Tina Lips led the discussion on Matthew 6:19-34 today at Evergreen as we continue to go through the Sermon on the Mount. There was a lot of good discussion on the whole passage, talking about what treasures we set our hearts on and where we leave our priorities. The section of the passage that got me thinking the most was this:
25 Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? . . . 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? . . . 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matt 6:25, 27, 30-34).
I am not a worrier really. I tend not to worry about problems in the future, though that fact may not be so much from godliness and doing a great job of living by this passage so much as it is from mental necessity. If I worry about things in the future that I have no solution for and at this point have no way of fixing, I stress and freak out. So in order not to meltdown, I mostly don’t think about such things until I have to. Unfortunately, I don’t know that that really falls in line with what this passage is saying either.
Someone pointed out that the point of this passage isn’t so much to chastise people who worry and say, “Stop doing that!” and leave it at that. The point is that we should be trusting in God to meet our needs. We don’t have to worry about tomorrow because God already has it figured out for us. In light of that more complete picture, my method of ignoring future problems is not really the same thing as trusting God with my future. That’s something I need to work on, but I think it isn’t too much of a stretch to move from where I am the trust aspect. It’s mostly a matter of thinking intentionally and approaching it through a filter of faith rather than emotional expediency.
Where I do encounter more difficulty is in trusting God with my future when I’m not worried about it. While this point isn’t explicitly dealt with in the passage, I think the underlying idea is there. I don’t worry about things in the future much of the time because I have my plans in place. The problem is that if my security about the future is grounded in life going according to my plan, I’m in trouble. I’ve experienced many times before the fact that life just doesn’t respect the fact that I have certain expectations. The universe is quite rude, in fact, totally disregarding the work and mental effort I have put into figuring how I want to structure the course of my life.
Since the universe centers on me so much less than I would like, I have to trust God. When those moments come where something shatteringly big changes the course of my life when I liked it just fine how it was going, I have to realize maybe God knows what he is doing, and taking this detour is way better than the route I had mapped out. When I plan a big change and shift that I think will totally enhance where I’m headed, and the bottom falls out of my plans and I’m stuck right back where I was, I have to acknowledge maybe I’m getting ahead of God, and he has a purpose for keeping me right where I am. Sometimes life, and God, foiling our plans is really frustrating, even devastating. I have to believe that he knows better than I do though. Maybe he knows a much more effective (if radically different) approach to achieving what I was trying to do. Maybe he knows a much better goal to try to achieve.
Plans have a way of changing, and if God’s plans never fail, and if he always grants us his precious and very great promises, even though it may be anything but comfortable, I have to trust that his ends are better than my means.