Are You Worried About Worry?

Text: Matthew 6:24-34

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

In the Bible, there are some 19 different forms of worry. 

Now, some of the ways worry is described are good.  For example, to be worried and concerned about another member of the church is good, right, and useful.  It is good when our thoughts and care go out to another person in trouble.  However, there are other ways in which worry is bad, and that is what today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew is about.

In the Gospel of Matthew, we hear Jesus talking about one of those bad forms of worry.  But what makes this kind of worry so bad?  Well, it is simply like this.  Our thoughts and mind can go the way of faith, or they can bend towards unbelief.  When our thoughts and mind rightly go the way of faith, we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread, Lord God.”  When our thoughts and mind go the way of faith, we pray, “Lord I trust in you, for you care for me.  You will provide.  You will care for me.  Thank you, Lord, for providing me food, drink, clothes, house, land, money, and family.”  As a result, we experience contentment – peace and rest.  However, when our lives go the way of unbelief, we look at the world and those around us and begin to shake the piggy bank.  We start counting our balance sheets and watching the stock market.  We do this, not to be good managers of our resources, but because our cares shift to this life.  You see, when our mind and thoughts are dominated by unbelief, we turn inward to ourselves and begin to worry if we will have enough.  We worry if we will make it.  And as a result, we become imprisoned and often paralyzed in worry. 

That is the catch-22 about worry.  A self-centered kind of worry imprisons us and paralyzes us.  And to make things worse, this kind of self-centered worry does not lengthen life, but usually shortens it.    

Here is how this prison of worry works.  Instead of trusting the Lord to care for us in this life, our unbelief turns us to money and resources believing that these things will care for us.  And so, our thoughts become divided.  While on the one hand, we trust the Lord, on the other hand, our unbelief rises, and we then try to accumulate as much money and resources as we can.  In our mind, the more money and resources that we have, the more secure we will be.  But here is the catch – how much money do we need to be secure? And if we get to the point of having enough money and resources to supposedly not worry about being secure, we then begin worrying about preserving and keeping the money and resources that we have.  So we worry about preserving the money and resources that are meant to keep us from worrying. 

Oh, and there is more too.  When we accumulate money and resources as a way to grant ourselves security, we inevitably start counting how much we have.  And when we start counting how much we have, something else develops.  And what develops?  The answer, instead of worrying if we have enough to take care of ourselves, we begin to worry if we have enough compared to everyone around us.  That is right; we look and compare ourselves with other people.  And when we look at others, we begin to think to ourselves, “If only I get a new house like the Joneses or if I get a new car, then I will be truly content.”  Tragically, this is a different kind of worry that emerges from unbelief.  It is not the kind of worry about having enough food, drink, clothing, and housing, but the kind of worry of not having the ‘best’ food, drink, clothing, and housing. 

In case you haven’t noticed, this is what marketers do on commercials.  They exploit worry in millions of Americans.  It is rather simple.  Step one: these marketers shift you from contentment to discontentment, by showing you that you are lacking.  This insights fear and worry.  It shifts your eyes from the fear, love, and trust of God, to your life – what you don’t have and what you supposedly need.  Step two: these marketers show you how great and awesome your life will be – how worry-free your life will be – if you only buy their products.  Step three: for only three easy payments, your wildest dreams will come true, where you will have peace, contentment, and no worry.  Indeed, if you buy their product, it will be the carefree life… that is until they come out with a new product a year later, which will make them repeat Steps 1 through 3 all over again with you. 

Oh, and it gets worse.  They promise you that their product will give you the worry-free life, and then once you have bought the new product, they reintroduce worry to you by telling you that you need to buy a warranty. 

Are you worrisome?  Buy our product, and you will not worry. And what if the product breaks?  Well, that will make you worry, so buy our warranty, so that you don’t have to worry. 

It is like this; we try to accumulate money and possessions so that we don’t have to worry.  But we then worry about the money and possessions that are supposed to give us the worry-free life.  In the meantime, we begin to worry that we are not keeping up with the Joneses down the street.  And on top of that, marketers are constantly making us worry so that we buy their products.  And then once we buy their products, we worry about the products breaking.  

Lord have mercy!  What a prison!  It is enough to paralyze us with fear. 

Dear friends worry like this is not something innocent and harmless. It is not a virtue.  But rather, this worry actually doubts what God will do for us, what He has promised to do. That is to say; this worry doubts that God will take care of us by giving us our daily bread.  Indeed, worry like this doubts that that the Lord will give us everything that we need for the support of our lives.  Frankly stated, worrying is calling God a liar and that is a sin against Him, His goodness, and His mercy. 

Dear friends, it does not have to be this way; actually it really is not this way.  The Lord does not sow worry and anxiety into your hearts, but sows faith by the Gospel. 

Consider this, in our Gospel reading Jesus points to the birds of the air.  They freely flow through the air, sing songs of glory, work busily, and eat what is given to them.  The flowers too!  The flowers and the lilies of the field are scattered and display a majestic radiance.  They are here today, gone tomorrow.  They sprout up and clothe the grass.  They are taken care of by the Lord and live without worry and fear.

And you—are you not of more value than birds and flowers? 

Yes, you are! 

How do we know this to be true? 

The Heavenly Father considers you of great worth.

You are like a lost treasure that is dug up out of the ground.  You are like a lost coin that is searched for.  You are like a lost sheep that is sought.  The Heavenly Father thought you were worth more than the birds and the flowers altogether.  The value He placed upon you is shown in the Father’s sending of the Son—for you.  It is shown in your baptism when the Lord placed His very name upon you taking you from darkness to life.  Indeed, you are of value to the Heavenly Father, which is precisely why Jesus was sent in the flesh to forgive you and me of our silly worries and to rescue us from our never-ending anxiety.   Christ came because you are cherished; He came to be your Lord; He came to grant you not fear, worry, and unbelief, but faith. 
And this mighty faith that you have been given?  It turns you inside out.  It turns you away from counting your money and resources.  It turns you away from the prison of worry.  It turns you away from endless comparing with the Joneses.  This gift of faith does not look to the piggy bank to see how much is in it or not in it, leading to worry, but this faith looks unto the good Lord. Indeed, faith will not lead to worry but rest in the goodness of the giving Lord. 
With that stated, there will be days when the lilies get whacked down by the lawn mower and the birds are swallowed as cat food.  In other words, we all have those days where life is upside down, crazy, and out of control.  However, do not fear and do not worry when those dark days come to you, for they will.  Yes, do not fear and do not worry, the Lord is with you.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  The darkness may or may not be removed, the lilies may or may not grow back, and the bird may or may not be coughed up by the cat, but you shall not worry for the Lord is with you in the valleys that are overshadowed by sin and death.  His grace, His mercy, and His peace are with you—with you today, tomorrow, and the next.  Do not worry.[1]

Today, He again shows you and gives you His goodness—His body and blood—so that your faith may be strengthened and that you may know that the greatest gift of forgiveness of sins is with you and for you, when fear and worry spring forth.[2] 

So, come, eat, and drink; be sustained and strengthened by the Lord, in Faith – not worry. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen. 

[1] This section is indebted to Rev. Joshua Reimche of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Bottineau, ND. (Trinity 15 Sermon, September 13, 2015).
[2] Ibid.

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