“There’s a Reason Not to Worry”
Pentecost 12 (Proper 14), August 7, 2016
There’s a Reason Not to Worry
Text: Luke 12:22–34 (35–40)
After hearing the Gospel lesson for today, you have probably guessed that today we are going to talk about being worried. What do you worry about? The list could be endless, I suppose, and different for each one of us. Some worries likely to make the list might be health, money, kids, parents, job, our church. You might be worried about the price of oil and what that does to the economy (Chesapeake). You might be worried about the future of this country as you look at the presidential ballot and feel…mildly nauseous? You might be worried about terrorism and hooliganism, and wondering when and where the next shooting event will take place? (note I am not saying IF). On the lighter side, you might be worried about how the Sooners, Cowboys, Golden Hurricane, Jayhawks, Wildcats, Badgers, Hawkeyes, Longhorns, Packers, Bears, Broncos, Chiefs, Texans, Royals, Cubs, White Sox, Rangers are going to do this fall? Or maybe you are worried about the baggage retrieval system they’ve got at Heathrow?
Whatever it is that we are worried about, Jesus tells us “DON’T!” Jesus tells us not to be anxious about our life (vv 22–23), but. . .it’s not that simple is it?
In principle, we agree with Jesus that we shouldn’t worry. Jesus is not the only one who tells us this truth. People from every field of human care agree with him. Doctors tell us when we worry, our bodies react the same way as when we are attacked: fight or flight. But we are not being attacked. This means the stress hormones are still circulating in the blood stream. So doctors say over a prolonged period of time, raised levels of these chemicals can start to have a toxic effect on the glands, nervous system and the heart, eventually leading to heart attacks, increased risk of stroke and stomach ulcers.
Because your body has tensed ready to respond to the threat you are feeling, this muscle tension can turn into aches and pains causing headaches, back pain, weak legs and trembling. This tension can also affect your digestive system triggering bouts of constipation or diarrhea. (This sermon is starting to sound like a disclaimer on a prescription drug commercial, eh?) You may also become more prone to infections. It is widely accepted that stress and anxiety can lower your immune system, making you more susceptible to picking up colds or such. With excessive worry, our immune systems have little time to recover so you become even more tired and lethargic.
We know that worry is useless. Jesus said it, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (v 25). Does worry, tossing and turning, increase the price of a barrel of oil? No. Does worrying change the ballot for president this fall? No. Does worry abort the next terrorist attack? No. Worrying, fearing the worst, anxiety over the future, doesn’t help. In fact, it only makes things worse. Someone once said worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.
We also know, at some level, that worrying is a sin against the First Commandment (vv 29–30). When we worry, we are not trusting God above all things. In fact, ironically, our anxiety lifts us up to be in the place of God, as if we could control what will happen in our future. When we are worrying, we are saying God is not in charge and we think that if we give ourselves a nice big ulcer we can raise the price of oil, abort the next terrorist attack and get us a better candidate.
The Greek word here translated “worry” is translated in classical Greek (and the LXX) with the meaning “lifting yourself up”. This gives an insight into what worry really means. Worrying lifts us above God, in place of God, rather than taking our place under God’s generous hand; we are promoting ourselves to be our own gods when we think our provision of food and clothes and such is all up to us.
But knowing this, recognizing this, even confessing this (and it is a sin), does not stop us from worrying. We still do it. And I would wager many of the people in this room are doing it right now. Maybe you are worried this sermon is going to be extra long today…
There truly is no need to worry. God takes care of us. Jesus shows God’s care for everything, from the lesser to the greater (vv 24–28). Our Heavenly Father, His Father and our Father, provides for birds and flowers. You are of much more value than they. The point that Jesus is making today is that if God takes care of the lowly creatures, He will surely take care of the crown, the pinnacle, the masterpiece of His creation. Which is us.
Jesus reminds us that a big reason for our worrying is that we are seeking the wrong things. Our anxiety proves we are looking for confidence in the wrong directions. We seek peace of mind in all the wrong places. Because we worry about if we will be able to feed ourselves and clothe ourselves. Or maybe we worry because we are not content to eat or be dressed, but we want to eat or dress better than other folks, or the folks next door. Jesus said, “For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them” (v 30). God has promised to give us everything that we need. So then Jesus said, “Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you” (v 31). Jesus calls us to repent of our false seeking and to trust Him. We don’t have to worry about the price of oil. We don’t have to worry about the election. We don’t have to worry about where the bullets are going to be flying next. We are in the Lord’s hands. God has said He will give us everything we need. He HAS, He DOES, and He WILL provide for us and protect us.
And then here’s the thing: God broke into our worrying world with His kingdom, and that is what takes our worry away. The King of the world entered into the place where we worry. He lacked food for forty days in the wilderness. He lacked a place to lay His head, to call His home. Jesus lived with all the reasons for worry, but He lived perfectly worry free for you. The King of the world at last had nothing to eat, and at the cross He was thirsty. He was stripped of every bit of clothing, so that, unlike the flowers, he had “no beauty that we should desire him” (Is 53:2). When Jesus had nothing, and even His life was taken from Him, Jesus gave us everything. The real and only reason not to worry: “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The kingdom of Jesus is ours, not by our worrying, not by anything we do, but by His cross and rising again to live for us. The kingdom is ours, even when we worry, because of His grace. Jesus will change our worry to freedom to share, to give, to store up real treasure that we don’t have to worry about (vv 32–34). The real treasures, that Jesus refers to here, are His Word, Baptism and The Lord’s Supper. We are forgiven, for Jesus’ sake, when we worry about money, when we worry about politics, when we worry about our safety. The King will come again, and by the grace of God, we will be waiting for Him, worry free, to enter the fullness of His kingdom forever.
Ok, let’s start to wrap this up, because I don’t want you to worry about this sermon being too long. Since Jesus talks about birds let me tell you that I don’t like crows. They’re loud. They chase away other birds. They dig around in garbage and make a mess. And they like to tap on the windows and skylights here so you’ll be distracted from listen to the amazing sermons I prepare for you each week. I read where a pastor noticed that when the polar vortex brought minus twenty degree weather a couple of winters ago, he was amazed to see crows eating garbage off the road. And he wondered why does God keep crows alive in these frigid temperatures? Why do we need crows? Why does God take care of them?
Then again, we are like crows. We are loud and obnoxious at times. We chase away others from the things we want for ourselves. And when we get into the garbage of this world, we make a terrible mess for ourselves, and for others too. Some of those messes of ours are way too big for us to clean up.
But God keeps us. After all, He keeps the crows, and Jesus says that we are of much more value to God than birds (Lk 12:24). God keeps us. Imagine that. And He doesn’t just save us from freezing to death in the winter. He has saved us from burning to death forever in the fires of hell. He not only gives us food and drink, but He also gives us His one and only Son into the death of the cross for us. In Jesus, he is pleased to give us more than the whole world. He gives us the Kingdom (12:32).
There . . . no worries. And this sermon wasn’t that long. While We Always Have Things That Worry Us and We Cannot Stop Our Worrying, Ours Is the Kingdom in Which the King Takes Our Worry Away.
Outline for this Sermon from Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 26, Part 3.