Day 38: “Worry” Part One 10.02.2018
Matthew 6:25-27 (NIV) “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”
Among the many Mark Twain quotes, this might be my favorite: “My life has been filled with endless catastrophes, most of which never happened!” We can spend many days fretting about what might happen and could happen. Troubled by what might be our undoing. Jesus said “Don’t!” But let’s be truthful: this is a difficult statement from our Lord. We DO have to think ahead. We do have to save for the future and be careful with the present. Common sense tells us to live with care and planning. But is Jesus saying “Oh, don’t worry about the future. Relax! The Father in Heaven has you covered!” Of course, he is not saying quite that. So, what are we to make of this teaching from our Lord? I have a few ideas …
Most of us have had periods of worry. Me included. In fact, if you are a major league worrier, you might wake up thinking “What should I be worried about? There must be something that needs to be considered! I need to do some fretting!” But Jesus just said “Do not worry about your life…” He meant by that the essentials in life such as food, clothing etc. should not be our main focus. This follows perfectly on the previous admonition:
Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV) “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
We spoke earlier about the 48,000 plus storage units in America. About how we have become a nation of hoarders and buyers. But what would it mean to “worry” about clothing and food? The actual word in the text for worry is rooted in a word for “division” causing anxiety. In other words, worry divides the mind and heart. But this is really about PRIORITIES. Jesus seems to be saying that we must not use our assets and energies to constantly seek after more of everything. He clearly is not saying that we need not work or plan ahead. Again:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”
The assumption of Jesus is that his disciples will be people who do not consider material possessions to be their highest priority. He asks: “Is life not more important than…?” Then he references birds of the air. Notice that the Father feeds them but how? By programming them to gather seeds and food that He provides but they still must do the gathering! So, to worry or be divided is to fail to trust God to provide the means.
Over the years, I’ve spoken with lots of men and women whose finances had hit some potholes or speed bumps and they were worried. I would never pray with them that money would fall from Heaven like manna. Rather, I encouraged them to pray for a work opportunity. Simply put, God knows of our needs. He can provide. He cares about our needs just as he cares about dressing the flowers that are tossed away pretty quickly.
Jesus made a very clear promise later in the text. The key seems to be tending to our part in the Kingdom of God first. If we are going to use up mental energy … fine. First, use it for the Kingdom. He said:
Matthew6:32-33 (NIV) “For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Excessive worry and striving after the things of the world is something that the pagans do. Remember, a pagan was and is someone who denies the Christian faith and/or worships false gods or nothing at all. Of course, paganism existed before Jesus said these words. A heathen is someone who has not heard the Gospel. In our age, a pagan might be someone who has heard the Gospel and rejected it for a number of religions including any of the cults or consumerism or other worldly things. These are people who do not seek after God. Interesting that our Lord Jesus Christ ended his comments with this key phrase:
Matthew 6:32-33 (NIV) “For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Jesus did NOT just say “If you’re a worrier you are no better than a pagan!” He said “Don’t be worrisome. Just be sure to seek the Kingdom of God first then plan your life!” If we seek the Kingdom of God, we will be careful with planning spending and acquiring. Most of our worrying comes from neglect of that principle.
One other thought. Here is where the New Living Translation is very helpful in its treatment of verse 33:
Matthew 6:33 (NLT2) “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
Worriers struggle, me among them, to break the worry habit. But if we seek God, it is never too late to change our patterns of life and learn to trust Him. Even if we have been unwise or foolish, if we are saved … we are safe! I highly recommend Psalm 73. The writer had nearly turned into a beast with anger and worry. I do hope we will all read it soon. Even memorize it! Noticed the promise that God makes:
Psalm 73:23-26 (NIV) “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. YOU GUIDE ME WITH YOUR COUNSEL, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
God be praised! Blessings! Pastor Alberta