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Why Worry?

by Alex Wilson

-Gleaned from a past editorial-

A famous writer and radio speaker who was both a psychologist and spiritual advisor returned from an extended vacation to find on his desk 1,633 requests for prayer or counsel! He analyzed them and discovered that over two-thirds of the writers were afraid and/or worried. What were they worried about? #1. Money-inflation, bills, taxes, home-financing. #2. Health. #3. Another person, a spouse, parent, or other loved one.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is truly relevant, isn’t it? In Matthew, chapter 6, He says, “Do not worry …. Why do you worry? …. Do not worry …. Do not worry …. “

A few sentences earlier He had said, “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth.” Such insatiable hoarding is a constant temptation of those who have lots of money and find it easy to make more. But if greedy stockpiling of wealth is a common sin of the rich, anxiety concerning material things is a major temptation especially of the poor. In other words, the rich man worries over what he has, the poor man worries over what he has not.

But our Lord also gave a positive word, not merely a negative one. He said that we can and should store up treasure in heaven by serving others with love. In addition to love for others, Jesus now calls us to faith–to rely on our Father. Listen to His well-known words in Matt. 6:25-34.

“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? 26 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? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, 0 you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” 33 “But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. “

As we think about worry, it will help if we distinguish between it on the one hand, and concern on the other. They are near neighbors to each other, and they may overlap, yet we need to make a distinction between them. To worry is to fret over problems, to be troubled, to agonize. As a noun worry means anxiety, disquiet, uneasiness, vexation of mind. Concern is distress, a burdened state of mind due to one’s interest or affection. Paul tells us that “members of the body [church] should care” or “have concern for one another” (1 Cor. 12:25). He said of himself, “I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28).

Worry pulls us apart, wears us out. Let’s shun it, reject it, expel it, renounce it. As Jesus said repeatedly, “Do not worry.” But concern is good, valuable, commendable: We should have concern for one another in the church, and a deep concern for the unconverted who are on the road to destruction, and for the honor and glory of God.

The opposite of worry is peace and contentment, while the opposite of concern is apathy, indifference, negligence. May God give us wisdom and strength to distinguish between these two look-alikes, and reject the one while embracing the other.

Now back to our text. Notice how Jesus reasons with us, verse by verse. 25 ” … 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?” His point here is that Worry is Senseless: He who gave life will give food to sustain it. He who created our body with all its intricate marvels will provide clothes for it. In the field of logic, this is called an argument from the greater to the lesser. If God did the harder acts of creating life and making our bodies, don’t you think He is capable of supplying what we need to sustain them? 26 “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?”

Now Jesus stresses that Worry is Needless: God is not just our Creator but our Father.

Said the robin to the sparrow, “I should really like to know why those restless human beings rush around and worry so?” Said the sparrow to the robin, “I was wondering – can it be that they have no Heavenly Father such as cares for you and me?”

Matthew Henry said, “The heirs of heaven are much better off than the birds of heaven. God is their Maker, but He is your Father. He that feeds His birds surely will not starve His babes.” In logic, this is called an argument from the lesser to the greater.

27 “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Jesus now reminds us that Worry is Useless: What good does it do to worry over matters we can’t control? Of course being careful may lengthen our life–look both ways before you cross the street. But fingernail-biting worry won’t extend our life. In fact we now know that constant stressful worry often leads to shorter lifespan.

The serenity prayer is sensible: “God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

28-30, “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire [for many peasants in Judah used dried grass as fuel in their small clay ovens], will he not much more clothe you, 0 you of little faith?” Here Christ confronts us with the fact that Worry is not only senseless, needless and useless; it is also Faithless.

On 5 different occasions Matthew records Jesus saying those sad words, “You men of little faith!” or “You have so little faith.” [6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; 17:20] Worry is an insult to God. That’s serious! If He exercises such wisdom and power for lower creatures, can’t we trust Him to meet our needs-for us His children?

Sometimes I look in the mirror and say, “0 you of little faith! Won’t you ever learn that you can trust your Father-God?” I’m sure all of us need to pray often, “Lord, increase our confidence in You.”

31 “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. ” Worry is Godless, says our Lord. It’s a form of “practical atheism.” It’s living as though there is no true, living, loving, powerful God. It’s living as though either there is no God at all or else just those puny, powerless pagan gods – the dead, deaf and dumb deities of heathen people.

To anxiously worry, fret and stew over food, drink and clothes is to act not only as though we are Pagans, but also as Orphans. But we’re not! We have a Heavenly Father who knows and cares about us and our needs. In the three chapters of this sermon alone, Jesus refers to God as our Father 17 times!

33 “But seek first His Kingdom and his Righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” We observed before that for us to pray “Your Kingdom come” means to say “My kingdom go.” And to Seek First his Righteousness means we’ll seek to live by his commands, such as those demanding orders He taught in chapter 5. ” … And all these things will be given to you as well.” Worry is CURABLE! It can be cured, IF we remember the truths and principles Jesus has presented so far, and as a result we put Him first and obey His commands.

We should realize this: Pagans-non-Christians-who neither trust nor obey the real God, are orphans in a spiritual sense. Oh, they are God’s creatures, and He loves them, but in their unbelief and lack of obedience they are not His children. No one is born again into God’s family unless they commit themselves to Jesus as Lord and Savior. Only THEN do they have God as their Father. So unbelievers truly are orphans spiritually. Thus they feel insecure, anxious and worried. Thus they seek “these things “-food, drink, clothes plus life’s luxuries too–and they anxiously seek them first. It’s natural for unbelievers to be worried in this way.

But we believers in Christ have a Father (thus He loves us), in Heaven (thus He is all-wise), who is also a King (He has a kingdom, thus He is powerful). So we should be free from worry-set free to put His interests first. Princes and princesses need not fret over where their next meal is coming from. So they can concentrate on Kingdom-business, their Father’s business–His will, His ruler- ship, His desires.

Three Applications

  1. Let’s trust our Father.
  2. Let’s obey and serve Him first: He is King.
  3. Let’s live one day at a time.

You ask, “Where did you get that third application?” It’s in verse 34, where Jesus added, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Many of us would agree with the French philosopher Montaigne who wrote, “My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.” And some modern wise man said, “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.”

So let’s remember, and remind ourselves often:

1. Do not worry …. 2. Do not worry …. 3. Again He says unto us: Do not worry.

Let’s trust our God, our Father, the King.

 

-Alex Wilson. lives in Louisville, KY. He is the  minister of the Portland Ave. Church of Christ and  Editor of Word & Work.




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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4