Jesus asked, “Why do you worry?” This question is found in the Sermon on the Mount as told in the sixth chapter of Matthew. Matthew told this gospel story by collecting all of Jesus’ sayings and arranging them in groups of topics as he spoke to his followers. Therefore, this admonishment of Jesus to not be anxious or worried is a teaching for those who believe in and follow Jesus. Fully 10 percent of the Sermon on the Mount is an explanation of why we should not worry. This is an important teaching! Biblical scholars tell us that a majority of what Jesus preached is summed up in chapters 6-8 of Matthew. So, for Jesus to spend 10 percent of his message on "don't worry," this must be significant.
Jesus seems to be doing more than offering kindly advice here. This is not just a mere suggestion that one should not worry. Jesus is not saying, “Gee, I wish you would not worry so much.” He seems to be creating a new commandment: “Thou shall not worry.” This is such a serious teaching, occurring throughout the Bible. How many times in scripture are we told not to worry, be anxious, or be afraid? Any guesses? At least 365 times. That is the same number of days in a year. Perhaps it would help us to remember that each morning as we begin our day.
Jesus also explains why we have no reason to worry. Jesus argues that worry is not necessary. It is needless, it is useless, and it may actually be harmful. Worry does not change the past. The past is past. Worry about the future will not change our tomorrows either. It is a waste of time. Not only that, it has been argued by all but the most die-hard pessimists that the future rarely turns out as bad as our worries anyway. We have all had that experience from time to time. We get ourselves all tied up in knots about something that is going to happen, and then when it is all over we think “that was not as bad as I thought it was going to be.”
Jesus offers two teachings in this passage from Matthew on how to overcome worry. One is to “strive first for the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33). Focus your life on God and God’s kingdom. All of our cares in regard to daily living are legitimate concerns, but they should not be our first concern. God is to be first and foremost in our thinking. Put God first and all else falls into place. Jesus also said, “Do not worry about tomorrow” (v. 34). Live your life one day at a time and worry will not have a foothold.
So, whatever worries may be nagging at you today, take your worry and lay it down at the throne of God through prayer. Sure, there may be other issues more important to being a faithful disciple than worry, but few are more destructive or disabling than worry. Jesus asked, “Why do you worry?” Placing our cares in God’s hands is the way to inner peace and faithful discipleship.
Rev. Karen Harvester is chaplain Hays Medical Center.