Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
Matthew 6:25-34; Acts 8:1-8; Psalm 17; Genesis 36
We all seem to worry about different things. Whether it is our health, our bills, our children, our parents, our retirement, or many other things, we get concerned about anything important to us. For some, these concerns become a source of anxiety and a constant preoccupation. We fret and worry, trying to figure out what we can do in each eventuality. Such anxieties can impact our health, both directly as unhealthy stress and indirectly by drawing us away from healthy pursuits. For example, when finances are not strong, we can worry about how secure our jobs are, or whether we will have enough to pay the bills. We can end up worrying so much that any joy in life is sucked out of us.
The word used by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount for worry is not necessarily something wrong. Elsewhere it refers to an appropriately intense concern for the things of God (1 Corinthians 7:32-34) and the welfare of others (Philippians 2:20). The feelings of intense concern are not problematic. What we must examine carefully are what those feelings are directed towards and the resulting actions. This passage leads directly on from Matthew 7:24: are we more concerned about the things of God or money and the things of this life? Our anxieties reveal a lot about which is more important to us.
This weekend God showed me the reality of this passage. Work has been piling up with several deadlines looming. I had a meeting near some mountains and planned to do a favourite hike. By the time the meeting was over, the clouds had rolled in to give a dreary, drizzly January day. The deadlines weighed heavily on me and I thought about heading home. But I got out and headed up the forest path. Within minutes I was amazed at the grandeur of the tall trees. What a God we have, as I started to pour out my heart to him. The rain poured too, yet it was beautiful as it literally flowed off the bushes. As I came out of the trees onto the boggy grass, I was greeted by a few sheep. These sheep neither sow nor reap, yet God takes care of them. My worries melted away as I reflected on God’s power in creation and his care for his creation.
When we anxiously worry about things in this life, Jesus does not command us to turn off the feelings. Neither does he promise to remove the challenges and difficulties in life as he concludes by noting that every day has its troubles. He calls on us to replace our focus on money, clothes, food, etc. with a focus on God’s kingdom. Our anxieties lie within us, and so does the solution. If we prioritise God’s kingdom – concern for what concerns God – we will become less anxious about this life. This includes pursing righteousness, which is allowing God to change our character so that we are transformed by God.