Ecclesiastes 3:1-13, Matthew 6:25-34
Do you think some people worry more than others? Are you one of those people? Are you a “worrywart?” I am sometimes. I think it’s hereditary. I think I got it from my mom! What kinds of things do you worry about? Do you worry about your job? Your health? Your healthcare? Your kids? Do you worry about the future?
Jesus had some good things to say about worry in the Sermon on the Mount. And again, this is one of the greatest speeches in history. It’s certainly the most widely read sermon of all time! And as I read this passage for today, it seems to me that this part may actually be more pertinent in our time than it was when first spoken! I think there’s a lot more worry in our world now than there was in Jesus’ world! And I think he gives some good thoughts about it!
Let me set this up for you. Just before this, Jesus had been talking to the people about treasure about earthly wealth. If you go back a little, you would find him saying, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.” And that meant more than just “storing up” treasures. The way Jesus says this actually means “Do not treasure the things the treasures of earth.” He’s using the verb and the noun form of the same Greek word “Thei-sauros.” By the way, what does that word sound like? “Thei-sauros.” How about Thesaurus?! Anybody ever use a Thesaurus? (What is it? It’s a book about words – synonyms, actually.) Maybe you remember that Roget entitled his book his Thesaurus “a treasury of words!”
So then, when you treasure something, that means more than just collecting or accumulating it. You love it, don’t you? If you treasure something, its a passion of your heart, isn’t it? That’s what Jesus said in his conclusion here. He said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I think that gets to the heart of this whole subject of wealth and possessions. He’s not talking about having things. He’s talking about our attitude toward them, isn’t he? I’ve heard it said a different way. Someone once asked, “Do you possess things? Or do things possess you?”
Well, that’s an important set up for this section we read today, because as I said, Jesus is talking about anxiety. He’s talking about worrying. And he starts off talking about the way we worry about things. “Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on.” And of course, underlying that statement is the anxiety – the worry – about having the material wealth we need to obtain those things. Thats what he’s saying.
Don’t we worry about that? Don’t we worry about the material part of our lives? And when we do, what does that do to us? As you’ve heard me say before, doctors are finding that anxiety, worry, and stress are some of the greatest maladies of our age! They’re finding that more and more of our health problems are related to those things. Worrying puts physical stress on us. It raises our blood pressure. It changes our body chemistry, which makes us more susceptible to disease. Stress can cause us to build up fats and toxins in our system. And of course it can simply take away our peace of mind. Think about how you’re your life would look if you took away the worry!
So, what does Jesus say about this? He dives right in, and he says, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you should eat or drink or wear. Is not life more than food, or the body more than clothing?” That sounds too simple, but he’s right, isn’t he? We need to know that life is more than food and clothing. And in our age we could add a lot of other things to that list! Because, if you think about it, we do get caught up in having all kinds of things. And we worry about them! And we rely on them! And if they are taken away from us, its a disaster!
A couple of weeks ago, Patty and I were in Tennessee. And believe me, we were u”p in them thar hills!” And guess what! We had no internet!! Oh my heavens, what a nightmare!!! And if that wasn’t bad enough, all weekend long our cell phones said, “No Service.” It was a weird feeling! And yet we were in a beautiful place. And we had a wonderful weekend with good friends! (And I caught a fish!) And it gave us a chance to get a little better perspective on things. And it made us think about the things we have now and how we managed to live before we had them, and maybe even about the benefits of stepping away from them every once in a while!
Jesus uses several examples in this passage. “Look at the birds.” he says. “They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly father feeds them.” Maybe that sounds a little nave, but Jesus often exaggerated to make a point. And I think the point is well taken. “Why are you so worried about those things and not trusting in God?” Thats what he was asking. Where’s the line, where’s the balance, between those two things, the worry and the trust? I suspect we’re often out of balance on that, too. It’s not easy to trust God, totally, is it? And I don’t think Jesus wanted us to trust God and do nothing else. I don’t think he intended for us to withdraw from normal life. He was simply concerned about our attitude, and the anxiety associated with it.
Then he asks, “Which of you, by being anxious, can add one cubit to the span of your life?” That’s a good question! Life is finite, isn’t it? And worry can’t make it any longer. Actually, as I said before, we are starting to see how stress and anxiety can do the opposite! It can shorten life! One of the best things we can do for our health is to decrease the level of stress in our lives. I have a wooden plaque over my living room door that says, “Pray more, stress less.” Sometimes I don’t think I look at that enough!
Jesus gives his next example. “Consider the lilies of the field.” he said. (By the way, isn’t that a Sidney Poitier movie? How many have seen that one? “Lilies of the Field.” “Sisters, I done laid my last brick!”) Anyway, he’s talking about how we worry about outward things outward things, of which clothing is just one. But Jesus said, “Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these!” And he’s right, isn’t he? He could have said, “Consider the fall leaves in Tennessee!”
Jesus is giving us some amazing perspective on the of the most basic needs of life! And he finally he comes to his conclusion, right here with the word “Therefore.” “Therefore, don’t be anxious about such things. Your heavenly father knows you need them, but seek first the kingdom of God.” That’s one sentence! God knows! And God cares! Sometimes people conclude otherwise. They think that, if God doesn’t do something about our troubles, then he doesn’t care. That’s what people think. And if we’re honest with ourselves, well realize that’s what we think sometimes, too. We need to know that God cares!
Then we can’t forget the rest of that sentence either. “and all these things will be added to you.” And notice, he’s not saying we should only seek Gods kingdom. He doesn’t say “Seek ye instead the kingdom.” He says “Seek ye first.” He’s not opposed to the things in life. He just wants us to put them into perspective. And of course he’s not saying that we will be rewarded with things if we seek his kingdom. He’s simply saying that the things of this life are all part of the picture. He’s saying that when the kingdom comes first, everything else will fall into place.
He gives us one last word on this subject. He says, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will have its own worries. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” But that’s a hard one isn’t it? If we worry, its usually about tomorrow, isn’t it? Future worries the biggest kinds of worry?
There are many people worried about what lies ahead. Think about it. There’s economic uncertainty, there’s worry about our retirement savings, and of course there’s the Mayan calendar! We just had an election. Presidents are elected every four years in this country. So what that means is that every four years half the country is worried about the next four years!
It is hard not to worry about the future. But let me conclude with this great old saying, which you probably know, which I think goes right along with this. (In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the person who made this up had this passage in mind.) The saying goes like this. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know the one who holds the future.” I think Jesus would agree with that.
So do you? Do you know the one who holds the future? Do you trust him? Along with all the things of this life, do you seek his kingdom first? Do you trust him when he says to have no anxiety? Paul says if we pray more, “the peace that passes all understanding will keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.” May we all come to know better the peace that God alone can give.
Eternal God, we know that you do hold the future, but still its hard to let go and trust you completely. Help us to get closer to that each day. Help us to see you as the source of our peace, our hope, and our security. We thank you for the way you love and care for us. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.