Worrying: It’s Not Your Job
Dear brothers and sisters who are made confident in the promises of your faithful God.
“Do not Worry…” Seems to be the overarching message of Jesus’ words here in Matthew 6 don’t you think? But do you know to whom that message was first directed? It wasn’t to a bunch of first-time moms, who were worried about their new-born babies. It wasn’t to a group of grandparents, worried about their grandkids. It wasn’t given to a couple of teenagers gathered at their high school orientation. Jesus was speaking to his faithful and steadfast disciples. Disciples who would witness with their own eyes, water changed into wine, people walking, seeing, and hearing for the first time by the power of Jesus’ Word. The same disciples who witnessed the breath of life breathed back into the dead. Yet even after all those signs of powerful reassurance, Jesus knew his disciples would still struggle with the all too common sin of worry. Just goes to show you, that even the most faithful, struggle with the sin addressed in today’s word.
Wouldn’t you agree that worry might be one of the biggest sins we struggle with today. And it is a sin just to be sure. You see worry is an expression of doubt that God will do what he has promised to do. And we see it in a lot of places where may not even realize it.
Just take a look at our country for example. Wouldn’t you say “worry” is pretty prevalent? After all, isn’t it worry that causes people to protest, causes people to get violent, causes people to go on long group walks and raise fists in the air out of worry that their rights are going to be taken from them? Yes, that’s a sign of worry.
And people worry about a lot more than politics. People worry about the future, the past, finances and family; about sickness and health, cancer and their children’s safety; about marriage and divorce and biological clocks; about teenagers, popularity, and loneliness. No matter what’s on our mind, it’s important. And, apparently, these days, a lot of things are.
I read an article this past week about a business magazine that studied a group of people who were struggle with worry and anxiety, and they came to the conclusion that out of all the things we worry about, roughly 40% of those things never actually happen. 35% can’t be changed. 15% turn out better than expected, and 8% of the things we worry about are useless and insignificant. 40 + 35 + 15 + 8 = 98%, which means that only 2% of the things we worry about are even worth thinking about. Yet that doesn’t stop us from worrying does it?
We worry about a lot; so much so that we’re convinced it’s normal. Some even say it’s healthy. “It’s my job to worry,” some of us say. Jesus, however, says that it’s not.
Christians, if, in your tired days and sleepless nights, in your monotonous routines, quick-tempered moments and lonely existence, you find your thoughts mastered by worry, then there is more to be ‘worried’ about than just the latest cause of your anxiety. In the verse right before our section, Jesus says that it’s impossible to serve two masters. You can only be devoted to one of them, which means that if you are currently being mastered by worry, then your master is not Him. And if your master is not Jesus, then you are being mastered by what will cause your eventual destruction. Worry is serious.
In Matthew chapter 6 Jesus makes that clear. He says three times in 10 verses, “Do not worry.” And if the cripples listened to him when he told them to start walking; if the blind listened to him when he told them to start seeing; if the dead listened to him when he told them to start living, then why shouldn’t the living listen to him when tells us to stop worrying?
Christians, in today’s Gospel, you see Jesus’ heart of love, as he offers you some help for your worries with a series of some gentle, rhetorical, questions. He takes you by the hand, he says, “I know you’re worried by a lot of things. So follow me.” Then he leads you outside and points you up, and he says, take a Look at the birds of the air;” “they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Those birds fly for miles to find food for their children. But the one thing they don’t do is worry that there won’t be enough for all of them. That’s not their job is it? It’s God’s. If he loved them enough to give them life, he’s going to make sure they have all the need to live that life. And the same goes for you.”
Christians, consider for a moment your God’s care for every detail of your life. The Bible says, “He carefully knit [you] together in [your] mother’s womb,” and “All the days ordained for [you] were written in [his] book before one of them came to be,” which means that for each of “the days he ordained for you,” he has already planned out how he is going to give you everything you need. Maybe you get frustrated and worried because you don’t know that plan. But that’s not your job. It’s his.
Jesus gives us the answer today to our worry. He says, “Don’t spend so much time and emotion on something that can only cause you more grief, something that will only lead you downhill to all sorts of health issues including heart disease and depression. That’s not your job.” This is: to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,” because in doing so, you will be assured that all these things you’re so anxious about, they will be given to you as well.
Christians, our job, no matter the situation, no matter what we think reality is, no matter how bleak the odds, is to confidently seek first the kingdom of God. Think of all the examples you have of what that means, the Old Testament is riddled with them,- Take Gideon, when he took down 135,000 Midianites with 300 men-might have been a little temptation to worry there right? Or Joshua, when he took down Jericho’s walls with some shouts and a trumpet in his hand; Or like Moses, when God split the Red Sea for him; or like the widow, who, in a famine, gave her last morsel of food to the prophet instead of her son; or Isaiah in today’s first lesson who reminded God’s people who had lost everything, that God still had them written on his palms..
Seek FIRST his kingdom and his righteousness, Jesus says. That’s a command. That’s what all those people did, that’s what God wants of his children. What, then, do you expect God to do for those who seek his kingdom second; those whose minds are mastered by worry instead of him; whose slumped shoulders and discouraged faces convey to their kids and their friends a whole lot of doubt. A whole lot of worry that the God who, in the middle of a famine, produced food out of nothing for a widow, her son, and later on for 5000 men plus women and children, somehow is unable come through in your situation? Christians, every day, the door is wide open for us to see how clearly God provides for the birds of the air, the grass and flowers of the field. But worrying? Worrying is believing that God is lying when he says you’re much more valuable than them.
What would you give those who have such little faith in his promises? What would you give to someone like yourself? Would you give them your only Son? On a cross. Stained with his own blood. On the one day when our Hope really was dead; when Jesus’ disciples believed in their hearts that, now, God could never come through for them.
Even on such a day, your Father was confident that all the days ordained for you would turn out just as he planned. That’s the day you got a Promised Land. That’s the day you were forgiven and your home became heaven. And if, to give you that, “he did not spare his own Son,” it says in the book of Romans, then do you really believe he won’t “graciously give us all things as well?”
Isn’t your heavenly father also going to give you everything you need? Even when those things you need are suffering, sickness, death? Our heavenly father uses those things too to fulfill our needs, to bring us into his arms, to hold us closer to his heart.
“So, do not worry,” Jesus says. Do not worry if you lose your job, if your salary is less or your benefits get cut. Do not worry that your life has taken a turn that you weren’t planning. Do not worry if you have no idea where you’re going. Do not worry if life today is harder than yesterday, or if tomorrow looks more difficult than you have ever imagined. Do not worry if our nation is not yet where it needs to be in 2017. Do not worry if you don’t agree with the man in the White House, or with your fellow countrymen. “Do not worry … about your life,” or the lives of your children. That’s not your job. It’s his.
When my first daughter Olivia was born, I remember seeing her on the heart monitor for the first time, seeing her heart beat at rates up to 160 beats per minute. A rate I thought was unbelievably high! So, as a concerned first-time father I asked the nurse if everything was ok, that that seemed really high for any human being. She said that was normal to begin with, but that it will eventually come back down. She told me that I can help make that happen much quicker if I laid down on my back with Livy lying face-down on my chest. She could then feel my slower heartbeat, and she would start to copy that. Newborns, who come into this world knowing absolutely nothing about yesterday, today, or tomorrow, decide how to feel based on the heartbeat of their parents.
There’s a reason Jesus taught us to start his prayer with the words “our Father.” It’s because he knows we worry. We go through our yesterdays, todays and tomorrows with a lot of anxiety, our heart seems to race at 160 beats per second sometimes; so much more than our Father in heaven who, according to Isaiah chapter 40, already knows to “gather his lambs in his arms and carry them close to his heart.” And what do you think his heart beat feels like? “Do not be afraid,” it says in the book of Proverbs, “the Lord is always confident.”
Our Father in heaven is calm, is confident that everything’s going to be ok, that he is going to make everything ok. That’s his job, not ours. And as we listen to his promises, the faithful heartbeat of his word, we too can have that same quiet, worry-free, confidence that our faithful God will always do just what he has promised. Amen