You know the story about the notice outside a church: “Don’t let worry kill you, the Church can help!”

Three times in this passage Jesus says, “Do not worry.” How do we respond to that? I want you to imagine three people listening to these words.

  • Mr Laidback: Never too anxious about anything, doesn’t take much seriously. He slaps himself on the back, congratulating himself that he has got it right. But has he?
  • Mr Anxious: Very diligent, conscientious about his work and family, and life in general. Takes these words seriously and worries that he worries too much.
  • Mr Normal: A family man, with wife and young children. Just received news that his wife is gravely ill, doesn’t know how he is going to manage job, family and caring for his wife in the meantime, let alone deal with the future. How glib for anyone to say to him, Don’t worry. In fact, he’s feels himself getting quite angry at this.

Look again at the passage. Three times, Jesus says “THEREFORE do not worry (SO do not worry).” He wasn’t saying anything as glib as “Don’t worry, be happy.” Or “Cheer up, it might never happen.” Or “Every little thing’s gonna be alright.” This passage is a detailed piece about what it means to trust God and live as part of his kingdom. From this overall argument, he is giving us reasons why we should not worry.

Jesus has been teaching us not to pray and do religion like the Pharisees, now he is warning us not to live like the pagans, running after material things and the basics of life, and indeed worrying ourselves about them. A quick test: how would you complete this question – “All I need to be truly happy is …”

Is your answer based around treasure on earth, or treasure in heaven? In other words, would that happiness expire when you do?

We think the things that make life complete, fulfilled, happy are our money and possessions, our health and our family. Not wrong to have savings out aside or a pension. The problem comes when we put our trust in these things; we invest our lives in these things. These things become the god we really rely upon, and so when these things are threatened or taken from us, we worry.

We can fix our hearts on these things; they become our treasure, what we desire and love above all. “How much money do I need to be happy? Just a little more.” Where our treasure is, our hearts will follow and you can see it, in your life, your priority, your ambition.

It is illogical; you know as well as I do that these things cannot last. Uncertainly of life, thieves, the markets can wipe out wealth. Even when it does last, it will be eaten, by rust, moths (19) or even rodents!

The real treasure is heavenly and eternal (20). What does that mean? Is heaven itself the treasure? No, Jesus is talking to those who are already members of his Kingdom, people who already trust him and know his rule over their lives. We should think in terms of fixing our hearts on Jesus; he is our treasure. A strengthened faith (1 Peter 1:7), a closer relationship with God, a greater love for him. A life lived for him and that is a witness to his love and power. The joy of seeing others putting their trust in him also. If that doesn’t thrill you, if that holds little value for you, take it as an indicator that you might not yet be in his kingdom.

What’s your treasure? What is your heart’s desire? What has caught your eye?(21)

22-23 The eye gives light; it gives direction to all we do. Where are we fixing our gaze? That will affect our direction in life, where we go, what we do, how we spend our time. If our eyes are cloudy with wrong values, we can’t see the direction God wants for our life. What a waste to spend years missing out on our loving Creator’s plan.

Jesus spells it out in stark terms so we will really face up to it. Two treasures, two gazes, two Masters (24). This is not about holding down two jobs. A slave must give total allegiance to his master.

Now we get to the first “do not worry”; now we see why Jesus says it: Money/possessions won’t last; they skew the direction of your life; they are not God, so in the light of this: “therefore do not worry.” You know all this, so why worry about what will not last? Don’t let these things make you forget what life is really about (25b). Worry is often about things outside our control. We can’t even add to our lives by worrying (27), indeed quite the reverse in all probability. We are not God, God is God.

A focus on these things in our heart, our gaze, our allegiance also makes us forget about God’s care. Look at how he clothes/feeds/provides in nature (26-31). How much more are we then under his love and care for our basic necessities.

You might wonder, what about the people who are hungry and destitute in other places? God provides, but we need to do the work to see that the poor receive a share. Christians need to take responsibility for our neighbour wherever they live in the world. And that also takes wisdom to see that aid gets to the right places.

The second “do not worry”(31). God cares for all his creation, even parts that are ‘here today and gone tomorrow’. So can we not know and trust that he cares for us. Worry makes us forget about life (25); worry makes us forget about love.

God knows what you need (32); God provides what you need. Jesus taught us to pray for daily bread. So we have confidence that God will answer.

Verse 33 gets us to reassess our priorities: Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Have you been putting the cart before the horse? Seeking all the things, anything but God’s kingdom. Leaving Jesus and his loving rule to one side, because other things are more important. Is that where your treasure is, your heart, your gaze? Who is running your life?

  • “Seek ye first” is a message for Mr Laidback: He is not to seek his own comfort, nor an easy life, but the kingdom of God. Will he take that seriously? Righteousness involves right living, a standard higher than Pharisees. That brings with it a sense of responsibility, to bear witness to Jesus even in his daily job, doing it well (5:16).
  • This is also a message for Mr Anxious: To seek first the kingdom gives a sense of priority. These other things are not God and not to be served as God. How does he understand the kingdom? Is it based on his being good enough for God? Working hard to gain acceptance? Perhaps he needs that weight lifted, to understand that it is not based on our work or goodness, but on God’s mercy and forgiveness; that there is ready acceptance and welcome into God’s family through faith in Jesus.
  • What about Mr Normal, with his real and pressing problems? First this man needs to know the help and care of Christian people; he needs a brotherly arm round his shoulder. Then might I suggest v.34, the final “therefore do not worry”. There is realism in this verse. It does not say there will be no problems, each day will have them, tomorrow will have them. But it tells us to leave them there, in tomorrow.

When we worry, we are facing multiple futures. What If A, then What If B, then What If C and so on. We are worrying about many possibilities; they can’t all come true. Instead of dealing with one tomorrow when it happens, we worry about half a dozen possible tomorrows, most of which will never come.

Get the priority: Where is your treasure? What is your ambition? What runs your life? Who is your master? What can change our heart and our ambition but the grace of Jesus in the gospel and the power of his Spirit. Only his greater love can expel the love we have for these other things; only his forgiveness and power can break the hold these things have over us, ruling our lives and thoughts.

Remember what life is about; remember the love of God, seek first the kingdom of God. God cares for his creation; God knows what you need; you are not God; tomorrow is out of your hands, but not out of his. There is a more useful activity than fretting: Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

 

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