Worry And Its Cure
In these ten verses Jesus sets out seven different arguments and defences against worry.
(i) He begins by pointing out ( Matthew 6:25 ) that God gave us life, and, if he gave us life, surely we can trust him for the lesser things. If God gave us life, surely we can trust him to give us food to sustain that life. If God gave us bodies, surely we can trust him for raiment to clothe these bodies. If anyone gives us a gift which is beyond price, surely we can be certain that such a giver will not be mean, and stingy, and niggardly, and careless, and forgetful about much less costly gifts. So, then, the first argument is that, if God gave us life, we can trust him for the things which are necessary to support life.
(ii) Jesus goes on to speak about the birds ( Matthew 6:26 ). There is no worry in their lives, no attempt to pile up goods for an unforeseen and unforeseeable future; and yet their lives go on. More than one Jewish Rabbi was fascinated by the way in which the animals live. "In my life," said Rabbi Simeon, "I have never seen a stag as a dryer of figs, or a lion as a porter, or a fox as a merchant, yet they are all nourished without worry. If they, who are created to serve me, are nourished without worry, how much more ought 1, who am created to serve my Maker, to be nourished without worry; but I have corrupted my ways, and so I have impaired my substance." The point that Jesus is making is not that the birds do not work; it has been said that no one works harder than the average sparrow to make a living; the point that he is making is that they do not worry. There is not to be found in them man's straining to see a future which he cannot see, and man's seeking to find security in things stored up and accumulated against the future.
(iii) In Matthew 6:27 , Jesus goes on to prove that worry is in any event useless. The verse can bear two meanings. It can mean that no man by worrying can add a cubit to his height; but a cubit is eighteen inches, and no man surely would ever contemplate adding eighteen inches to his height! It can mean that no man by worrying can add the shortest space to his life; and that meaning is more likely. It is Jesus' argument that worry is pointless anyway.
(iv) Jesus goes on to speak about the flowers ( Matthew 6:28-30 ), and he speaks about them as one who loved them. The lilies of the field were the scarlet poppies and anemones. They bloomed one day on the hillsides of Palestine; and yet in their brief life they were clothed with a beauty which surpassed the beauty of the robes of kings. When they died they were used for nothing better than for burning. The point is this. The Palestinian oven was made of clay. It was like a clay box set on bricks over the fire. When it was desired to raise the temperature of it especially quickly, some handfuls of dried grasses and wild flowers were flung inside the oven and set alight. The flowers had but one day of life; and then they were set alight to help a woman to heat an oven when she was baking in a hurry; and yet God clothes them with a beauty which is beyond man's power to imitate. If God gives such beauty to a short-lived flower, how much more will he care for man? Surely the generosity which is so lavish to the flower of a day will not be forgetful of man, the crown of creation.
(v) Jesus goes on to advance a very fundamental argument against worry. Worry, he says, is characteristic of a heathen, and not of one who knows what God is like ( Matthew 6:32 ). Worry is essentially distrust of God. Such a distrust may be understandable in a heathen who believes in a jealous, capricious, unpredictable god; but it is beyond comprehension in one who has learned to call God by the name of Father. The Christian cannot worry because he believes in the love of God.
(vi) Jesus goes on to advance two ways in which to defeat worry. The first is to seek first, to concentrate upon, the Kingdom of God. We have seen that to be in the Kingdom and to do the will of God is one and the same thing ( Matthew 6:10 ). To concentrate on the doing of, and the acceptance of, God's will is the way to defeat worry. We know how in our own lives a great love can drive out every other concern. Such a love can inspire a man's work, intensify his study, purify his life, dominate his whole being. It was Jesus; conviction that worry is banished when God becomes the dominating power of our lives.
(vii) Lastly, Jesus says that worry can be defeated when we acquire the art of living one day at a time ( Matthew 6:34 ). The Jews had a saying: "Do not worry over tomorrow's evils, for you know not what today will bring forth. Perhaps tomorrow you will not be alive, and you will have worried for a world which will not be yours." If each day is lived as it comes, if each task is done as it appears, then the sum of all the days is bound to be good. It is Jesus' advice that we should handle the demands of each day as it comes, without worrying about the unknown future and the things which may never happen.
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