the present, because "sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Tomorrow is outside of our control. We do not know what tomorrow holds, but we know the One who holds tomorrow in His hands (Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 23; James 4:13–15).
May we utter the same prayer as Reinhold Niebuhr and receive serenity, peace, and strength to face the troubles of each day:
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference, living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; taking this world as it is and not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen."
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