He said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 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! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Allegedly there are 365 commands not to worry or ‘fear not’ in the Bible – one for each day of the year (random sermon fact – not verified by this author!) This is perhaps the closest God comes to nagging – which, as I always tell my family, is positive reinforcement through reminder and repetition.
We may feel we have much more to worry about today that in Biblical times – social media, climate change, homelessness, environmental destruction, Brexit, exam pressure, refugee crises, nuclear threat, food poverty, cyber attack, mental health issues – I could go on. Indeed Jesus’ suggestion that we consider the wild birds and wild flowers might not bring much comfort as we record declining numbers in church and struggles to survive intensive farming and habitat destruction.
But of course Jesus is not telling us not to worry in the sense of “keep calm and carry on”. He is challenging us to a radical change of focus. Seek first the kingdom – not our own needs. Trust that God already knows what we need (note – not what we think we need). And it turns out that what we need, which it is God’s good pleasure to give us, is the kingdom of God.
Time to put our money where our mouth is, our time and energy where our heart is – to do all we can in partnership with the Spirit to usher in the kingdom. Your calling or vocation “is where your greatest passion meets the world’s greatest needs” (Frederick Buechner). So far from keeping calm, we are called to get passionate, and discover our place as co-workers and co-creators with God. Jesus showed us the Way of Passion – now we need to walk in it.
Jesus – help us be seekers of everlasting treasure: strivers for the kingdom, people of passion, dispellers of worry, workers for justice, co-creators of peace, bearers of hope, those who daily choose to walk the way in love. Amen
Dr Sam Richards, Head of URC Children’s and Youth Work, member of mayBe community – a fresh expression of Church in Oxford.