The Worry Commandment: Don’t Overcomplicate It
The Worry Commandment: Don’t Overcomplicate It
Week of January 29, 2019 by Tom Deighan
As Christians, we believe what Jesus says in the Gospels. When He promises us inconceivable things like the Holy Spirt or eternal life, we build our lives upon them, but when He offers us the simplicity of a worry-free life, we scoff or dismiss or rationalize it. Perhaps it is because anxiety and worry so permeate our lives that we cannot even see the impact to our mental and physical health. And perhaps, worry is an addiction that convinces us that mental stress makes us good people, that “caring” is somehow better than doing. Meanwhile, prescriptions for anxiety and depression grow annually. Self-medication through drugs and alcohol abounds. Much of it because of worry and anxiety.
I may be in the minority, but I struggle daily with worry and anxiety. I would like to blame my job, but I have come to accept it as my disposition. I am a worrier. I have tried just about everything to manage it over the years, but some days I lose the worry war, which is silly because according to Christ, I do not have to worry. No, He literally commands me, “Do not worry,” because when I worry or bathe in anxiety, I doubt Him:
- When I worry about the past, I am questioning His saving grace.
- When I worry about the future, I am placing myself on His Throne.
- And when I worry about the present, I have exchanged productive and meaningful action for useless mental activity.
All fear and anxiety subtract from our lives, for when we worry, we do little else. Anxiety replaces love, peace, and joy. Chronic fear pushes everything good out, controlling us entirely. Nevertheless, few of us can imagine a life without worry. Why is this simple commandment so difficult to accept and comprehend? According to scripture, it is simply human nature to complicate things. In fact, we often believe the harder the better.
Matthew devotes an entire chapter to our tendency to overcomplicate spiritual issues. In Chapter 23, Jesus deconstructs and exposes the religious mindset that tempts all sincere believers. Whether we call it religiosity, legalism, or Pharisaism – the end result is the overcomplication of God’s simple plan for our lives:
For (you) bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders . . . For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in . . . For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte . . . For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. . . Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! (vv. 4-24)
We do this to ourselves without even thinking about it, for if something is hard, we can take some credit for it. Letting go of our anxiety, however, would force us to rely on God’s providence, which is starkly against human nature, so we overcomplicate things instead of just taking Him at His Word. We cannot work for what is free, whether is be salvation or any of God’s promises: “it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) We would not be able to boast if we were worry free.
Naaman the Syrian is the perfect example of this. Naaman was a leper, and in 2 Kings 5, we read of the great effort Naaman went to meet Elisha the Prophet after being told by a slave girl that Elisha could cure him. Naaman persuaded his king to write a letter to the king of Israel requesting that Elisha meet with Naaman – a big request for enemies. In order to ensure success, Naaman brought nearly a thousand pounds of gold and silver along. He was ready for any possibility. No matter what it took, he would be cured of his leprosy. Upon arriving at Elisha’s house, however, a servant met him and told him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” (v. 10)
Really? After brokering a truce between enemy kings and bringing unimaginable riches, Elisha does not even show Naaman the respect of showing up! He sends a servant, and Naaman is infuriated and initially refuses to do as commanded by the servant. Eventually, however, his servants encourage him to follow the directions: “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” Naaman humbled himself and did as directed, and God healed his leprosy.
Naaman’s solution was simpler than he ever imagined, and I believe many leaders have Naaman’s attitude toward The Worry Commandment. It is too simple and too easy, childish almost, to think that Jesus meant Do Not Worry. We have grand visions of how God should work in our lives, just as Naaman did. Nevertheless, I understand that the idea of a worry-free life may be too big a leap, so let’s just lay it aside for now.
Instead, just consider the simplicity of those three words: Do not worry. Roll them around in your mind this week: Do not worry. Write them down, even if as a curiosity: Do not worry. And most importantly, pray about them: Do not worry. For our goal at this point is not to miraculously step into a worry-free life – we are not washing in the Jordan – but to simply consider Christ’s words at face value. For any of God’s promises to become a reality, we must believe that He not only said it but that He also means it for us. (Romans 10:17; Hebrews 4:2; Matthew 13:23). Let’s start the journey with two simple steps:
- First, by believing that Jesus said, “Do not worry.”
- Second, by believing He means it for us today: “Do not worry.”
Dear Leader, if Jesus truly commanded us, Do Not Worry, then it must be possible . . . as attainable as dipping ourselves in the Jordan to wash ourselves clean of leprous fear and anxiety. For if we can accept that He said it, a worry-free life becomes a possibility. No doubt, there will be a lot of work to obey The Worry Commandment, but not the type of work we know. Our work will simply be trusting in Christ: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:29) For if we can simply believe He means Do Not Worry, then His peace can start to protect us from anxiety, just as Paul told the Philippians: “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (4:6) For worry is the absence of peace, and when peace fills our hearts, there is no room for worry.
Please share with someone who wrestles with worry and anxiety.
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