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We spend a lot of time worrying about the future. And yet most of what we worry about never comes to pass. As Tan wrote, "Worry is the advance interest you pay on troubles that seldom come."
When my children were babies, my wife and I would often check on them at night to make sure they were still breathing. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome was a new malady that had many parents worried. And then as they were growing up, every time they left for a camp or other long trip, we would be concerned for their safety. I think this is natural, but the truth is: when we are worrying or anxious, we are really saying that we dont think God can take care of the situation.
After seeing Gods protecting hand on my boys for these 25 years, I have noticed a change in my attitude. Recently, when my wife and I took care of my two young grandchildren for five days (2 1/2 years and 8 months old), I only checked on them once. I noticed a definite decrease in my anxiety for their safety compared to so many years ago with my young sons. So maybe I have learned something in the past 25 years!
I think worry and anxiety too often becomes a normal part of our life. Jesus gives us some important instruction in Luke 12 about how we are to handle anxiety.
13 One of the multitude said to him, "Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me."
14 But he said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?"
15 And he said to them, "Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a mans life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."
This example certainly speaks to us today and to our American values. If we were in this mans situation, we might have thought or said the same thing. But notice Christs harsh rebuke. The mans focus was wrong. He was placing all his energy and effort into acquiring material possessions. He came to the one who could give him peace in his soul and healing in his spirit, but what does he request? fleeting treasure of this world.
How often have we gone to the Lord in prayer seeking financial blessings from God instead of the spiritual treasures that he offers us? We in America are obsessed with money.
As Miller points out, "This is one of the red flags our Lord hung out which most people nowadays do not seem much to regard. Christ said a great deal about the danger of riches; but not many persons are afraid of riches. Covetousness is not practically considered a sin in these times. If a man breaks the sixth or eighth commandment, he is branded as a criminal and covered with shame; but he may break the tenth, and he is only enterprising. ... To look about, one would think a mans life did consist in the abundance of the things he possesses. Men think they become great just in proportion as they gather wealth."
We must learn to have the proper perspective. Our first priority must be to God spiritual blessings and spiritual guidance must be ranked number one. Our next priority needs to be to our family, our friends, and to others how we display Christian love to others so as to strengthen and encourage them. Our final priority then can be for our own care.
Jesus does not say to avoid possessions, but to put them in their proper perspective. As Psalm 37:4 tells us, "Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart."
16 And he told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully;
17 and he thought to himself, What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?
18 And he said, I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods.
19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.
20 But God said to him, Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?
21 So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
What was this mans failing? Was it because he was rich? No. Was it because he worked hard? No. Was it because he was organized and planned for the future? No. Why was it then that the Lord rebuked him? Notice verse 21 tells us, "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." The mans focus was on the treasures of this world, and he had neglected the heavenly treasures. He had spent his whole life amassing material possessions, but he had neglected to receive any spiritual blessings or instructions. The man was not foolish when it came to the things of this world; he was foolish when it came to the things of God.
McGee comments, "Our Lord called the man in this parable a fool, but notice what kind of man he was, apparently. All outward appearances indicate that he was a good man. He was a law-abiding citizen. He was a good neighbor. He was a fine family man. He was above suspicion. He was living the good life in suburbia in the best residential area of the city. He was not a wicked man or a member of the Mafia. He was not in crooked politics. He was not engaged in shady business. He was not an alcoholic or keeping a woman on the side. This man seems to be all right; yet our Lord called him a fool. Why? This man gave all of his thought to himself...."
Where are our priorities? Are we only spending time taking care of ourselves and our family? Or do we spend time on spiritual matters? Do we allow God to minister to our soul, and speak to our heart? Do we spend time in prayer and communion with him? Do we take the time to learn from Gods word, the Bible? Are we building up others in the faith, and showing Christs love to others? What is the focus of our life?
22 And he said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on.
23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.
24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!
25 And which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his span of life?
26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?"
Three times in these 6 verses Jesus says we should not be anxious. The Greek word used here is < merimna&w> merimnao which means "be anxious, worry about, care for, be concerned about." Does this sound like you? Too often, this is the way we all react to troubles: we worry and we fret.
James Seward wrote the following poem titled "His Will,"
Jesus gives us two examples of why we shouldnt worry. The first is in verse 24. The birds neither plant nor harvest. They dont gather in storehouses, they dont worry, and yet God still feeds them. Then Jesus asks, "Of how much more value are you than birds!" So let us ask the same question: Dont you think God loves us as much as he does the birds? So why do we worry? He has promised to take care of us.
The next example Jesus gives us is in verses 25-26. He asks us, "which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his span of life?" The Greek word used here < h(liki&an> helikian can mean either age or height. Jesus is asking us: By worrying can you add any years to your life, or can you add any inches to your height? Then he adds in verse 26, "If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?"
Does anybody think they can worry themselves into living longer? Do you think that if you concentrate real hard, you could add some inches to your stature? If we cant do those things, Jesus said dont worry about the rest.
MacDonald comments, "This indicates the folly of worrying over things (such as the future) over which we have no control. No one by worrying can add to his height, or to the length of his life. If that is so, why worry about the future? Rather, let us use all our strength and time serving Christ, and leave the future to Him."
27 "Consider the lilies, 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.
28 But if God so clothes the grass which is alive in the field today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O men of little faith!"
Now Jesus gets to the heart of the matter why we worry so much we are people of little faith. Every time we fret or are anxious, what we are really saying is: I don't believe God can take care of this situation, so I have to worry about it. Worry is the opposite of faith. The more we learn to put our trust in God, the more confidence we have in his word, and the more assurance we have in our spirit of his care for us, then the less we will feel like worrying.
Does this mean that we will get to the point of never having a care in the world? Hardly. We are human. Sometimes we imagine the worst things happening. Sometimes when troubles come, we lose our focus on God. But the more we learn to trust in God, the easier we will find it each succeeding time to let go of our anxiety.
Romans 8:28 tells us, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Do we really believe this? If we do, we will not worry as much.
29 "And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be of anxious mind.
30 For all the nations of the world seek these things; and your Father knows that you need them.
31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things shall be yours as well.
32 Fear not, little flock, for it is your Fathers good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
33 Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.
34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
Verse 30 gives us the proper perspective we need to have in order to not be gripped by anxiety. It says, "Seek his kingdom, and these things shall be yours as well."
When we put God first, something amazing happens: God blesses us in all other areas of our life as well. We may not seek food or clothing, but as we serve the Lord we find he provides us with everything we need. There are some Christians who have been provided with abundant riches. Others of us dont have as much. But we can rest assured that God will provide for us everything we need. So why worry about the future?
When we seek heavenly treasure, we have blessings that can never be taken from us. We cannot lose them and no one can steal them. They are ours for all eternity. Material possessions will pass away. Their value is limited to the short time we are here on this earth. But spiritual treasure will last forever.
Jesus concludes this teaching in verse 34 with the words, "where you treasure is, there will your heart be also." Where is your heart? Is it on the things of this world, or is it on the things of God? If its on possessions and finances, if its on your health and your happiness, you will spend a lot of time worrying and fretting. But if its on heavenly things, you will find it easier to let go of your anxieties and fears.
Jesus said we dont need to worry about the future. Believe his words and trust in his care, and you will see anxiety and worry diminish in your life.
This study of Luke 12:13-34 © 1997 by David
Humpal. All rights reserved.