Monday, June 14, 2010

Matthew 6:25-27 - "For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life..."

Jesus just got through saying that you cannot be devoted to two masters. Inevitably you end up preferring one over the other. Specifically, you can't serve God and material possessions. You will either end up putting all your hope and security in the Giver or in the Things Given.

"For this reason, do not be anxious for your life." In other words if you want to avoid the trap of putting your hope and security in Things, if you want to stay focused on who your true master is, then here's the secret: Don't be anxious. Yep, that's right. All that anxiety about your material needs has to go. There. All better now?

But we need a little more help than that, something reassuring and concrete. So look at the birds. No, don't look at your online bank statement. Open the blinds or curtains or whatever and look at the birds outside. They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns. Now at this point you have to understand that the people in Jesus' day lived in an agricultural community. Their form of anxiety involved sowing seed and anxiously waiting for the rains to come. Then when the rains came and the crops grew, they anxiously hoped that frost or locusts didn't destroy the crops before harvest time. Then after they reaped the harvest they stored the extra in barns as a safeguard in case next year's crop should fail. It was a continual cycle of anxiety at every stage of sowing, reaping and gathering into barns.

Our equivalent would be getting anxious over landing a job, then being anxious about whether the paycheck would be enough to cover the bills, then if there's some money left over putting it into a savings account as a safeguard against next month's expenses. So Jesus might very well say to us, "Look at the birds of the air. They neither land jobs, bring home paychecks, nor set up savings accounts, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?"

I think the "worth much more than they" part is the most comforting. Our security can be anchored in knowing that God values our lives more than all the other creatures of the earth--and we see plainly how well he cares for them. I don't think we really believe that God takes care of us because we are worth so much to him. We think it's because we're trying hard to be good little girls and boys who make our beds and wash up and say "please" and look sorry when we are scolded. We act like we're in some 19th century Charles Dickens orphanage where at any moment we could be turned out into the icy streets if we violate one of God's petty headmaster rules. The truth is we're privileged sons and daughters in our father's own home, and he gives us everything we need in abundance even though we daily break all the major rules of house.

Since we're already in that safe and secure place, you can see how being anxious isn't going to add a single cubit to our lifespan as Jesus says. It's like this. If you're anxious every day, your Father will love you and provide for you. But if you're not anxious at all, your Father will love you and provide for you. How does adding anxiety to the mix help you to come out ahead? It doesn't. So lose the anxiety and rest in the provision of the Giver, then you'll see clearly who your true Master is.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks, Misty, for this soul-nourishing and faith-strengthening post.

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  2. Thanks for reading so faithfully, Pastor Owen!

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  3. One of the hardest things for me to wrap my head around is, on the one hand, this promise of the Father's general provision for our basic needs, and on the other hand the real possibility of extreme circumstances in our present sufferings. In Rom. 8:35 Paul includes famine and nakedness as some of the situations that could be experienced that do not separate us from God's love. So the world continues to be no less hazardous for us, doesn't it? I understand that anxiety about such things won't add one bit of security to our lives; yet how do we hold this together with the seemingly extreme exceptions to the Father's general care conceded in other parts of scripture?

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  4. Joe: Yeah, that's one of those questions I personally won't know the answer to until I've been through the famine or poverty of a Romans 8 nature. But I suspect that for those individuals who go through such sufferings while believing in the Father's provision, he provides for them faithfully. Sometimes you hear testimonies of God's provision from Christians who survive extreme situations overseas. Paul gives a similar testimony in Philippians 4:11-13 about the times he's been strengthened through hunger and need, and even learned contentment. In the midst of the famine or the war or the tragedy, God apparently gives to his own people what is needed from day to day.

    I've been thinking about this recently because I hear people say, "How can God be good when so much tragedy happens in the world? Where is your loving God then?" The earthquake in Haiti seems to prove their point. But I'm looking at the earthquake from the perspective of CNN. I don't know what God is doing on an individual level in the lives of his people who look to him for daily provision. Some years from now if we were to ask Haitian Christians about it, they might testify that God was faithful to them every day in the midst of that tragedy. The big picture may look bad, but the secret work of God on the personal level could tell an entirely different story.

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  5. Misty that was a beautiful and insightful perspective, thank you for sharing!

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