Apologetics, Biblical Doctrines, Christian Living, Church, Culture & Society, Faith, Prayer, Theology, Worship

The Futility of Worry

AN EXPOSITION OF MATTHEW 6:25-34

     25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

The Lord does not want His people to be unduly anxious about life, or the details of daily life. Nevertheless, Christians live in an age of anxiety. This anxiousness extends from the adults to the youth. Perhaps one reason for the high level of stress in society is the various social media outlets. Local and worldwide information about disasters and current events, real and imagined, are at people’s fingertips.

A simple text message received, or a tap on the screen of a smart phone can produce various emotions, including the emotions of anxiety and fear. The word anxiety comes from the Latin word that has the idea of constriction. The reason for anxiousness is life itself. Many people are choosing death rather than life, for death offers a cessation to the fear of living.

When we look for the cause of so much anxiety in life, it is not hard to discern that individuals have no hope of a better tomorrow because they have abandoned God. There is no one to pray to. There is no Higher Power to call upon. More than a few individuals feel all alone in a vast universe, and confined in their ability to resolve the contingencies in life. The loss of spirituality will cause people to be anxious. People are more afraid of the end of the month than the end of the world.

In contrast to the concerns of the world, is the Christian gospel which deals with humanities guilt of sin, and with humanities anxiety. The gospel is far better than the dark thoughts of modern day philosophers who end their thoughts, and many time their lives, in hopeless despair. Christ can justify the guilty soul. Jesus took man’s guilt. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ. Jesus Christ can give hope to the hopeless by offering the protective love of God the Father. So the Christian is told time and again, “Fear not.”

The reason why anxious care should not be engaged in by Christians is because his master is God. A person is either a servant, or slave to mammon, or to God. When a person is enslaved to God, they serve Him ideally. And they should have no worries because the responsibility for their care lies with the Master. In light of the relationship of the believer with God, why is there anxiousness? As the master takes care of the slave, so God will take care of His own.

If a person chooses to be the slave of mammon, or money, if a person chooses to seek to possess as many toys of time as possible, they can do that. What they will discover is that what they thought they possessed, really possesses them.

Christian, God cares for you. Therefore, take no thought, be not anxious (v. 25, 31, and 34). Now this does not mean that a Christian should not work. It does not mean that a person should not make every effort to advance their position in life, financially and socially. That would be wrong. God created man to work. Adam was given the Garden of Eden to cultivate, and the animals to name. Eve was created to be his help mate. If a man does not work, he should not eat (2 Thess. 3:10).

It is not foresight, or working for tomorrow the Lord is prohibiting. It is the foreboding foresight the Lord tells His people to dismiss from their thoughts. And that is an important concept to remember. When a person changes their thoughts, they change their emotions.

When a Christian remembers that God has given us life, surely He will give us all that is needed to enjoy life, such as food and clothing. God will supply our needs. We trust God for our life. We must trust God for our needs.

The Bible teaches us that our breath is in the hands of God. So we live and trust God, even if our faith is unwitting.

The message of Jesus did not, and does not contend upon time and place. As challenging as modern day America, Nepal, or any other country can, Rome had its own difficulties. A Jew could be compelled to work for a Roman citizen. A person could be arrested, and imprisoned or forced to fight in the local arena or Colosseum, if something was said in public that displeased the authorities. The people to whom Jesus spoke had heavy taxation. They had many of the problems we have, and some we do not have. Still the Lord says, “Do not be anxious for your life, for food, or for clothing.”

Having stated the principle that God will take care of you, Jesus provides seven illustrations.

The first illustration that God will take care of you comes from creation. The great gift of life, given by God, includes His lesser gifts of sustaining His creation. Those who serve God, those who are the sons of the Heavenly Father will be provided for. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).

This argument is a great argument for eternal security, it is a great argument for the work of the Holy Spirit, and it is a great argument for definite redemption. If God gave us Jesus, then surely He will give the Holy Spirit to bring souls to faith in Christ.

The second illustration that God will take care of you comes from nature.

     26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

There were many birds in Palestine. Observing the birds of the air, Jesus used them to argue from the lesser to the greater. The birds do not sow, nor do they reap. They do not gather food into barns. Now, the birds are busy. They seem to get up early, and stay up late. They are always active. But they never sit and look up to heaven expecting the Lord to place a worm or some other morsel in their mouths. They are always working. So the birds become an illustration of how God is always working for us, for we are much better than they are in the sight of God. Now the Father is aware of their activities, and even if one falls to the ground, still, we are better than they. The birds do not worry, and neither should we. They trust, and so should we.

The third illustration of Jesus that God will take care of you comes from a person’s inability.

    27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

The word stature could refer to height, or it could refer to age. There are people who might wish they were taller, but they cannot add a cubit, or 18 inches to their height, through worry. I have heard of movie actors who were worried about their height on scene, and so they wear platform shoes to make them appear taller. Some political leaders insist on standing on an incline so the political podium can be as tall as the person they are appearing on camera with. But that is all for show. It is theater. Personally, no one can add to their height.

Nor can anyone add a single hour to their age. Life is like a journey. It is a journey ordained by God, who has determined the day of our birth, and the hour of our death. And no amount of worry is going to add a moment longer than what God has ordained.

It is true, that God uses means to prolong some lives. I live today with a defibrillator in my chest. I have had cancer treatment, and triple bypass open heart surgery. But it is also true that God allowed the doctors that I needed to be at the right place, at the right time because my life is in his hands. My journey through life, and your journey through life is in the Lord’s hands.

The fourth illustration that God will take care of you comes from flowers.

     28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

The flowers in Palestine of which Jesus spoke have a very short life. But in that short life time they do not labor. Moreover, God arrays them in splendid glory that surpassed the glory of Solomon.

     29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

The lovely thought is that the God who decks a fragile and passing flower with glory shall take care of His children who are of eternal value to Him. The Lord will give His children not only ordinary garments, but splendid garments of eternal glory.

     30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

     31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

     32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek 🙂 for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

The fifth argument proving God will take care of you comes from the Gentiles. It is a strange argument to modern ears, but for the ancient Jew, the Gentile was without revelation from God. The Gentile was considered to be another term for unbelief. The Jew was not to be like a Gentile.

The lesson from nature is over, and an appeal is made to revelation. It had been revealed to the Jews that their heavenly Father knows about their every need. The eye that is on the sparrow is the same eye that sees the needs of each person. “Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” Therefore, Church, do not be like the Gentiles.

Unfortunately, the characteristics of the Gentile prevail in local Christian assemblies. The first Gentile characteristic is that God is not adequate. Many people say they are not a Christian because of the problem of pain in the world. Or because of war. Or because they prayed and God did not answer in the way the person wanted God to answer. So they say that God is inadequate. In 1981, Rabbi Harold S. Kushner wrote the book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, in a sad state of mind. He had come to the conclusion that while God might care about our problems, He is inadequate to help. Rabbi Kushner’s fourteen year old son had died of a terrible disease, and he was angry with God. But God is adequate. He can supply all of our needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.

The Gentiles did not have a heavenly Father. They had many gods, but their gods lied, cheated, and lusted. They murdered, stole, and schemed. The Gentiles were fearful of their gods, but they had no hope, or love from them. In contrast, we have a loving Father.

This leads to the sixth argument as to why God will take care of you. There is a family tie. The Almighty God is our Father. Behold what manner of love that we should be called the sons of God.

Finally, the seventh argument as to why God will take care of you is because of God’s promise.

     33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

God is a Gentleman, He keeps His word. Those who honor the Lord God by believing in Him shall not be disappointed. The person who believes in God will enjoy life, food, and clothing. Individuals may not have all they want, but they will have all they need. That is the promise of God. There shall be showers of blessings.

“There shall be showers of blessing:
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.

Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need:
Mercy-drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.”

Daniel W. Whittle, 1883

Finally, the teaching of Jesus on the matter of anxious care concludes with an observation.

     34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Worry does not rob tomorrow of its sorrows, but it does empty today of its strength (S. Lewis Johnson).

Jesus does not say to stop worrying altogether. That is impossible to do. Job said that what he feared came upon him (Job 3:25).

Jesus does say that we are to give our foreboding thoughts to God. “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7). Jesus Himself is our example. When Jesus was on the Cross, Jesus cried out in honesty to His Father. “My God, my God.” And the answer came, “It is finished.”

Therefore, let us live day by day, depending upon the Lord, moment by moment.

“Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.

He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day the Lord Himself is near me,
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counsellor and Pow’r.

The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then, in every tribulation,
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation,
Offered me within Thy holy Word.

Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till with Christ the Lord I stand.”

Carolina (“Lina”) Sandell, 1865

May the Lord grant us peace, and deliverance, not only from the guilt of sin, but from the anxiousness it brings. Amen.

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