In our previous study we learned about the deadly disease of affluenza or materialism. The reason that this is so deadly for the Christian is because it results in an unbiblical focus on the acquisition of things.
Materialism causes people to lose their ability to achieve contentment and leads instead to compromise and coveting.
Jesus tells us in verses 19-24 of chapter 6 to beware of the trap of thinking that possessions satisfy the soul because not only do they not satisfy but they cannot satisfy. We are not designed by God to be satisfied by material possessions.
Notice that verse 24 serves as Jesus’ summary of the result of disregarding this spiritual truth – you will be mastered by things.
I want to consider two questions and their answers this morning in light of what Jesus says –
- What happens when we disobey this warning?
- What happens when we obey it?
Seems pretty straight forward doesn’t it? Let’s explore the text – verse 25.
Here’s a place where I like the NIV and the KJV because they use one of my favorite words in Scripture – “therefore.” What is therefore there for?
“For this reason” refers back to what Jesus said immediately preceding this verse. In verses 19-24 Jesus challenges us to understand that life is all about choices. For example:
- Will we serve God or our own fleshly desires?
- Will we seek to understand God’s perspective on living or formulate our own?
- Finally, will we gain freedom by willingly serving God or be deceived by the bondage of seeking the world’s treasures.
Jesus now says in verse 25 that we are not to be anxious about anything that we need.
Anything that we believe we need for living is to be turned over in trust for God to provide. We’ll see this same thing repeated twice more in this teaching (verses 31, 34).
You’ll also recall that a couple of weeks ago we looked at the model prayer Jesus taught the disciples. One of the points Jesus made in that teaching is we are to simply ask for God to provide for the things we need daily (Give us this day our daily bread).
Let’s answer the first question I posed earlier within the context of verse 25. What happens when we disregard Jesus’ warning about allowing things to rule our lives?
The answer is that worry sets in. The Greek word for “anxious” is “merimna” elsewhere rendered “worry.” It means to “draw in different directions” and “to distract.”
One of the clearest examples of what Jesus speaks of here is found in His teaching of the Sower and the Seeds in Matthew 13:3, 7, 22. There we read these words:
“And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow;
Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.
And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”
Worry can be debilitating, cutting us off from the assurance of the promises of God. For the unsaved worry can be a roadblock to salvation. As such it is a very serious matter.
Someone rightly observed that:
“Worry is faith in the negative; trust in the unpleasant, assurance of disaster and belief in defeat…worry is wasting today’s time to clutter up tomorrow’s opportunities with yesterday’s troubles.”
What is Jesus’ instruction? He simply tells us that life is more than the pursuit of the things we need to survive. Jesus poses this as a rhetorical question – one that needs no answer because the answer is obvious. We say things like “dah” today when the answer is obvious.
I wonder if Jesus’ mind went back to His time in the desert when He was tempted by our enemy. About 18 months had passed since Satan had offered all the riches of the world to our Lord, and Jesus said “Begone Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.”
Interestingly, in that same passage of Scripture you’ll recall that our enemy also tried to take advantage of the fact that Jesus was ending His 40 day fast and was hungry. To Satan’s temptation to turn rocks into bread our Lord responded, “It is written, Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
You see folks, worry is rooted in a wrong perspective on life. The rhetorical question here in verse 25 clearly implies that the purpose of life is not to acquire food and clothing or material things, but it is something of far greater importance.
The Bible says that all the riches in the world, even if it were possible to accumulate them, are not worth the price of your soul.
“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul?”
The Bible says that we were made for more than food or drink.
“Then He said to them, Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
In fact we are made for God.
“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (Rev 4:11).
In Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthian Christians we read:
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (6:19-20).
Author J.R. Stott succinctly states what is the heart of the issue Jesus speaks of here:
“Jesus Christ neither denies nor despises the needs of the body. As a matter of fact, He made it Himself. And He takes care of it. . . What is He saying then? He is emphasizing that to become engrossed in material comforts is a false preoccupation. For one thing it is unproductive (except perhaps in the creation of ulcers and more worry); for another it is unnecessary (because your Father knows what you need); but especially it is unworthy. It betrays a false view of human beings (as if they were only bodies needing to be fed, watered, clothed and housed) and of human life (as if it were merely a physiological mechanism needing to be protected, lubricated and fueled).”
So there’s the first extremely important reason why we are not to worry – we are to glorify God instead by realizing that life is more than the things we need to live.
Now, how can we do this? By understanding that God is our Father in heaven who cares for us and is in control of all things.
I can picture Jesus saying, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing” and staring into the faces of the Jews for a look of recognition in their eyes. Just at that moment as He finished that statement, a great flock of birds passed by overhead. So Jesus points up at them and says “look how beautiful those birds are; Flying so gracefully through the air without any concerns whatsoever. They don’t plant, harvest, or gather together any food because God feeds them.”
When Jesus told the people to “look” at the birds He wasn’t just trying to draw their attention to them as they passed by. The word “Look” is translated from the Greek term EMBLEPO and literally means, “to look on, to observe fixedly, or (absolutely) to discern clearly. . . behold, gaze up, look upon.”
The idea here is to investigate, or look beneath the surface. Jesus is exhorting us to investigate our surroundings from a spiritual perspective and understand the spiritual application and significance of God’s work around us.
Jesus is saying, “Look into and investigate what is going on around you every day and understand that there is a deeper truth to be grasped there.”
Now notice that Jesus says that “Your Father feeds them” and then another rhetorical question – “Are you not worth much more than they.”
It’s as if Jesus is asking “Have you forgotten who your Father is?” Do we forget that we are created in the image of God? Have we forgotten that mankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation?
King David wrote: Psalm 23:1 – “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” David meant that because God was his Father, his provider, his leader, he would not be wanting for anything. God would supply all that he needed.
God spoke through the prophet Isaiah:
“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (41:10)
When we turn our attention to those things that really matter – our lives, our loved ones, our eternal destiny – we rejoice in knowing that God is in control.
How many of you would choose to worry about what’s for supper over the salvation of a son or daughter?
How many of you would want to know what you’re wearing to work tomorrow over and above what God’s concerns are for your life today?
Jesus continues this emphasis with some very timely words for today – verses 27-29.
In other words, which one of you can lengthen your life by being overly concerned for the things Jesus has mentioned? Obviously the answer is no one.
Dr. Charles Mayo, the founder of the famous Mayo Clinic once wrote:
“Worry affects the circulation, the heart, the glands, and the whole nervous system. I have never met a man or known a man to die of overwork, but I have known a lot who died of worry.”
When it gets right down to the bottom line, worry is living in the “what if’s” of life. What if this happens or what if that happens? Let me ask you this – what if your what if’s don’t happen?
Listen to the wisdom of the Lord as written by the Psalmist:
“5 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday.
7 Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
8 Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
9 For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.
10 Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there.
11 But the humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity” (37:5-11).
C.H. Spurgeon once said in relation to the truths of this passage, “Lovely lilies, how you rebuke our foolish nervousness.” God calls His children to trust Him in every situation. We have more than enough evidence all around us that He is able and willing to do all He has said He would.
I can summarize what Jesus has said here with one statement – “worry is inconsistent with faith because it is consistent with unbelief.”
What do I mean by that? The phrase “you of little faith” in verse 30 is from a word that means “small assurance” or “puny faith” or “little reliance.” Jesus equates it to fear of trusting in God, and therefore He is correcting the worrier by calling them to a stronger faith, a firmer trust, and more sure reliance upon Him. In other words, we need to fight fear with faith.
Jesus will use this same thought and challenge to His disciples as recorded by Matthew at least two more times.
In Matthew 8 we read about the storm at sea when Jesus was asleep and the disciples woke Him up and said “Do something or we’re all going to die.” Jesus calmly responded “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?”
And then in Matthew 14 Jesus beckoned Peter to step out of the boat and come to Him. Peter did but he got a little fearful of the raging sea and began to sink. Jesus said to him “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
These two incidents show us how to fight fear with faith in Jesus. In both situations the disciples got into trouble with fear and worry when their focus was on their surroundings rather than trusting in Jesus.
The writer to the Hebrews stated well our need to focus on Jesus:
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:1-2).
And then in chapter 13 of the same letter we read these words:
“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” (13:5).
The disciple of God who lives in fear is acting more like an unbeliever than they are a follower of Jesus. This is all the more reason to put a halt to fear and worry.
That’s what Jesus means when He says is verse 32 that “the Gentiles seek all these things.” The gentiles or unbelievers put their trust in material things in the here and now. They have no hope in God.
I appreciate what Oswald Chambers said on the subject – “All worry is caused by calculating without God.”
The believer is not to do that. Instead we are to abide in the truth that God knows everything we need and He will meet our needs. In the letter to the Romans Paul gave instruction that believers are not to think like the unbeliever thinks. This certainly includes worry.
Instead we should be like the Philippian Christians who received these inspired words from the apostle:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (4:4-9).
This is exactly what Jesus is saying in verse 33. Instead of worrying pursue God. We are to set our minds on God and pursue Him. We are to investigate what He desires for us to be doing
This is the exhortation that the Colossian believers received:
“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:1-3).
In case you didn’t notice, Jesus just tied everything back into 5:20. Jesus says your righteousness will be My righteousness given to you in faith and that WILL surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees.
AND when you get your priorities right, when you make God your focus and the object of your faith, all of the things you need will be given to you. Isn’t that amazing folks?
When we grasp the truth of this passage we’ll live each day to the fullest. We won’t worry about what tomorrow will bring because we find our peace and contentment living for Christ today.
The prophet Jeremiah proclaimed:
“The LORD’S loving-kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Isaiah encourages us with these words:
“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock” (26:3-4).
So, those are Jesus words on worry. Let me give you 4 principles to bring all this together.
- Truly give your problems to God and leave them there.
- When Satan starts to cause you to worry remember who is minding your worries. God is in control and He loves you.
- Live one day at a time. Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow.
- Walk closely with the Lord. The closer you walk to God the harder it is to worry.
James 4:8, 10 says:
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. . .Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt you.”