Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
Luke 12:22-34; 1 Timothy 5:8-16; Proverbs 4:10-19; Nehemiah 10
Worry and anxiety dominate our society. People constantly state they are under stress and the consequences are visible in all areas of life. Some stress is normal and healthy. We should feel pressure to contribute what we are responsible for and to help those depending on us. Deadlines can provide healthy stress to keep us focused on what needs done. But Jesus is addressing the unhealthy form of stress that leaves us worrying about things we should not worry about. He brings worry back to our values and who we trust.
Worry is a matter of the heart. If worry was completely controlled by our mind, we could change our thoughts and the worry would fade. But worry comes from our hearts, which biblically includes our values, our desires and our will. We worry about what matters most to us. We might say we worry about people impacted by war or poverty. But that worry does not affect us in the way we worry about our own lives. Jesus’ audience might not have known where their next meal would come from, but he told them not to worry about it. Most of us don’t have to worry about such basics, yet we worry about our health, our clothes, our looks, or whether we can get the latest phone or car. Jesus says the root problem is a lack of faith.
Look at the ravens. In the Old Testament system, they were unclean birds (Leviticus 11:15). Among all the living creatures, these were the lowest of the low. Yet God takes care of them. How much more we should trust that God will take care of us. Flowers and grass come and go, yet God displays their beauty. We should trust that he will allow our beauty (defined by him, not our culture) to shine forth.
Certainly, there is much uncertainty in life. Jesus addresses how we respond to life’s unknowns. Our world tells us we need to take control of our lives. We are told that comfort and security comes from increased wealth and possessions. Yet social science studies show repeatedly that as a country’s average wealth increases, anxiety levels increase. The more we have, the more we worry about losing it.
Jesus says that if we want to deal with our worries, we need to become generous. Worry is about our heart. Where our treasures lie, our heart will be there. If our treasure is in our bank accounts and houses, our hearts will worry about its ups and downs. If our treasure lies in God and people, we will trust that he will take care of us and we will be generous towards others. Paul says that failing to care for one’s family is a denial of the faith (1 Timothy 5:8). This is not a rejection of doctrine, but failing to trust God’s care for us. Likewise, as the people in Nehemiah’s day trusted in God, they obeyed him in marriage and business, and were generous with the fruits of their harvests (Nehemiah 10:30-39). As we are concerned about others, our worries about worldly wares will weakened and wither away.
Yet we continue to worry, especially about adding hours to our lives. Many end up in doctors’ offices with such worries. As we turn to medicine to fix all our problems, major ethical dilemmas arise. Worried about having children, people want medicine to prevent unplanned births. Worried about not having children, medical technology develops to help people have children when they want them. Worried about dying, medicine is supposed to keep us alive at all costs. But when we worry about the quality of our lives, some demand help to die on their time. With transhumanism and posthumanism, some seek medical enhancement beyond natural limits and life without death. All of these are complex issues involving many factors. But how we approach such issues points to our core values and who (or what) we trust most. Reflecting on these issues and where our treasure lies will help us see into our hearts. The big question is whether we trust God with our lives or seek to control them ourselves.