Don’t Worry!

Posted: November 20, 2011 in Matthew

Matthew 6:25-34, “Don’t Worry!”

Worry.  Our culture specializes in it!  Entire cable TV stations are dedicated to building up political worries so that we tune in constantly to figure out what’s going on.  We worry about our financial future – we worry about our health – we even worry about planning exactly the right vacation so that we can get free from worry & then worry how we’re going to pay for it all once we get back!  It’s like the guy who was so nervous that he hired a fellow to do all of his worrying for him for $1000 a week.  A friend who heard about it asked him, “How can you possibly afford it?”  He replied, “That’s his first worry.” 🙂

Compared to all of the major problems going on in our lives, how we handle worry and stress seems so minor – so unimportant.  After all, we may be watching a loved one endure some kind of major crisis, and our worry for them seems so small and irrelevant.  We think, “Sure I’m stressed, but I don’t have the important problems someone else does.”  Yet God doesn’t view it as unimportant at all.  Stress and anxiety can cause the exact same spiritual problems as health issues, or sinful temptation (or whatever): it can take our eyes off of the Lord.  When our eyes are off Jesus, it doesn’t matter how “big” or “small” the problem was that got us to that point, we’re still there – and it’s a dangerous place to be.  The Bible actually has a lot to say about worry & this is exactly what Jesus addresses in this section of the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 6:25–34 (NKJV)
25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

  1. Therefore”: look at the context.  Jesus had been teaching about the proper priority we are to have when it comes to spiritual practices – He’s bringing the conclusion to the argument as Ch 6 comes to a close.  The priority we have in worship is to not seek earthly treasure, but to lay up treasure in heaven.  That priority carries over into every area of life.  It’s not that earthly things don’t matter, but simply life is more than earthly things.  We have a greater priority, because we have a greater life – one that extends beyond the grave.  Christians sometimes get criticized for “being too heavenly minded to be any earthly good,” but it would seem that Jesus teaches us exactly the opposite.  If we’re going to be any good here on earth, then it’s absolutely essential that we have the proper perspective on heaven & eternity.  There is a treasure (a reward) that awaits believers in Christ Jesus in heaven, and the things we do now in this life have a direct result on what we will be given later.
  2. The application from all of this?  Don’t worry.  Define “worry.”  The KJV says “take no thought,” but the Old English meaning of the phrase really refers to “anxiety,” which is exactly the meaning of the Greek.  The word speaks of concern & intense care, whereas someone would be anxious about something.  When we’re spending an inordinate amount of time & energy concentrating upon something, we could be considered to be “worrying” about it.  Granted, this isn’t always negative.  A pilot in the air ought to be spending a ton of time, attention, and energy to what he/she is doing, or his flight is going to have a pretty rude ending.  Likewise, people tend to spend a lot of time & energy on their careers – all of which can be used for the glory of God.  University students spend a lot of time & money pouring over their studies so they can get good training, go out into the workplace, provide for their families, support missionaries, help others, enjoy life, and glorify God.  None of that is bad.  It’s the priority that can be a problem.  Remember what Jesus just got done saying: (Mt 6:24) “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”  Jesus was addressing loyalty – idolatry.  Mammon/money can hold a huge place of value in a person’s life, to the point of surpassing God in order of importance.  When that happens, there’s a huge problem.  Jesus is either 1st place in our life or not, but He won’t be 2nd place.  We either serve God through Jesus Christ or we don’t – there’s not a middle ground or compromise here.  Our Heavenly Father is Who ought to be the primary object of our time, attention, and energy – not our money, career, health, or anything else.  Those things aren’t necessarily bad, but they cannot be our god; that’s a place reserved for the Lord Jesus Christ alone.  So, Jesus says, don’t worry about those things.  Don’t worry at all.
  3. Repetition is always important in the Scriptures.  Notice the number of times that Jesus tells us not to worry.  Three main groupings in this passage, each with a slightly different emphasis.  “Do not worry” #1 – talking about life.  Life is more than mere physical survival.  The Greek word is interesting (ψυχῇ) – the normal usage was like how we use the English transliteration (“psyche”) referring to our inner person, but Jesus’ whole context is physical.  Our “life” is certainly comprised of physical things, but it’s far bigger than those physical things.  Most of us would say that our family & our joy are far more important than physical things like money & health, but when push comes to shove & those physical things aren’t readily provided for, what is it that we worry about?  It’s truthfully tough for us to be joyful when there’s no money in the bank.  How important it is for us to remember that life is bigger than these things!
    1. At the same time, be careful of thinking that physical things are somehow inherently evil or don’t matter to God at all.  Sometimes we have a tendency to fall into a kind of Christian dualism that puts the physical & spiritual at odds with one another, but when we do so we’re stepping into the doctrine of the ancient Gnostics.  Physical things aren’t inherently bad: in eternity we will have been physically raised from the dead in transformed glorified bodies – we will dwell in a physical city of the New Jerusalem – we will experience physical life as God originally intended it to be.  When the physical is how God intends it to be, it’s wonderful!
  4. Again, the problem is one of priority.  Although life is more than only physical, the physical is what takes up the majority of our worries and cares.  Jesus tells us that life is “more than food,” and the body “more than clothing.”  Aren’t these the things we always worry about?  Food, drink, clothing, shelter…  And beyond the very basic bare-bones things needed for survival, there are those things can come awfully close: medical bills, school tuition bills, etc.  Whatever it is that we think we need for physical survival, those are the things over which we stress.
    1. Interestingly enough, what we think we need for survival & what we actually require are often two very different things.  1 Timothy 6:6–10, "(6) Now godliness with contentment is great gain. (7) For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. (8) And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (9) But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. (10) For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." []  What is it that we need?  Food & clothing.  What is it that God promises to provide His children?  Food & clothing.  Yet what do we find ourselves stressing about?  Every other bill imaginable.  This is what Jesus is warning us away from.  To be consumed with those things is to fall just as much into the trap of “the love of money” as greed.

26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

  1. Example #1: food & the birds.  Obviously birds aren’t farmers.  Nothing in the animal kingdom labors for its food in the same way that humans do.  It’s not that they don’t hunt & gather & even store up for later (squirrels & nuts), but they certainly don’t labor for 8-10 hours a day by the sweat of their brow in order to store up more & more & more. They eat what is available to them, because God has designed the workings of the world to make it available to them.  God cares for His own, and thus the birds (and other animals) eat without worry.  We will never find a bird sitting on the ground, rubbing his temples, moaning about how he doesn’t know how he’s going to find the next worm to bring home to his family.  If it sounds comical, that’s because it is.  God certainly designed us to work (Adam worked in the garden prior to the Fall), but God did not design us to worry.  We took care of that on our own.
    1. Keep in mind that not worrying doesn’t mean the same thing as not working. (Guzik) “Birds don’t just sit with open mouths, expecting God to fill them.”  The birds still have to do what God created them to do, or else they will go hungry.  Likewise with us.  There are some who, in the name of “spirituality,” might take the position of: “I don’t need to do anything.  I can just sit on my couch & wait for checks to arrive in the mail.”  Obviously God can send checks through the mail to those whom He chooses (and many folks have personal testimonies of how God has done so during illness, trial, etc.), but that’s the exception to the rule & not the norm.  God designed us to work & expects us to work.  It’s one thing for a Christian not to be able to find employment; it’s another for a Christian to not be willing to look for it.  God will provide for us – but most of the time He chooses to provide for us through a job (or two, or more).
  2. Why not worry?  We are beloved by God.  God feeds the birds because He loves the birds.  He knows when a single sparrow falls (Mt 10:29) – as His creation, God certainly loves the birds.  How much more does God love us?  God did not send His Son to die upon the cross for the sin of sparrows; He sent Jesus for you & me!  Jesus tells us that God values us far more than birds – and indeed, there’s no limit to the value that God has placed upon us.  Christians do have value, because Christians have been purchased.  We have been literally bought at a price by God.  What was the price?  The precious blood of Christ (1 Pet 1:19).  No price could be higher!
    1. Think about it for a moment.  God loves you.  You have a heavenly Father who sent His only begotten Son into the world to literally die upon a cross for your sin & rise again from the grave for your justification.  If God has already given SO much for you, then what are a few crumbs of bread in comparison?  Why would we doubt that God would provide for our physical needs?  God has already provided for our spiritual needs in the cross – He’s already provided for our future physical needs in the resurrection – He’s even promised us a physical home for all of eternity.  And we worry & fret & wring our hands over the grocery bill?!  Don’t worry; you are a child of God!  Your Father loves you and will provide for you!

27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

  1. Other translations say “add a single hour to his life…”  Interestingly enough, the manuscripts don’t differ here regarding the words; the difference is solely in translation.  The Greek word used for “stature” is better translated “life,” whereas the word used for “cubit” is most often “cubit.”  Context best determines the interpretation.  The idea is that no one can add anything on to his/her physical life. 
  2. Remember that God is sovereign; He has already numbered our days.  Whether we live for 1 day or 100 years is something that has already been counted out by God.  Psalm 139:16–17, "(16) Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. (17) How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!" []  God loved us, thought about us, and knew us long before we were even in our mothers’ wombs.  The number of our days were already fashioned for us – before the day we were ever born, God already knew of the date that we would die.  Without getting into the philosophical debates regarding the fine details of predestination, all Christians can easily affirm that our physical lives are in the hand of God.  So why worry about adding on to them?  King Hezekiah was grieved by the news he was going to die, and prayed that God would add to his life (which God did, by 15 years – 2 Kings 20).  Did Hezekiah add to his life?  Absolutely not.  God is the one who granted the extra 15 years.  (And even then it could be debated whether it was added as “extra,” or granted to Hezekiah as a part of God’s perfect plan for Hezekiah to seek God’s face in prayer.)  God is the one who gives life or takes it away – our worrying doesn’t affect it at all.
    1. It’s interesting that Jesus ties this directly in with our food, in that our own culture is so food-oriented.  Whether it’s people eating themselves into the grave, or doing everything they can to extend their life, people so easily get obsessed with food.  Jesus’ instruction is simple: don’t worry.  Do we need to be good stewards of the physical bodies God has entrusted to us?  Yes.  Do we need to obsess over every last calorie and mineral?  No.  Worrying is not going to make us grow taller or live longer, so just don’t do it.
  3. Worrying doesn’t change anything for the better. On the contrary, worrying can actually make things worse.  The Mayo Clinic states that “Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.”  WebMD goes on to suggest, “Stress is linked to six of the leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and even suicide.”  Not to give you one more reason to worry, but stress and anxiety can be making your problems much worse & not better.  Worrying can never positively affect the quantity of days of our lives, but it can certainly affect the quality of our days.  Part of living as citizens of the kingdom of heaven right now is to live in the abundant joy of the Lord.  Worry/stress will steal that joy right from under our noses.

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

  1. Example #2: clothes & the grass.  KJV & others have traditionally translated this as “lilies,” but the word could refer to any number of wildflowers.  Considering Jesus refers to “grass” in vs. 30, it’s likely that He was referring to the flowers that grew upon the grass in the field.  Can you just envision the scene?  It’s as if Jesus was just pointing to the birds & the fields surrounding His listeners…giving them examples from the stuff right in front of them.
  2. God clothes the grass/the flowers…even more than Solomon!  It only takes one trip to the Rose Garden when everything is in bloom to understand how beautifully clothed the flowers are.  God is absolutely an artist in His creative spectacle & the most expensive clothes from the finest tailors in the world still pales in comparison with the glorious work of God in nature.  Just to gaze upon a sunset is to see the beautiful handiwork of God, and to look about a field of Texas wildflowers in the Spring is one of the simple joys of life.

30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

  1. Dead grass was often used as fuel for fire.  God has far better intentions for us than that!  He loves us more than grass.  Just as God loves us more than the birds, God loves us more than the plants.  Mankind holds a special place in the heart of God above all the rest of creation, in part because God has a special plan for man.  God’s intent for us is not to be thrown into the fire, but rather be the co-heirs of Christ Jesus & to spend all of eternity with Him.
    1. Of course some people will be thrown into the fire due to their rejection of Jesus.  The lake of fire was not originally created for humans; it was originally prepared for the devil & his demons (Mt 25:41).  Yet people will go there.  That’s NOT God’s desire for you!  God desires that you would be saved!  You’re worth so much more to God than you can possibly imagine – take care that you do not reject His love.
  2. Why is it that Christians worry?  Jesus points it out here: it’s due to a lack of faith.  “O you of little faith.”  To put it simply & honestly, we just don’t trust that God will provide for us.  Christians can fall short in two ways when it comes to this: (1) we either don’t believe that God can provide for us, or (2) we don’t believe it is God’s will to provide for us.  Obviously when it comes to the first, this ought to be ludicrous.  Surely the Omnipotent God who created the universe from nothing is fully capable of providing for His children.  God told Jeremiah, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” (Jer 32:27)  Obviously not!  Nothing is too difficult for God!  A Christian who believes God is incompetent can hardly be called a “Christian” at all simply because he/she obviously doesn’t believe in the God of the Bible. …  Usually, when it comes to our lack of faith, it comes down to the 2nd point – that we don’t believe it’s God’s will to provide for us.  We see people starving & suffering all over the world (including many believing Christians), and we think, “Since God sovereignly allows those people to suffer, it must not be God’s will to provide for them.”  The difficulty we have here is reconciling that thought with what Jesus explicitly tells us here: that God will feed & clothe us.  Yet this is when faith becomes absolutely critical.  Sometimes it is indeed God’s will to allow us to experience suffering; faith tells us that we can still trust God in the middle of those times.  Sometimes God does allow us to be hungry & suffer cold (as He allowed Paul to endure); faith tells us that God never stops loving us in the midst of it.  Faith tells us that what God has allowed us to endure, God will equip us for.  That may be in abundance; it may not – but faith keeps our eyes upon Christ Jesus through it all.
  3. The bottom line with a lack of faith?  We trust ourselves more than we trust God.  The person who has a lack of faith in God’s provision believes that he/she will do a better job in providing for himself than God will.  They think: “My life is falling apart!  I’ve got to scramble & panic to get things done!”  Ultimately this comes down to fear.  Because we fear, our eyes get off the Lord & onto our immediate troubles.  When our troubles become our sole concern, then that’s when we start to worry (it becomes our “mammon” from vs. 24).  Fear is always dealt with through faith.  The Bible tells us that God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of peace, love, and a sound mind (2 Tim 1:7).  When we fear, we can be sure that we’re not operating in faith.  Worry is based in fear; peace is based in faith.  How is it that we have faith?  By remembering God’s love for us in Christ Jesus.  Anytime you lack faith, look to the cross!  There’s no greater demonstration of the love of God for us than that of the cross & empty tomb.  You can KNOW that God loves you & has already made every provision for you in Christ.  If we’re sure that God has taken care of us at the cross, then we have no reason to fear anything else in life.  We can trust our loving God.

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

  1. Do not worry #2: the things we seek.  Again we have the examples of eating, drinking, and clothing, but instead of grouping them all into what life is (as before), Jesus shows that these things are the priorities of the Gentiles. (“Gentile” simply refers to idol-worshippers here – biologically speaking, anyone not born of the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is a Gentile.  Theologically speaking, even Gentiles can be heirs of those some promises because of Jesus Christ.)  Basically, Jesus tells us that Christians who spend all of their time worrying about their physical needs are acting exactly like pagans.  Those who know Christ as Savior and Lord act like they don’t know Christ at all when we spend our time & energy in anxiety and stress.  When we belong to the Father God as His children, we can be sure that He will provide for us as His children.  When we’re citizens of the kingdom of God, we can be sure that our King will meet His obligations & provide for us as kings are supposed to do.
  2. These things” = food, clothing, etc., everything that Jesus has been referring to in regards to our physical survival.  Note that Jesus never downplays these things as being unnecessary & unimportant.  He tells us that God knows that we “need all these things.”  When it comes to the difference between “needs” and “wants,” God understands everything that we truly need.  Perfectly seasoned barbecue ribs might be a “want,” but food in general is definitely a “need.”  God is not blind to our needs – He cares even about our basic necessities.  Remember that Jesus taught us to pray for “our daily bread,” those things which are necessary in life to get us through the day.  It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for these things in prayer – God knows that we need them & He is happy to provide them for us.
  3. It’s just that these things shouldn’t be our top priorities.  God can meet these needs for us just fine; we need a different priority.  See vs. 33…

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

  1. What ought we be seeking?  Two things (which go hand-in-hand): (1) the kingdom of God, and (2) the righteousness of God.  Contextually, Jesus has been speaking about those who are already citizens of the kingdom (people who are already saved by believing upon Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord), yet there’s no escaping the gospel message here.  Our 1st priority in the things that we seek ought to be God!  We are to desire His rule in our lives, and the righteousness that only comes through Christ.  Just as Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount in the Beatitudes teaching about the person who understands his spiritual poverty & desperate need for God, Jesus teaches the same thing again here.  A person could have all the riches in the world, but not citizenship in the kingdom of God & still die in eternal poverty & sin.  Steve Jobs had an estimated net worth of over $8.3 billion, headed a computer empire, and invented items that drastically affect the lives of millions of people every day.  Yet by all accounts, he died outside of Christ.  Only God knows what happened in his heart on the day of his death, but without Christ, Job’s vast riches accounted for nothing.  People spend their entire existences seeking after the temporary pleasures of the world, and spend their lives consumed with worry over physical necessities – and they miss out on what’s most important.  Out of all the other things that compete for our attention, we need to seek first God’s kingdom & His righteousness.  We desperately need to be included as citizens in the kingdom, and that only comes after we receive the righteousness of Christ.
    1. Contextually, scholars note that “righteousness” doesn’t only speak of our justification before God (our initial salvation), but rather the ongoing righteousness of living our lives in a way that is glorifying to God.  Instead spending our physical days in worry, we ought to spend our physical days giving glory to God.  Whether that comes through charitable giving, prayer, or fasting (as Jesus had taught on earlier in Ch 6), or any other number of ways, the primary goal of every Christian ought to be continually seeking after God.
    2. Those who seek God will never be disappointed.  When we come in faith, God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6).  Never stop seeking God!  Our pursuit of God only truly begins once we put our faith in Christ…
  2. Spend your time seeking what’s most important!  This is what Martha had missed (Lk 10:38-42).  Mary spent time at the feet of Jesus listening to His teaching; Martha was “distracted with much serving.”  Was service important?  Sure – people needed to eat, and Martha was helping to that end.  But Martha’s time could have been prioritized differently & her attention was on her sister, her duties, and her worries, rather than upon the Lord Jesus.  Thus she missed out on a few minutes of blessing that she could have enjoyed (even WHILE she served).
  3. When we have the right priority, we can be sure of God’s provision.  Jesus makes it perfectly plain here: “all these things will be added to you.”  We can trust God for our provision; we just need to turn everything over to Him first.  Paul writes the same thing to the Philippians.  Philippians 4:6–7, "(6) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; (7) and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." []  How many things are we to be anxious about?  Nothing!  No thing.  God knows what it is that we need.  As we continually cast ourselves upon Him, trusting by faith in His Fatherly care for us, we will experience the kind of peace that only He can give.  God’s peace is the peace that endures even in our times of lack & suffering, because we know that God is sustaining us even then.  It goes back to the idea of replacing fear with faith.  When we continually take our cares to God in prayer & truly trust Him with these things (seeking His kingdom & His righteousness), then we can be sure that we will have peace in whatever physical provision our loving God gives us.

34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

  1. Do not worry #3: tomorrow/the future.  It’s as if Jesus knows that although we’ll hear His instruction not to worry, that we’ll do it anyway.  He’s already told us not to worry about today – but that’s not permission for us to start worrying about tomorrow.  Our God is our Heavenly Father both for today AND tomorrow.  Just as God is perfectly capable of giving us our daily bread today, He’s capable of doing it every day.
  2. Of course, this goes to the heart of our worries.  Many times we’re not so much worried about getting through the next 24-hours; we’re worried about how much we’re going to have in the bank on the 1st & 15th of the month (or whenever the bills come rolling in).  Jesus tells us not to worry about those things.  The days will come rolling around soon enough; our own personal stress isn’t going to slow the calendar down in the slightest.
    1. Question: “Is Jesus telling us not to plan for the future?”  No – He’s telling us not to stress out about the future, and there is a difference.  There’s nothing wrong with providing for our children & grandchildren, or storing away savings for emergencies.  That’s simply part of being a responsible steward of God’s resources that have been entrusted to us.  But we’re not to put our hope into those savings.  We’re not to get stressed out & consumed with retirements & inheritances & rainy-day-funds.  We’re to trust God with our future as much as we trust God with our present.
  3. Pay attention to today!  Sometimes people get so caught up with what’s down the road, that they miss what’s right in front of them.  Some parents are so consumed with providing the so-called “best life” for their kids that they miss out spending time with their children at all.  Some people are so consumed with God’s future plan for their lives, that they miss out on the ministry opportunities right in front of them.  We’ve got enough things to pay attention to today; it’s only when we’re focused upon the deeds at hand that we’ll be most effective in addressing them.
    1. What’s most important for today?  Our spiritual status before God.  Jesus told the parable of a man who spent all his time storing away supplies for the future, building bigger & bigger barns.  Yet he didn’t realize that his life was required of him that very night (Lk 12:20).  He spent time preparing for his physical future, but none preparing for eternity.  What is your spiritual state before God?  Have you sought first the kingdom of God & His righteousness?  Are you in Christ?

Conclusion:
So what are you worried about?  Jesus has some very clear instruction to you: don’t do it.  Don’t worry about life – don’t worry about physical priorities – don’t worry about the future.  Just don’t worry!  We can get so consumed with what it is we think we need that we miss out on the fact that we belong to God.  The Almighty God is our Heavenly Father!  What privilege – what provision!  Do we honestly think that our God will provide for the birds & the grass better than for those whom He sent Jesus to die?  Perish the thought!  Our God loves us.  When we are in Christ, we can be sure that our God will provide for us what we need to endure what He allows us to face.  All we need to be concerned with is simply seeking Him.

Christian, don’t stop seeking your Savior.  Your pursuit of Him has only begun!  Every day, continue to cast your cares upon Him & trust your Master & King.  We have no need to fear; we simply need to have simple faith in our loving God.

What are you fretting about today in worry?  What do you fear so much that has taken your eyes off of Christ?

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