Here’s how it goes inside us—
•I can’t live a really good and happy life right now because first I have to finish high school.
•I can’t live a really good and happy life right now because first I have to finish college.
•Don’t ask me to live a really good and happy life right now because first I have to find a marriage partner.
•Don’t ask me to live a really good and happy life right now because first I have to finish raising my children.
•Don’t ask me to look at the birds of the air or consider the lilies of the field because I’m getting old and my eyes are failing.
•Don’t ask me to look at the birds of the air or consider the lilies of the field because I have to get over my illness first.
•I can’t think about the kingdom of God until tomorrow.
•I can’t ask myself what leads to a really good and happy life until tomorrow.
•I can’t be bothered with a good and happy life today.
Anxiety and worry create obstacles to reaching the goal of a good and happy life
Worrying about our lives and our bodies prevents us from reaching the high standard of divine love that loves even enemies.
Worrying about ourselves and letting our sorrows consume us gradually take our eyes away from anybody other than ourselves.
Worried about our lives and our bodies and consumed with sorrow, we have no time left for anybody we love, not to mention our enemies.
This is one of the spiritual dangers we face at times of illness as well as other times.
We should focus on ourselves at a time of illness to the extent of getting well and getting the best help to get well.
But we still need to recognize worry as part of our problem.
Just hearing the advice, “don’t worry, be happy” or “don’t’ worry, it’ll be all right,” does not help when something really troubles us.
It’s hard to stop worrying, especially when our world gives us so much to worry about.
The Sermon on the Mount makes no attempt to deny the presence of evil and cruelty in the world.
It makes no attempt to deny that life can be very short.
It makes no attempt to ignore or paper over the reality of death.
The Sermon on the Mount summarized Jesus’ teaching and directed it toward
people living several decades after Jesus died,
people who were suffering persecution for their devotion to the way of Jesus,
people who did not have a lot of wealth,
people who depended on the land and the weather for their livelihood,
people who had a lot to worry about.
Jesus’ original words most likely gave assurance and instruction to worried people.
But Jesus gave his people—and he gives us—a lot more food for thought than merely the advice, “don’t worry; be happy.”
1. Jesus points to the evidence before our eyes of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.
Jesus directs our attention to simple things that we tend to overlook in the world around us.
He’s done this before in the Sermon on the Mount.
The beginning of the Sermon on the Mount in chapter 5 points out that God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends the rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous—meaning, since God loves God’s enemies, why shouldn’t we love ours?
So, here at the conclusion of chapter 6, we do not have to deny that some very cruel things happen in the world in order to notice some simple truths:
•Many birds live out their lives, find food, build nests, reproduce, and do it all without, as far as we can tell, spending their time worrying like we do.
•Wondrous beauty adorns the world of nature.
•Just the phrase, “the lilies of the field,” calls up a vision of simple but very beautiful things that we can see on any day of our lives.
•Many of these things do not last, but each day, they are there to behold, finer than anything that adorned the royal court of King Solomon in ancient Israel.
The evidence before our eyes argues for an alternative to worry and anxiety.
Since such beauty and care and providence take place every day among the plants and the animals, then is it really true that we need to be so exclusively concerned about our own lives and our own bodies?
Since plants and animals benefit from God’s faithfulness, then don’t we also live in the hands of the one who’s “got the whole world in his hands”?
Is not faithfulness to God the desirable response to life instead of anxiety?
2. Worrying leads to striving for the wrong things.
Everybody needs food and drink and clothes.
But we do not necessarily have to strive for these things—meaning, to make them the goal of living and what we put first above everything else.
Jesus says that the Gentiles strive for food and drink and clothing.
The word, “Gentiles,” means “the nations of the world.”
In other words, just because everybody does something does not mean it’s the right thing to do or that it leads to a good and happy life.
Jesus argued this point before at the end of chapter 5 of Matthew.
Precisely because everybody loves those who love them, we do not occupy any moral high ground when we love only those who love us (Matthew 5:46-47).
So, just because everybody worries about something does not make worrying about it a good use of our time.
If we spend our time worrying, we’re not standing on solid ground because:
Worrying leads to striving.
Striving leads to putting the things we worry about first in our lives above everything else.
3. What is really worth striving for?
Spending our time striving for the kingdom of God is an excellent use of our time.
The kingdom of God means God’s rule within each of us and over our relationships with each other.
To spend our time striving for the kingdom of God instead of worrying, we need always to recall that God holds us and our enemies in kind, gracious, providing, healing, and loving hands.