Thursday, 1 September 2005

Do not worry

MATTHEW 6:24-34                                          

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
25 "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 n?
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, O 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."  The Bible.


This is an astonishingly practical passage.

It opens to us the secret of the worry free life

Jesus doesn't simply say, "Don't worry?" That would not be very helpful.
You are anxious about something and someone says to you, 'Don't worry'. It actually makes things worse. We are still anxious, but now we are extra anxious because we are worried and we've been told we shouldn't be

What Jesus seems to say is that if we are to be free from anxiety, then we need to get our priorities right.
"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money". (v24))


So much of our worry is because we have put our security, our identity and our energy in the wrong place.

1. We put our security in material things: in what old translations called 'mammon': in bank accounts, insurance policies, investments or property, in pension funds

We think, 'if we have money then we will never be short of food or clothing. We will have all that we need

2. We put our identity in what we possess, how we dress, what we wear.
Most of us can go to a cupboard bursting full of clothes, and say 'I've got nothing to wear'.
We want people to think good of us, and how we dress is important: it is about image.

And even people who say, 'I'll wear anything', do not do so - because there would be things that they would never wear. Why? Because it doesn't show them to the world in the way that they would wish the world to see them.

A few months ago there was a great deal of talk about problems being caused by young people wearing hoodies. This may be apocryphal, but I heard of one community who solved the problem when the older people took to wearing hoodies. As a result, the youngsters stopped wearing them. If older people were wearing hoodies, then clearly they did not fit the bill of looking cool.

3. We put our energy into getting material things.

For many, the increase of money becomes the single controlling factor. It is built into the very fabric of our society. No political party questions the idea that the goal of government is 'financial' growth. The goal of the business is to make profit for the shareholders. Even the success of services in the public sector are measured in financial terms. An OFSTED report will say whether a school is offering, "good value for money". And personally we aspire to become wealthier. There are very few who do not desire larger houses, great holidays that offer either comfort or adventure, expensive gadgets and toys, newer clothes, better cars.

And it is not surprising that we end up getting incredibly anxious.

Probably the people who Jesus was speaking to would have been getting anxious about whether they had enough to eat, to drink or to wear.

Our anxiety in the affluent West is different. We worry about whether we are eating or drinking the right things in the right amounts. We worry about whether we are wearing the right clothes.
And of course people do worry about how they will provide for the family, pay the mortgage or pay off the overdraft, meet the gas and electricity bills, make the business pay.

But Jesus says, "Do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?', or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well".

So Jesus is saying, "Get your priority right".

It is the call to put our energy into the things that are right.

Seek the things of God. Seek his Kingdom. It is about recognising that God is king. It is about putting Him and His values first. It is about saying that the first goal of our business, of our school, of our church is not to make money, is not even to provide for ourselves but to serve people.
And seeking God's righteousness is not only about seeking what is right in God's eyes. It is about seeking real true life. As Jesus said, "Is not life more important than food?" (v25). God himself.
It is that challenge to focus in on what really matters. I was talking last week with a person who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. And they were saying: 'It really makes you focus down on what is most important'.

Seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness is the same as hungering and thirsting for God's righteousness (Matthew 5:6). In many ways this could be said to be the theme of Matthew chapters 5 and 6.

It is the call to rest our ultimate identity in God.
We are not what we wear. We are not what you have. Your true value lies in your value to God. And you are far more valuable to him than anything in creation. In v26, he says, "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?", he says, "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?"
Our value does not lie in what we possess. Princess Diana, when she died, left behind a personal fortune of about £20 million pounds. Mother Teresa died two days later. She left behind two sari's and a bucket.  

It is the call to rest our ultimate security in God.
Money, investments, property will all ultimately let us down.
But if we know that we have a God who is abundantly generous, who provides for birds, who clothes flowers in glory, then we can trust that - even when everything else fails us, even when our own body fails us, even when we lose everything - he will never let us down.
On one occasion, Jesus tells a young man who is rich, but who knows that something is missing in his life, "Sell what you have, give to the poor and come follow me". Jesus is asking him to do something that is difficult, but something that is so liberating. The more that we let go of the things of this world, the more we can take hold of the things of God, the more we will know that He is our ultimate security.


I wish that I could tell you that I live a worry free life. I cannot.

And in the last few months I have spoken with people worried because they are overwhelmed with work, because their business is not making it, because they are facing a slow and painful death, because they have lost control of their children, because they don't understand their own sexual desires, because a parent is sick, because they are frightened of being attacked by a violent partner.  And I am aware that in other societies and places, people worry sick because they cannot feed their children, and they are watching them starve to death.

I wish the problem could be solved just like that. I wish that the anxiety and pressure would go away with the flick of a finger. But it doesn't. While we are here we will have to live with nightmares, real and imagined. And we will face anxiety. In fact Jesus seems to acknowledge that when he says, "Each day has enough trouble of its own".

But Jesus does give us a glimpse into another world, a world which by faith we can begin to live now. And I do believe that as we daily learn to seek the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, we will begin to discover that - whatever we go through - we have a God who loves us, who cares for us, who values us, and who will never let us down.

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