By Sam E. Stone
People often say, “Don’t worry.” While this is easy advice to give and good advice to take, it is difficult advice to follow. When Jesus tells us not to worry, he is not saying we should fail to plan and prepare adequately. (Elsewhere Scripture commends proper care and forethought—see 1 Corinthians 7:32; 12:25; Philippians 2:20.) Instead he offers principles that place all of life in proper perspective.
Remember God’s Liberality
Matthew 6:25, 26
The Lord begins by specifying the kind of worry that is wrong—“what you will eat or drink . . . what you will wear.” When tempted to worry, we need only remember how good God’s care for us has been in the past. Jesus illustrates this by saying, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns.” If God cares for the little insignificant creatures all around you in the world, surely he cares for you! Remember God’s liberality. After all, what is more important—to have steak for dinner or to be able to eat dinner? To have new clothes or to have a healthy body?
People are more valuable to God than birds. The birds can teach us a lesson. They work hard building nests and getting food for their young, but they don’t worry about things. Until we trust God completely, we are trying to carry too much of life’s burden by ourselves.
Realize Worry’s Futility
Suppose you choose to worry. What will you gain by it? How will it help you? “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Then Jesus used another illustration—the lilies of the field. “They do not labor or spin. Yet . . . not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” William Barclay put it like this: “Worry is needless, useless, and even injurious.”
If you are worrying about something—either it will happen or it won’t. If it won’t happen, there’s no need to worry; if it will happen, being nervous beforehand won’t help. If something is going to happen, either it is something you can help or you can’t. If you can help, don’t worry, but instead do what you can do. If you can’t help, don’t worry because that will only make you more miserable! “If . . . 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, O you of little faith?”
The apostle Paul learned this lesson well. He wrote, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11ff). He had seen God provide for him and protect him, no matter what life might bring. “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (v. 13).
Rearrange Your Priority
Pagans have these main concerns in life—“What shall we eat?” “What shall we drink?” “What shall we wear?” These are the things non-Christians run after. Jesus calls his followers to something better. The believer should not make these things his primary concern. After all, the “heavenly Father knows that you need them.” J. W. McGarvey notes, “Being God, the Supreme One knows; being a Father, he feels.”
We should ask ourselves, “Is it really important to do what I have been doing? Does my use of money and time indicate what is really of eternal value?”
Jesus once told a story about the rich fool who spent all his life trying to gain more things. Just when he finally thought he had amassed a sufficient fortune, God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:20).
The Master calls us to rearrange our priorities. “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” What an assurance! We can face life without worry when God is in first place. Long before Jesus walked on the earth, Isaiah the prophet wrote, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.