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Nov 14 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 12, 2017 – Matthew 6:25-30

What Have Your Worries Done for You Recently?

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?
An why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Matthew 6:25-30

Intro: Last week, Jesus put us in between God and Mammon

Mammon is an Aramaic word that Matthew did not translate Mammon
– it has to do with pursuit of wealth and possessions
• perhaps Jesus was putting a name to this
◦ personified materialism to indicate how it can be like a god
• Jesus had also said our treasures are stored in heaven or on earth (therefore, with God or Mammon)
◦ he drew a line in sand when he said, You cannot serve God and Mammon
◦ they are two competing loyalties–and winner takes all
– by the way, a person does not need to be rich to be materialistic
• we can still be obsessed with money – think about it, desire it, place our hope in it
• that brings us to Jesus’ next subject

Where this conflict shows up in our everyday lives

“For this reason” connects what Jesus just said and what he’s about to say
– how do people serve Mammon?
• we learn it is possible to do this without making a conscious decision
◦ it has to do with one of the ways Mammon is served:
. . . do not worry about your life
◦ worry is an expression of our devotion

For example, parents who love and care for their children cannot help but worry about their development as well as their health and safety. And this is true regardless of the child’s age, from infancy to adulthood. This natural tendency to worry can escalate into an unhealthy obsession.  Also, it is one thing to worry over those we love and another thing to worry over every material and eventful thing.

• we show our devotion to God through worship
◦ we show devotion to Mammon through worry
– either we ask our Father for daily bread or we worry about it
• it seems to me that worry is our nervous system’s default setting
◦ worriers are often concerned, meticulous and religious people
◦ in fact, Religion, Inc. tends to create lots of worries
• those who serve Mammon–for example, by piling up money and hoarding it–
◦ are not relieved of worry, but loaded with more worries
◦ and their eternal prospect is not bliss, but worry, worry, worry world without end

The Greek New Testament uses three different words for life
bios: embodied life; zoe: life itself (an organism vs a nonliving thing)
• and here, where the Greek word for soul is used
◦ soul can be seen as synonymous with life
• the soul is the life force of the body; the inner life
◦ everyday issues of sustaining its existence–e.g., food and clothing
– worry is also a soul issue, in regard to mood, outlook, emotions
• Jesus’ target in throughout his sermon is the soul, the inner life
Is not life is more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Three observations:

  1. Food and clothes do not exhaust all possible sources of anxiety
    – food and clothes are simply examples of typical daily worries
  2. Anxiety throws our minds into an imagined future
    – in this case, a future in which food and clothing are uncertain
  3. “more than” was a favorite form of logic among rabbis
    – “If something true of this, then how much more that!
    – what is more difficult to produce or replace, clothes or body?
    – another way of reading this is, “There’s more to body than how you cover it”

As Paul says, . . . Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? . . . Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you . . . ? (1 Cor. 6:15 & 19)

Jesus offers us two exercises to relieve anxiety

The first exercise: “Look”

I want to come back to this, but for now we will take a quick look
– our eyes cannot focus on near and far at same time, or up and down, etc.
• if we look in the direction of worry, we can always find reasons
◦ but looking in other directions can also relieve us of worry
Look at the birds 
◦ you won’t see them worrying about food
• the point is you have a Father, and every day he feeds his pets (cf. Psa. 104:10-21)
◦ and you are worth “much more” to him
◦ God is adequate to all you need – and he treasures you

Julian, “It is our ignorance of love that causes all the trouble.”

– the point isn’t that like birds we do not have to grow crops or build barns
• there’s a difference between living carefree and living carelessly
• the purpose of this exercise is to build trust in God
◦ trust is the remedy to anxiety

27, Jesus’ argument against anxiety

What does worry do for you? What are its benefits
– is it a motivation? – if so, what does it motivate you to do?
• to take a lot of unnecessary measures to resolve uncertainty
◦ and after all of that, it doesn’t work – we’re still anxious
◦ does anxiety change anything?
• what does anxiety do for your mood? your patience with others?
◦ trying to resolve worry by meeting its demands,
◦ is putting out a fire with gasoline – it only creates a dozen more worries
– what is the solution to our fear of losing our treasured possessions?
• it is not not tightening our grip on them, but letting them go
• I read Mark 10 again yesterday, about the wealthy man and the blind beggar
◦ by the end of the story, the wealthy man had lost heart and walked away from Jesus
◦ while the beggar was told to take heart and walked away with Jesus
◦ I’m sure it was easier for the beggar to give up all to follow Jesus than for the wealthy man

Anxiety does not add a minute to my life or an inch to my height
– anxiety does not add anything to life, but subtracts
• it reduces our ability to think clearly or creatively
◦ and by locking our bodies in survival mode, damages them
• then we will find ourselves obsessing over our bodies
◦ and not just worrying about what we will wear!

28-30, Jesus has covered food; now clothing

The second exercise: “Observe”

With all his wealth, Solomon could not dress as splendidly as a flower
– Jesus was not talking about a garden flower or botanically bred flowers
• he was referring to the blossoms of weeds that grew in uncultivated fields
• and again he uses the “much more” logic
– the good news, we can enjoy this freedom from anxiety
• even though we are “of little faith”
• Jesus will use this term with the disciples on three more occasions
◦ it was not the condition he wanted for them — or wants for us
◦ however, as we proceed and succeed with this exercise, our faith will grow
◦ maybe even to greatness

Conclusion: If I were to sum all of this up as an equation

Freedom from anxiety boils down to

awareness + choice + practice

– we have to be aware of our anxieties in order to resolve them
• if worry is our normal mode, we not recognize them the moment they begin
◦ reflective and careful looking and observing develop awareness
◦ the awareness comes through practice
• we practice deepening our awareness every time we sit in contemplative prayer
– there is a proverb in scripture that says:

The hearing ear and the seeing eye,
The LORD has made both of them (Pr. 20:12)

• why would the wise man remind us of this obvious fact?
◦ because God has his own purposes for both
◦ God wants to do something in us through seeing and hearing

In his translations of Rainer Rilke’s poems, Robert Bly writes introductions to each section of poetry. In one section, he describes a season when living in France that Rilke’s poetry dried up. During that time, the sculptor Auguste Rodin advised Rilke to visit zoo. There, he told him, to “Look at an animal until you see it.” This is a kind of seeing into that discovers enlightening aspects or even the essence of the object observed. Rilke did as Rodin counseled and in the season that followed, his poetry was greatly inspired.
Later on, Bly says, Rilke “decided he had done enough visualization work. What he had not done was heart work.” It occurred to him that “listening might be a road in itself.” then Bly makes this keen observation, that “certain artists do open a new space in the ear, so that we hear something we’ve never heard before . . . .”

• similarly painters can open a new space in the eyes

Having this sort of vision and hearing is something Jesus stressed with the disciples

Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? (Mk. 8:17-18)

– sight and sound activate a different part of the brain than anxiety
• but the benefit Jesus has in mind comes not only by beautiful sights and harmonious music
• when he talks about eyes that see and ears that hear,
◦ what he has in mind is a kind of attention and reflection that creates trust
– the practice is this:
• to sit with God in prayer and bring our anxieties to him
◦ one at a time if necessary
◦ and we continue to do this every time an anxiety comes up
◦ so, in the same prayer that we turn from anxiety, we turn to trust

. . . casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you (1 Pe. 5:7)
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Php. 4:6-7)

What do you say we train ourselves
To look until we see
To listen until we hear
To touch until we feel
To savor until we taste
And to sniff until the aromas of life awaken us
to the infinite love and devotion of our heavenly Father

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