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A Reading from the Scripture Matthew 6:25-34
25 “Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? 27 Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. 29 But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. 30 If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith? 31 Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ 32 Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
I think that it is safe to say that all of us worry. Just face it! Admit it! Worry is something we do – sometimes a lot. Do we worry about financial issues? Or health challenges? Or relationships with others including separation from family? Are we always worried about the future – especially during this past year that we have been going through. The pandemic, is the shot effective? Should I even take the vaccination? Think back and how you have reacted to the issues of the past year – even in the midst of a rancorous presidential election. Will the market collapse? Have I got enough toilet paper to last me for a year? What about basics – don’t I need six dozen jars of peanut butter to last me forever? Will I be able to go outside and catch the virus as I walk? Don’t Worry Be Happy (In Jesus) Right?
Even as I pondered the message for today, I was anxious if I had enough gasoline and diesel fuel – these past several days. And sure enough, I did go and fill up on 5-gallon container of gas for my generator and a the same for my tractor. Don’t worry I got enough! I was reliving the gas shortages of the late seventies when gas supplies to the US was cut by OPEC. Remember that. We had to worry.
Finally with sharing with you some of my worries, I remember when Ann was first diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and the yearly cost of a single chemo-pill given twenty-one days a month would be more than $180K a year. Ann and I would be bankrupt. For several nights I tossed and turned with financial worries. Well seven years later we are not bankrupt, in fact we are okay financially as we actively manage our finances.
Don’t Worry. Be Happy (in Jesus)
We are working our way through the Sermon on the Mount, and today we are on the middle section. Jesus is summarizing what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The disciples have given up their jobs, their families, and their way of life to follow Jesus. Now, it is clear that worry has begun to invade their commitment. What is this all about, they would be thinking. Where will we get the food and shelter that we need? The worry is endless. Jesus even says that they have little faith, and the faith is wondering and hesitant and they need reassurance. Jesus is telling them how God is faithful even in a time of need and it is demonstrated by the marvelous order in creation. Now when we come to this section on not worrying, Jesus tells us we are to seek God’s kingdom first and all these other things will be given to us as well.
This is one of the most beautiful passages of Scripture in the whole Bible. It has brought peace and comfort to countless believers over the years. We all struggle with worrying, but when you follow Jesus’ instruction in this passage you will not worry – about anything, anymore. Wouldn’t that be nice? Not to worry about anything. It is possible, but we need to follow Jesus’ instructions to get there.
So, let us take a look at several of these instructions. Jesus teaches us that worry is unnecessary for us. Jesus gives several reasons for this, but the first is that life is more important than food, and the body is more important than clothes. Look at verse 25: “25 “Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes?
There is a whole lot more to life than just food. There is love and work and family and worship and service and relationships. God has given us so many things to enjoy in life. And then there is so much more to the body than just clothes. There is health and rest and sleep and fitness and many other things as well. A person can die with a full table set before them, and the fanciest clothes in the world do not help when your body is ill. Life is more important than food, and the body is more important than clothes.
Jesus’ point here is if God provides for the greater things, then certainly he provides for the lesser things as well. Who gave you your life? Who gave you your body? God did, of course. So, if God has already provided the more important things, God will also provide the things which support them? Worry is unnecessary for each of us because life is more important than food, and the body is more important than clothes.
Look at the next verse: 26 Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? 27 Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? Jesus then proceeds to teach us a lesson from the birds. There are many lessons we can learn from nature. God intends for his creation to teach us about himself as the Creator. We see God’s providence all around us. God takes care of the birds of the air. And if God takes cares of the birds, then certainly he will take care of the greater things as well. Psalm 145 says: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.” (Psalm 145:15) The birds do not wake up worrying. They wake up singing! And then they go forth to find the food that God provides for them. Notice Jesus says it is “your heavenly Father” who feeds them. We have a unique relationship with God, not because of anything they have done, but simply by trusting in Jesus. There is an old poem that goes like this:
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.” By Elizabeth Cheney
The point is this: Our God takes care of the birds, and God will take care of us.
Let us now examine the last several verses: 31 Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ 32 Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
In this remaining text, Jesus presents the basic necessities of life once again – food, drink and clothing. And here Jesus teaches us that worry is comes to people who do not follow Jesus. The text uses the word pagans which are not Jewish people – but it really means people who are materialistic. They primarily seek the things of this earth and especially those things that bring them bodily pleasure. It makes sense for pagans to worry, because they do not have a heavenly Father to take care of them.
It has been said that worry is practical atheism. You believe in God, but you do not believe he will take care of you. Worrying at heart is a denial of God’s goodness. We should respond differently than those without God because we are different than those without God. God is our heavenly Father. Worry is unworthy of you as a Christian because it is the pagans who run after all these things.
Well, I still worry about things as I have said in the beginning. However, I now find that worry is not intense, not deep or foreboding. Because, when issues crop up that causes me to ponder what will happen in the future, it is my lived and expressed faith that takes center stage. I have come to understand and to trust God that the issues we confront will be resolved. Jesus says – you who have little faith, and the worry sets in.
I checked in to see what I wrote in Reflections a year ago. The pandemic was really at full strength. We are more than two months into social isolation because of the Coronavirus pandemic. No matter what we read or saw or the divergent opinions that we have, the virus is here to stay and that all of us are susceptible to being infected. We practice social distancing. We wear masks and sometimes gloves and use hand sanitizer. All of this is to help us be certain that we do not catch the virus. But we are growing restless and complacent that we will not catch the virus and we want to get back to our previous lives. We want everything to reopen — many of us may be dismissive of the virus or think that “I am taking protection so I will not catch the virus.” I think that we are overly optimistic because we long for the freedom that we had before. It is easy to become depressed also. Where is the hope?
Hope is the desire that the future will be better than the present. At a recent Church of the Resurrection message by Adam Hamilton, he is quoted that “Hope is not pretending that troubles do not exist— it is the trust that troubles will not last forever, that hurts will be healed, and difficulties overcome.” Pleasant Grove UMC is working diligently that we will overcome the difficulties of the pandemic and emerge a stronger and more faithful congregation. The future is bright, not bleak – and we need to live that way in that hope.
As I was up early this morning, I found a poem by Emily Dickinson Hope is the Thing With Feathers. “Hope” is a thing with feathers – that perches in the soul -and sings the tune without the words- and never stops – at all. Each morning as the dawn arises, I hear the birds beginning to sing – slowly at first then the crescendo. “Tunes without words” and the bird’s songs give us hope in the middle of the virus shutdown.
Don’t Worry Be Happy (in Jesus) Thanks be to God!