Worry is a Trap

The price of gas keeps peaking
(we think it’s over, lower,
then it’s not)!
Insurance for our home, our car,
is suddenly becoming
beyond what we expected.
Christmas season brings good cheer,
expensive food to share
and gifts to buy . . .
I think that I’ve decided that
my spending is all done.
I’m shutting down.

But they’re extending super sales!
Black Friday isn’t over,
it has become Black Week!
My sheets are old, my blue jeans
and my skirts and shirts
all out of style!
Should I make sure I catch this sale?
Or should I wait
and not give in?
But then, this also is the time
to triple impact, give yet more
to help the poor!

My anxious thoughts are winning,
dimming Christmas lights,
humming worry versus carols.

I pray. He says, “Just breathe!
Remember the true sense
of why I came,
that baby in the feeding trough,
the joy I brought,
and all my suffering,
the life I live, the love I give
to all my dear ones,
everywhere.
Just trust me! I provide!
Your worry is a trap.
Rest on my lap!”

Is your inbox flooded with ads these days, so many it’s hard to weed through them to find any real mail? Mine is. And sometimes I take advantage of good deals that come just at the right moment. That’s fine, when I choose well. But the temptation to step outside of my “real needs” box is there, every day. Then we open the mail that comes in envelopes, and to our chagrin, we get news that shows that our budget is indeed going to be stretched.

It is easy, then, to either blissfully ignore one’s over-spending or to become anxious. For most of us who are contemplating this together today, our needs for daily food and adequate clothing are already being met. We also know that there are people suffering in severe poverty, both in Western countries and around the world. We know that there are street people not too far away who are wondering what they will eat tomorrow, or how they will deal with winter cold. And then there are those in the slums of cities like Calcutta, in the villages in warn-torn nations in Africa, and people who have lost all they owned in Ukraine. We may have empathy for these needy people and give to help them.

But it is also easy for those of us with “normal” plans for improving our housing, replacing an old car, or updating our wardrobe to become swept up in the kind of idolatry that Jesus was talking about in Matthew 6: 24, when he stated, “You cannot serve both God and money.” Last week we dug into the meaning of the word translated most times as “money”: “mammon.” In its original setting it pointed to a kind of idolatry. If we let the cultural approval of consumerism (the pressure to always buy what will improve our lifestyle) influence us to the extent that we shift our devotion away from our Father in heaven and focus on wealth or sales or increased comfort or today’s fashion, we are falling into idolatry. We are serving another master.

This does not mean that Jesus did not understand our need to provide what is good for ourselves and our families as well as our neighbors. That is why he points to the birds as an example of how the Father provides: They don’t just sit in their nests and expect to be fed; they go out and search for their food every day. But they are not focusing on storing up an exorbitant pile of future provisions in a barn somewhere. How does this apply to human beings? Is it not a good thing to know that your pantry has what you might need if a storm comes and shuts down access to groceries? No, it is about what becomes the driving force behind our accumulation of food or other goods.

As Donald Hagner says, “a life dominated by concern for such matters is misdirected and will of necessity lack full commitment to what is really important.”[1] What is really important? It is trusting God and having him first in our lives. If we believe he is good, and that his promises to provide what we need are solid, then worry will not rule our emotions.

I’m sure you have heard the injunction: “Whenever you see a ‘therefore,’ you need to look to see what it is there for.” In this section of the Sermon on the Mount that we are considering here (Mat. 6:24-32) there are several of these, but the one that gives us the overall answer is at the beginning:

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. 25Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? (Matt. 6:24 NIV)

When we have entered the Kingdom of the King of the Universe, our Father in heaven, we now have one law which is to guide all our decisions and actions: 

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Lk. 10:27 NIV)

Our Father does not guarantee that we will never face difficulties. I think of what his emissary Paul went through (cf 2 Cor. 3:23-27), suffering which included “labor and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and lacking clothing.” (2 Cor. 11:27 CSB) Nevertheless, Paul said, through those sufferings he experienced God’s grace in his life as never before, and was strengthened in his complete devotion to Christ (2 Cor. 12:10).

John Stott summarizes our situation this way: “So then God’s children are promised freedom neither from work, nor from responsibility, nor from trouble, but only from worry. Worry is forbidden us: it is incompatible with Christian faith.”[2]

The Lord’s model prayer does tell us to come to the Father with our needs, such as “Give us today the food that we need” (Mat 6:11 NLT). That is an example of unloading our worries onto him, letting him take the concern off our minds and hearts. That is often a challenge for us, but it is not impossible or he would not have told us that we must do it, choosing to trust him and his character.

When we worry, we are allowing the Enemy to weaken our faith. Instead of falling into that trap, we are told to: Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Pet. 5:7 NIV) If we trust the Father’s love, then we know that he is taking care of us. I love the way the French translates this verse: Déchargez-vous sur lui de tous vos soucis (1 Pet. 5:7 BFC), which could be understood as “get that load of worries off of you and put the load on him”. It is a kind of unloading that leaves us free to carry on with a different focus, serving him in whatever way he has put in front of us. “We cannot be serving God by glorifying him if we are constantly filled with doubt about his ability to take care of us.”[3]

My parents had a collection of LPs that satisfied my longing for music whenever I was home from school. One of my favorite songs from one of those records has been humming through my mind today while writing this: “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” sung by Ethel Waters (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QbeNSatFFo):

“Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.”

Yes!  I know He watches over me with love! Worry cannot hold me captive!


[1] Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1–13, vol. 33A, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1993), 163.

[2] John R. W. Stott and John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): Christian Counter-Culture, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 168

[3] James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1972), 221.  

Published by Linnea Boese

After spending most of my life in Africa, as the child of missionaries then in missions with my husband, I am now retired and free to use my time to write! I am working on publishing poetry and on writing an autobiography. There have been many adventures, challenges and wonderful blessings along the way -- lots to share!

5 thoughts on “Worry is a Trap

  1. Thanks so much Lynne! Worry seems to be a huge burden to all of us, and Mom style worry seems like it’s the very worst. This really helped me to cry then give the burden back to Him.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks so much Lynne! Worry seems to be a huge burden to all of us, and Mom style worry seems like it’s the very worst. This really helped me to cry then give the burden back to Him.

    Like

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