Do you worry? According to one source, “anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population).” Seems like a lot of people do worry, so if you do also, you have a lot of company. Interestingly, fear of death is one of the top worries (68% of Americans; supposedly, 74% fear public speaking – go figure). Of course, there are plenty of other things to worry about, such as our job, being able to pay the bills, relationships, and the list goes on and on.
We know that Christians worry, too. How? Because Jesus commanded us to not worry (why would He do that if He knew we wouldn’t worry?). Luke 12 deals with this situation:
“16 And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. 17 And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ 21 So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” 22 And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! 25 And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? 26 If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32 Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. 33 “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
It turns out that the statistic about fearing death is warranted. If a person stores up wealth for himself here on earth, then, according to our Lord, he is not rich towards God. Why do people fear death? Because “it is appointed for man to die once, and after this comes judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) For the unbeliever, fear of death is rational.
But what does “rich toward God” mean? It’s the opposite of storing up treasure for ourselves. It means that our efforts should be directed towards glorifying God, pleasing Him, doing His will. Only the Christian will seek to be rich toward God, for as Hebrews 11:6 says, without faith it is impossible to please God.
Speaking of believers, Jesus tells us that, therefore (“for this reason”), we do not need to worry. We may not be like the rich man, who has so much stuff he needs bigger storage bins in which to store it. We may actually have reason to worry about how to pay the bills, how we are going to get our next meal, whether or not we will have something to wear. Yet, our Lord instructs us to not worry about such things.
Now, when things are going well for us, not worrying is easy. But, when things are not so great, this becomes difficult. So, this becomes an issue of faith and trust on our part. Do we really trust what Jesus is saying here? Do we have faith that He will really take care of us? Or should we ignore what He says and go ahead and worry?
Jesus knows our weaknesses, so to help us understand, He gives what I consider to be a beautiful example of God’s love and care for us. He compares God’s care for us with His care for birds. Now, I see birds all the time. They eat, they find twigs to build nests, but they provide none of it; they neither sow nor reap. Instead, God provides everything for them. As Jesus tells us, if God takes care of the birds, He will definitely take care of His children, who are much more valuable than the birds.
Furthermore, Jesus compares us to the lilies of the field. As gloriously beautiful as they are, they live, die and are burned up in the fire. If God clothes the flowers, which are temporary, Jesus tells us that He will clothe us even more.
Despite these examples of God’s care, Jesus gives another reason not to worry. He reasons with us by asking us what worrying brings us. Can we even add an hour to our life? If you can’t do even that by worrying, then why worry at all? Worrying cannot change anything, so it makes no sense to do it.
Therefore, we are not to worry about food, drink, or clothing. Instead, He tells us to seek the kingdom of God, to be rich toward God. We are not on this planet very long, and we have no idea when our last day will be. So, we should spend that time doing God’s work. If we are storing up treasures here, we can’t take them with us. Indeed, your earthly treasures will end up being owned by someone else. On the other hand, if we store up our treasure in heaven, it will be there when God brings us home, to be enjoyed for all eternity. Though we don’t deserve it, God graciously works through us (Ephesians 2:10, Philippians 2:13) and gives us rewards in heaven (1 Corinthians 3:14).
In His mercy, Jesus’ parable not only explains why we should not worry, but also gives us a daily reminder, because our flesh is weak. Every day, almost everyone will see a bird or a flower. Next time you see one, let it be a reminder that our heavenly Father cares for us and that there is no reason to worry.