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A Mini-Series is a small subset of lessons from a major series which covers a particular subject or book. The class numbers will be in reference to the major series rather than the mini-series.
Sunday, June 29, 2014

40 - Worry? A Waste of Time [B]

Matthew 6:25-34 by Robert Dean
"Don't worry. Be happy!" It's easy enough to sing this little song but what happens when you wake up in the middle of the night and worries come swarming into your mind like buzzing bees? Listen to this lesson to understand that God is in control of your life. Since He's already done the greatest thing for us by sending His Son to die for our sins, it's no problem for Him to take care of what we need to eat, what we need to wear, and all the other details of life. See how worry is a sin and a sign that we lack faith in God. Be aware that memorizing God's Word is a great antidote to worry.
The hymnal Dr. Dean mentioned in today's worship service, "Making Melody. Popular Choruses and Hymns that Bless, Endure, and Honor the Lord" is available at
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:45 mins 3 secs

Worry? A Waste of Time
Matthew 6:25-34
Matthew Lesson #040
June 29, 2014

We are going to talk about something that hits almost every one of us as some point or another in our life, and that is the area of worry. Basically what the Lord is saying is, it is a waste of time, and more than that it is a subtle form of idolatry. Every time we cave into worry and anxiety we are basically saying: "God, you are not in control; I am". That is a subtle way of saying: I am really God. That is idolatry according to Scripture, and we need to think of it that way. In a lot of these situations we have in life when we are faced with certain kinds of sins, we need to paint them in the harshest light we can. What our sin nature wants us to do is rationalize it into the most acceptable light that it can so that we think it is not such a major issue after all.

Jesus talks about worry in this passage as one of the foundational passages in Scripture on this whole area of worry as a sin.

This is a simple passage. One reason it is a favorite for many people is that it is not doctrinally complex. There aren't any real difficulties to it, it is straightforward; it is filled with easy-to-grasp illustrations, there aren't any really difficult problems in interpretation, there aren't any words that are particularly challenging or any textual problems that are mind-bending. It is just a straightforward lesson in telling us not to worry.

Peter summarizes it very well in a short, simple verse. 1 Peter 5:7 NASB "casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." That is this message in a nutshell.

To whom is Jesus speaking? He is speaking to His disciples. He is not speaking, I think, in the context directly to all believers although there is application and implication to all of us from what He is saying. One of the reasons I say that is because when we think about the mission of the disciples, at least initially, Jesus will send them out to proclaim the kingdom of God. That is the initial part of their message. He will send them to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. They are not, at first, going to the Gentiles. He tells them initially: "Don't take anything with you, rely upon God for your needs". It is important to understand that because later on when He sends out again He will have them take things with them. What He says initially in that first mission to the Jews is related contextually and at that time to that particular mission. One of the problems we have in interpretation is that we take things out of context and we try to see universal principles in every situation. Sometimes we think things are universal principles and they are not.

As Jesus talks about worry and anxiety in this passage and God providing for you, I think it must be understood in the context of the fact that He is talking to His disciples, and that this will provide a background for that particular mission and ministry. Some Christians in history have gone too far in taking this as a passage where we should eschew or reject too many possessions, ownership of too much property, building successful businesses that produce a vast amount of income. There is a certain sort of monastic, ascetic mentally that can enter into the interpretation of this passage. That does not fit with other passages of Scripture.

Money in and of itself and numerous possessions is not a problem. In fact, the Lord has used those who have many possessions and much wealth to support missionaries and great endeavors for the gospel and the teaching of God's Word. So it is not the possession of great wealth or the focus of accumulating great wealth that is the problem. It is how you put that into perspective in terms of the priorities of your life. There are people who think that they can make great wealth, but it destroys them spiritually. There are others who have the ability to focus on those material pursuits and success and it an enhancement of their spiritual life because they are not really focused on money. It is about enjoying the game, enjoying the opportunity to be successful, and then utilizing that for the purpose of spiritual pursuits. We have to have that balance there. That is why I am bringing this back to an understanding that what lies behind part of what Jesus is going to tell His disciples to do.

In the previous section we looked at last time we looked at the fact that Jesus is focusing us on the priorities in relation top possessions. We are to be grace oriented. All of this is part of what we talk about when we talk about grace orientation. Grace orientation is simply related to the one aspect of understanding God's grace in salvation, or understanding God's grace in supplying our every need in sanctification. It goes beyond that. A part of grace orientation is foundationally an attitude of humility. You cannot be grace oriented and arrogant at the same time because that drives out grace dependence. So humility is part of grace orientation. Dependence upon God for His sustaining grace day to day no matter what the circumstances or situation might be is also part of grace orientation, and that is the opposite of worry and anxiety. So this is definitely part of the component of what makes up grace orientation.

For the person whose focus is on the Lord and who is casting his care upon the Lord, he can be relaxed in the midst of the most difficult and challenging circumstances. That is what we refer to as having a relaxed mental attitude, contentment and peace. That, too, is part of grace orientation. 

As Jesus sets this up, and we will note it several times here, He uses a structure of an argument that was definitely rabbinical. It was used in the Old Testament and it was also formalized under rules of logic from the Greeks and the Romans. It is usually referred to by the Latin term a fortiori. That is, if God can do the greater thing then it is logically consistent that He can do the lesser thing.

We see Jesus saying this many times. For example, at the end of verse 26 after presenting this argument He will say, "Are you not of more value than they?" If God can take care of all of the animals and the birds and provides for them, of course He would have the ability to take care of you, and since you are of more value than the birds of the air and the beats of the field then it is a logical conclusion that He will take care of you as well.

He begins with almost a conclusion. This is often the way Scripture introduces an application derived from something previous. In the previous verse He made the point that you can't serve two masters, you are either going to love one and hate the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You can't serve both God and mammon, mammon being money and possessions.

He has been talking about being grace oriented and generous as opposed to stingy. There is a difference between being stingy and being frugal. Stinginess is an orientation of the soul. Frugality is conservative money management so that you have the financial resources to accomplish that which has eternal value. Frugality enables us to be gracious and generous in other areas of life. When our primary pursuit is in the possession of money and the things it can buy, then it will always run into a confrontation with the priority of serving and worshipping God.

We live in a world today where there has been a shift. There was a time when most businesses were not open on a Sunday. That had a background in the fact that most people were Christians, business owners were Christian and wanted to feel free to go to church and not have an obligation to focus on their business on that day, and they also recognized that their employees need to feel free to be involved in the local church activities and not be obligated to work on Sunday. Because of our Judeo-Christian heritage Sunday was not a workday. As our culture became more focused on the accumulation of wealth and commercialism and became more and more materialistic, the pressure came to be more competitive and to have more days of the week to work, and there was a change in the laws so that businesses were open on Sunday. There was more pressure there. It shows that on the part of businesses and employers there is less and less of a value placed on the family and that people need to have this time to be with their families. But when money is more important than the divine institutions then you are on the road to collapse. This is just one example of how this country is imploding. We no longer value the basic divine institutions of individual human responsibility, marriage, family, government and national distinctions.

What we are brought back to here is that we have to keep our priorities in order and not get distracted. It starts off with a conclusion, emphasizing an application. The application is stated: we are not to worry about our life. That is the point: don't worry. It is a present imperative with a negative, which means to stop doing something you are already doing.

The second paragraph gives more of an illustration. The two illustrations are the birds of the air in v. 26, and then there is a concluding question: "Which of you can add one cubit to your stature by worrying?" Then there is a further development of an illustration in v. 28: NASB "… Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, [29] yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these."

Matthew 6:30 NASB "But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is {alive} today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace …" It is temporary; there today and gone tomorrow. "… {will He} not much more {clothe} you? You of little faith!"

Matthew 6:25 NASB "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, {as to} what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, {as to} what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?"

Matthew 6:31 NASB "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?'

Matthew 6:32 NASB "For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things…" This is indicative of paganism—materialism, worry, being obsessed about taking care of your physical needs. But in contrast, if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and under the control of God, recognizing His authority in your life, this should not shape your life. In contrast, you are seeking that which will have eternal value in the kingdom of God. "… for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things." So our focus is different, our perspective is different.

Matthew 6:34 NASB "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

The same principle is stated clearly in Philippians 4:6 NASB "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."

The word "anxious" in the Greek is MERIMNAO, which means to be anxious for something, to be overly concerned or to worry about something. We all know that there is a good sense to worry. When you are a parent and your children are out there is a positive factor in worry. You want to know that they are safe and secure; you are looking out for them. That is positive. You also have to balance that with the fact that a child, according to Scripture, is a gift from God. You have a responsibility to do all you can do to a certain point; but ultimately the preservation, the health, the safety and security of that child is in the hands of the Lord. So we have to put them in the care of the Lord and then we can relax. The same thing is true of our possessions, whatever it is that we have—our homes, our financial resources, etc. These ultimately should be owned by God. We should recognize that God is the one who is the ultimate owner and He has simply given us the delegated responsibility to be good managers or stewards of the resources.

Whatever it is that we are doing in life what we need to do is develop the mental discipline and concentration to shift gears, put it in the Lord's hands, think through various promises and focus on that. That takes time, but it is a simple procedure. We have to have memory verses stored in our souls that we can just rehearse. 

Philippians 4:7 NASB "And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

God will give us contentment. It is part of the spiritual life. The Holy Spirit gives us comfort and contentment.

This is very much a part of the mechanic of how we avoid worry when worry begins to capture our thinking. What happens in worry is we put our focus on money or other details of life as the source of real security, and then we start worrying about it.  We keep working it over in our mind, afraid that we might lose it, how we can keep it, what is threatening it; things of that nature. When we do this with any detail of life instead of focusing on the Lord, then this is really a symptom of spiritual idolatry.

Worry is a symptom of spiritual idolatry. We see in this passage the way the pagans operate who seek for the details of life. The word there, as we will see, isn't that they just desire it; they pursue it, they are running after it, chasing after it, because they see in those details of life the source of happiness and stability and meaning. It always disappears. It is not going to produce that, so they want more and more and more. But as believers we know that the only source of happiness and stability is going to be in the Lord and in His priorities, and that we need to recognize that our standards are to seek after those things which have eternal value in the future kingdom of God. This is why worry is a sin. Worry is also a sin because it is a manifestation of our desire to control what only God can control. We think that we can take care of it when only God can take care of it.

Worry indicates that we do not trust in the providential plan of God and that we are not claiming the promises of God. So worry is a sign that we lack trust in God and that we are unfaithful to God as the one who says He will control the details of our life. Worry is important to understand. It is the opposite in Scripture of contentment. In 1 Timothy 6:6ff Paul deals with this same topic in relation to worry, contentment and finances.   

1 Timothy 6:6 NASB "But godliness {actually} is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment."

The word there for godliness is the Greek EUSEBEIA which has to do with the spiritual life. It is often translated godliness but that is an old English word that probably means nothing to ninety-nine per cent of the people who read it. They just look at it and think it just means something godly. They don't really know what godly means. In English the 'ly' ending means to be like something. It is a comparative suffix. So godliness is godlikeness, to be like God. This was a good word in old English but we lose its sense today because in the spiritual life we are to be conformed to the image of Christ; we are to be like Christ. That means to be like God. So in essence what the word godliness is describing is our spiritual life. Sometimes the word is translated as piety, another old word that doesn't really mean much to people today. You can substitute the words spiritual life and it will mean something: "Now the spiritual life with contentment is great gain".

The word there for contentment is AUTARKEIA which means contentment or satisfaction, describing someone who is relaxed, not consumed with worry and anxiety. They are not up tight over the circumstances of their life, they have put those in the hands of God. They have cast their care upon God and so they can be relaxed.

1 Timothy 4:8 NASB "for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and {also} for the {life} to come."

That doesn't say bodily discipline is of no profit, it is a comparative analogy—a little profit. It has value and is important, but godliness, your spiritual life is profitable for all things. It is much more profitable. If you work out you are going to have a better life now but when we work out our spiritual life it has value not only for today but also for eternity.

A little warning. 2 Tim 3:12 NASB "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."

How many volunteers are there now? If we are going to pursue spiritual maturity in the devil's world it is going to come at a cost. There is going to be a challenge. We have to rest in God that He can take care of the situation.

1 Timothy 6:7 NASB "For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. [8] If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content."

Same word: we shall be sufficient. God provides for us. It is nice to have all the other details, it adds to our comfort and enjoyment, and God certainly isn't against that. God is not necessarily a minimalist God, but God is not the God of the health and wealth prosperity gospel either. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the luxuries and the many additional elements that we have in the life that we live. We should never feel guilty about having possessions, having comforts, having the comforts that we can enjoy in our culture, but that is not what life consists of. Life consists of our relationship to God and pursuing His priorities in our life. 

Paul warns: 1 Timothy 6:9 NASB "But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction."

So there is also a danger in the test of prosperity. You can fall into just as many temptations and failures in the tests of adversity. Don't take these verses as absolute; there are tests in the spiritual life in every area. If we are pursuing wealth it has its areas of testing.

1 Timothy 6:10 NASB "For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."   

Many people misquote that verse. It is not money that is the root of all evil, it is the love of money that is the root of all kinds of evil. The Scriptures do not teach that money and wealth is evil. It is that when we get it and it distorts our perspective and we get our focus off the Lord that is when it becomes a danger. That is when it leads those to stray from their faith in their greediness. Paul says in Colossians 3 that greed is idolatry.

We need to develop the attitude that Job had. In Job chapter one Job loses his children, many of his possessions. Job's response: Job 1:21 NASB "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD."

These are details that he is very much emotionally attached to—his children, that which he had earned and worked for and accumulated over his life. But he said that the Lord gave him all of those things, the Lord has a right to take them away, "Blessed be the name of the Lord".

With that as background we see that what Jesus is teaching in Matthew 6:31ff is that we are not to worry. It is not to be a characteristic of our soul; it is not to be a part of our life. For those who have problems with worry the only solution is the Word of God, the promises of the Word of God. We all get there at different points in different tests, so Jesus says don't worry about the details of life. 

Matthew 6:31 NASB "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' [32] For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things."

The Gentiles are pursuing them. The Greek word there is EPIZETEO. The prefix EPI intensifies the meaning of the word—to seek after, to strive energetically for these things. 

Matt 6:33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. The Gentiles think that in the possession of these things there is life.

Jesus has said in giving these illustrations from creation that God is able to sustain and provide food for the birds of the air, and He says, "they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns". But they are not lazy. In 2 Thessalonians 3 Paul says if you don't work you don't eat. This isn't a passage that says don't be energetic, don't work, don't do your part in terms of your volitional responsibility to work and to make a living. Birds work. They are constantly flying, looking for food; but they are not accumulating them to their destruction.

Matthew 6:26 NASB "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and {yet} your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?"

Ultimately God is the one who feeds the birds, even though they are looking for the food. Ultimately God is the one who provides food for us, even though we go out and work every day. God provides the job, the means and the results. He takes care of us.

Matthew 6:27 NASB "And who of you by being worried can add a {single} hour to his life?"

Worrying doesn't do anything except shorten your life span. More and more studies come out that people who worry have all sorts of other health problems. It is a manifestation of failure to address adversity in life and it is converting that to internal stress which causes all kinds of biological and chemical reactions in the body.

The Lord asks why we worry about these things. Rationally we all understand that but it is not a matter of rationality, it is a matter of our volition. It is a matter of the idolatry that is inherent in our sin nature. We think that we can actually control it, and so by worrying about it can somehow do something. But we can't do anything about it. 

Matthew 6:28 NASB "And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, [29] yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. [30] But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is {alive} today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, {will He} not much more {clothe} you? You of little faith!"

God has provided for them. If God is going to clothe the grass of the fields, which is going to disappear tomorrow, how much more [a fortiori] will He clothe us. Again in verse 31 He says not to worry.

Here He says, "Don't be like the Gentiles". They pursue these things, for they see that in the possession of the details of life there is life. But for us as believers it is the possession of our relationship to God and the enjoyment of that that there is life.

Matthew 6:33 NASB "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

Seek first is the contrast. Don't be like the Gentiles seeking life in the details of life. We are to seek first the kingdom of God. He didn't say "only" seek the kingdom of God. We tend to read these things in there. This is not a passage on asceticism; it is a passage on priorities.  

The kingdom of God isn't here yet. It is in the future. It will come at the end of the Tribulation. But there will be for us as church age believers a reward ceremony at the judgment seat of Christ, and those rewards are based on how successfully we live the Christian life today. And that impacts our roles and responsibilities in eternity. It is how we glorify God. So when we seek first the kingdom of God we do that which we can control. We can control only our volition and only our own decisions to obey the Lord. We can't control any consequences. We can only control our response to the circumstances of life. We either apply doctrine or we don't apply doctrine. If we are focused on applying doctrine then God says He will take care of the things we can't control. He will sustain us; He will provide for us. We have to learn to relax and to put it into His hands and let Him take care of it. 

"and His righteousness" i.e. experiential righteousness, living in obedience to God's Word, walking by God the Holy Spirit, when we sin we confess sin and are restored to fellowship we continue to walk by the Holy Spirit and experiential righteousness is produced in our life when we obey the Word. 

What God has promised to so is add these other things to us. He will sustain us and provide for us logistically.

Matthew 6:34 NASB "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

For the third time He says, "Do not worry about tomorrow". Tomorrow will take care of itself. Right now I need to focus on what is going on is rest so that I can be prepared for tomorrow. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Don't add to your troubles today by worrying about what could be, should be, might have been, etc. It is a matter of mental attitude discipline, focusing on the Word. You have to develop that; it is not something that just happens automatically as a believer. Every time you catch yourself worrying you have to bring yourself back mentally, and the best way to do that is to memorize some of these Scriptures quoted today. Rehearse those in your mind, rehearse it in prayer, and then move forward.

What happens gradually is that the Word of God stabilizes our emotions in times of extreme adversity and we learn then to relax and trust in God. It is a growth process. We know that the God who is able to solve the greatest problem that we ever faced, which is sin, by sending His Son to die on the cross for our sins, is able to solve and handle all of these little problems that we have. They may loom large in some circumstances but when we stop and think about it there is nothing greater than the problem of sin. If God could solve that in your life then God can solve all of these other little problems. He is omnipotent. That means He is able to handle all of our circumstances. There is no situation that is too great for the grace of God. Because God knew it in eternity past He is able to provide for it, and He has provided for it.