This is the age in which more and more sins are becoming “acceptable” to society, not to God Who never changes.
Perhaps you are thinking of the various variants of sexual sins that are becoming increasingly acceptable to society, as the world slides faster and faster towards the days of Noah and the days of Lot, both periods marked by thw prevalence of deviant sex.
Actually the world’s most acceptable sin is … Worry. It is rarely thought of as sin, but as a mental disorder.
Worry is probably the number one mental disorder in most “civilized” countries!
Many experts say that coping with stress is the No.1 health priority of our day. They say that 70% of all medical patients could cure themselves if only they got rid of their worries and fears.
Medical science ties worry to heart trouble, blood pressure problems, migraine headaches, thyroid malfunction, ulcers, and many stomach disorders, amongst others.
In Luke 12:13-21 (the Bible section that immediately precedes our passage), Jesus addressed those who have more than enough. He spoke to them about their preoccupation with “getting ahead”.
In our passage, Luke 12:22-34, He speaks to those who believe that they have less than enough and are worrying about “getting by”.
If we think we have less than what we need, life was even harder for those who lived in those days in Roman Palestine. For them, life was equivalent to the life of the poor in the Third World countries of today. They struggled each day for food and clothing …. lived on the fringe of survival. We’d expect that they had the biggest reasons for worry.
Interestingly, this section is addressed, not to people at large who have less than enough, but to Jesus’ disciples.
Luke 12:22 And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.
Since these words are addressed to Jesus’ disciples, the implication is that worry is one of the most common sins among believers. Believers live under the same pressures of society as everyone else does. It is even possible to worry about being a worrier! We know that we shouldn’t worry but we just can’t seem to stop worrying.
The Bible says that worry is sin.
Worry is sin. But it is one of the socially acceptable sins in the Christian life.
We would never smile at a Christian who staggered into his home night after night drunk and abusive. But we often smile at a Christian friend who worries.
We would not joke about a brother or sister in God’s family who stole someone’s car, but we regularly joke about worrying over some detail in life.
The Greek word translatable as “worry” in the New Testament is merimnao, which means “to take thought of” or “to be careful about.” Jesus says, “Take no thought for your life … neither for the body …”
It is this same word Jesus used when He said, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on….” (Matthew 6:25).
And Paul used the word when he wrote, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6).
At first glance, it appears right and proper to take thought, to be careful, about life, food, clothing, and other matters. So why are Jesus and Paul telling us to take no thought about these these things, in fact, to be careful for nothing?
The Greek word merimnao actually gives the picture of a divided mind. The worrier is torn between the real and the possible, what is a fact here and now, and what could possibly happen in the future. He is trying to fight the battle of life on both fronts at the same time and he is bound to lose the battle. He tries to live the future today, but the future isn’t here — and the future isn’t his! So the future isn’t his to worry about either! When a person worries, he is distracted, preoccupied. Whatever he may be doing, part of his mind is worrying, painfully preoccupied with negative consequences that might happen.
Dale Carnegie, in his book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, points out that most of the things we worry about do not happen. So why worry?
We are not following Dale Carnegie here, nor any other human teacher. The fact is that some of the things people worry about do happen, and that itself is a cause for worry! So, in the final analysis, Dale Carnegie’s advice doesn’t work.
Jesus approaches the subject differently. He first forces us to think about why we are not to worry.
Two Reasons Why We Are Not To Worry
First, in verses 23-24, Jesus tells us that worry is foolish.
Luke 12:23 The life is more than meat (food), and the body is more than raiment (clothing).
24 Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls (the birds)?
Worry is especially foolish for Christians. To worry is foolishly to forget who we are: children of the King. A man’s children are vastly more important to him than his animals. How much more will God regard His children!
Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but it does empty today of its strength. It does not make you escape the evil; but it does make you unfit to cope with it (if it comes). God gives us the power to bear all the sorrow of His making, but not the burdens of our own making. When we worry, we impose our own burden on ourselves.
Secondly, in verses 25-28, He tells us that worry is futile.
Luke 12:25 And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
26 If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?
27 Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
28 If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
The Greek word translated “stature” can also mean “lifespan.” Worry cannot lengthen our life but it certainly shortens it. A worrier won’t live as long as he could, neither will he live a happy and fulfilled life. People get ulcers not so much from what they eat … as from what is eating them. If worrying is such a futile activity because it does not work, and instead causes its own set of problems, why do we spend so much of our time and energy doing it?!!!
On the other hand, if we obey Jesus’ command to stop worrying, where does that leave us? What do we do or think about the matter that was worrying us in the first place? Jesus teaches us is, not to be careless, but to be trust full. Worry is caused by calculating without God, envisaging a future in which God isn’t present or isn’t loving or wise or powerful enough. But Jesus gives us excellent reasons to trust God.
The raven demonstrates God’s provision of food and the lilies of the field proves God’s provision of clothing. As viewed in the Torah (which divides birds and animals into clean and unclean), the raven is not even a clean bird, and yet God provides for his daily needs. Lilies of the field bloom a very short time; many varieties only last a day. But they are beautiful. In fact, they have no real purpose for existence other than their beauty.
Jesus asks: If then two such unimportant and insignificant things as ravens and lilies receive such generous provision from the hand of God, will not God’s children fare much better?
FOUR GREAT PRINCIPLES FOR OVERCOMING WORRY!
Having told us that worry is foolish and futile, Jesus proceeds to give us key principles for overcoming worry. That’s because just telling someone not to worry isn’t very helpful! People who tell us not to worry seem unrealistic, uninformed, or patronizing. A simplistic “don’t worry, be happy,” just isn’t convincing. So Jesus tells us how we can overcome worry:
Principle One. Trust God (Luke 12:29-30)
Luke 12:29 And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.
30 For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
Jesus literally says here that believers must stop seeking, doubting or worrying. These are not what He is suggesting to us. These are what He is commanding us. We must choose to trust God for those things that we can’t control. Whenever we start to feel anxious we can give our burden over to the Lord. Peter gives us this counsel in 1 Peter 5:7: “Casting all your care upon Him, for he careth for you.” The Psalmist says that God is a very present help in time of trouble (Ps. 46:1). Since God is present to help, we should trust Him to help and put our worries aside.
Principle Two. Make the Kingdom Your Priority. (Luke 12:31)
Luke 12:31 But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you
We need to get our priorities straight. If we let the wrong things top our priorities, it creates tremendous stress and worry in our lives. But when we put God and His Kingdom first, it is amazing what happens.
Seeking the kingdom of God is the means to meet our material needs.
“Now wait a minute,” someone says, “that doesn’t make sense!” But then the Christian life is often the opposite of what makes sense to the world. We gain our life … by losing it! We lead … by serving! And we have our material needs met … by not worrying about them, but giving top priority to seeking God’s kingdom! In other words, by fully doing the Will of God in our lives — and by balancing time doing God’s Will in our lives, with giving time to teaching others about doing God’s Will in their lives.
Principle Three. Don’t Give In To Fear (Luke 12:32)
Luke 12:32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Worry is really fear. Jesus tells His disciples that they must stop being afraid. How?
The antidote to fear is faith. We stop being afraid by having the faith, that is, by believing, that God will be most pleased to give us the Kingdom. As we are citizens — and ambassadors — of the Kingdom, God’s Kingdom will provide all our needs.
Principle Four. Reduce Your Worry Load (Luke 12:33-34)
The next two verses seem pretty tough. Not tough to understand, but tough to apply. But these verses are important.
33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags (purses) which wax not old (do not wear out), a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.
34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Now, I want you to be aware, that nowhere in the part of the New Testament which teaches how the church ought to live (that is, nowhere in the Book of Acts or the New Testament letters from Romans to Jude) do you find a teaching that believers ought to sell all their property as soon as they are saved. Before these books were written, the believers in Jerusalem did take these words of Jesus seriously and many did sell their possessions (Acts 4:32). But they did not sell them immediately nor did they sell every thing they had.
So what do these words of Jesus mean, “Sell that you have and give alms” (Luke 12:33)?
It is interesting that while we often worry about “necessities” such as food and clothing, we often are literally loaded with non-essentials, with luxuries. In order to excuse our self-indulgence, we just add the luxuries to our list of essentials! Thus, the expanded list of “necessities” exceeds our income, and therefore we never have enough money left over to give. Jesus solves this problem quickly! He tells those of us who are, in our minds, “barely getting by,” to sell off some of the excess baggage!
Why do we think of our obligation to give to God only in terms of the cash we have in hand? When the offering plate is passed, we pull out our wallets. We think that, when it comes to giving, our only obligation to God is to give from that which we have in cash. But Jesus tells us to liquidize our assets, so that we are never hindered from giving by a “cash-flow” problem! Now this is down-right threatening. The problem of the disciples, like our problem, is not our “lack of enough to get by,” but rather our having too much for our own good!
Jesus concludes this thought by saying,
Luke 12:34 For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.
Heaven is hardly a reality to someone who is not prepared to invest hard cash in its interests. It is a reality to the one who is prepared to invest hard cash in the work of the Kingdom.
The crucial issue in life is not the amount of our treasure but its location! Where is our treasure? Is our treasure in heaven where it’s glorious and incorruptible … or on earth where even the richest billionnaire’s treasures are really quite paltry, where rust and moth consume and thieves and hackers break in and steal?
To sum up,
In conclusion, here is a summary of what this passage teaches.
- Worry is a sin, because it is a command of Jesus, the Son of God, that we must not worry! So let’s not accept worry as somehow more socially acceptable than sins like theft or murder or adultery. Worry is as rebukable as any other sin.’
- Worry is also foolish … and futile. We gain nothing by worrying. On the contrary, by worrying, we may even be losing our health or shortening our lives.
- We have good reason to lay our worries aside. The same God who cares for ravens and lilies will care even more for us because we are His children.
- Not to worry is a negative command. What positive things must we do?
- We must trust God
- We must seek the Kingdom, first in our own lives, and then in the lives of others.
- We must refuse fear, by having faith that God is actually pleased to give us His Kingdom, making us its citizens and ambassadors, and therefore undertaking the obligation to care for us as a nation takes care of those of its citizens and ambassadadors who are serving abroad.
- We must reduce our load of worries by reducing the possessions we call our own … by reducing our list of “necessities” which has got swollen by the addition of what are actually luxuries but which we think of as essentials.