Matthew 6:24-34 Overcoming Worry

Matthew 6:24-34 Overcoming Worry August 11, 2015

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Matthew 6:24-34 Overcoming Worry

In one of his skits, the comedian Jack Benny would pretend to be robbed. A thief would approach him with a gun and say, “Sir, your money or your life?”

Jack Benny would always put his fingers up to his head and look puzzled.

The robber would repeat, “Your money or your life?”

After a brief moment of silence, the robber would ask again in frustration, “Your money or your life!?”

Jack Benny would finally answer him and say, “Hold on a minute. I’m thinking!” That’s the way a lot of people are. They’re so off in their perspective that they will give their life to get money—even if ultimately they only leave it to another.1

What do you worry about? What is it that makes you anxious? Journalist Eric Sevareid (1912–1992) said, “The biggest business in America is not steel, automobiles, or television. It is the manufacture, refinement, and distribution of anxiety.”

The answer to anxiety, although easier to say than practice, is to replace it with trust. Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow.2

As we start a new school year, I want to address two important topics over the next couple of weeks. The first which I will talk about today is overcoming worry. The second is prayer. Worry and prayer are both forms of meditation. When you pray, you are focusing on God. When you worry, you are focusing on something else. Jesus acknowledged this struggle:

THE CONTINUAL EMOTIONAL TUG OF WAR IN LIFE: WEALTH VERSUS GOD

““No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24, ESV)

Jesus said that there are two masters in life: God and money (or more specifically wealth). Jesus is acknowledging the emotional tug of war in life. We work for money, and we depend it on to provide what we need in life. The struggle is that we allow money – or more precisely the accumulation of money to be self-sufficient – (money which actually comes from God) to be our Master. Emotionally, we are invested in how much money we make. Because we are emotionally invested, we start to worry when we can’t make enough money to provide what we need or want. We think about it, often. It occupies our minds. What Jesus is saying is that you can think about God or you can think about wealth. When you and I are thinking about money or wealth, it is really a form of worry. That is why Jesus said right after this tug-of-war about wealth and God the following words:

““Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25, ESV)

God gives us our life. We use our wealth in life. What Jesus is saying here is that we can focus on one or the other. When we think about money, for which we must work to earn and provide for ourselves. Naturally, we are generally thinking about our lack of it:

“How am I going to pay for school?”

“How can I pay the bills?”

“Will I make it through the end of the month?”

We ask whether we will have enough money to handle our problems. We never ask God if we have enough of Him to handle our problems. Usually, we ask God to give us more money to handle our problems. What does Jesus say?

“Don’t worry.”

“Quit worrying about how things are going to work out.”

“Don’t be anxious. I got this.”

Jesus tells us to stop thinking about money and our perceived lack of it. He tells us to trust God – the One who is in the business of providing for our needs.

Jesus says “don’t worry” in a variety of ways. He says it negatively:

THE MAIN POINT: NEGATIVELY

““Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25, ESV)

Jesus also says it in a positive way:

THE MAIN POINT: POSITIVELY

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, ESV)

Between these two verses, which make up the main point of the text, we have reasons not to worry.

SEVEN REASONS NOT TO WORRY

1. Life is more than food and clothing.

““Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25, ESV)

The basics are important. We need food and clothing. At the same time, life is lot more than food and clothing. Life is about experiences and relationships. God wants us to spend time building relationships and less time worrying.

2. Creation counts on God.

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26, ESV)

If God takes care of the animals, and we as humans are the pinnacle of God’s creation, wouldn’t it make sense for God to take care of us as well? We are more valuable than the animals – Jesus said that. So if God takes care of the animals, won’t He also take care of us?

3. Anxiety doesn’t help you. It actually can hurt you.

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27, ESV)

The fact is that anxiety and worry shed hours from your life. Worry won’t add time to your lifespan. All the time you spend worrying is time you could spend it on better things. So quit worrying.

Jesus presents evidence that worry is irreverent, for it fails to recognize the God who gave us life and is sustaining it. Worry is irrelevant; it does not change things, nor does it help us in coping with problems. And worry is irresponsible; it burns up psychic energy without using it to apply constructive action to the problem.3

4. God likes to take care of His creation.

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28–30, ESV)

Earlier, Jesus said that God takes care of the animals and He will also take care of you. You are not just valuable in God’s eyes. You are enjoyable in God’s eyes. He wants to take care of you. He wants to help you. You just have to trust Him.

Our problem is that we don’t trust God to take care of our needs. We want to take care of our own needs. We don’t want to give God the credit. It reveals a lack of faith and trust on our part when we spend time worrying about how things will take care of itself.

You ever lost your keys? You ever lost something. I have. Many times, It is where I left it. I get upset and then I get frustrated. I run around searching until I find it. Many times, if I just focus on when was the last time I set it down, I will remember where it is. This is the kind of worry that can steal our joy. I’m guilty of it just as much as you are.

I remember that I bought some items for the church. I took the kids with me and we spent some time at Sam’s Warehouse and then the coffee shop. I bought them a dessert after I went shopping for the church. We had lunch at Sam’s and then went to the coffee shop. Well, that didn’t end well. I had to go home. When I dropped off the things I bought at the church, I couldn’t find the receipt. I was extremely frustrated about it. So I go looking everywhere in the van. I had the kids clean up the van. I went searching through the van. I found every other receipt for that day, but the one I needed. I go to Vacation Bible School (VBS). I am apologizing to the church director about not having it. Because I usually give it to her when I finish. I am really upset at myself. I’m worrying too much about this. But I can’t let it go. It bothered me that much. It didn’t bother the treasurer. It didn’t bother my kids.

So I let it go and after VBS, I take my kids home. While I am sitting in my recliner, I think: “Where would I put church stuff?” The answer came to me: my office. So I went upstairs and I found the receipt right where I left it. Why did I do that? In my sub-conscience, I think God reminded me to put it where I could find it. He showed me to keep it in a safe place. My mind is buzzing everywhere and God allowed me to place something important where I could find it later. When my mind was not worrying. My problem was a lack of trust in God about something small. It shows how similar Christians can be to unbelievers.

5. Unbelievers get anxious about their needs.

For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Matthew 6:32, ESV)

Anxiety about the things of this world puts us on the same level with the world of unbelievers. It shows that we are really very much like the world in what makes us happy. And that ought not to be.4

Unbelievers have this kind of mistrust. They normally worry. We have to be better than that. We show Christian love when we worry less, when we have less anxiety. Why don’t we have to worry?

6. God knows your needs.

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Matthew 6:31–32, ESV)

God knows what we need. God knows what I need. God knows what you need. He knows individual needs and He can provide for every single one of them.

7. God will carry your burdens if you seek first His honor.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, ESV)

The mad struggle for material possessions which so characterizes our world today makes these words of Jesus all the more relevant. The disciple of Jesus cannot let this materialism dominate him. He must major on “seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” The attitude of worry and fretting about what may happen tomorrow must not characterize the Christian disciple.5

If you have worry, give to God in prayer. This is the reason why Jesus says to seek God first. Because the first impulse for us is to worry and get anxious. I also think this means that we need to spend more time meditating and less time medicating our anxiety. Jesus said that if we go to Him in prayer first, He will provide. He will show us that He provides and many times, He will show how He provides. He will also provide more than what we really need.

SUMMARY: TAKE LIFE ONE DAY AT A TIME

““Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34, ESV)

Pointing the Exodus event, the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us that there is a daily share of things which Jesus gives us:

Goods are given to us to be used, but not to be stored away. Just as Israel in the desert received manna daily from God and did not have to worry about food and drink, and just as the manna which was stored from one day for another rotted,6 so should Jesus’ disciples receive their share daily from God.7

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Jesus makes a summary statement about worry in this verse. Jesus says that with all that life throws at you each day, you don’t have enough time in the day to worry about tomorrow. James said the same thing:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”” (James 4:13–15, ESV)

Just as Jesus said, James places the emphasis in life with God. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Life is so brief that we should seek God each day and ask Him what He wants us to do. Overcoming worry takes trust in knowing that God will take care of you.

1 Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 206.

2 Jim L. Wilson and Rodger Russell, “The Big Business of Anxiety,” in 300 Illustrations for Preachers, ed. Elliot Ritzema (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015).

3 Myron S. Augsburger and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Matthew, vol. 24, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1982), 18.

4 John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (1980–1989) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2007).

5 Wayne E. Ward, “Matthew,” in The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, ed. H. Franklin Paschall and Herschel H. Hobbs (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1972), 595.

6 See Exodus 16.

7 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 162.

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