What To Do With Worry: Fear, anxiety, and worry produce a constant and overwhelming struggle for many people today. Out of all the anxiety and worry you experience, how much of it is related to money? Jesus knows how much we tend to worry about our money or possessions. But the way of Jesus, of seeking first his kingdom and his righteousness, is the only way to find true freedom from fear. Recorded on Sept 18, 2022, on Matthew 6:25-34, by Pastor David Parks.
This message is part of our sermon series “The Unexpected Way,” from the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7 in the Bible. The way of Jesus is totally unique; it’s different from every other way of life, philosophy, or religion. Why? Because the teaching of Jesus — emphasizing holiness, humility, justice, faith, and sacrificial love — leads to a whole new gospel-centered ethic. This ancient ethic, if actually practiced, has the power to bring abundant love and joy, and peace to anyone, anywhere today. This is the way.
All year, we’re focusing on Learning the way of Jesus, which means that all year, we’ll basically be answering the question, “If the gospel is true, how then should we live?” And we’ve been working through a very famous teaching of Jesus known as the Sermon on the Mount in a sermon series called, The Unexpected Way. Jesus’ teaching has covered a lot of ground from thinking about the values of the kingdom of heaven, what it means to be a good person, the traps of religious works, and more. Last week, we started a little two-part series within the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus shifts his focus to our money, wealth, and possessions. And this is so helpful because, for whatever reason, issues relating to our wealth run deep within the human heart. Last week, we saw that one of the temptations/traps to avoid is thinking that making money or accumulating stuff is the highest value or the purpose of our lives. These things should not master us; Jesus clearly says we cannot serve both God and money. Today, in the second in our two-part series, we’ll move from love to fear — including the very real fears that start to well up when we think about our bills or debt, our financial security, or our future. Will we have enough? Will we be able to accomplish our goals? Should we be making/saving/investing more? What if the economy falls into a recession, or what if we can’t work for some reason? Out of all the anxiety and worry you experience, how much of it is related to money? If you have a Bible/app, please open it to Mt 6:25.
Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV), “25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 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? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is teaching his disciples or followers what it looks like to follow his way. And what is his way regarding our money or our stuff? Let’s start back at v. 25 and work our way through this text together.
Matthew 6:25 (NIV), ““Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” Let’s pause here. So this section starts with “therefore,” which connects what follows with Jesus’ clear teaching that we looked at last week, that you cannot serve both God and money. But if that’s true, and if we choose to love/serve/worship the Lord our God, heart, soul, mind, and strength, and be mastered by or give our lives to our money, wealth, and possessions, then “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,” And we know Jesus is referring to our physical or earthly life, not our spiritual or eternal life because he gives two different examples. First, do not worry about what you’ll eat or drink. And second, do not worry about what you’ll wear. And what he says is such a great reminder to us today. “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” Food, clothing, shelter, these things are basic needs for life, right? But the purpose and meaning of life are so much higher/greater than simply meeting our basic needs. God didn’t create you for a life of all-consuming worry or anxiety. He created you for so much more, a life of love, joy, and peace, a life of abundance. However, even if this is true, one thing I’ve learned over the years is you can’t just tell someone who’s really afraid of something just to stop worrying. Just calm down. That never works, right? We’re going to need more help here if we’re going to stop worrying about our life. Jesus knows this, so he gives us a bunch of evidence to help us turn over our fears to him. Look at v. 26.
Matthew 6:26 (NIV), “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?” Look around you, you’ll see all kinds of evidence of God’s gracious provision everywhere you look. For example, look at the birds of the air; do they starve? No. But do they have bank accounts? 401K’s? Storage units? Basements/attics/garages full of junk? No! But remember, my worried friend, even though they have far less than we have, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. But how does our heavenly Father feed them? Do the birds just sit back and wait for God? No. Birds seem to be constantly busy. So how is it that God gets the credit for feeding them? Because from the beginning, God has created them with the intelligence to be able to find food, the inner drive to apply this intelligence, and the ability to walk and fly and build nests and do all the things that little birds need to do to survive. In all these ways, God has provided for them. But also, our heavenly Father continues to sustain the sun and the rain and all the other things needed for biological life and growth, which produces food for the birds. The whole of creation rests on the sustaining power of God the creator. But here’s an important point. If this is how God cares for the birds of the air, how much more will God care for you? How much more will God provide for your needs? Jesus says, “Are you not much more valuable than they?” The implied answer is yes, of course, human beings, made in the image of God to rule and reign as stewards of God’s good and perfect world, are more valuable to God than the birds. So why should we not worry about our needs? Because we have a Father in heaven who values us and cares for us and will provide for our needs just as he provides for the needs of other creatures day in and day out. It’s who God is, and it’s what God does. When we learn this or when we’re reminded of this, it helps us deal with our fears related to our needs. Now, this doesn’t mean we just sit back and wait for God to do everything for us. Remember the birds? We must use all the resources that God has given us to provide for our needs and to help others around us who are struggling to meet their needs. But there’s a big difference between doing that work while trusting our Father in heaven instead of freaking out because we think our needs are solely dependent on us. Let’s keep going. v. 27.
Matthew 6:27 (NIV), “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” There are some questions as to whether Jesus is referring to space or time with this statement. Can any one of you, by worrying, add a single cubit to your height or a single hour to your life? I really don’t think it matters either way because what he’s asking is clear. In other words, what does it help you to worry? Is your anxiety productive or helpful in some way to you? On the one hand, fear can be a very natural response to real threats in a broken world. There are things we should rightly fear. Like pain, fear is a negative emotion that is sometimes helpful and can motivate us away from things that may be harmful to us. However, and this is a huge point, not everything is worth our worry. Sometimes, we fall into patterns of worry, anxiety, and fear over things that aren’t real or active threats. In this context, Jesus is talking about worry over whether our basic needs will be met, such as our need for food or clothing. And for the follower of Jesus, worrying about this isn’t helpful at all. Why? Because of who God is and whose we are in Christ. “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” He continues in v. 28.
Matthew 6:28-30 (NIV), ““And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” Again, Jesus points to something that his disciples could likely have seen just by looking around them. The flowers of the field are so temporary; they’re here today and gone tomorrow. But if God cares for clothing the grass and flowers of the field with such beauty, will he not care for what you wear? If God made all things and sustains all things, does he not care for his creation? So why do we worry so much about these things? Why do we spend so much anxiety on our stuff? The end of this passage gives us a clue. Jesus says, “will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” It is here we find that one of our problems related to our money, wealth, and possessions, in fact, it’s our main problem in life, is an issue of faith. Fear and faith live in the same place in our hearts. And at times, fear crowds out our faith. But the reverse is also true. Faith has the power to displace our fears, as well. But how do we experience more faith than fear? Look at v. 31.
Matthew 6:31-33 (NIV), “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Again, Jesus says do not worry, but then he acknowledges that the pagans/gentiles, in other words, the people who do not know who God is or what he does, they run after these things, food, clothing, and so on. But why should we, as Christians, not run after these things? Because in Christ, we can know who God is and what he has done and what he has promised for us today and for our future. We can know that our heavenly Father knows what we need and loves to provide for his children. We can see in the record of Scripture how this has been true for generation after generation of God’s people. Whether it was manna from heaven in the wilderness or by the farms and fields of the promised land, it was the Lord who provided. So instead of fear, how can we experience more faith? Jesus says by seeking first, or seeking as our first priority, God’s kingdom and his righteousness. What is the kingdom of God? It’s the place where Jesus is king. It’s the place where the will of God is done, on earth as it is in heaven. And this might be in your heart, in your mind, or in your relationships, and yes, in how you think about your physical/financial needs. The Christian life, including the concepts of spiritual growth and sanctification, is really about learning to surrender every area of life to the Lordship of Christ. For some Christians, your financial stress is a result of you trusting Jesus for salvation, but not yet with your money. But if you seek first his kingdom, his values, his promises, and his righteousness, meaning his way that is right, you will find an amazing truth. That all these things, meaning all these physical and financial needs, will be given/added to you as well. When you keep the main things the main things, everything else works better in life. Jesus concludes with v. 34.
Matthew 6:34 (NIV), “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And this is so practically helpful. We are not God, so, therefore, we do not know exactly what will happen tomorrow, much less over the course of our whole life. And our limitation in this capacity to both know and control our future is the source of much of our worry. Jesus would say, focus on today. Learn to live within the limits of your humanity, stay in your lane, and leave the rest to God. He knows the future. He knows the end from the beginning. And he has promised to work all things for our good because of his great love for us. Let’s let God worry about tomorrow. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Now, does this mean we should never make plans for the future? The clear answer from Scripture is that would be foolish. Planning is godly, and plans fail for lack of wise counsel. So we should both plan for the future and seek wise counsel as much as we can. But our plans, our wisdom, and our work can all be done with the freedom that faith in God brings. They do not have to be a result of the nervous or frantic or desperate energy that fear brings. This is not the way of Jesus.
So what does this mean for our lives today? How do we apply this teaching to the way we think about our money, wealth, and possessions? First, we must see that we live in a very affluent and consumeristic society. Thankfully, most of our basic needs are met. Few of us need to worry about starving. However, we’re constantly being told that we’re one purchase or one upgrade from happiness. So in our abundance, there is still little peace around money, wealth, and possessions. So there is still much fear, anxiety, and worry about these things. All this means if we’re not careful, and we adopt un-thinkingly the attitudes of our culture toward our money, we will be carried off in a very different direction than the way of Jesus. So what should we do? How do we come back to the way of Jesus with regard to our money? I’ll give you four steps, and really these four will help you deal with any source of worry.
- Recognize – Recognize when you’re feeling anxious or worried over your money or your stuff. Recognize you’re afraid and see what is driving your fears. If it has to do with what you need or even what you want, sometimes just being aware of that fact and bringing your fears into the light of awareness can reduce a lot of their power. Fear is the most powerful in the dark. So recognition is the first step in dealing with your fears in a productive way. I am afraid. But don’t stop there. It’s only natural for us to experience fear in this broken world. But what we do with that fear will determine whether we stay stuck in our fear or not.
- Remember – In pointing out the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, Jesus is helping us remember that even though we have good reasons to fear, we have better reasons to have faith in God and give our anxiety and worries to him. When we recognize that we are afraid, we must then remember who God is and whose we are in Christ. We must remember that God is our Heavenly Father who cares for us and values us, and loves to provide for his children. We must remember everything that God was willing to give up in the gospel so that we might be rescued from the greater threats of sin and death. If Jesus was willing to die on the cross for our sins, to meet our greatest spiritual need, would he not care for our physical/emotional/financial needs as well? Recognize, remember, and third…
- Repent – To repent means to turn around and go in a new direction. To repent of our worry, anxiety, and fear does not mean we should feel ashamed or condemned in guilt for our lack of faith. Instead, it means to turn from our reliance on ourselves, turn from our belief that our life and security and joy and peace all rest on our ability to make money. And turn instead to a life of trusting the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And trusting the Lord to provide exactly what we need, even as we plan and get wise counsel and work hard with all the intelligence and abilities that God has entrusted to our care. If we can trade our fears for greater faith, the result will always produce more of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Most love, joy, and peace, more stability, more hope, and more of the life that is actually life. And this leads to our fourth step:
- Rejoice – Rejoice in the amazing love and provision of God. Rejoice in the grace and mercy of God that is lavished on us in Christ. Rejoice that God knows what you need and loves to provide for you. Rejoice that your tomorrow is as secure for you in Christ as your today. And rejoice that God is big enough to take all your worries from you. That you can cast your anxiety on him because he cares for you. And that no matter what may happen in life, you have eternal life in Christ and in his kingdom.
So may we be people who recognize our fears, remember our God, repent of our way, and rejoice and learn the way of Jesus. It’s the best way. And it’s the only way that frees us to enjoy and use the money, wealth, and possessions that God entrusts to our care without falling into the trap of disordered love or being controlled by fear.