An elderly man was standing with his friend on a crowded bus when a young man asked him for the time. The old man refused to reply, and so the young man moved on. When the elderly man’s friend asked why he was so discourteous to the young man asking for the time, he replied, “Well, if I’d given him the time of day, he would want to know where I was going. Then we might talk about our interests, and he would invite himself to my house for dinner. If he did that, he would meet my lovely daughter. And if he met her, they would probably both fall in love. And I don’t want my daughter marrying someone who can’t even afford a watch.”
That guy appears to be a consummate worrier. Many of us must confess that we have our moments when we worry, even as children of God. We worry about things like finances, our kids, our health, looking older, our parents, and what others might think of us. We worry about “what if?” and draw out the worst possible scenario.
We know worry has its dangers and is not good for us. It’s not a disease, but it can cause diseases. It’s been connected to high blood pressure, migraines, heart troubles, and a host of stomach disorders. Someone once said, “Worry is an emotion that can never empty tomorrow of its problems, but instead empties today of its strength. It does not help us escape evil, but makes us ill prepared to cope with it, when and if it comes.” Another person said, “Worry doesn’t rob tomorrow of its sorrow; it saps the joy out of today.”
Max Lucado writes, “Worry is the burlap bag of burdens. Remember those burlap bags, how scratchy and itchy they are? It’s filled with Ôwhat ifs?’ and Ôhow will we cope?’ It’s cumbersome, chunky, scratchy, unattractive, hard to handle, irritating to carry, and impossible to give away because no one wants your worries.”
R. H. Mounts, a theologian, writes, “Worry is practical atheism and an affront to God.” I heard someone else say, “Worry is what we as Christians refer to as respectable sin.”
What is it that makes us such worriers? How does it happen? The world’s anxiety and worry seem to just easily rub off on us. We get blurred vision as Christians. Blurred vision keeps us from seeing the goodness and the faithfulness of God.
In today’s text, Jesus is seeking to unblur our vision with this lesson from his Sermon on the Mount. We have three things to keep in mind as we consider these words of Jesus.
First, we need to remember who is being addressed here. Jesus is speaking to his disciples. They are apprentices of Jesus, learning how to live in this kingdom that he has brought into the world.
Second, we must keep in mind what it was like to live in their day. It would be like living in the third world today Ð hand-to-mouth living, no security, no safety net, no Medicare, no Medicaid. Some estimate the average citizen in Palestine paid about 40% of their income in taxes. It was a hard life. And yet Jesus said to these people, as he says to us today through his Word, “Don’t worry.”
Third, we also have to keep in mind what precedes these words, because Jesus begins by saying, “Therefore . . .” He’s been talking about making a choice between serving money (taking care of yourself) and serving God. God is looking for whole-hearted devotion with one’s life in his kingdom. The disciples must have been scratching their heads and wondering who was going to take care of them. In this passage Jesus seems to be promising that God will take care of them.
Notice that he emphasizes “Don’t worry” three times in this little section, and he gives several reasons not to worry.
¥ God created us. He gave us life and a body, surely he will sustain us.
¥ Worry is senseless. “Look at the birds of the air,” he says.” The birds don’t fret and worry, and yet God cares for them. Your value in God’s sight is so much greater than any bird, surely he’ll take care of you.
¥ Worry is useless. Fretting about things is futile, for it cannot add a single hour to your life.
¥ Worry is faithless. Pagans worry because they cannot trust their gods. To not trust God or worry about whether God is going to take care of you is like a slap in the face of God.
¥ Worry denies your family ties. “Your heavenly Father knows you need these things.” At the heart of the universe is not only ultimate power, but the ultimate love of a Father who loves you.
¥ Worry is impractical. Don’t worry about tomorrow, but take each day at a time. God has divided life into bite-size chunks called days. Trying to chew more than one day at a time does nothing but choke us. Trust God with these twenty-four hours. God is already into tomorrow, waiting.
Instead of worrying, Jesus points us to an alternative. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Jesus is describing a way of life, with a priority of living for God, his kingdom, and his righteousness, in obedience to him.
A promise is attached: “. . . and all these things will be added to you.” We must commit ourselves to God; he will take care of us. Troubles will come, but God will supply the resources for each day.
Corrie Ten Boom told the story about a friend who was persecuted for her faith in Christ. Corrie was terrified and said to her father, “I will never be able to stand up under persecution. I couldn’t take it.” Her father said, “Oh, yes, you can. If God allows you to be persecuted for his sake, you’ll be strong enough. Do you remember when you were a little girl, and I took you to the train station? I waited until just before we boarded the train, and then I handed you the ticket. Although I had it in my pocket all along, I gave it to you only when you needed it. God will give you the resources you need when the time comes.”
Indeed God is faithful to take care of his children. When we commit ourselves to him, he will commit himself to us. Trust him.
Jesus led by example, putting God’s agenda first, trusting in the Father a day at a time, not moving ahead, but celebrating the goodness of God in the here and now. Author and commentator N. T. Wright says, “It sounds like a recipe for happiness. Jesus is calling his followers Ð you and me Ð to do the same as we put our trust in God and commit ourselves to this wonderful God who longs for each of us to trust him, love him, and serve him. Soon you will discover for yourself that he commits himself to you.”
At the heart of the Sermon on the Mount is an invitation from Jesus that few people ever try to take up. Come and share in my happiness, Jesus says. Don’t get caught up in worry. Give yourself wholeheartedly to God’s cause. Trust him; he will care for you.
There’s an old hymn that’s always been my favorite. The last verse goes like this:
“This is my Father’s world; Oh, let me not forget
That, though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world; Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is king, let the heavens ring; God reigns, let the earth be glad!”
Don’t worry! Trust your Father who loves you and gave his only Son that you might be his child.