It goes without saying that these are anxious times. It also goes without saying that worry is a part of life. You could say that anxiety is just a part of being human in normal times. So much of life is beyond our control and when the illusions of control are shattered, we become anxious. This is certainly such a time.
So, what does Jesus have to say about anxiety? “Don’t worry about your life.” (Matthew 6:25)
Is that even possible?
It seems like he might as well say, “Don’t be human.” After all, psychologists tell us that anxiety is central to human existence. In fact, anxiety can lead us to growing where we need to grow, to changing where we need to change, and ultimately to greater maturity.
So, what does Jesus mean? When we look at the Greek word translated “worry” here in the text, it connotes something more than just day-to-day worries. The Greek word used here, merimnáō means “to worry” or “to be anxious.” It is used five times in this passage alone, all in a negative manner. The root of the word is another Greek verb, merízō, which means “to divide; to separate into parts; to cut into pieces; to divide into parties, i.e. be split into factions.” The anxiety Jesus is talking about is the kind of anxiety that cuts us to pieces; anxiety that is destructive of the trust and hope we have in our dependable, gracious God.
You could say that what Jesus is talking about is toxic worry.
In our passage for Sunday, Jesus asks a rhetorical question: “Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life?” That question is as timely today as when Jesus posed it 2,000 years ago. Does worrying do us any good? Someone has said, “Worry is like a rocking chair — it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” Another old saying reminds us that, “Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.”
Does worrying do us any good? It would be good to know that, because we are like Mark Twain, who said near the end of his life, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” Most of us have spent huge amounts of time and energy worrying about all sorts of things that might happen and 90% of them never happened.
In all that worrying, have we, as Jesus asked, added even a single moment to our lives?
Novelist Arthur Somers Roche wrote many years ago, “Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”
This Sunday we’ll be considering what Jesus said about worry and what it means for us today as we are thinking about A Healthy Spirituality for Our Time.
As you prepare for worship on Sunday, I invite you to consider some questions:
What are you most worried about? What brings you comfort and peace in the midst of the worries of our time? What did Jesus mean when he said, “Desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness?” What did Jesus mean when he said, “Stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own?”
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster