Sermon Title: “Jesus’s Solution for Human Anxiety”
Text: Matthew 6:25-34
Date: Sunday, March 10, 2019
Speaker: Dr. Joseph
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
The key word in this passage is the word “worry” (Gk merimna) It occurs in six times: vv. 25, 27-28, 34 (twice). The word “is the antithesis of the practical trust in God which is the essential meaning of faith (pistis) in this gospel (8:10; 9:2, 22, 29; 15:28; 17:20; 21:21) (France, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 266). The Greek verb, merimnao “describes when used negatively, internal disturbance at the emotional and psychological level that disrupts life” (Scott McKnight, The Sermon, p. 218). The thesis of this passage is this: Jesus draws upon God’s providence in the nature to reassure his disciples not to worry about their basic necessities in life, but to rely continuously on God. Jesus’ message is simple and clear: it is useless to be worried. Jesus is asking his disciples for a singular devotion to God, their Provider. This text invites us disciples of Christ to think critically about divine providence, and the value God attributes to human beings, and what it means to rely on God despite the seemingly problem of suffering in the world God is not a distant deity; he is a God of proximity and actively involved in human history.
Argument: from the lesser to the greater/
“A fortiori argument means an argument from a strong source. This term is derived from the Latin legal maxim argumentum a fortiori. A fortiori argument is applied by following the logic that a point to be proved is followed from a stronger claim. This principle is applied in situations where:
- a proposition previously given or proven in the argument contains and implies a variety of “weaker” or less contentful materials; and
- a proposition being proven is only one of the propositions contained and implied.
There are mainly two types of a fortiori argument. They are:
- a maiore ad minus, that means from greater to smaller; and
- a minore ad maius, that means from smaller to greater” (Source: https://definitions.uslegal.com/a/a-fortiori-argument/)
Ten Major Truths about the Anxious Mind or Being Worried
- The foolishness of anxiety is that anxiety can achieve absolutely nothing to secure one’s safety in the present or in the future life.
- Because God is your Father and Provider and your faith in Him, worry is foolishness.
- “The solution to anxiety is not a simplistic ‘Stop worrying,” but a redirecting of the disciples’ vision to the proper heart orientation, accompanied by a promise of provision” (Pennington, The Sermon, p. 250).
- “Anxiety is an example of double-souledness; it is the opposite of the singleness that marks the whole-person virtue of the follower of Christ” (Pennington, p. 251).
- “The person who lives in anxiety about providing for himself or herself reveals and perpetuates a double-heartedness, a splitting of the soul between the now (where the heavenly Father meets us) and an imagined (dreaded) future of need. This normal human experience is ultimately a lack of faith and therefore in need of instruction and reproof” (Ibid).
- Worry is futile and does not change or cannot change anything.
- Worry is a useless and ineffective state of mind.
- By being worried, we are not prioritizing God’s kingdom and his righteousness in our life; rather, we are seeking the things we would like to have and shifting our priority from God’s interest to our own interest, and that we are saying to God his kingdom is not of first importance in our lives.
- Worry means simply distrust in God and it the refusal to submit to the things that God wills in our lives and to be submissive to his kingly rule and dominion in the world.
- An earlier Jewish sage remarked that “worry and a troubled heart actually shorten life (Sirach 30:19-24), and that worry about wealth also banishes sleep and destroys the flesh (Sirach 34:1) (Qtd in Keener, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 155).
***The primary goal of Jesus in this passage is to prevent the people of God of being anxious about life’s basic necessities (vv. 26, 34)
- Do not be anxious about life (v. 25)
- Do not be anxious about tomorrow (v. 31)
- Do not be anxious about tomorrow (v. 34)
“What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. Ongoing anxiety, though, may be the result of a disorder such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or social anxiety. Anxiety disorders are commonplace in the U.S., affecting nearly 40 million adults. Anxiety manifests itself in multiple ways and does not discriminate by age, gender, or race.
Stressful events such as a test or a job interview can make anyone feel a bit anxious. And sometimes, a little worry or anxiety is helpful. It can help you get ready for an upcoming situation. For instance, if you’re preparing for a job interview, a little worry or anxiety may push you to find out more about the position. Then you can present yourself more professionally to the potential employer. Worrying about a test may help you study more and be more prepared on test day.
But excessive worriers react quickly and intensely to these stressful situations or triggers. Even thinking about the situation can cause chronic worriers great distress and disability. Excessive worry or ongoing fear or anxiety is harmful when it becomes so irrational that you can’t focus on reality or think clearly. People with high anxiety have difficulty shaking their worries. When that happens, they may experience actual physical symptoms.”
Source: « How Worrying Affects the Body » https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/how-worrying-affects-your-body#1
- Reason 1: life is more valuable than food, and the body is more important about clothes (v.25)
Command one: associates with drink, body, and clothe (25)
- “There is more to life than food; there is more to the body than its clothing. This attitude removes people from preoccupation with their own worldly success; it discourages the wealthy and the comfortable from concentrating on their own success and the poor and the uncomfortable from concentrating on their own misery. We belong together, whatever our worldly goods, and this encourages the idea of sharing” (Morris, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 157)
- T. France observes, “This teaching seems to envisage the world as it should be rather than the world as it is, and while it is true that much of both human and animal suffering can be blamed on human selfishness and greed and our disastrous mismanagement of God’s world, it is not easy to trace a human cause for every famine or disaster, ancient or modern” (The Gospel of Matthew, p. 266)
2. Reason 2: The birds of the air that do not sow, reap, or gather are not worried about their existence, present needs, or needs in the future. They’re carefree entities. God, their Maker, makes daily provision for them.
“Can Excessive Worry Make Me Physically Ill?”
Chronic worry and emotional stress can trigger a host of health problems. The problem occurs when fight or flight is triggered daily by excessive worrying and anxiety. The fight or flight response causes the body’s sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones such as cortisol. These hormones can boost blood sugar levels and triglycerides (blood fats) that can be used by the body for fuel. The hormones also cause physical reactions such as:
- Difficulty swallowing/Dizziness /Dry mouth /Fast heartbeat/Fatigue /Headaches /Inability to concentrate/Irritability/Muscle aches/Muscle tension/Nausea/Nervous energy/Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath/Sweating /Trembling and twitching
When the excessive fuel in the blood isn’t used for physical activities, the chronic anxiety and outpouring of stress hormones can have serious physical consequences, including:
- Suppression of the immune system/Digestive disorders /Muscle tension/Short-term memory loss/Premature coronary artery disease/Heart attack
Source: « How Worrying Affects the Body » https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/how-worrying-affects-your-body#1
3. Reason 3: Your life has more value than that of the birds (v.26). You have been created in God’s image. The birds were not (Ps. 8). In fact, God created you to rule over and have dominion over nature, the natural world, including all that is in it—the birds also.
Reason 4: You should not worry about your life because of your inability to prolong your life or add one day to it. You can’t stop yourself from aging neither apart from God’s total sovereign over your life (v.27)
A Theology of Nature: Natural Theology
- By appealing to nature and the natural world to teach his disciples about the crisis of anxiety, Jesus is actually teaching his disciples about God’s abundant kindness and generosity towards his non-human creatures. Jesus is articulating a theology of divine providence in and through nature. By doing so, he establishes a relationship between God the Creator and the natural world that he created (vv. 26, 28, 29, 30).
Theology and Ecology
- Birds of the air: God properly feeds them (v. 26)
- Lilies (wildflowers) of the field: God adequately clothes them (v.28)
- Grass of the field: God adequately cares for them (v. 30)
***Therefore, the urgent call is to observe nature, its context, richness, and its continual existence and God’s remarkable footprints and marks on it.
7 “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
8 or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
- Psalm 104:24-27
24 How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro,
and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
27 All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
- Isaiah 40:6-8, 6, A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty[b] is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.
- James 1:9-11, 9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass[a] he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also, will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
5. Reason 5: Just like the birds of the air, the wildflowers of the field do not toil nor spin; yet they flourish and grow in beauty (v.28).
- Saint Augustine observed, the God “who gave us life will much more easily give us meat…Similarly, you are to understand that he who gave the body will much more easily give raiment” (Qtd in Allison, Sermon, p. 146).
- Rabbi Simeon b. Eleazar observed that “wild animals and birds practice no craft yet are sustained without care” (Allison, The Sermon on the Mount, p. 147).
Biblical Stories about how God supplies his people’s needs
- The Jubilee laws intended to teach God’s people to depend on him for their needs (Lev. 25:18-24)
- God uses the prophet Elisha to multiply the bread to the hungry people (2 King 4:42-44)
- God provides daily food to his people for forty years in the wilderness (Deuteronomy)
- Jesus provides food for the hungry crowds on numerous occasions, food they and his disciples did not anticipate (Matthew 14:13-31; 15:32-39)
- Job 38:41, 41 Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God for help, nd wander about for lack of food?
- Psalm 147:9, 9 He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry.
6. Reason 6: The grass of the field, whose life is temporary and peripheral in contrast to the sacredness and dignity of human life, are there to demonstrate God’s providence and care for his creation.
If God can energetically supply the needs for the least of his created order continuously and faithfully, how much more will he not act on the best interest of those whom he loves and created in his image.
- “Thinking too much about the future distracts us from our life as it unfolds in the present moment and, worse, fuels a great deal of anxiety about what might happen tomorrow, next week, next year, or decades from now. Other animals experience fear when they face actual threats, but they don’t seem to worry about what might happen in the future. If we worried only about things that were actually going to occur, and if worrying always helped us deal more effectively with future problems, our ability to look ahead would be an unmitigated blessing. But most worry is unnecessary. Most, of the things that we worry about never actually happen, and, when they do, the events are rarely as bad as we imagined. And even when our fears come true, worrying in advance rarely helps us cope with them.
But, if worry is often useless or, worse, maladaptive, then why do people worry so much? Why are people plagued by anxiety when it is not helpful or even detrimental?”
Source: Why People Worry Much More Than They Need To” by Mark Leary Posted Mar 14, 2018 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/toward-less-egoic-world/201803/why-people-worry-much-more-they-need
7. Reason 7: God wants you not to conform your values to the culture. His people should be a counter-culture community of faith. God’s will is for his people to have a different mindset or worldview that aligns with the goal of his kingdom and his rule in the world. The things we value and desire should clearly demonstrate that we belong to God. Our worldview should be parallel to that of God.
- John Calvin states that “It is not impossible for men who are rich to serve God, but whoever hands himself over as a slave to riches must leave the service of God, since greed always engages us in bondage to the devil” (Qtd in Morris, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 156).
8. Reason 8: Do not be skeptical about the future (vv. 31-34)
By questioning about God’s provision for food (eat), drink (drink), and clothe (wear), we are in fact telling God he does not care about us and that he does not know that we need (v. 32)—when we act like that, we are being skeptical about the future, our future, and God’s plans for our future. Our life and future written in God’s palm. Do not worry!
- Verse 32: “Worry is practical atheism and an affront to God” (R. Mounce). Craig Blomberg remarks, “Anxiety characterized pagan religions, which were dominated by fears of a capricious and despotic deity who constantly had to be appeased. In its modern, irreligious garb, pagan anxiety displays a great preoccupation with physical exercise and diet without a corresponding concern for spiritual growth and nutrition” (The Gospel of Matthew, p. 126)
- While anxiety is deeply rooted in human nature, God wants to shift our perspective about human existence and our relationship with him.
- Psalm 31:14-15, “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”15 My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!”
- Pursue God’s agendas, not our own (vv. 33-4)
- “R. Elazar of Modi’im said: If one has food for the day but says, ‘What shall I eat tomorrow?’ he is deficient in faith. R. Eliezer the Great said: He who has yet bread in his basket and says, ‘What shall I eat tomorrow? belongs to those of little faith” (Babylonian Talmud Sota 45b; Qtd in Allison, The Sermon, p. 150).
- When we diligently seek God’s agendas in the world and stay faithful to Him, he will care for our needs in the process (v.33). Jesus is calling us to develop a sustaining, unfailing, and theocentric faith about the future that honors and glorify God—at all time!
God and the Future
- Jesus’ point is this that his people should seek every opportunity to reorient their lives towards the kingdom of God and his rule in the world by being obedient to God and not questioning God’s integrity and faithfulness about what the future and their future will hold.
- God already makes provision for the future. Our future is secured in God’s hands. That’s the faith God is seeking for from his people. He wants us to trust him with our future even though it is open, unexplored, and unknown by us. Rather, it is known by God, who exists in eternity and whose life spans the past, present, and future simultaneously. God knows the past, the present, and the future instantaneously. The future might be a misery to you; it is not so to God.
- Verse 33 clearly “indicates that the rule of God and his righteousness are not two separate items to be sought but one. The seeking ‘first’ is also very important as a word that here speaks in chorus with the issues of singularity that marks the ethical view of the Sermon. “First” is to be understood logically more than chronologically; the first thing is that one’s heart is the singular aim and goal. Taken together, then, the exhortation in 6:33 is a broad vision or marching orders for the Christian way of being in the world—being one who is dedicated to God’s coming reign and the kind of Christ-centered righteousness behavior that marks the Kingdom” (Pennington, The Sermon, p. 249)
Conclusion: “Shift Your Worry
The second thing you can do is “shift your worry” from the long-term problem to a daily routine that will solve that problem.
- Instead of worrying about living longer, focus on taking a walk each day.
- Instead of worrying about whether your child will get a college scholarship, focus on how much time they spend studying today.
- Instead of worrying about losing enough weight for the wedding, focus on cooking a healthy dinner tonight.”
“The Evolution of Anxiety: Why We Worry and What to Do About It” by James Clear
- Faith is calm confidence on God and it is based on God’s providence and prior/complete knowledge of the needs of his people—the past, present, and future.
· Jeremiah 8:7
7 Even the stork in the heavens
knows her times,
and the turtledove, swallow, and crane
keep the time of their coming,
but my people know not
the rules of the Lord.
· Psalm 104:10-15
10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills;
11 they give drink to every beast of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell;
they sing among the branches.
13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
14 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for man to cultivate,
that he may bring forth food from the earth
15 and wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine
and bread to strengthen man’s heart.
Scripture commands us not to worry, but to trust God at all times:
- Joshua 1:9, Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
- Psalm 94:19, When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.
- Isaiah 40:31, 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
- Isaiah 41:10, So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
- Jeremiah 17:7-8, 7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. 8 They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
- John 14:1, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.
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