"Epiphany 08: Do Not Worry"
by Tim Suttle
2017.02.26 – Epiphany 08
Matthew 6:24-34 – Do Not Worry
If you have your bibles turn to Mt. 6. The text for today, we heard it read earlier, it begins & ends with the same statement… starts in v.25:
“…do not worry about your life,
“…do not worry about tomorrow,
Usually JS isn’t that into do’s & don’ts…
So when he does prohibit something, it’s a pretty big deal.
I’m guessing everybody here worries about something.
You worry every once in awhile.
Some of you are probably champion worriers.
Some of you are competitive worriers – thinking about going pro.
If you guys find yourself NOT worried about something you get worried there’s something you should be worried about…
Worry is a constant in our culture.
We sometimes call it anxiety… chronic mental distress & emotion pain that goes along w/a life filled with worry.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in our society – affecting more than 18% of the population.
I’ll just confess up front this is one of my struggles to be sure.
PT: So, I don’t want to make anyone feel bad about worry & anxiety… this is my struggle, too. Plus… people who deal w/anxiety & worry are some of the most courageous people I know. The last thing JS wants is for you to encounter this teaching & feel really bad about yourself… so let’s just agree up front—not going to shame ourselves or get down on ourselves. Yeah? But worry & anxiety, even back in JS’s day, seemed to be a real problem, and Jesus wanted to help …
You should have received a blank card when you came in & a pencil to write with, if you would just grab that – do a little exercise.
We’re going to call this the Worry List.
What are your biggest worries… cause you the most anxiety?
Write them down here…
Now, don't be too specific, because someone else is going to read this (not like, out loud & they won’t know it’s yours).
So be as honest as you can be about your worries.
But, don’t mention names or too many specifics.
PT: Keep this w/you as I’m talking & if other worries come to mind just add them to your Worry List…
Look at your list for a moment. How did those things come to be on your list of worries and anxieties? Well … I think this is how:
The thing you’re most devoted to is the thing you worry about the most
Check me on this & see if this is true / the thing...
You don’t worry about things you’re not devoted to…
I don’t want to ruin to illusion for you… but as your pastor:
I never ever worry about your kids’ grades… I mean never.
If they are struggling & you tell me about it, I’ll pray, I’ll have concern.
But I have never sat around worrying about your kids’ grades.
As your pastor: I never ever worry about your retirement…
I hope the best for you.
I hope you all retire as millionaires & tithe 10%
But I have never once worried about your retirement.
As your pastor I don’t worry about the clothes you wear…
I mean sometimes I wonder: what were they thinking? … jk.
I don’t worry about what you wear.
Why don’t I worry about your kids’ grades, retirement, clothes?
Because I’m not devoted to those things.
My kids’ grades? Sure, I’ve worried about that. Not a ton…it happens.
My retirement (or lack thereof) … sure I worry about that sometimes.
My clothing? Obviously this is not a worry of mine either… could be.
PT: The point is… you only worry about things to which you are truly devoted. The thing you are most devoted to is the thing you worry about the most.
You wanna know what you are really devoted to? Look at what you worry about.
That’s why it’s telling that when Jesus decides to give his teaching about worry, you know where he starts? … MONEY!!
Mt. 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted [there’s that word devoted] to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Look at any surveys about worry, & money’s always at the top of list.
And JS says, it’s a question of devotion…
The thing you’re most devoted to is the thing you worry about the most
You’ll serve that thing like it’s your master… & can only have 1 master.
Why is money the number one worry for most people in our society?
Because money’s the master… we’ve become devoted to it.
It’s interesting, our English word WORRY is actually from the German word wuergen… which originally meant: “to strangle or choke someone.”
Just for kicks I want you to turn to the person next to you and just choke them until they turn red… not really…
But, if you did you’d get a sense of what worry does to us.
And this is why Jesus said, “Do not worry.”
Let’s keep reading… v.25: “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
And the list is telling: what you’ll eat, drink, body, wear.
It’s a list of what typical people worried about in his day.
Food … health of bodies … clothing … (poor ppl in our day still do!)
But we’ve all got our own list of stuff we worry about (cards).
And it’s interesting because JS does NOT say those things aren’t important.
Some will try to stop worry by saying “ this doesn’t really matter.”
I don’t think that works here.
Jesus never says it doesn’t matter if you have enough to eat, or a healthy body or clothes to wear.
I’m really glad he doesn’t … it’s like an acknowledgement that:
Most of our worries are about real things that actually do matter.
EX: Parents … ever tried this w/your kids?
When they’re worried & you try to help them by saying:
“That stuff doesn’t matter. It’s not important.”
Sometimes that’s good advice, but many times, they’re worried about real stuff that actually does matter.
And the reason they are worried is that they really care.
And you want to raise kids who know how to care about things.
So, if we’re constantly saying “this doesn’t matter,” it’s confusing…
This list JS constructs here… he doesn’t say those things are not important.
These are real concerns & those things are necessary for life.
There’s also (I think) an acknowledgement that those things are NOT CERTAIN… sometimes things won’t work out the way you want.
And even so … you still don’t have to worry about them.
V.26: 26Look at the birds of the air; [he says] they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
JS says, “stop thinking about people for a second, and let’s talk about birds.”
There is a natural sphere of existence that birds are meant to occupy… he calls them “birds of the air.”
Birds are meant to fly – they’re at home in the air.
When birds live in that sphere, they are cared for.
Birds don’t plow fields & plant crops & harvest & store grain.
They are not really qualified for that kind of work.
But as long as they live in their natural sphere of existence, they have everything they need to live.
Same is true for us: We have a natural sphere of existence we are meant to occupy. And when we live centered w/in that sphere, then it is actually possible to live w/out a ton of worry & anxiety.
And our natural sphere is that we don’t GENERATE our lives;
Instead we RECEIVE our lives from God.
That's what JS is doing w/bird thing.
It might SEEM like we’re generating things: we do plow, plant, harvest & store
There’s some stuff we can do – but in the end it’s very limited.
We can’t make the crops grow, right? We can’t make it rain.
We didn’t cause ourselves to be born – or born here not Africa.
You know, most of what is essential to our natural sphere of existence we are really receiving, not generating.
If we’ll live in that natural sphere of existence, we will find that the world is just charged w/grace; overflowing w/love of God.
It’s a deep truth about life we can even see just in nature.
There’s a great poem by Wendell Berry called: “The Peace of Wild Things.”
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Berry’s speaking of a freedom that comes from resting in the idea that God knew what God was doing when God made us w/certain limitations.
It’s exhausting to try & control things that are out of our control.
That’s worry; trying to control things that are out of our control.
And if we’ll just stop… then we’ll “come into the peace of wild things…” and we will “rest in the grace of the world.”
That’s where the peace is. I mean the stunning observation Berry makes is that this is not a limitation, this is actually a kind of freedom
He says, “I rest in the grace of the world, and I am free.”
There is a grace in being able to say… I’m a person not a god.
I am free to just receive my life from the one who is God.
When I reject that grace – and try to generate my own life – the result is an abiding WORRY & ANXIETY.
You know, worry is almost always assuming control for things… control that God never meant for us to have.
Worry stems from our attempts to engineer certain outcomes.
It’s often not part of what we’re designed to do… so JS says:
JS says: “can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?”
If you have your own bible, there’s probably a footnote that the oldest manuscripts of this passage actually say.
“can you by worrying, add a single cubit to your height.”
I almost like that better.
Can you – by worrying about it – make yourself taller?
Can you – by worrying about it – extend your life by even 1 day?
PT: That’s not our natural sphere… but we can come into the peace of wild things & rest in the grace of the world anytime we become content with just being a human being, & stop trying to be God.
There are really two ways to blow this - & that’s the first one:
First: we start thinking we’re too big acting like God (control things).
Second: start thinking that we’re not big enough, too small.
That’s really the heart of the next section: JS continues…
28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.
The flower doesn’t need to toil or spin in order to be beautiful.
It just has to be what it is… and that is beauty enough.
This is the concept of Flourishing.
Andy Crouch defines flourishing as the ability to be: “magnificently oneself.”
When the flower is true to its own nature, its inner beauty spills out into the world…we call this FLOURISHING.
You try to get a flower to be anything else you gotta kill it.
…make it a Corsage, bouquet it will soon die.
The flower flourishes simply by being a flower.
And as it does, in its own way, it glorifies the creator.
PT: You guys… the source of so much worry is when we try to do things we were not designed to do. And it’s not always a delusion of grandeur, sometimes it’s the opposite. We start thinking we’re worthless & we treat ourselves miserably, or else try to dress ourselves up in fancy clothes – we call that TOIL.
Jesus mentions Solomon here. Solomon is a perfect example of toil.
Solomon had everything he could want & it was never enough.
You name it, he needed more:
Wives / concubines / vineyards
Wise men / power / wealth
It was never okay for Solomon to say, “enough.”
So his existence was a kind of TOIL.
A good friend of mine has a brother in law who is a born artist…
One xmas the family was doing these goofy art projects.
Took a bunch of hard candy & made stained glass windows.
Everybody else’s looked like a 3rd grade art project.
His was ornate & beautiful / like it could hang in a cathedral
Wanted to remodel their kitchen he designed a showroom kitchen.
His nieces & nephews will be coloring – he’ll join in & make it so beautiful.
He’s just a born artist… and his secret wish is to be an architect,
Instead he sells cars… and he’s miserable.
Anytime he does what he’s designed to do, beauty spills out into the world… you call that flourishing.
But what he does every single day is sell cars… you call that toil.
Nearly everyone I know who lives like this, lives w/ a deep INSECURITY.
They are always afraid they’re about to be fired.
“I can’t change careers… I’m 50 yrs old!”
It’s a deep sense of insecurity that convinces us we’re less than.
JS says, “The flowers never get insecure, live in SECURITY.”
PT: When we become convinced we’re not enough… that being who we were created to be isn’t enough, we end up selling cars & toiling instead of letting what’s inside us spill out into the world in redemptive
The result is that so many people end up living their lives with a deep sense of insecurity – like they are a stranger in their own lives.
This is a sign to us that we are not inhabiting our place… the place God has designed for us.
What we usually end up doing, is what Solomon did:
We just buy more stuff.
If I can’t live my own life, I’ll at least make myself comfortable.
PT: If the first way to blow it is to start thinking we’re too big, the second way to blow it is to start thinking we’re too small. That the life God has given us isn’t enough, so we better get some better clothes… that’s the Solomon mistake, it’s a mistake of insecurity.
And to that, Jesus says, look… “If God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”
Jesus connects worry to a basic lack of faith…
…the inability to trust God … and our need to try & control outcomes!
The result is a bunch of worry & insecurity.
You guys, this is on of the worst sins of the church over the past 100yrs
How much time we’ve spent convincing people that they are so fundamentally broken God can hardly stand to look at them.
When JS spent all his time trying to convince them God loved them!
Jesus said, “do not worry,” Not because there’s nothing to worry about, but because your father really loves you & will take care of you!
“Do not worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things.”
That’s not meant to be a slam on the Gentiles. It’s just that this is one of the main differences between being a Jew & being a Gentile:
The Gentiles had no sense they were loved by God.
They had no interaction with God’s grace.
They knew nothing of a God whose mercies were new every morning… who created them & was sustaining them.
So they lived with a deep sense of insecurity.
That’s probably why Rome could never have enough land.
…never have enough wealth.
…never have a big enough army.
JS says, “your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”
This phrase… “your heavenly Father” was a revolution.
God loves us like a Father loves a son.
It’s a tender kind of love that knows no disdain.
PT: You can’t make God stop loving you & can’t make God love you more than he does right now because he loves you completely. You don’t ever have to worry that you are not enough.
Then comes the crux of the whole passage… here’s what to do about worry: 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
This is so brilliant.
Part of what he is saying here is that you can’t stop worrying by just trying really hard to stop worrying.
You have to replace that worry with something else… he says:
“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…”
You have to shift your devotion … change your master …
Look at your worry card: What if you will shift your devotion away…?
What would that do to your anxiety?
This is so practical & smart on the part of Jesus.
When Nick & Lewis were little they would sometimes call out after they were in bed & say: “We’re afraid of this or that…”
I’d say, “Well, just don’t think about it.”
They’d say, “That’s ALL we can think about.”
I learned that if I’d tell them a story about something else… Sandlot.
I’d describe all the scenes from this show they loved.
Their head would be filled with those images.
They would stop worrying about someone breaking in to get them.
PT: That’s, seek first the KOG! If you are fully devoted to pursing God’s vision for the world & how your life fits into that vision of peace/shalom & harmony, then, you’re probably not going to get consumed w/worry over your health, your favorite sports team, the government, your hair, your lack of hair or whether or not you’ll get everything done.
Not that any of those things aren’t important … they might be.
But the thing is, as human beings we have so little control over much of what is going on in our lives.
I mean, you gotta work hard & do your thing.
But in the end, much of what is going to come to you in your life is out of your control.
So … Instead of focusing on your worries & anxieties.
Why don’t you just do your work, do your thing… & then be devoted to something that can actually transform you & your life… the KOG.
Seek first the KOG … think about that … and see if the worries & anxiety don’t begin to fade into the background.
I can almost picture Jesus up on the side of that hill, talking to people.
They come from all around, stressed & seeking something better.
He says, “Look at the flowers… they don’t worry, but they look pretty good… they look well taken care of.”
You are so focused on the worries of tomorrow.
And sure, tomorrow has many things to worry about.
And many of those are legit… very important things.
But if all you do today … is worry about tomorrow, then you will have wasted today! … and you get one shot at today.
And you have a finite supply of todays…
It’s simply foolish to spend them worrying about tomorrow.
You have this day! Today!
You need to live it & enjoy being a child of God.
PT: How JS says we should do this this is NOT so much too run away from worry so much as to run full speed toward the kingdom of God & his righteousness. Everything else, God will help you figure out as you go.
If you would, just take our your Worry List again & take a look at it. How much do those things impact you? How much do worries dominate your daily life?
What would it take for you to just let it go? Seriously… what if you just let go of that stuff… & let God carry that stuff for awhile?
We’re going to close w/a little exercise.
We’re gonna symbolically act out JS’s teaching in this passage.
We’re going to pray and reflect for a moment on this passage. And I’m going to ask you at the end to let it go in a symbolic way…
25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look 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? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?
28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
31Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
I want us to, in a symbolic way, just let our worries and anxieties go.
How we’ll do that is you’ll just pass it to the person next to you.
And then we’re just going to keep on passing them.
Over & over… till you don’t even know where yours went.
And you don’t even know whose you ended up with.
We’ll just hand them over to the body of Christ…
Now look at the one you ended up with.
Just read over it for a moment.
What’s the theme of the worry or anxiety listed there? I’m gonna name some & I want you to stand up if the card you have now has includes that theme.
If they listed a worry with:
Family: children, parents, siblings… – stand up.
Work / job / vocation / career … stand
Money / finances / debt
Students: grades / college / friendships
Future / past
Health / our bodies
Anyone have a worry I didn’t list – shout it out…
PT: we all have the same ones. You’re not alone. And your heavenly father knows. Not only that, we all know – we’re all struggling with the same stuff. We’re all just a bunch of ragamuffins, right?
That’s the first movement – we let go of our worries & they become literally picked up by the body of Christ.
The second movement isn’t a running from, it’s a running toward the KOG. And how we’ll do this is we’re going to receive communion.
And invite you as you come to just place the card you ended up with on the altar.
Just a symbol of how we all run to the Father.
Just bring them up here and leave them – all over this altar & place them before the Father who loves us.
We’ll do this as we come forward to receive communion
1. Tim emphasized that a key to overcoming worry is to divert our attention to things that matter – to places where we flourish – where work brings joy as it taps into our passions and gifts. Where do you flourish? To what degree do you give your attention to that place/those things? What would need to change to do more of that?