Do Not Worry

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Do not worry… Man, that is a tough one for me. How about you?

There is seemingly so much to worry about, isn’t there? Usually, being told NOT to worry doesn’t seem to help much either.

It is helpful for me to look at this reading and being told NOT to worry in the same way parents are instructed to navigate behaviors with toddlers. (Yes, I am comparing myself to a toddler.)

Nov 21- Thanksgiving Eve

Matthew 6:25-33

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Do not worry… Man, that is a tough one for me. How about you?

There is seemingly so much to worry about, isn’t there? Usually, being told NOT to worry doesn’t seem to help much either.

It is helpful for me to look at this reading and being told NOT to worry in the same way parents are instructed to navigate behaviors with toddlers. (Yes, I am comparing myself to a toddler.)

More and more research has shown that using positive statements is more helpful than negative. An example would be, “We use kind words in this house” instead of “Do not say that!” Another one: “Hands are for nice touches” instead of “Do not hit your brother!” I’m definitely not saying I haven’t used that second line. I am simply saying that people respond better when guided to what should be done rather than what should NOT be done. Instead of just saying “Do NOT worry” in this text, we get the answer of what we should be doing. Strive first for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness and all these daily needs will also be given to you.

God knows our daily needs. In fact, God knows our daily needs better than we do.

These daily needs and worries are not what God wants our focus on. Our focus is to be on the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness.

So, what does the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness look like?

Unfortunately, we seem to get many examples of what the kingdom of God does NOT look like. We do not have to look far to see pain caused by others.

This happens because God isn’t put first. When God is put first, we seek to build God’s kingdom. That looks like the world without all of that evil, as God would have it. When God is put first, we respect human life rather than doing harm to our neighbor. When God is put first, we seek to help our neighbor in their need. When God is put first, we are focused on the glory of God and the world as it should be rather than our day as we think it should be. The kingdom of God is brought about when we look to following the commandments as Jesus summarized them in Matthew 22. 1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. 2) Love your neighbor as yourself.

The kingdom of God is God put first. And our God has come to us first, completely for us, in Christ. This is our righteousness.  We look to Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Our righteousness is having our sin taken away and being freed to live in God’s ways. In our faith in Christ, our relationship with God is made right for now and forever. Because of God’s love to us first, we are able to step out with love for God and love for our neighbor.

As we seek God’s kingdom in love for God and neighbor, we also know that our neighbors are not only affected by our actions. We know the pain of things like illness and natural disasters as well. Potential worries are plentiful. Even in that, we seek God’s kingdom. That is not something I say lightly.

My aunt, uncle, and cousin live in Thousand Oaks, CA. I received an e-mail from my aunt several days after the deadly shooting near them while fires came nearer to their home, just two to three miles out. Following devastation brought by human sin, the threats of fire surrounded them.

There was so much to worry about. What a week it had been already. As they considered what they would take if forced to evacuate, they remembered the stories attached to so much of their home and possessions, ready to leave it all if needed. In the howling winds my aunt wrote to us, “the air around here is not only filled with ash, it rushes around carrying with it devastation and indescribable pain from so many people whose homes are lost, or worse, loved someone shot to death last week.” She is fully aware of what surrounds them, but says all she can report is “gratitude for everyone and everything.” She says to those she sent the email to, I am sending this because we love you and you love us and for that I am grateful. Grateful was the single word bolded in that e-mail. In the midst of all this, she expressed gratitude.

She expressed a gratitude for the love that they feel and share.

You can imagine all of the daily needs they could be worried about, but that wasn’t my aunt’s focus. She was focused on the kingdom of God, through the love of God and others, in thankfulness. The kingdom of God was still present for her in the love of God and the love of the neighbor. Her eyes were set to things that could never be lost, not in a horrific shooting and not in a raging fire. What she and her family have their greatest hopes on and their faith in can’t be packed in a go-bag. For the all of this, she was grateful.

What a message as we come to Thanksgiving. It isn’t the Black Friday deals or even the delicious meals we look forward to that deserve greatest thanks. It is that we have a God who provides for us, giving our needs for the day as well as our needs for a loving God for eternity. Do give thanks for your wonderful meal tomorrow, but also give thanks for our God and how God provides for us beyond our comprehension.

Even in the midst of uncertainty and disaster, we give thanks to a God who loves us and provides for us. It was an unstoppable thankfulness that my aunt declared.

This unstoppable thankfulness comes from a focus far beyond our worries, looking to God’s kingdom and righteousness.

One of my favorite songwriters, Reese Roper of Five Iron Frenzy, says it well.

“To all the farsighted the sky’s never been so clear. Hello to the hopeful. Goodbye to the full of fear.”

“You know in your heart that the farsighted see better things.”

We are setting our sights and intentions with hope in the Lord and the bigger picture. We are not letting the troubles, worries, and fears of the moment be our whole story and our primary focus.

We set our sights on God, all that God does, all that God has done, and all that God will do. Free from worry, we give thanks for all that God has given us. We give thanks for each daily need that is met. We give thanks for our food, our family, shelter for today, hope for tomorrow, and for certainty of God’s kingdom and righteousness for us.

As we set our sights on God, turn from our worries and fears, and give thanks, we are free to move into the things God calls us into. Our worries for the day are minimized when we look with farsightedness to the things of God that are far bigger than the day’s needs.

My aunt was making a statement that was focused on God as she gave thanks. She didn’t need to be told not to worry or not to fear.  Despite all the difficulty she took very seriously right in front of her, her eyes were set on something beyond. The farsighted see better things and it changes how we live here and now, impacting the way we live, interact, and give thanks as we live in gratitude for God’s kingdom and righteousness each day.

Let us give thanks for all that God has given and live free from worry and fear, looking to what God calls us to see and do here and now as we look with thankfulness and expectation to our God who is with us and for us now and forever. Thanks be to God.

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