Christ’s Counsel: Do not anxious because God is the King of Life
Worry – Introduction
Its known by many names, and manifests itself in many ways; worry is part of life in the fallen world where we sojourn. It has the ability insert itself into lives where people find themselves bound in worry over anything from real and tangible issues, to things nonexistent. Worrying comes easy to us and we find ourselves worrying at tender ages about boogeyman under or beds or the monsters in our closets. Left to its own, anxiety will follow us through our childhood, through adolescence, and into our adulthood’s where our boogeymen and monsters morph into even scarier things. Financial woes, social status, job accomplishments become as frightening to some as were those shifting shadows.
Worry, carries its own side effects and consequences which are both physical and spiritual. Consider the physically debilitating effects of worry. Chronic sleep loss, depression, hypertension, and cardio crises are by-products of a worried soul. I witnessed this in my own extended family as a teen, where one particular aunt spent her afternoons and evening’s glued to her police scanner when much police traffic was still passed in the clear. Like clockwork, when an incident occurred on her street, she would go into cardiac distress. Ultimately under doctor’s orders, my uncle removed the scanner from their home. Beyond the physical effects, worry has a number of profound spiritual effects as well.
Worry provokes a type of spiritual visual distortion. It causes the object of our worry to loom larger than it actually is, as it redirects our focus inward. For the child of God, it pulls our focus away from God and onto our perceived predicament. Perhaps the truest example of this is the long night on a stormy Sea of Galilee.
Worry will also function as a type of “gravity well” where one will be pulled ever deeper into the center where, if left unaddressed will emotionally and spiritually cripple the sufferer.
In all, worry can be to most subtly corrosive sin that a believer can fall into. While many sins are brash, loud and seen by all, the worrier walks among us behind a face which would belie their heart’s state.
Yet, for all the injury endured by worry, and all the temptation to worry, Jesus speaks directly to worry and counsels His children NOT to worry. He presents the truth of the Father’s love for us, and how we might rise above this temptation.
25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Jesus sets out here in v. 25 to speak directly to our most basic needs: nourishment, hydration and shelter from exposure. To the First Century hearer of this message, these were palpable needs that were basic to their survival. Food was obtained for the current day, and nearly all were only one meal from hunger. Potable water had to be located and a well’s production was not guaranteed. A scant few had what we would consider a “wardrobe. Jesus, speaking here, doesn’t dismiss these needs, he tells his Disciples and greater audience not to fret or worry over them.
Jesus then calls their attention likely to the hillside where they’d been seated, pointing to the flora and fauna surrounding them; the birds above in the encircling skies and the lilies gracing the hillside. While lilies and birds likely have no sense of the providential hand that sustained them, Jesus reminds them of the Father’s care and asked the rhetorical questions “how much greater value, and how much greater value then are you?”
While the passage gives us assurance, it should never be misconstrued as license. God promises His provision to His children, it’s no license to be slothful and unproductive. Saint Paul speaks to this though in his his second letter to the Church in Thessalonica, where he cautions those that those who will not work, will not eat.
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Jesus, in repeating the exhortation, tells us why we’re not to fret or be anxious over these things. Its those outside the kingdom and family of faith who fear and worry over these these things. Jesus speaks to those who are outside the faith as being on a proverbial hamster wheel, in a never-ending quest to fulfill life’s basic needs. We however, are called to rather seek the Lord and His Kingdom. Jesus promises us that as we seek God’s kingdom first in our lives, that His provision will be ours.
So, where are we in all of this? Like Saint Benedict tells us in has Cardinal rule, we “Work and Pray”, or in his words, “Ora et Labora”. We pray and work. Too, Following Saint Francis, we pray and seek to be channels of our Lord’s Peace, that we might be our Lord’s Heart & Hand’s extended to our dry and dusty world.