Summary: Worrying about this life reveals distrust in God's providence for what we need. Faithfully offering God our service and love will be a treasure that will endure even into eternity.
Jesus says, “You cannot serve both God and Money” (Mt. 6:24). We can either serve God or Money, but not both. We may either seek first the kingdom of God, or seek first the things of this world. We are slaves to God’s law, or slaves to the law of sin (cf. Rom. 7:25). But we cannot split our allegiance, nor can we have dual citizenship. We either are citizens of the Kingdom of God or of the kingdom of this age.
God tells us, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Dt. 6:4,5). Every week, the deacon recites the Shema, speaking as God’s mouthpiece to His people that God demands our all: all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength. It’s the eternal poker game and God has gone all in, and we can’t play if we keep back even one chip.
God demands our complete, unrestricted service. But this command is not burdensome, “for everyone born of God overcomes the world (1 Jn. 5:3,4). God created man for Himself and for His own glory. St. Augustine writes, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts shall be restless till they find rest in Thee” (Conf. 1.1.1). When we serve God, we do what we were made to do and we find our best and highest purpose. Anything other than service to God comes up short and will not fill us fully.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” (Mt. 6:25). Why shouldn’t we worry about our life and our body? Because we cannot serve both God and Money. Jesus goes on from there, to show us common pitfalls in loving God over Money: not trusting God to give enough food or wanting more than what God gives; and not trusting God to provide adequate clothing or wanting fancier clothes than what God offers. Whether it’s food or drink or clothes, worrying about what God offers us is split allegiance.
“Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Mt. 6:25). When we worry about what we will eat and what we will drink and what we will wear, we quickly move from the necessity of eating and drinking and protection, to the whims of desire and wants. We’re not worried about whether we eat, but what we eat.
Some of you know that I don't like potatoes. Barring starvation, I’d rather not eat them and go hungry. I’ve learned to give thanks for my food—as a child I was sometimes rude about it—but I have eaten potatoes when required by social niceties. But what if God put me into a place where that was my staple? I’d struggle worrying what I would eat, and I do think I’d have trouble remembering that God had provided.
“Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Mt. 6:26). “Will he not much more clothe you?” (Mt. 6:30). God provides all that we need for life and godliness (cf. 2 Pe. 1:3). God loves us and knows what is truly best for each and every one of us and works things for our ultimate good (cf. Eph. 1:11). Jesus points us to examples of the Father’s goodness and love. The birds of the air have food by God’s providence. They do not worry about food for next year, only for today. The birds participate in God’s grace and provision by working tirelessly all day long for their food. And the Father adorns the fields with wildflowers, and the fields do nothing more than receive the rains that God sends to water them. If He so lavishly gives to birds and fields, will He not give what we need, who are made in His own image and likeness?
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Mt. 6:27). Worry is wholly unfruitful. Worry cannot change the past. Worry cannot change the future. Worry does nothing but erode the present and wash away the here and now, like a hurricane devours the beach. The storm is not satisfied by eating away a hundred miles of beach; nor is worry’s hunger pleased by destroying every day of a person’s life. It consumes like a black hole, leaving nothing, making nothing, each anxiety dragging the worrier farther from God.
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them” (Mt. 6:32).
Worry is distrust of God, a lack of faith. Pagans worry. Those who do not know the goodness, faithfulness, and loving-kindness of God—those who have never had their life plucked out from the grave and had their feet set upon the Rock (Ps. 40:2)—they run after temporal cares and worries. The ungodly would rather trust in their own feeble and inadequate abilities than in the God Whom they do not (or chose not to) know, Who still cares for them and loves them and sends them what they need to live. As Christians, worry must give way to faith and anxiety must yield to Shalom.