There are a lot of people who are afraid these days. You can hear it on the television, read it in social media, and hear it in discussions. It may not be obvious at first glance, but if you scrutinize carefully, you can detect the subtle presence of fear driving many conversations. What’s the seed of this prevalent emotion? Usually, it’s rooted in a lack of control. We don’t feel like we’re holding the wheel, so we dissolve in to worry and anxiety about where we’re going.
Proverbs 12:25 tells us that “An anxious heart weighs a man down…” Isn’t that exactly what a lot of people are experiencing right now? We’re uncertain about what’s on the road, so we become “weighed down” with a lot of “what ifs.”
What if there’s more unemployment?
What if unemployment hits me this time?
What if the tests reveal something bad?
What if I get married?
What if I don’t?
What if the country continues on its current political or social path?
What if terrorism comes to our country again?
What if… what if… what if….
In 5 minutes time, I could conjure up enough scenarios to twist almost anyone into a knot of anxiety!
It just seems like today there’s just a myriad of things we can be worried about in our society. But Jesus cautioned the people of His day about the folly of worrying, and His words have wisdom to be applied in our time as well.
And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.
For the pagan world runs after all such things,
and your Father knows that you need them.
But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
A cursory reading of Christ’s words may seem initially irrelevant. I mean, most of us don’t (and have never) worried about such basics as eating and drinking. About the most mental energy we spend on that kind of thing is deciding which day to go to the grocery store, what type of restaurant to visit, or whether to have a regular or skinny latte. Generally, not the kind of decisions that generate worry. But in His culture, eating and drinking were the end purpose of most of their labors. There were no Walmarts, no drinking fountains, no take-out, and no places to just buy more when you run out, or another one when it breaks. They had to dig and maintain wells, grow and harvest wheat, and be diligent to store up for the winter. Crop failure could mean real starvation and death. Eating and drinking equaled survival for them.
That kind of living is long in the past for our country, so what could Jesus be saying to us today? I think His point is the same to us as it was to them. He’s still talking about issues of survival. There are things each of us deem essential to life almost in the same way eating and drinking was to our predecessors. They might not be quite as tangible, but all of us label some elements of our lives as real necessities. It could be a relationship, a job, a 401K, standing in the community, or any number of things. While most of those things aren’t inherently wrong, we do have to be careful about looking to them as our security.
So, to modernize it a little, Jesus might say to our culture, “don’t set your heart on where you will work, how healthy you are, who is in the White House, how good the economy is, or how much money you have.” Essentially, He’s telling us not to wrap our longings and affections around the things of this world that we think are crucial to our survival. People who have no relationship to God and no understanding of His character do that. They blow up, freak out and cave in when things don’t go their way, but believers should have a different response. Christ’s reminder is that the Father knows you need a retirement plan, or health insurance, or money for college tuition. He knows about the state of the economy, the job market, and your relationship status. He knows all that, and says, “Don’t be anxious.” It’s wasted energy, and worry isn’t going to accomplish anything anyway. In fact, it’s a big indicator of a lack of faith and that your hope and security may have shifted to something besides the Lord.
Instead, God wants us to “seek His kingdom” (vs 30) which means we need to shift our energy and focus toward Him. Seek Him in His Word. Live by His principles. And most importantly, set our affections on Him. When we do that, He promises to meet the needs we have in His way and His time.
Do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.