“Do not worry about your life.”
Jesus begins our text today right where he left off last week. He had just taught us that we must guard ourselves from all wealth, teaching us that having an excess is actually destructive to our very lives. Therefore he begins our text today, saying, “Because of this I say to you, do not worry about your life.”
“Do not worry.” Worry is always about a concern for the future—concern about basic needs and lifestyle in the future, concern about health in the future, concern about approval from others in the future. Worry results from a concern that something in the future is not going to be covered, be taken care of, or go our way. Worry is all about an anxiety about the “what ifs” or “mights” of the future—“what if” something happens to me that is harmful or unwanted?
In our culture our very approach to life encourages worrying. From savings accounts to insurance plans to retirement plans, we are encouraged repeatedly in our culture to worry about our futures, to take care of our futures, and to mitigate the “risk” of our futures in every possible way. For if we do not worry about our futures, then who will? Worry in our culture is not only permitted, it is exalted as the only “responsible” thing to do. Ironically in our culture we believe that if we worry now about taking care of our futures then we won’t have to worry later. We try to cure worry through worrying.
But Jesus is here today to tell us, “Do not worry.” He goes right at the heart of it by telling us not to worry about even our most basic needs—food and clothing. He wants us to ask ourselves, what does it mean to truly live? Does missing a meal bring life to a screeching halt? Is not having the clothes you think you need the end of the world? Jesus assures us, “life is more than food and the body more than clothing.”
But we will argue, “If I miss too many meals I will eventually starve to death! And if I don’t have clothes to stay warm I could freeze to death in the winter! Jesus, we need to be concerned about our futures, especially about our most basic needs! Death is a real threat!” To this Jesus tells us to look around. “Observe the ravens…observe the wild flowers.” Look around at the rest of the creation. When we observe plants and animals of all kinds what do we see? Do we see any other creatures worrying the way we do? Do we see any other creatures farming in order to control food supplies? Do we see any other creatures building buildings for storehouses? Do we see any other creatures making clothes? Do we see any other creatures refusing to live in the present moment?
And what happens to these creatures who do none of the worrying that we do? Jesus tells us, “God nourishes them.” God cares for all his creatures—this is the very nature of god. Jesus even goes on to expose the utter ridiculousness of our ways of living. He says, “even Solomon in all his triumph was not clothed like one of these!” Solomon was the most powerful and the most wealthy person in the history of the Hebrew people. How does he compare to the least important wildflower? He is nothing in comparison. This man who represents everything we hold dear and everything we spend our lives seeking after—power, status, and wealth—is nothing compared to a random wildflower. All of Solomon’s efforts, privileges, and hoarding amounted to no advantage over the most insignificant flower of the field.
In the face of god’s care for the birds and the flowers, Jesus wants us to recognize that we are under that very same care if we would only embrace it. He tells us that we are “being carried like the birds” and challenges us to see that if the grasses that live for only days are clothed with beautiful flowers then surely god will clothe us as well. It is only our “little faithfulness” in god’s ability to provide for us that makes us live the way we do. If we truly had faith that god had our backs and would take care of our daily needs then we would live like the birds and the flowers. It is a lack of faith in god’s ability to provide for us that makes us worry, that makes us toil endlessly, that makes us store up for the future.
And when we are unfaithful and take our lives into our own hands, are we even capable of accomplishing anything significant through our own powers, through our own worrying? We think that worrying will save us, preserve us, or at least provide damage control in our lives—if we didn’t why would we do it? But Jesus challenges us to see that worrying actually accomplishes nothing—it is absolutely powerless. “Which of you, by worrying, is powerful enough to add any length to his lifespan? Therefore, if you are not powerful enough to do the smallest thing, why are you worrying about the rest?” What good is worrying if we are truly powerless to accomplish anything through it?
And so Jesus persists, telling us, “Do not worry.” Why? Because we have a heavenly father who is watching over us and knows what we need. “All the nations of the world are seeking after these things and your father already perceives that you need them.” We may be powerless over our own lives, but there is one powerful enough to care for us through all things—our father in heaven.
So what must we do instead of wasting our lives worrying and storing up provisions? Jesus tells us, “Seek your father’s kingdom instead and these things will be added to you.” We are to spend our time and energy everyday living under the kingdom and rule of god our father. This means we are to spend our energy listening to his word and then simply doing what he has asked. When we heed the word of god we are living under his rule and when we are under his rule then we are under his care and provision. When we ignore the word of god we are like rebellious children leaving the care of our father’s home in order to try to fend for ourselves. But when we listen to our father’s word then we are like children who receive all of their daily needs without any concern, stress, or worry.
In our world we are trained and taught to be like Martha, from earlier in the gospel, who was all concerned with her self-made busy-ness—we instead need to be like Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus in order to absorb his word so she could go out and live it. Self-chosen busy-ness and worry like Martha will gain us nothing. But being like Mary and letting god’s word guide all our work and actions will put us under our father’s rule, care, and provision.
It is because of god’s rule in this world and his care and provision that Jesus tells us we can let go of all fear. “Do not fear, little flock! It is your father’s good will to give you his rule over you.” We worry because we are afraid of the unknowns in the world. We worry because we are afraid that no one is going to take care of us. We worry because we fear the power of suffering and death.
I remember sitting in my office on my vicarage and being approached by a church-affiliated insurance agent. After telling her I was not interested in any life insurance policies I was met with this response, “But on your way home you could get into a terrible car accident and be paralyzed for life! And then what would you do?!” Fear was used to try to convince me that I needed an insurance policy to take care of me and watch over my life. If there is no god or if he doesn’t care about me, then yes that insurance agent was absolutely right, I better worry about what might happen to me and I better take actions to cover my hide. But if god our father is all-powerful and he is watching over my life, then what is there for me to worry about or fear? If god is truly ruling the world, then fear about our futures must no longer control us and determine our decisions about how to live. Through Jesus, our father has even defeated death. So even when death catches up to you and me, one way or another, it is not to be feared, for your body, just like Jesus’, will be raised from the dead.
So if god is ruling the world and taking care of us, his children, how then should we live? Jesus makes it radically clear, “Sell your possessions and give compassionately! Make a money-bag for yourselves that is not becoming useless—an unfailing storage in the heavens where no thief is within grasp and no moth is consuming.” If we give away our wealth to others then we will have a storage that truly matters, an investment of love in the lives of others. This is the storage that never wears out—this is the storage that lasts in god’s eyes.
And what we do with money and possessions, shows us the truth of our hearts. “Where your storage is, there your heart is also.” If your money and possessions are in your storehouses, then your heart is on yourself. But if your money and possessions are given away to those who need it today, then your heart is on others and on god’s will for your life. What you do with your things today matters, for where and how you store them will affect your heart. Is your heart going to be on yourself and in your own wallet or is it going to be on others and their needs?
Jesus concludes with this advice, “Be ready!” God is real and he is coming into the world to set all things right and to make all things new. When he arrives to bring justice in our world will we be ready? Will we be living as if god is ruling and caring for the world? Or will we be living as if god is a powerless fairytale? The world is going to try to convince us that god is not capable of caring for us and that we must do that ourselves. But Jesus tells us, “do not worry about your life,” and paints a very different picture—the picture of a heavenly father who is caring for you and me like he is caring for the birds and the flowers. Will we worry over our lives or will we entrust our entire lives into the hands of god our father? Amen.