“Don’t Worry?”

Christ the King

Thanksgiving Sunday

November 22, 2015


Text: Matthew 6:25-33; Joel 2:21-27; Psalm 126; 1 Timothy 2:1-7


          Jesus said, “Don’t worry.” It is hard for me to follow this bit of advice. I am a worry wart. When at my worst, I worry about things that likely will never happen, but could. When I do that, I stir myself into a state of anxiety. I start imagining catastrophes until I almost make myself a nervous wreck.

          Jesus said, “Don’t worry about your food, drink, or clothing.” That is not something I worry much about. I have plenty to eat, drink, and wear. Some people may worry about whether or not they are “in style”, but that has never been a concern of mine.

          But that doesn’t mean I don’t worry. Here are some of the things I sometimes worry about—perhaps you worry about some of these, too:

  • Am I going to have enough money to pay the bills?
  • Am I going to have enough to retire on?
  • Is my health going to remain good enough to allow me to continue to have an enjoyable life?
  • Is the world we are leaving to our children going to be fit for them to live in?
  • Can I be confident that I and those I love are going to be safe?
  • Do people like me?
  • Am I going to be treated with respect?

A number of events in recent days have proven worrisome, including the terror attacks in France. Worry about this has led some politicians to adopt extreme, reactive positions. The governors of about half of the states, including our own, have said their states will not accept refugees from countries where ISIS has major levels of involvement. The US House of Representatives has voted not to support the President’s decision to receive refugees from there. One presidential candidate has even gone so far as saying that Muslims should be required to register with the government—the very same thing that Adolf Hitler made Jews in Germany do in the years leading up to the Holocaust.

Worry is really a form of fear. I am afraid that bad things are going to happen, so I worry. But does worry keep bad things from happening? No. Bad things happen whether I worry or not. And the bad things that happen are not always what I expect, nor do they necessarily happen when I expect them to happen.

I notice that many of the things I worry about are things over which I have little or no control. I cannot control how other people think or act—I can only try to act toward others in ways that might make them more favorably disposed to me. I don’t control the economy, although there are things I can do in how I handle money that are more likely to have a positive outcome. I don’t control conditions in the world, no matter how much I may choose to do to make it better. I don’t have total control of my health--although there are certainly things I can do to improve my chances of it staying good, some people who diligently watch their diet and exercise religiously still have cancer or drop dead from a heart attack. In addition, none of the things I have just mentioned that improve the chances of a better outcome are accomplished by worrying. They are accomplished by taking positive action. Worrying accomplishes nothing. Jesus said that by worrying we can’t add even a day to our lives—although the experts now tell us that in fact worry may shorten our lifespan.

Jesus tells us not to worry because God takes care of us. He reminds us of the birds, who don’t plant or harvest crops. Yet God feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they are? He also reminds us of the flowers of the field. They don’t do hard work. They don’t make clothes to wear. Yet, says Jesus, even King Solomon in all of his splendor was not dressed as beautifully as they are. If God dresses even the grass, which grows one day and dries up and is burned the next, won’t God do much more for you? God knows you need food, drink, and clothing. Seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and God will give you the rest.

Even when bad stuff happens to us, God takes care of us. The prophet Joel, speaking for God in the wake of a horrendous locust plague that had ravaged crops and done great harm to people’s livelihoods, reminded his people that God was still with them, and would restore the people’s fortunes. They would know, as the psalm also affirms, that God had done great things for them.

I can tell of times in my own life when I can see God’s care at work. I am sure many of you can tell stories of times when this has been true for you. Perhaps you have heard in the last few days about what happened recently to actress Pauley Perrette from the TV show NCIS, who was physically attacked by a mentally ill homeless man. He threatened to kill her, and she believes he meant it. She said that she prayed as hard as she had ever prayed in her life for her safety and for her attacker (by the way, she is an active United Methodist and deeply involved in her local church’s ministry with homeless people). She began trying to connect with him and calm him down. Eventually he gave up and left. Although she ended up with a few minor injuries and was quite emotionally shaken from the experience, I think she would affirm that God took care of her.

While it is true God takes care of us, we are also different from the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. We have the capacity to do things that can make a difference in our world, even though we by no means have control over what ultimately happens.

The first thing we can do is pray. In 1 Timothy Paul tells us to make prayers, requests, petitions, and thanksgivings for all people. He tells us to pray for rulers and all in authority so we may live peaceful lives in godliness and dignity. Please note that we are to pray even for those we don’t like. This is consistent with what Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Remember that in the days of the early church the ruling authorities were often openly hostile to those who followed Jesus, often arresting and killing those who did so. Some in our day have advocated praying against leaders they don’t happen to agree with. That is not what is called for here. We are to pray for them, not against them.

Secondly, we can teach. Paul was appointed of God to teach the Gentiles in faith and truth. But it is essential that we live what we teach. One of the reasons the church has credibility problems with a lot of people today is that we proclaim a God of love and justice, but too often treat those with whom we disagree with neither love nor justice. Jesus told us not to worry. This means I also should not worry about the culture not being to my liking. I should not worry because some people have different ideas than I do. Can I, and can all of us who bear the name of Christ, trust God to sort it all out?

Third, we are invited to seek first God’s realm and God’s righteousness, and trust God to take care of us and our needs. We are invited to join in the task of living God’s way in the world. This means that although I am to care about the bad stuff that happens in the world and the people whose lives are affected, I am not to worry. I am not to live in fear. I am called instead to trust that God is in charge and that God’s purposes will ultimately be accomplished. This is the faith in which I seek to live. I invite you to join me.


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