Do Not Worry
The last time I attempted preach on this passage was a little over a couple years ago, the day was Sunday March 15th, 2020. We were coming off one the most disorienting weeks I can ever remember, as we our nation were just beginning to wrap our heads around and begin to understand the possible magnitude and disruption of all things Covid-19. And in midst of the chaos and confusion, I was so eager to preach on this passage where Jesus tells us “do not worry” knowing that there could not have been a more appropriate and timely passage for that very moment. But yet, I never did. We decided to cancel that morning’s worship service just hours before, by the next Sunday we were on the radio and had moved on to other things, and this message sat in word document jail being hopelessly attached to that one Sunday in between.
But yet, it really wasn’t worth the worry of me getting all worked up about it, the initial frustration of preparing a sermon that I would not deliver, because here’s the thing. I knew and you know that that message and these words from Jesus would never go bad, rather these words will always be forever and endlessly relevant. Because though our worries themselves may sometimes change, we’ve still got things to worry about all the same.
We’ve got worries big and small, worries about ourselves and for others, worries about our past, present and future, and life itself brings about worries all their own for every age and stage:
Will I get the teacher I’m hoping for this next school year?
Will I get into the college of my choice?
Will I ever get married?
Will we ever be able to get pregnant?
Have I done enough as a parent?
Am I actually making a difference at all in my work?
Will I ever have enough money to retire someday?
Will my health ever improve?
Though our worries themselves may change, we’ve still got our worries all the same.
So friends, before we even get into the thick of our passage for today, I want you to first take a brief moment and grab a hold of whatever it is that is worrying you today. I want you to grab a hold of that worry, put that front and center before you and consider that particular worry in light of what you hear from Jesus today.
So with that said, let’s get going. In our passage today, Jesus gives us three reasons why we don’t need to worry, followed by three things to do instead. Three reasons why we don’t need to worry, followed by three things to do instead.
The first two reasons can be found by looking around at creation itself, specifically by looking at, of all things, birds and flowers.
First, the birds. Jesus says,
24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!
The logic here is relatively simple. God made the birds. And if he cares for and provides for them, then how much more does he and will he care and provide for us too? He not only provides for the most majestic and patriotic of all birds, such as the bald eagle, but even the lowly and dirty raven. If our God values them, if he cares for and provides for them, how much more does he value and care for us? Infinitely so. After all, we as humans are the pinnacle of God’s creation, made in the image of God.
And then later he goes on to say,
27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these … how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!
Once again here, it’s the same logic as before. Jesus says, look at how beautiful and dazzling even the most ordinary of flowers are. If God cares for them, how much more will he clothe and care for you?
As many of you know, one of my favorite things to do is to run and hike around the High Trails outside of town and right now just happens to be prime time flower time here in the high desert. And what’s always so striking to me is that even in the sagebrush and desert, there are flowers to be found. Look closely and you’ll see purples and pinks and blues and yellows. There’s color to be found in the sagebrush and desert. If God clothes the flowers, which are here today and gone tomorrow, here for roughly one month out of the year, how much more will he care for you?
It’s in light of all this that Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.”
And so, is there therapy for everyday anxieties? Is there a good word in midst of our run of the mill worries? Turns out there is. Jesus says, get outside and go for a walk. Notice what you see. Notice what our Lord has created and how he’s provided. If he’s done all this for the birds and the flowers, how much more will he do it for you and for me.
Those are the first two reasons, now here’s the third. If the first two were truths that come from God’s creation, the third here comes from in the form of godly wisdom.
Jesus says, 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?
Here Jesus is appealing to basic common sense. That in the end, worrying never really does us any good or accomplishes anything positive in the long run. I once read somewhere someone compare worrying to a rocking chair. Sure, it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere. Worry is so often a waste of our time, thoughts, energy – time and energy that could be repurposed towards so many better things.
Even worse, rather than being unproductive or unhelpful, worrying can even be hurtful.
For example, many of us are worried about our health, whether it’s because were worried about what the doctor is going to say or what the scale is going to weigh. And yet the irony is, I think all the doctors here at our church would tell us that worrying, and the stress that it causes us is bad for our health. Rather than adding an hour or two to our lives, truth is, worry just strips the hours away.
So do not worry, Jesus says. Consider the birds and consider the flowers and remember – “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” And it’s at this point that we must make the turn - moving beyond three reasons why we don’t need to worry, now to three things we must do instead. And we must make this turn, because simply saying “Do not worry” as a solution to getting people to stop worrying is not sufficient in and of itself and Jesus of all people knows that.
To simply have someone tell you, ‘Do not worry’ is a little like hearing, ‘Don’t think about the pink elephant.’ Well, guess what … now you can’t get that dumb little pink elephant out of your head, can you? For some of us, hearing ‘Do not worry’ may just make us think about all those things that had us worried in the first place all the more. Truth is, as the research on habit forming shows us, research that is rooted in godly wisdom, we do not rid ourselves of bad habits simply by wishing them away, but rather by replacing them with new and better and healthier ones.
And so thankfully for us, Jesus gives us something to do, something better to focus on, as he says,
31 But seek his kingdom, and these things (things like food and drink and clothing), will be given to you as well.
To which you might say, that’s nice, but what does that actually mean?
Truth is, I think it probably means a few things, but for this morning let’s go with this – It means that our primary focus and our primary ambition would be to live into the good news that Jesus is King and that his Kingdom has begun, living into that part of the Lord’s Prayer “your kingdom come, your will be done.” It means that we would seek first to live into everything Luke’s Gospel has been all about.
Loving your neighbor. Befriending the outsiders. Showing radical hospitality. Forgiving one another. Being saturated in prayer. Hearing the word of God and obeying it. That, of course, is just a start.
And yet there’s one other common refrain in Luke’s Gospel that’s come up multiple times now and once again here this morning. Here’s the second thing we are called to do:
Jesus says, 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor.
Now, think about that for a minute. That’s kind of backwards when you think about it. Wouldn’t being radically generous by selling one’s possessions and giving to the poor only make a person more worried and anxious? … I feel like if I wanted to eliminate worry from my life, I would keep, I would hold, I would hoard. That way I have a constant sense of peace and security and be free from worry. But Jesus says just the opposite: 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor.
It is in fact the exact opposite mindset and approach of the Rich Fool that we read about in last week’s parable. The Rich Fool had an abundant crop, and then kept it, stored it for safe keeping, and thought to himself, Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” He was set up for a life free from worry.
And yet here’s Jesus, saying that you can both have a life free from excessive worry and be radically generous. And yet, how is that possible? Again Jesus says, Consider the birds and consider the flowers … our Lord feeds and clothes them, how much more so will he provide for you?”
And what’s beautiful about the spiritual disciple of giving is that not only does it reflect our trust in the Lord and in a God who provides, but even more that trust is reinforced and increased as we experience giving itself, as we both watch God provide for us in real time and experience the joy of living on less.
And yet even still, there’s one more layer to all of this. One of the things that makes unsettles me and gives me an uneasy feeling about this passage is that Jesus says “do not worry … about what you will eat or drink.” And yet, around the world, millions of people go hungry each day. If I were them, I’d struggle to take this verse seriously. And yet, it all clicked for me when I read this command, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” Jesus wants those of us who are blessed with an abundance to be conduits of God’s generosity towards us and to pass that blessing along.
When it comes specifically to the world’s hunger problem and the food insecurity that exists among individuals and families both nationally and globally, from what I understand, the problem isn’t that we don’t have enough food in this world to feed everyone. Truth is there’s plenty of food in our world to care for everyone. Rather what we have is a distribution problem, whether it’s because of geography or inefficiencies or injustice or injustice, we haven’t found a way to distribute it adequately to all.
That is to say, when it comes the world’s food supply, God’s in the supply business, we’re in the distribution business. He’s done his job. He’s provided more than enough. We just need to do ours.
Now, I realize the absolute massiveness of the task that I’m describing, one that we can’t possibly solve in a day or week or month, yet nevertheless, this is a long winded way of saying, how might God want to use what you have, your time, talents and treasure, the abundance of what we have, to care for those who are in need?
Three reasons not to worry and two things we must do.
And I’ll finish with this:
A little over two years ago, on the very precipice of Covid-19, I wrote the following word for word:
Human nature says this is a time to hoard and store rather than give. Bottles of Purell are being sold at an all-time high, grocery stores are running out of toilet paper. And what do people feel is necessary when they see other people panicking and buying tons of toilet paper? Well, of course, they’re thinking, gosh, maybe I need a 2 year supply of toilet paper too.
Fast forward to today, and that same hoarding and worrisome mentality persists as you and I experience inflation the highest it’s been in 40 years.
Hoarding leads to more hoarding. Panic creates more panic. Worry fuels more worry. Yet, what if we as the church swam upstream in this anxious time and lived and gave generously?
Not only is it a way for us to seek first the Kingdom of God, but it would also free us from worry, because as we give, we give with an open hand, saying I can give because I trust that God will provide for me even as I give. To the world it won’t make any sense, but yet that is the way of the upside down Kingdom of God that Jesus calls us to live in light of.
Pastor Jamie Dunlop says that when we give, we show off the goodness and glory of God. I love that. When we give, we testify to a good and generous God, who provides for us time and time again.
So friends, through our radical generosity, free from worry and anxiety, let’s show off the goodness and glory of God.