Thursday, July 28, 2005

Wasted Worry -- Matthew 6:19-34

Some one once told me that worrying is quite effective. They said that 95% of all the things that they worried about never came about! :o)

In my recent blogs I have been focusing upon what it means to BE the CHURCH in the 21st century, by looking at the church of the 1st century. In my previous blog I showed that there seemed to be no stopping the growth of the church. Even persecution seemed to be a seed bed for the growth of the Kingdom of God. One thing was evident regarding the 1st century church -- the church was God-empowered.

This got me thinking about how does a church ensure that it is God-empowered? I believe the Lord's teachings found in Matthew 5-7 are a great place to start. Specifically, I was drawn to Matthew 6:19-34.

Herein we are commanded to keep our focus clear. We are reminded that we should be about building God's kingdom, not our own. When we are "worrying" about the things of this life we are unable to be working about building the kingdom for the "life to come."

The Lord Jesus sums it up by telling His listeners to,
"Seek first His (God's) kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things (those things we worry about) will be given to you as well."
So, the questions remain:
  • What does it mean not to worry?
  • What does it mean to seek His kingdom?
  • What does it mean to seek His righteousness?
I have my understandings of each of these, I am interested in what you think.

Could we say, "Don't worry, be holy," I guess we could...


Rick Tozer said...

What does it mean to worry?

"Worry about nothing, pray about everything."

Worry is the act of giving the problem/situation to God; and then, taking it back.

Worry is the practice of being inpatient --not allowing God the time to act.

Worry is clinical manifestation of unbelief and doubting the character and purposes of God --at its core, it is unbelief.

Worry is what I do when I loose focus of the eternal perspective.

Pastor Randy said...

Well said Rick.

When I focus on me, rather than on the One who made me, died for me, rose for me, lives for me, loves me, and is coming for me, then worry fills my life.

Filled with me ... worries

Filled with Jesus ... no worries.

Anonymous said...

What does it mean not to worry? I think it means, for one thing, Obedience. One of Jesus' hidden teachings is, "Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid" (John 14:27). I say "hidden" with some irony, because few Christians seem to actually be aware of this direct order from Jesus to his followers, which would, in my estimation, apply to us today too. Jesus did say a little earlier in this chapter of John, "If a man loves me, he will keep my word..." (John 14:23). So, logically, not worrying is both a form of obedience, and a showing of our love for Jesus. Try it sometime, if you feel able to do so. Gary

Julie said...

Randy, Last night I read an article in Harper's Magazine entitled, "The Christian Paradox" by Bill McKibben. This morning I found your latest blog entry; the similarity in subject matter in both articles was too pressing to not respond. (I'd like to acknowledge before beginning that I include myself whole-heartedly when I refer to "we" herein. I know too well that I am counted among the hypocrites.)

First, it's a good distinction to make between the growth of the church and the growth of God's kingdom. Afterall, somewhere around 85% of us in America consider ourselves to be Christian and yet we've created a culture with some of the least Christ-like characteristics in the world; consider that we rank second to last in the world among developed countries in offering foreign aid, that we in turn also do little to take care of our own. By nearly every measure of caring (Christian charity) we, compared to other rich nations, America ranks among the last. This isn't exactly an area to be justified with one of those "the last shall be first" sort of defenses.

Our culture is predominately oriented towards the care of the individual. "Me first! Me first!"- a sentiment so engrained on the playground that it doesn't have to be heard to be recognized in boardrooms and stockholders meetings and bookclubs' discussions. Much of our lives are led in continual competition. Did you know that 75% of Americans believe that the quote, "God helps those who help themselves" comes from the Bible? In fact a quote from Ben Franklin, this notion is at the core of our conduct. So, with this mentality of course we worry!

While we may strive to not worry about what we will eat, or how we will clothe ourselves, while we may attempt to be like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field... we certainly do not DO anything to not worry. As Rick mentioned earlier, we make offer up a worry in prayer, but then we take it back again- not sure that we like the feeling of being provided for like the birds and the lilies. Do we really need to be waiting for "God to act"?

What are we meant to be doing if not worrying? Jesus quite clearly instructed us in what TO DO, whether we're waiting or not to feel as comfortable as his creatures. He didn't just ramble off a set of negative instructions: don't worry, don't store up treasures on earth, don't let money be your god. I like the way Jesus' positive instructions are arranged in Luke; after saying do not be afraid, he launches into what actions we are to take: sell our possessions; give to the poor; be dressed and ready for service; for where your treasure is, there your heart is also (Luke 12: 32-35).
Here, we have a direct picture of what seeking righteousness entails, what characteristics there are in building God's kingdom. Radically, our creed is to love our neighbors as ourselves. Oft repeated and thereby dimmed, this is a radical idea especially given our cultural clime.

How many times, when Jesus spoke, did he refer to "you" as an individual, versus "you" as a group? It's a real question, but the answer to which I'd like to speculate is this: Jesus didn't mean to be talking to each of us as a distinct individual. He meant for us to be together, working in communion so that our challenges and joys are shared. He meant that we spread our riches beyond the church pews and that we too bear the burdens of taking care of our homeless and hungry. In Luke 12:35-46 Jesus instructs us to be like the servants waiting for their master to return. In this whole passage Jesus isn't telling a parable to a single person, but to a group, servants plural, his contemporaries and those to come in the furture, for "it will be good for those servants to be ready, even if [the master] comes in the second or third watch of the night."

Churches are not meant to focus soley on the care of the invidual- but the care of the community, the kingdom. When we act as part of that kingdom we act to take care of the world, not just personal self. Writes Mckibben in the aforementioned Harper's article, "When Americans hunger for selfless love and are fed love of self, they will remain hungry". If we only take care of our personal selves, then our treasure is small and shortsighted; if we treasure our neighbors our heart will be with them- the vast, expanding, timeless kingdom of God.

Anonymous said...

I don't know who Mckibben is or if he is a believer...and I know almost nothing about Harper's magazine...but I am very doubtful of some of his comments regarding AMerica and her apparant "stinginess"...sounds like left-wing propaganda to me. America has always had a big heart and open hand when it comes to aiding those in need around the world.It isn't just the government who offers aid but individual Christian organizations like Samaritan's well as organizations like the Red Cross,United fund and so many others. There was so much money sent over for the tsunami disaster that many relief organizations were saying STOP! So I can't accept Mckibben's statement that Christians don't "love their neighbor". Historically it was Christians across the world who established hospitals, orphanages, relief organizations of all descriptions, Rescue Missions,Soup Kitchens,etc. these came about because Christians DID and DO care for others especially those in disasters. The poor have always been aided....our welfare rolls are bursting at the seams, our Medi-cal is nearly bankrupt because of generosity, our Medicare system is ailing, our Social Securty system is failing...the taxpayers of this country are overloaded in caring for the poor and disadvataged and those who feel "entitled" to be "taken care of" .Many Christian organizations try to "fill the gaps" throughout the world.look at Samaritan's purse and their Christmas in a shoebox efforts...incredible outpouring of love from Christians across the world who participate. Christian people support Habitat For Humanity building homes for the less fortunate...Angel Tree through Chuck Colson and Salvation Army who deliver the gifts that MANY churches bring in for the less fortunate every Christmas. I firmly believe that when a need is presented that Christians respond generously. I agree that we are often myopic in our vision and that we all have way more than most of the world and that perhaps we CAN dig a little deeper...but I don't think America OR Christians in general are "cheap" or unresponsive to the needs of the world. I'll get off my soapbox now.....Ruthie

Anonymous said...


I understand to some extent where you are coming from. I went to several places in the city where I live where they give free food (Salvation Army was one place) to do research for a writing class I was taking. It was disheartening to listen to some of the conversations as I stood in line for the free handouts. Many people were just running cons and almost enjoying the sport of it and did seem to think that the world owed them. Many had drug and alcohol problems and unfortunately were being enabled instead of truly helped. But many others really desperately needed the food and my heart went out to them because frankly I would hate to eat nothing but rice and beans and bread the rest of my life if I didn’t have the skills to make an adequate living.

I had never been in a food line before and found it a humiliating experience and certainly grist for the mill for my writing assignment. I highly suggest any Christian experience personally standing in a food line (in a strange city where no one knows who they really are) not letting on that they don’t really need the free food to get a feel for what it’s like to walk in those moccasins. (One can always make a donation to compensate for taking food that is not really a necessity after the experience).

I fully agree that many people feel society owes them and sometimes even prey on Christians purposely considering them easy marks. The Bible clearly tells us that if we don’t work, we shouldn’t eat. (Which of course doesn’t apply to those who really can’t find employment and some who had obvious mental or physical disabilities who no one would hire). But my research those days I purposely walked in indigent moccasins lead me to the conclusion that we as a society (especially in the inner cities) need to do more (for those who have real needs, not those running cons).

The problem is that Christ set the bar so high. We are to be perfect even as our father in heaven is perfect. None of us ever make it. We continually fall short of the glory of God. All of us.

When the rich young man refused to sell all of his belongings to follow Christ, and Christ told his disciples it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, his disciples (who had forsaken all to follow him) asked him, “Who then, can be saved?” Jesus told them “with men, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Therein lies our only hope because we live in a prosperous nation and we are really a rich selfish, self-centered, me, me, me nation and just as Julie said, I too have to also include myself whole-heartedly when I refer to "we" herein. I know too well that I am counted among the hypocrites.”


Pastor Randy said...

I really appreciate the interaction of last week's blog. Everyone's thoughts truly keep me thinking. You are all keeping me on my "spiritual toes." Not so they'll be kept from being stepped on, but rather so I can keep alert to truly walking as a follower of Jesus, the Messiah.

The challenge for me (dare I say for all of us) is not that I settle on bemouning the fact of who I am, or was, but on who the Lord desires me to be. I guess, in very simplistic terms I could say, "that was then, this is now." And the question for me is therefore, "How then shall I live?" (Thank you Dr. Schaeffer)

May we all continue in that transformation by the Holy Spirit that leaves us more conformed to our Savior's image.

Pastor Randy