Assaulting anxiety

By David A. Liapis

Thoughts on Matthew 6:25-34

As mentioned in the previous post, this passage flows directly from Jesus’ assertion that we cannot serve God and money. The very next word is “therefore,” and so we must connect what’s going to come with what’s been said. To paraphrase, Jesus is saying, “Since you cannot serve both God and money, don’t worry about your life – what to eat, what to drink, what to wear – because there is something so much more important to life than these fleeting things.” And, as we will see, that which is of so much more significance is the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.

The temptation here is to contend that we have to do our part to secure food, clothing and shelter to meet our basic needs. That’s why we go to work to earn money, right? Are we not charged in other Scriptures to work hard and earn our bread? (2 Timothy 3) Do we not have an obligation, as Paul says, to provide for our families? (1 Timothy 5:8) Then why does it sound like Jesus is telling us to just “let go and let God”? If there’s one thing Jesus is not telling us to do, it’s to stop working to make a living. But, and as always in this sermon, Jesus is after the condition of our hearts.

There’s one word Jesus uses six times in these ten verses, and that’s the word “anxious.” Jesus is warning us not to fret, stress, ping, worry, about our basic needs. This is in contrast, but related to, the previous section about treasures. Jesus is answering the unstated argument of “Fine then, we get we cannot both seek to be rich and serve God; but, what about striving to meet our basic, physical needs?” Jesus is getting at the fact making, or serving, money should not be what consumes our thoughts or what motivates us to toil. Rather, we should be content to work unto the glory of God (Colossians 3:17) and keep the Kingdom of God in the forefront of our minds. Wherever we are, we should be on mission for the Kingdom; and whatever God calls us to do, whether it’s work a good job, a bad job or no job, we should be content and trust Him to provide for us. Contrary to the “health, wealth and prosperity gospel,” we may be called to poverty and need. Paul reminds us in Philippians chapter four of how he learned to be content in abundance and while in great physical need.

So, the solution to anxiety Jesus is offering here is contentment – contentment in the loving provision of the Father who knows what we need. Paul also says in 1 Timothy 6:6-11,

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”

And the writer of Hebrews says in chapter 13, verse five, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”

Contentment in and of itself is not the ultimate solution though. Seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness “first” is, and here’s why: when we “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1), the “things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace” as the hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus so aptly states. Contentment in any condition in this life is possible when we seek the Kingdom of God because God’s Kingdom so powerfully eclipses any earthly pain or pleasure and most importantly because, as the Hebrews passage states, Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us. Thus, we can not be anxious about tomorrow (or today) because we know that what awaits us in heaven with Christ is beyond our ability to even imagine. May our prayer be that we “set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For [we] have died, and [our lives are] hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:2-3)

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