We worry. We live in the wealthiest country that has ever existed. Healthcare has never been as good, food as plentiful, clothing as accessible, and housing so lavish. Yet anxiety is rampant. Though many struggle with anxiety more than others, we all struggle with it, even as mankind has struggled with it in every epoch. Thus, it should come as no surprise to us that Jesus would address anxiety.
In Matthew 6:25–34, Jesus confronts anxiety head on. He shows that the true pathway to peace is not through the circumstances of life but through a loving heavenly Father. He shows that a loving Father makes anxiety foolish for the Christian.
Now to say that anxiety is foolish is not to say that only foolish people struggle with anxiety. It is perfectly natural for us as fallen beings to become anxious. We do not know what the future holds, and it is only natural that we would worry about what tomorrow may bring. However, Jesus’s words on anxiety show that Christians should not be imprisoned by anxiety.
In this passage Jesus is dealing with the underlying issues of anxiety. Jesus starts by commanding the people not to be anxious, providing the three most fundamental sources of anxiety as examples: food, drink, and clothing. Ultimately, these are our most basic needs, which is why He prefaces His statement with, “I tell you, do not be anxious about your life” (emphasis added). Jesus is condemning anxiety in any aspect of life, focusing on the big three common to all man.
Jesus shows the folly of anxiety by using birds as an example. Birds do not store up provisions for themselves, “and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Jesus shows that anxiety is foolish because it discounts God’s providence and governance of this world, as well as His love for us.
When we are out of work and searching for a job, we fret and question: how can I pay these bills, how can I put food on the table, how can I pay for my children’s education? Some of us worry about relationships: when will I find a spouse? Does my spouse still love me? We worry about health: am I getting sick? Will I get sick? What if my loved one dies? We can worry about going to work: what if this situation I hate happens? We can worry about practically anything.
However, Jesus shows that all of these scenarios remove God from His throne. God, who governs the universe, provides exactly what we need when we need it, just as He feeds birds (v. 26) and clothes flowers (v. 28). The Heidelberg Catechism explains providence as “the almighty and ever present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty—all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but from his fatherly hand.” Elsewhere it states that “all creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.” Why would we fear when every situation we face has been hand selected by a Father who loves us? The hardships and trials of life are as much in God’s control as are the blessings we are given.
Furthermore, it is futile to worry because our worrying does not change God’s plan. “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life,” Jesus asks. We spend our days worrying, but what do we accomplish? Nothing! We destroy the joy that we might have trusting in God and enjoying each moment by replacing our lives with fear and misery.
Even if what we fear is truly frightening, or even a likely threat, it does us no good to dwell upon it. In Clippings from My Notebook, Corrie ten Boom writes, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows. It empties today of its strength.” It is true that trials await us in this world. But when we understand that they come from our loving Father, and that anxiety only robs us of joy, we see how foolish our anxiety really is and, by His power, we forsake it.
By Nathan Voss, an alumnus from Reformation Bible College.