Scripture Reading: Luke 12:22-26: Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest”
“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the filed, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kindgom, and these things will be given to you as well.”
In Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount and Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, Jesus is instructing his disciples on the danger of excessive worrying. The main point that the Sermon on the Mount addresses is the habit of excessive worrying.
E.R. Dodds spoke of the Roman Empire as an “Age of Anxiety.” Men and women had been taught for centuries by anxiety-ridden writers, teachers, prophets, and philosophers. Dodds argues that philosophy and religion also contributed to the topic of anxiety that seemed to penetrate deeper and deeper into the human mind and behavior.
Hans Dieter Betz lists three underlying themes of anxiety in the Sermon on the Mount. The first theme is that people worry without knowing why and they tend to worry about the wrong things. The second theme gives a more serious reason for anxiety as seen in humanity’s fragile condition, demonstrated already at birth, when the body is set out naked and helpless into a world full of dangers and enemies.
Betz tells us that concerns about worrying occur in wisdom texts, which gives us exhortations not to worry and portrays wisdom as freedom from worrying. The third theme is that of Divine Providence, which means under God’s sovereign guidance and control. The idea of Divine Providence is present in Jewish literature and especially in wisdom literature. Betz says that the Sermon on the Mount takes on the position of defending Divine Providence and that this could be due to a profound crisis of faith in God’s providence that was present in society at that time. This crisis of faith seemed to be typical of society in general in the first century.
Frederick Dale Bruner writes that Jesus frees us from this world’s obsession with how we are doing by giving us the liberating obsession of concern with how God is doing. We are commanded to take our eyes off our selves, off our lives, off our own selfish anxiety with our desires for good things for ourselves and to look around God’s world for a place where we can throw ourselves into the cause of God’s righteousness.
Most of the time, I know that I am guilty of this type of excessive worrying. I found myself worrying this week about the many repairs that I need to start thinking about for my home. There is the worry about how I can fit these repairs into our budget and trying to prioritize the work that needs to be done. Before I knew it, that worry had expanded into even greater worries. My focus is taken off today and I start to worry about the future and the many obstacles or problems that I am sure to face. When my mind start to race and worry begins to overtake me, I must remind myself of the many times throughout my life that God has provided for me. And I know that God will continue to provide for me as I continue to be faithful to Him in all that I do.
Worry tends to paralyze us with fear and keeps us from living the life that God intends for us to live. Jesus reminds us in the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 6:33-34: But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Prayer: God, help me as your child and follower, to not become paralyzed or overcome with worry. I know that there are legitimate worries that I need to be concerned with and I trust in you to provide and care for my needs. Help me to not become lazy and to continue to work hard in all areas of my life. Teach me to enjoy each day and to seek your righteousness and your will for today. Keep me from being consumed with so much worry about tomorrow that I don’t miss out on the many opportunities and blessing that you have in store for me today. Amen.
Eric R. Dodds, Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety: Some Aspects of Religious Experience from Marcus Aurelius to Augustine (New York and London: Norton, 1965)
Hans Dieter Betz, The Sermon on the Mount (Minneapolis, Augsburg Fortress, 1995)
Frederick Dale Bruner, Matthew: A commentary by Frederick Dale Bruner, Volume 1, The Christbook, Matthew 1-12 (Dallas, Word Publishing, 1987)