Remember that song? Or how about the one from Disney's The Lion King? "It
means no worries for the rest of your days; it's our problem-free
philosophy, hakuna matata!" Even though both of those songs were at one
time very popular, we still live in what is being called the "Age of
Anxiety." Apparently, the problem of worry is not unique to our generation
or Jesus never would have devoted a large section to this issue in His
Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:25-34). And in the Parable of the Sower, He
identified "the worries of the world" (Mark 4:19) as thorns which choke out
the life of the word of God.
That's where we get our word worry. It comes from an Old English term that
means "to strangle." The Greek word paints a picture of a mind torn in two
directions, one that is divided and distracted. It seems logical that Jesus
would address His concerns for worry after saying that "no man can serve two
masters" (Matt. 6:24). If you're occupied with worrying, how can you be
working for the Master?
Before we are too quick to sympathize with Jesus' audience, notice that the
things we worry about are completely different than what they were worrying
about. Jesus told them, "do not worry, then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or
'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?'" This kind of
worry about food is not having to decide between Mexican or Italian. Nor
does the concern for clothing have to do with being uncertain whether to
wear brown shoes or black shoes with your outfit. These people were worried
about having any food to put on the table or even a stitch of clothes to
put on their backs. In other words, what they worried about make our
concerns pale into insignificance. And if Jesus had to get on them for
worrying about the necessities of life, what do you think He would say to us
about the things that occupy, distract, and divide our minds?
I offer these suggestions as to why worry is, in fact, not worth the worry.
Worry sets our minds on the world, not on the kingdom.
That's why so much attention is given to the subject in Scripture. Jesus
introduces this topic in a section on materialism, serving God vs. serving
mammon. That makes an easy transition to talk about worry, because the
devil doesn't care whether your heart is carried away by riches or by
anxiety, just so long as it is carried away from God. When Martha was upset
about Mary listening to Jesus instead of helping her serve, Jesus told her,
"you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is
necessary" (Luke 10:38-42). Worry distracts us from the one thing that is
most important, the one thing we ought to be doing. In all the options that
seem to be available in life, there are actually only two. Which will you
"Do not be anxious...but seek first the kingdom of
God" (Matt. 6:25,34). If you want assurance of provision, you don't
seek things, you seek God. And upon securing your relationship with Him,
making spiritual sustenance your priority, He will provide the daily bread.
Upon making the decision to improve that area of your life, to make the
righteousness of God your own, improvement in every area of life is the
inevitable result. Don't get that backwards.
Worry demonstrates a lack of faith in God.
Worrying about food, drink, and clothing are things that the "Gentiles
eagerly seek" (Matt. 6:32). Jesus calls them "men of little faith," because
they were acting like the Lord didn't know or didn't care that they were
hungry, thirsty, and in need of clothes. They were in covenant relationship
with God but were demonstrating less faith than those who didn't know Him at
Consider the sparrows, five of which are sold for two
cents. "And yet not one of them is forgotten before God" (Luke
12:6). If the smallest and humblest of God's creatures are given such rich
provision, what then, for the pinnacle of His creation, for those who have
been made in His image and have become His children through the blood of His
Son? And what about the lilies of the field, generally used for kindling?
If the God of heaven has tended to the flowers whose life is but a breath
and a sigh, will He not clothe with righteousness those whose destiny is
eternal life? Surely a God who has given Jesus to satisfy our spiritual
needs has sought out ways to provide for our physical ones as well. If He
can solve our most basic problem, salvation for sin, we ought to trust Him
with any other difficulty that comes our way.
Worry is worthless. Having worried and worried
and worried about something, what good does it accomplish? What does it
change? It is a useless endeavor. "Who of you by being worried can add a
single hour to his life" (Matt. 6:27)? In fact, worry doesn't lengthen
life, it tends to shorten it. Not just in the sense of "worrying yourself
sick." But all too often, life is what happens while we're worrying that
something else will happen. Our time here is short enough as it is, a
"vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away" (James
4:14). How much more is that vapor abbreviated when what little time we do
have is wasted away with fretful, anxious care?
These passages on worry do not promote idleness, a spirit that says we can
just sit back in the recliner and let God take care of everything for us.
Other scriptures tell us that we must "labor, performing with our hands that
which is good" (Eph. 4:28) and that we ought to provide for our own and our
household (1 Tim. 5:8). We need to do what we can. But we do so with the
understanding that "God will take care of what we cannot" (Paul Earnhart).