In his sermon on the mount Jesus says things like: “Settle matters quickly with your adversary (5:25)…Be careful (6:1)…Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven (6:20)…Watch out for false prophets (7:15)…A wise man built his house on the rock” (7:24).
All of these activities involve sanctified Christian worrying, that is, a deeply devoted Christian attention and concern. So Jesus both discourages faithless worrying and encourages faith-filled worrying.
The Scriptures follow suit. On the one hand we hear, “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6) and on the other hand, “have concern for each other” (1 Corinthians 12:25)—and the same original Greek word appears in both.
The key to the difference between the two is your answer to this question: am I worrying about myself and what I want, or worrying about God and what he wants? Worry about God.
For instance, Jesus instructs in his sermon on the mount (Matthew 6), “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…Do not worry about what you will eat or drink.”
At first I think that’s an easy one because I can’t remember ever being seriously concerned that I’d starve or dehydrate. But the birds teach me this: people (even Christians) do worry about food and drink—not if we’ll find any but whether it will be the kind that we want, whether it’ll be as much as we want, whether it’ll be rushed to our mouths when we want.
We take it for granted that God is supposed to feed us more like kings than birds. Then we worry, arguing about how we can keep paying for top shelf brands, or fussing around trying to impress our dinner guests with more time and effort then we offer the poor, or frustrated that the long morning line at Starbucks will disrupt our busy schedule.
Like Israelites complaining about manna, we’ve turned up our noses at food and drink, bothered that the basics aren’t good enough…while the birds teach us a lesson happily eating the berries, corn, and worms that God richly provides.
Children of God have so much more reason than birds to eat and drink happily. Jesus tells us, “Your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
Much more valuable. In the beginning God spoke and created the birds, but when he created us he breathed his own breath into us.
Much more valuable. When he assigned the order of creatures God made us superior to all the animals.
Much more valuable. When our first parents sinned God shed the blood of animals to provide garments for their shameful nakedness, and shed the blood of his Son Jesus Christ to provide forgiveness for all sinners.
Much more valuable. If God feeds the birds, then he’ll take care of us much more. Worry less about self and more about God, deeply devoted to him with the concern of faith.
PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, I can worry that what you give isn’t good enough. Forgive me for underestimating your fatherly love, and for defining in a worldly way the gifts that you give. Where there is less than I’d like, teach me to be content. Where there is more than I need, help me to share. Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: Read Jesus’ words in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25-33).