Sunday June 8, 2008 | Greg Boyd
Then Jesus 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. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
As a society, we’re extremely worried. Concern about countless issues pervades our lives: our relationships, our kids, terror attacks, global warming, pandemics, the economy, living the American Dream – if we’re not careful, this worry can consume us. Jesus provides us with the Kingdom alternative to worrying, and it’s surprisingly related to birds and flowers.
Worry pervades modern life. It seems that we cannot get away from it. Some call this the “age of anxiety.” Anxiety disorders are the number one mental health problem in the United States among both adults and children. It is estimated that in 2007 anxiety cost between 42 and 60 billion dollars in doctor bills and workplace losses. When worry consumes our lives, it stresses out everything in the body including the immune system, heart, liver and even alters the chemistry of the brain.
What do we do? First, if you need medical or psychiatric help get it. For many, the neurotransmitters and neuron-regulators are not working properly and there should be no shame in getting treatments. Second, watch less news. That which is reported on the news is bad news and constant exposure to bad news will continually create feelings of worry that cannot be acted upon. Third, try a strategy called “Put off Worrying.” This is a way to trick the brain by writing down the things that you will worry about later. This gives your brain permission to stop reminding you about the situation.
In this passage, Jesus isn’t trying to free us from worry so we’ll be healthier and happier. This is never Jesus’ main concern, even though it’s the main concern of most people today. As a result, preachers present Jesus as the guru of health and happiness with things like “5 tips on being healthier and happy.” But this way of spinning Jesus as a modern self-help guru misses the profundity of His message. The concern of Jesus in this passage – and in all His
teaching – is to make us authentic Kingdom people.
Jesus is saying something like, make living under the reign of God first priority, trust Him for all you need, and you’ll have a joy and peace you’d never otherwise have. But if you seek first to meet your own needs and to acquire health and happiness on your own, you’ll miss out on the Kingdom and the joy and peace it brings.
Jesus uses the ravens and the wild flowers to make His point. Jesus knows ravens starve and the wild flowers get burned up. He knows people who trust God sometimes go hungry and get killed. In fact, He just told his disciples they were all going to be delivered up and die! He said don’t worry about it. His point is not about the security of ravens and flowers; His point is about the care-freeness of ravens and flowers.
Ravens and flowers trust God to feed them and clothe them, and then they of course die. But they don’t worry about it. They live fully in the moment under the reign of God as long as they live, and then they die. But the reason they live fully is because they’re not worried about dying.