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The Forbidden Worry


6:25-34 I tell you, therefore, do not worry about your life, about what you are to eat, or what you are to drink; and do not worry about your body, about what you are to wear. Is not your life more than food, and your body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air, and see that they do not sow, or reap, or gather things into store-houses, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not better than they? Who of you can add one span to his life by worrying about it? And why do you worry about clothes? Learn a lesson from the lilies of the field, from the way in which they grow. They do not toil or spin; but I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which exists to-day, and which is thrown into the oven to-morrow, shall he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So then do not worry, saying, What are we to eat? or, What are we to drink? or, What are we to wear? The Gentiles seek after all these things. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will come to you in addition. So, then, do not worry about to-morrow; to-morrow will worry about itself. Its own troubles are quite enough for the day.

We must begin our study of this passage by making sure that we understand what Jesus is forbidding and what he is demanding. The King James Version translates Jesus' commandment: Take no thought for the morrow. Strange to say, the King James Version was the first translation to translate it in that way. Wyclif had it: "Be not busy to your life." Tyndale, Crammer and the Geneva Version all had: "Be not careful for your life." They used the word careful in the literal sense of full of care. The older versions were in fact more accurate. It is not ordinary, prudent foresight, such as becomes a man, that Jesus forbids; it is worry. Jesus is not advocating a shiftless, thriftless, reckless, thoughtless, improvident attitude to life; he is forbidding a care-worn, worried fear, which takes all the joy out of life.

The word which is used is the word merimnan ( Greek #3309 ), which means to worry anxiously. Its corresponding noun is merimna ( Greek #3308 ), which means worry. In a papyrus letter a wife writes to her absent husband: "I cannot sleep at night or by day, because of the worry (merimna, Greek #3308 ) I have about your welfare." A mother, on hearing of her son's good health and prosperity writes back: "That is all my prayer and all my anxiety (merimna, Greek #3308 )." Anacreon, the poet, writes: "When I drink wine, my worries (merimna, Greek #3308 ) go to sleep." In Greek the word is the characteristic word for anxiety, and worry, and care.

The Jews themselves were very familiar with this attitude to life. It was the teaching of the great Rabbis that a man ought to meet life with a combination of prudence and serenity. They insisted, for instance, that every man must teach his son a trade, for, they said, not to teach him a trade was to teach him to steal. That is to say, they believed in taking all the necessary steps for the prudent handling of life. But at the same time, they said, "He who has a loaf in his basket, and who says, 'What will I eat tomorrow?' is a man of little faith."

Jesus is here teaching a lesson which his countrymen well knew--the lesson of prudence and forethought and serenity and trust combined.

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