Summary: Jesus' call to avoid anxiety teaches us that we need not be anxious, since God cares for us.
During the final few months of Jesus’ life he journeyed from Galilee to Jerusalem, where he would be crucified. While traveling to Jerusalem Jesus gave his followers some very important teaching regarding discipleship. His instruction covered a number of different topics regarding Christian discipleship. Jesus’ next topic is a call to avoid anxiety.
Today, let’s read about Jesus’ call to avoid anxiety in Luke 12:22-34:
22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12:22-34)
In any given year, 18 percent of Americans will suffer from an anxiety disorder. That’s twice the number of those who suffer from depression. If you broaden the study to include anyone who experiences an anxiety disorder at any time in his or her lifetime, the number increases to nearly 30 percent. And these are just the people who have been diagnosed with anxiety! Virtually everyone experiences anxiety.
Our levels of anxiety have increased dramatically over the last fifty years. According to psychologist Robert Leahy’s book Anxiety Free, “The average American child today exhibits the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient did in the 1950s.” Material comfort and security may be higher than it was back then, but other prevailing issues like separation from extended family, loss of community and neighborhood, uncertain employment, threats of terrorism, uncertain futures, high medical costs, immersion in technology, and lack of emotional support are a few of the many contributing factors.
As Leahy puts it, “We live in the Age of Anxiety. . . . We’ve become a nation of nervous wrecks.”
Jesus recognized that even in his day anxiety was a problem. So he called his disciples to avoid anxiety.
Jesus’ call to avoid anxiety as set forth in Luke 12:22-34 teaches that we need not be anxious, since God cares for us.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Command (12:22-23)
2. The Illustrations (12:24-28)
3. The Application (12:29-34)
I. The Command (12:22-23)
First, let’s look at the command.
Jesus had just warned his disciples of the danger of greed. Rather than storing up treasure for themselves – like the parable of the rich fool who kept building bigger barns in Luke 12:16-21 – Jesus told his disciples to be rich toward God (Luke 12:21) and store up treasure in heaven.
As soon as Jesus taught this truth to his disciples, he realized that they probably thought to themselves, “If I don’t store up treasure for myself, and if I am rich toward God and store up treasure in heaven, how then will I have enough to take care of my needs?” So Jesus said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on” (12:22).
This is one of the clearest – and perhaps least obeyed – commands of Jesus: Do not be anxious. In fact, it really is a double command: Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, that is, about food; and do not be anxious. . . about your body, what you will put on, that is, about clothing.
Jesus is teaching his disciples not to worry about food or clothing, which are the basic necessities of life. Somebody once said that worry “is like a rocking chair; it will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.” Don’t you find that true in your life?