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Matthew 6:25-34

Worry – how to deal with it.

Tom Faletti

May 24, 2024

Photo caption: Zachi Evenor, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anemone-coronaria-in-Dalia-Israel-Zachi-Evenor-176.jpg. The "lilies of the fields" Jesus talked about may have been these multi-colored flowers called anemones, which are found in Israel today as they were in Bible times.

 

Matthew 6:25-34 Do not worry; seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness

 

Jesus has just been teaching us not to focus on money, telling us that we can’t serve both God and wealth.  The natural reaction might be: But we need money!  He responds to that natural concern in this passage.

 

In verse 25, Jesus tells us several things not to worry about.  What are the things he tells us not to worry about?

Concerns about our life such as what we are to eat or drink, and concerns about our body such as what we are to wear.

 

What does it mean to “worry”?  Is worry different than simply thinking about things?  What is “worry”?

Worry dominates the mind in a way that causes stress or distress.  It takes over or preoccupies our thoughts so that we find it difficult to set aside the thing we are worried about and think about other things.  In this way, worry absorbs our attention to the extent that it makes us less free.

 

How would you interpret the question in verse 25: “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”  What is the point of Jesus asking this question?

 

In verse 26, what is the meaning of the illustration Jesus gives of the birds?

 

Why should we not worry, according to verse 26?

Here, the point is a spiritual one: God provides for the birds, and you are more valuable than the birds.

 

What is the illustration Jesus uses in verse 27?

 

Why should we not worry, according to verse 27?

Here, the point is a practical one: Your worrying can’t make any difference, so it is wasted effort.

 

Note: Translations of verse 27 vary because the Greek word can mean “life-span” or “stature” (i.e., height).  So he may be saying we can’t add a single unit to our life-span or to our height.  Both interpretations make the same point – worrying can have no effect on the stated problem.

 

What is the illustration Jesus uses in verses 28-29?

 

Why should we not worry, according to verses 28-30?

Here, the point is a different spiritual one: You are an eternal being.  God is generous in lavishing beauty even on things that are finite and die quickly; he will clothe you, his immortal ones, with what you need.

 

In verse 28, Jesus says of the lilies that they “neither toil nor spin.”  These words describe what humans do to create cloth for clothing.  People toil: they work the crop – for example, flax in Jesus’s time.  Then they spin: they turn the fibers of flax into yarn from which linen cloth is made for clothing and other purposes.

 

Jesus is certainly not telling people not to work, so we have to look beyond the literal to find his meaning.  One possibility is to consider it a caution about focusing too much attention (worry) on how impressively beautiful our clothes are.

 

In your culture, do people worry about whether their clothes are beautiful enough or impressive enough, or made by the right designers?  What might Jesus say?

 

This passage might be interpreted metaphorically as referring to our calling to be clothed in righteousness in the kingdom of God, particularly in the context of verse 33.  How might you worry less if you clung to the assurance that God desires to, and is able to, provide you with the “clothing” you need?

 

 

At the end of verse 30, Jesus identifies the spiritual issue at work when we worry.  What is the spiritual issue here?

The spiritual issue is trust in God.

 

What does worry do to people?  In what ways is it harmful?

 

When we are worrying, what is our focus on?

 

What does Jesus want us to be focused on?

 

 

It is hard to “not” do something, unless we replace it with “doing” something else.  How do we “not” worry?  Saint Paul offers advice on what to do instead:

 

Read Philippians 4:6.  What does Paul tell us to do instead of being anxious?  What does that verse mean?

Let your requests be made known to God; i.e., tell God what you need.

 

What it the difference between asking God for what we need and worrying?  Why is praying, or talking to God about our needs, an antidote to worry?

Worrying is talking to ourselves while focusing on what we lack.  Praying about what we need is talking to God while focusing on the Person who can do something about what we lack.

 

Paul is telling us that it is OK to ask God for what we need.  Is there any need that is too small to talk to God about it?  Explain.

 

 

In verse 32, Jesus gives us some perspective.  What does he tell us about God?

 

What difference does it make that God knows what we need?

 

The phrase “your heavenly Father knows” might be a good refrain or mantra for all the things we face in life.  How would absorbing that assurance change your life?

 

 

In verse 33, what does Jesus tell us to strive for?

 

What does it mean to strive for the kingdom of God?

 

In what ways might striving for the kingdom call us to action?  What might it call us to do?

 

What does it mean to strive for righteousness?

This could be referring to the righteousness God wants to work into our character, or the righteousness God wants to bring into the world through the coming of his kingdom.

 

In what ways might striving for righteousness call us to action?  What might it call us to do?

 

Jesus says that when we strive for these things, the other things will be given to us as well.  We know that, in a literal interpretation of this statement, it isn’t always true.  Non-believers are not the only people to starve to death in famines; Christians have starved to death too.  This is the sort of thing that might make a skeptic take this sentence in isolation and use it to reject the gospel of Jesus.  Yet Jesus has warned us earlier that Christians will face trials and persecutions.  So, how should we understand this statement?  How would you explain it to the skeptic?

 

In verse 34, Jesus broadens his point by adding “tomorrow” to the list of things to not worry about.  That takes us far beyond just food or drink or clothing.  Almost any concern or possible trouble can lead us to worry about tomorrow.  What is he telling us about all the other things we tend to worry about?

 

What are the worries about “tomorrow” that are most likely to take over or absorb your thinking?

 

If you could have a conversation with Jesus where he mentioned the worry or worries you have, what would he say to you about it?

 

At the last sentence of verse 34, Jesus throws ends with a little twist at.  What does he say?

Today has enough trouble for today.

 

In the final sentence in verse 34, the majority of Bible translations use the word “trouble,” but some say “evil.”  There is a reason why the translators don’t agree.  According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, the word here is kakia, which means badness, wickedness, or malice (Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary, https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/ved/e/evil-evil-doer.html).  The word is often used with regard to human character flaws or evil, but here it seems to encompass the broader troubles we experience because of the “badness” in the world.  This verse might be saying: Don’t worry about tomorrow; today has enough bad stuff for today.

 

 

There are times when, in the economy of God’s plan for this world, we may be called to help fill the needs of others, and thereby be God's means of answering other people’s prayers.  In what ways might we be God’s means of answering other people’s prayers for their basic needs?

 

 

Take a step back and consider this:

 

Jesus is not telling us to be lazy, and he is not telling us to not think about the things we need.  We need jobs in order to pay our bills and in order to contribute in our unique ways to the good of the world.  Parents need the means to feed and clothe their children.  When we are sick, we need good health care.  Our communities need good schools, safe streets, and assistance for those who struggle.  Our businesses need customers and affordable inputs and good workers.  Our governments needs leaders who seek justice and work for the common good, and don’t settle for assisting the powerful or wealthy or noisiest voices.  We need to apply our minds to think through what we face in order to address these needs.

 

But there is a difference between thinking about things and worrying about things.

 

Can Jesus be our model here?  Jesus clearly thought about a lot of things, including the terrible death he was going to endure on our behalf.  Yet we don’t see signs that he spent much time worrying.

 

How do you think Jesus handled his thoughts about the difficult things he was going to endure without falling prey to worrying?

 

What is one area of your life where worry often intrudes?  What would Jesus encourage you to do about it?

 

How would your life be better if you replaced worrying with trustful conversation with God about the thing you are worrying about, even if the problem didn’t magically go away?

 

How can cultivating a life where you are constantly talking to God, and routinely letting your needs be made known to him, improve your life and help you become more like Christ?

 

Bibliography

Click here for the bibliography.

Copyright © 2024, Tom Faletti (Faith Explored, www.faithexplored.com). This material may be reproduced in whole or in part without alteration, for nonprofit use, provided such reproductions are not sold and include this copyright notice or a similar acknowledgement that includes a reference to Faith Explored and www.faithexplored.com. See www.faithexplored.com for more materials like this.

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