How many nights’ sleep have you lost worrying about something? Have you ever lost your appetite as the result of worry? Jesus tells us not to worry because God knows what we need. God, the creator of the world can be trusted to provide for us in the same way as he provides for the birds and the flowers. Worrying about what might happen is not going to change anything. Instead live in the moment, dealing with the issues that each day brings.
Our Sunday service had as the readings Psalm 136:1-9, 23-end, Romans 8:18-25 and Matthew 6:25-end. The reflection from the service is given below:
A newly qualified graduate of business school answered an advertisement for an accountant. The young man found himself sitting opposite a very stressed man during the interview. The man ran a small business which he had started himself.
“I need someone with an accounting degree,” the man said, “but mainly, I’m looking for someone to do my worrying for me.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t understand,” the young man said.
“I worry about a lot of things,” the man said, “but I don’t want to have to worry about money. Your job will be to take all the money worries off me.”
“I see,” said the accountant, “and how much does the job pay?”
“I’ll start you at 80,000.”
“80,000!” the accountant exclaimed. “How can such a small business afford a sum like that?”
“That,” the owner said, “is your first worry.”
For that businessman, worry was a fact of life and he was simply outsourcing some of it. He said he worried about many things so we have to assume that even if the young man managed to deal with all the money worries, the owner would have plenty more worries to deal with.
Jesus sweeps aside the idea of worrying even about the most basic of life’s needs – food, drink, clothing. It sounds like idealist rubbish, a recipe for disaster in modern life. We might think that it was all right for Jesus to say this in the simpler society he knew but not in our complex situation. However, even then people needed to be fed and clothed. The reason Jesus could tell us that this is the right way to live is because he knew God as his loving Father, and wanted us to understand that God is also our heavenly Father. There’s a little poem that sums up the implication of living full of worry:
Said the robin to the sparrow:
‘I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.’
Said the sparrow to the robin:
‘Friend I think that it must be
That they have no heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me.’
God created the world in all its beauty and mystery and complexity. We know that when he created it, he saw that it was good. As the psalm confirms God is the lord who does great wonders, who created sun and moon, who gives food to his creatures, who is worthy of praise. St Paul writes of creation in its current state, waiting to be rescued from all that has gone wrong. Even looking around him at what is in need of redemption, Paul focuses on hope. We know that God can be trusted to bring about all that he’s promised and to restore creation to its good state.
That time may be way in the future or in the next two minutes. Until it happens we are told to live without worrying. It could be that for some they will be called to abandon the security of a paid job and a permanent home. Jesus certainly asked the rich young man who came to him to give up his riches and security. For most of us, it’s more our attitude that needs adjusting. There’s nothing wrong with planting seeds, making clothes and other items. We are effectively working alongside God in our creative efforts. Making sensible provision for ourselves and our families is a good thing to do. Even the birds in Jesus’ example have to go and look for the food that God has provided for them. We should not try to deny our bodily needs by eating and drinking as little as possible or going round clothed in rags. Jesus enjoyed life, went to parties, so why shouldn’t we. Planning and working are commendable; what Jesus is highlighting is worrying. He wants us to live in the moment, taking the time to enjoy all that God has given us in his beautiful world, trusting that he has us held safe as a loving father should.
For many people, worry is so much a part of life that they worry if they’ve nothing to worry about! Corrie ten Boom said: ‘Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.’ Worry leaves us physically affected, unable to sleep or to eat properly, developing ulcers and high blood pressure. Whatever we are worrying about can dominate our thoughts all day, distracting us from what we should be doing, making us irritable with our family and friends. Being concerned about something, on the other hand, is likely to motivate us to act.
Jesus states that our priority is to be God’s kingdom and his righteousness and the rest will look after itself. God is to have our first allegiance as king of our lives. Our way of living should reflect that allegiance. Not only should we live according to the pattern we see in Jesus, serving and obeying God, but we should also turn first to God for help in difficulties, knowing that he cares about our daily needs. God is to be trusted and wants us to depend on him for our needs. By keeping our focus on God, letting him fill our thoughts, we are more likely to be able to respond to his guidance. God has plans for our lives, things he wants us to do, and worrying can get in the way of our response. Planning carefully, while trusting in God’s guidance, can help alleviate a lot of worry.
Jesus doesn’t say that trusting God and not worrying is going to make life easy and trouble free. He takes it for granted that each day will bring some trouble or challenge for us. What he does say though is that: ‘One day’s trouble at a time is quite enough.’ in NT Wright’s translation. Or ‘Sufficient unto the day are the troubles thereof’ as I learnt it many years ago in the King James Version.
Francis de Sales summarises Jesus’ teaching thus:
‘Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same loving Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and everyday. Either he will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.’