"Do Not Worry About Your Life"

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? … Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’” (Matthew 6:25, 31).

For a couple of years now, a few of our men have been meeting on Tuesdays at 6:00 a.m. for breakfast and a short Bible study. Last week our focus was the passage above. One observation was that, for most folks living in America right now, the things that tend to worry us are not so basic as “what you will eat … what you will drink … what you will put on.” We only ask, What will we eat or drink? because we have pantries and refrigerators stocked with lots of choices. We only ask, What will we wear? because we have dressers and closets full of options.

Instead, we find ourselves worrying about other things: 401k balances; credit card balances; having a reliable internet connection; maintaining multiple vehicles; a busy schedule of (often voluntary and optional) activities; and much more. (Based on the number of self-storage units being built, it appears that folks are increasingly worried about where they’re going to put all the stuff they’re not using.) I don’t mean to say that all these concerns are trivial. But how many of them rise to the level of How will we eat? or How will we clothe ourselves? If Jesus tells us not to be anxious about food and clothing, what does that say for our anxieties about other things?

Our popular culture has even coined an expression: “First World problems.” Jim Jonas explains:

[W]e have become accustomed to high living standards and raised our expectations accordingly. We assume that the comfort, convenience and excess we enjoy is ours by right and should always be accessible. It is easy then to lose our perspective and confuse discomfort with suffering, inconvenience with hardship, and loss with poverty. … Thus the tongue-in-cheek phrase ‘First World problem’ is a reminder that, compared with the deprived and desperate lives of many people in the world, our problem is small.

Too true. Even most Americans who are classified as poor have a standard of living that was unimaginable to those crowds listening to Jesus on the hillside — and that remains out of reach for millions of people today. If we find our lives plagued by anxiety, our real problem likely is not material, but spiritual.

As an antidote to worry, consider three points from Jesus’ discourse here in Matthew 6. First, if God feeds the birds and arrays the flowers, then He certainly will care for people made in His image (verses 26-30). Second, He is aware of what we need (verses 31-32). And third, none of the things we might choose to worry about are as important as seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness above all else; if we will do that, we can be confident that He will provide for our needs (verse 33).

“Worry,” wrote William Barclay, “is not caused by external circumstances. In the same circumstances one man can be absolutely serene, and another man can be worried to death. Both worry and peace come, not from circumstances, but from the heart.”