The Worry Commandment: Did Jesus Really Mean It?
The Worry Commandment: Did Jesus Really Mean It?
Week of January 21, 2019 by Tom Deighan
My wife’s chihuahua, Peanut, lives a worry-free life, and I truly envy his attitude. He never frets or wrings his little paws about food, safety, or clothing (yes, he has doggie sweaters), and as a result, he is the most joyful creature I have ever known. But of course, none of us can adopt the Peanut Attitude, can we? After all, we have families and jobs and bills and responsibilities, and depending on your circumstances, you may have a multitude of other people depending upon you. Your decisions impact people’s day at work, their livelihood, or even their ability to survive. One mistake, and people could be on the street, and in some situations, one mistake could cost people their very lives. And human nature compels us to worry about all of it: the big stuff and the little stuff; things we can fix and things we cannot fix; the future and the past. Worry and anxiety are part of our DNA. I am amazed any of us sleep at night.
Yet Jesus commands us not to worry about any of it . . .
In his foundational message to the masses, The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus overturned just about every religious notion of His age (Matthew 5-7). He challenged accepted beliefs regarding giving, forgiveness, divorce, and religious service. His words were so revolutionary and contrary to religious sentiment, that two-thousand years later, the church still struggles to conform to those edicts. In fact, this sermon outlines the very blueprint of what separates Christianity from other belief systems. Blessed are the humble, the poor, and the meek. Forgive your enemies. Judge yourself and not others. These ideas were groundbreaking and they came only through Jesus. Only someone fully assured and confident in the power of the living God could assert and embrace such truths.
Yet, even among all these foundational truths of Christian behavior and attitude, Jesus tells believers to do the impossible: “Do Not Worry.” He dares to tell His followers not be concerned about the most basic of needs of food, clothing, and shelter. Jesus tells them confidently, “Do not worry about your life . . . nor about your body!” (6:25). Do not worry – about what to eat, where to live, or what to wear! Do not worry about any of it, including our very lives! But did He realize He was talking to some of the most desperate people in history? If we find this hard to accept in the modern age, just imagine how preposterous the Do Not Worry message was to those who hear His sermon first-hand.
The audacity of this Man, to tell a group of peasants under the rule of the brutal occupying Roman Empire not to worry! As much as we worry about today, few of us can fathom the challenges these people faced. If we miss a house payment, we get a warning, but in that age, a person’s entire family could be sold into slavery for unpaid debts. Life was short and brutal for most people. Even if you had wealth, no one could protect it for you. Think about it: no 911 in emergencies . . . no banks to protect your wealth . . . no insurance for disasters! We cannot imagine such despair, for we enjoy a multitude of safety nets. These people had more to worry about than we can imagine, and it was in this context that Jesus dared to tell them, “Do not worry.”
At best, such a statement was irresponsible, and at worst, it was cruel to give such destitute people false hope. Unless, of course, He meant it, and unless He has the power and authority to make it happen . . .
Dear Leader, I understand how difficult this is to comprehend, but Jesus clearly and emphatically instructs us, “Do not worry.” Christ never dangles an impossibility in front of us. If He commands it, He not only expects it, but He also makes it possible. “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen.” (I Corinthians 5:20) A worry-free life is impossible in our own power, but thankfully, we rely on His power: “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Nothing in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is humanly possible without God’s gracious spirit working in us, from loving our enemies to turning the other cheek to a worry-free life.
Next week, we will further explore those three simple words Jesus spoke to those destitute peasants on the side of a hill 2,000 years ago: “Do not worry.” Moreover, we will consider how to take our first steps toward a worry-free life. Meanwhile, just reflect those three simple words, opening your heart to the possibility. For if He said it, we know Christ can deliver, for “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”
Please share with someone who wrestles with worry and anxiety.
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