"God is Trustworthy" on Matthew 6:25-34 by Michelle Ellis - Feb. 26, 2023
We’re continuing together our exploration of Jesus’ sermon on the Mount. So often in this sermon, Jesus invites his listeners to see themselves, to become aware of their own hearts. In the previous passage in Matthew 6, Jesus was inviting his listeners to be aware of their desire, and how that was reflected in what they treasure. Joe explored with us how the things that we treasure reveal what we desire, and how Jesus’ invitation is to have our desires be shaped by the desires of God.
The passage today is also about treasure. This passage is about our posture towards the gifts that God gives us. In the kingdom perspective, all that we have is a gift. All we have is what has been given to us by God. All our resources, our abilities, our talents, our friendships, everything good comes from God. In this passage, Jesus is getting us to take a good, hard look at the posture we have towards the gifts we have been given—our posture towards our health, our well-being, our jobs, our relationships, our children, our parents, our beauty, our finances.
Jesus is inviting us to look at our posture towards these gifts and he names an incredibly common posture we have to the gift of our lives, our relationships and our well-being and the well-being of those we love—Worry! Now worry is not wholly negative in that it is an expression of deep caring. We worry about the things that we care deeply about. Can you bring to your mind some of the things you worry about? I worry about my children and my family. I worry about social interactions I have. I worry sometimes about my physical appearance. I worry about our world, whether it will grow in beauty, in health, in justice, or whether it will deteriorate in these things. Very likely, your worries will reveal to you where your treasure is, what you deeply care about.
Worry reveals where our treasures are, and it also reveals our misguided posture towards these treasures—an anxious grasping for control or protection of what is ultimately a gift from God, what ultimately only God can give or take away. I might worry about my health and mixed in with a good desire for well-being, may also be a fear of death, a grasping onto youth, a grasping onto control of what I ultimately cannot control. I might worry about my financial security, and mixed in with that worry is a good desire to do good work, to contribute to society, to provide for myself and those dependent on me, it might also be a grasping at control, grasping at strength, trying to take hold of an iron-clad grip on some sense of security. I might worry about a social interaction I had, and mixed in with that worry is a good desire to love others well, or it might be a fear of conflict or being thought poorly of, grasping at trying to control the way I am perceived. Worry is a posture like this—desperately trying to grasp onto the gifts that are outside of your control.
At its heart, worry reveals a lack of trust. When God gives us his gifts, (and he gives us so many!) He invites us to hold them with open hands. He invites us to enjoy them and delight in them, and in some ways to count on them, just like the birds and the flowers of the field receive, delight and depend on the gifts of provision and beauty that he gives them. He invites us to hold them in our hands, to enjoy and delight in them for the time that he entrusts them to us and then to offer them back to him. Every good gift comes from God and he is the only one who can truly give us what is good. No amount of grasping or worrying will allow us to hold on any longer to a good gift that God gives in his time. Worrying will not empower us to hold on any longer to the gift of our health, to the gift of our lives, or to the gift of the life of someone we love. Worrying will not allow us to hold on any longer to any good gift that God gives and even worse, it can do further damage by robbing us of the joy of the Maker, by robbing us of the enjoyment of the good gifts that God gives.
You get a sense from this passage that Jesus knew how to enjoy good gifts. You get a sense that he himself has watched the birds, that he delighted in watching their busy work. You get a sense that Jesus himself delighted in the beauty of the flowers, noticing their colours, their delicacy. Opening our eyes to see and enjoy what is good around us, and marvelling at all the things that happen without our effort or concern is a great way to combat worry. Noticing the seasons change, the shoots that come up from the ground, the secret life of the birds and all the many ways that God shows his care and faithfulness to his world is a way of honouring the good gifts that God gives by enjoying them, and it also grows our awareness of all the ways that God is at work totally outside of our own effort.
When Jesus invites his people not to worry, he is inviting us to come to him so he can lift from our shoulders the unbearable weight that comes with trying to protect and grasp onto every good gift that God gives. What a weight it is to carry another person’s well-being as your own entire responsibility. What a weight it is to carry the responsibility for your aging parents, for your child’s faith, for the economic success of your company or your town, for the medical system or for the educational system. These are weights that none of us can bear alone. And while God invites us into his work of caring for others, of providing for ourselves and those we love, of caring for and nurturing the good gifts he gives us, and while this work is not to be shirked or ignored, he does not rest the weight of the world on our shoulders. We don’t need to worry as though we alone bear responsibility for the good gifts that God gives.
Jesus says, “Don’t worry, because your heavenly Father knows what you need and he will give it to you.” He knows what you need. He knows what your dad needs. He knows what your child needs, or what your patient needs. He knows what your boyfriend needs. He knows what your wife needs. He knows what your son needs, what your daughter needs. He will give his provision in his time. And if you will be part of that provision, he will show you what to do, if you ask.
Jesus invites us here into trust. Into the simple trust that birds have, that flowers have, that children have. Trust that he will give good gifts in his time. Trust that despite appearances, he does have the whole world in his hands. Trust that you and all that is dear to you are in his hands even when health is gone, when hope feels far, when joy is hiding. He will give you everything you need.
I’d like to say one last thing, especially to those of us who are prone to worry perhaps more than others. The main thing that Jesus is saying here is not ‘don’t worry’, but that God is trustworthy! God won’t stop being trustworthy just because you were up at 4am and couldn’t stop worrying. God is just as trustworthy and faithful when you worry as when you don’t. So be at rest.