Of all the commands given in Scripture, I do believe the command “do not worry” is the one most Christians have the most difficulty with. We worry about everything from finances to family to the frivolous. And we will do and say things like, “Surely, there are soemthings we need to worry about.” “I think God will see that it is OK if I worry about my kids.” And we justify and seek well-intentioned loopholes to our worry. However, the inescapable truth is that at the end of the day the command still stands: Do not worry. Other translations say “Do not be anxious.” Whatever way you want to say it, the command is clear and sober: A Christian is not allowed to worry…about anything!!
In Luke 12.22ff, our Lord gives us his rendition of the command. Notice v.22 says he spoke to his disciples. These are his followers, whether just the Twelve exclusively or a great mob of people who were seeking to follow him; either interpretation is adequate. But the words travel down the pathway of years to us today. Are we his disciple, his follower? Then these words ought to penetrate even our hearts.
In verse 22-23, Jesus gives two prohibitions about worry: we are not to worry about food, nor are we to worry about clothes. This seems pretty simple. God will supply us with food to fill our stomachs and will ensure we have adequate garments for clothing. I suppose the question becomes “whose definition of adequate are we working with?” If it is God’s, we will be content with whatever little or plenty we have before us. If it is God’s, any clothing will benefit us and we will be grateful. But if it is our own, we will walk away from the meal discontent and even questioning God as to why the meager meal was not “adequate.”
We should define “worry” at this time so that no one mistakes what Jesus means by it. It is anxiety. It is earnest thinking over a thing. When a person is worried, they are weighed down and cumbered with many things. Worry is concern over some thing based upon apprehension of possible danger or misfortune. Are we getting the picture? It is translated “anxious,” “worry,” “care,” “concern(ed),” and “have…care.” The KJV translated this verse (v.22) “take no thought of your life.” These are the manifold ideas behind this little word “worry.” It is a stifling and choking word. It sucks the life out of our life. It is the heaviness upon our chest and the knots that form in our shoulders. It is the extra weight we carry with us. It makes life difficult, far more difficult than it should be. No wonder Jesus said to be free from it! In fact, the marginal reading for the NASB says “stop being anxious.” Jesus says, “Stop worrying!” Whether it is about your life, your food, your clothes, etc. Stop it! Why?
Jesus explains why worry is so useless. He begins first with birds, ravens in particular. These birds do not do anything to meet their own needs; God meets their needs for them. He supplies food. The grand thought is that in the God’s eyes, we are so much more valuable, so much more precious. He cares for even me. Jesus then continues as to why worry is so useless: worrying does not take time off the clock. In fact, the physical effects are devastating: high blood pressure, gray hair, “crows feet,” wrinkles, etc. If anything, worry only robs us of time from this short life. It does not good to worry, so why bother getting in that race in the first place. Jesus’ conclusion is that adding even an hour to the human life is easy (v.26). Of course, for God in the flesh this is easy, but you and I cannot do this one easy thing. How powerless we are worrying about the rest, about everything else in this life!
The second principle, gleaned from nature, are the plants. Jesus points us to the lilies in order to tackle our problem with worrying about clothing. And this is something many Americans worry about. We desire the designer brands and to be up with the trends. But what is it really about? What good does that do? In the end, does it really matter that you had the nicest clothes? In fact, though you have the Calvin Klein outfit, those threads pale in comparison to the lilies of the field. Not even a king such as Solomon can compare with the lilies. But notice, these plants fade, wither and die; alive one day and thrown into the flames the next. The assurance from Jesus is that God cares for us even more, though we lack the faith to trust him. He will clothe us even greater than these simple plants.
Jesus concludes about the birds and plants by summing up the matter: Don’t worry about it. Whether it is the food and drink or the clothes on your back, God has it covered – he has not forgotten the most precious jewel of all: you! Nations chase these things – people need food and clothing. God knows we need them, even on an individual basis. So what are we to do? Live a God-focused life. There are bigger things that concern us than food and clothes, as important as those things are. But if we starve to death spiritually because all we were concerned about was the physical…what good is that? Seek the reign and rule of God in your life first and God will make sure you get what you need. As someone has said, “He will supply your need, not your greed (i.e. want).”
While we are upon the earth, we must seek to be a part of the “little flock” of our Lord, the Good Shpeherd. Down here we realize how great a salvation we enjoy since we are a part of the kingdom of God. Here is the first promise: that while on this earth, God’s pleasure is to give us the kingdom. God and Jesus promised the kingdom of God and they delivered it unto us (see Col 1.13-14).
The second promise has to do with our treasure yet unseen. Up there is where our hearts and desires are focused. The emphasis in v.33 is for the disciple to be free from the pull of the earthly wealth. Do not be possessed by your possessions! If you are, do what you must to get rid of those obstacles so that nothing hinders you from you treasure which is “in the heavens.” The treasure is that whing which value most. Our hearts are tied directly to that thing we value most. If what we value most is earthly, our heart will be set on this earth. But it our most valued thing is etheral, our heart’s desire will be heavenward, desiring (like Paul) to be with the Lord forever.