Where Does Worry Come From?
August 12, 2007, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. "Therefore, I say [to you]. Do not worry about what [you] will eat in life, or what [you] will wear on [your] body," (verse twenty-two). [These] are words from the Lord that we know quite well, which are written in The Gospel According To Matthew. "The things we eat" and "the things we wear" are representative of the things that trouble us if we don't have them. We often worry, we're troubled about what we don't have and we're troubled if we don't have enough. We'll worry not because we don't have, but before we [even] get to the point of not having. Everybody wants to "live worry-free." But, on the other hand, it is about impossible to live without worrying. Therefore, the words of Jesus, where he says more than once, "Do not worry," leave an unforgettable impression on the heart of most anybody. In that sense I mean [these] are the words that we know well. But, we must not overlook the small preface of "Therefore, I say [to you]." It refers to a continuation from something he said before. Before we listen to the message of "Do not worry" which the Lord gave, there is something that we must hear.
Guard Your Heart Against Every Kind Of Greed And Coveting
2. Let's begin from there then; please read beginning in verse thirteen. It is written as follows. "A man in the crowd said, 'Master, please tell my brothers to share the inheritance with me.' Jesus said to him, 'Who appointed me to be your judge and arbitrator?' Then he said to the group, 'Pay heed to every form of coveting and be on your guard. Even though one has more than enough, the life of a person is not empowered by possessions, but is utterly impotent on its own.'," (verses thirteen through fifteen).
3. What "the man in the crowd" did here appears as odd in our eyes. In society back then, it was not unusual at all because in order to settle problems among the inhabitants of a region often times a Jewish teacher would serve in the role of an arbitrator. So this guy was doing no more than just seeking from Jesus what he was expected to seek from any other rabbi. Furthermore, in matters pertaining to property inheritance, there were precise provisions in the law. When we see how that he made his appeal [to Jesus] with "Please tell my brothers to share the inheritance with me," it is most likely about how he was being cheated by his brothers for his portion of the inheritance that was due him by law.
4. Therefore, I would say that what he was doing was pretty much not seen by society as the wrong or the unjust thing to do. But, the Lord refused to be his arbitrator [when asked] there. But, hold it, not just that, with this event as a further basis from which to speak, he states, "Be careful about any form of greed and coveting." Supposing that it was an out-of-place appeal [that he made to Jesus], how is there any connection between his claim for his due rights to the talk about "coveting?" It is curious.
5. As we think along these lines, it doesn't seem that Jesus is speaking on an obvious [kind of] "coveting" for anyone to see here. Therefore, he says, "Pay heed to all forms of coveting and be on your guard." If the coveting was obvious to most anyone, he would not need to say "Be on your guard." There is a coveting among "the all forms of coveting" that we don't see and to which we must pay heed. Jesus is giving consideration to "the coveting" that we are not likely to notice, it is hidden in the every day typical situations, in the requests and the claims that we would see as entirely normal to make. In order to make it clear, he spoke this parable after it. The Lord brings up a pretty extreme illustration. However, we must not focus on its extreme parts. Instead we must look at the universal issue that lies within everyone [of us].
6. Please look at verse sixteen. A certain rich man's house [had] an abundant harvest. In a way it made sense for him to build and replace [his] barns. Was he deliberately being a covetous person? No, he didn't look that way. His decision was altogether appropriate. Yet, God calls him out with "oh foolish man." Is it because on the evening he sets forth [his] storehouse rebuilding plan he will lose his life? Is it because the bumper crop and his storage of crops will all be for nothing? No, that's not why. The problem is actually apparent in his words. Unfortunately, we can't see the special nuances of the rich man's words spoken there in the New Interconfessional Version, [our Japanese translation of the scriptures]. If I may offer an expanded translation for us, he said something like this. "What am I do? I've got nowhere to put away my crops." And as he continues to muse he says, "Here's what I'll do. I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. I'll put my grain and my goods in them, then I'll say to my soul. 'Hey hey, I have gotten enough in reserve to go on living for many years into the future. I'll rest and enjoy myself in eating and drinking all the time.'"
7. Do you see the picture? The problem lies in the word "my" which was so tediously and irksomely repeated. And the climax of his speech is verse nineteen, "I will say to myself." -- As I mentioned now, this is the statement, "I will say to my soul." Put in other words, "soul" means "life." You can translate it either "soul" or "life." So, this means, "I will say to my life." He said that. Now then, we see the meaning in the statement God gave. This man says, "I will say to my life." So then, God says, "Oh foolish man, you claim it is 'my life,' this 'life of yours' as you call it will be taken away tonight."
8. We may think that [worldly] property is "mine." We may think the goods we've obtained as crops are "mine." But, what we would like to think of as "mine" even [our] "life" is not. We like to make the assertion [that it's] "mine." We don't even want to hand it over to someone else. We want to hold it tight in our own hands. We want to keep it under our own control until the very end. We want to have things our way until the very end. We want it to be "mine" until the end. "Life" [means mostly] that [to most]. But, how is it really in the actual practice of existence? It doesn't go as we would like it our way. "Life" [is being] in this temporary world. Human life [is part of being] in this passing world. It is not "mine" [to have and possess]. We understand that truth.
9. So to whom does it belong? It belongs to God. That's what is being expressed by the words from God in this parable. "This life of yours will be taken away tonight." -- When he says, "take away," we may feel that God is doing something a bit unfair, but this is originally the word "require, demand." It is that [God] is demanding [him] to "Return it back." In other words, it means that for a time he was entrusted with it by God. We must admit that solemn truth. Life in this passing world is just something entrusted to us by God temporarily. So, who has been sustaining that life to which one has been entrusted for the moment? God has. God has what belongs to him and has been supporting the life that fundamentally belongs to him. But, this guy did not admit it. In his words he kept repeating, "my," "mine."
10. It is telling us that human "coveting" lies there in that. Coveting lies right there when we live asserting that "what belongs to God" "belongs to me," which is something we are entrusted with temporarily. However, from the world's perspective, to say "my" and "mine" is generally not wrong to do. So, [people] won't notice it right off. As a result, the Lord said, "Be careful with such coveting."
11. After he said that he started talking about not worrying. His speech about not worrying continues from his speech about "Take heed and be on your guard against all forms of greed and coveting." Many people hold on to their worries and cares. But, many people never think, "I am greedy and covetous." Worrying people don't think they have requests and desires for more than they need. Therefore, we understand there is an important message for us according to the words from verse twenty-two of "Therefore, I say to you," where the Lord connects worrying to the condition of coveting.
12. Here the Lord is saying "Do not worry." Then he speaks about God as the one who nourishes the crows. Furthermore, he speaks about the God who dresses the flowers in the fields better than Solomon [dressed]. He is actually stating the same thing he essentially said in the parable from before. The Lord points to crows. He points to the flowers in the fields. You will understand by going out to a field and looking. What for some reason ends being invisible when you point your eyes at human society, which is always sowing seed, harvesting, and building sheds and barns, is visible when you go out to the field and look. There are crows in it which live by receiving food from God. There are the flowers upon flowers in the fields, dressed beautifully by God alone, even though the flowers themselves never toil or spin yarn. Their figures tell the story eloquently: "To whom do their lives and bodies belong?" "Under whose possession is everything that supports the life and the body originally under, and from whom does it all come?"
13. So, God the Father lets even the crow, which is considered foul, live. God entrusts even the crow its life on earth for a certain time and gives it what it needs to sustain its life. The Lord says, "Even more now when it comes to you, how much more value do you have than a bird?" Also, God the Father even dresses up the pasture that dries up in a day. "Even more now when it comes to you," says the Lord, "how much more [will he do] for you?" The father's look of kindness will be turned towards both the life and the body [we have], and [we will] have what is given by God for life on this earth and for the body on this earth. Everything comes from God. But, as we've seen just ago, we often end up forgetting that it all comes from God. We forget we're nourished by God's kindnesses. Then arrogantly, we begin to make assertions as if everything we need in our daily life belongs to us by nature. [This] is the coveting and greed that is hidden and invisible to the eyes of society.
14. And so Jesus knew clearly that this concealed coveting was deeply connected to worry. As I mentioned earlier, our worries are worries of stewing around that "We worry we won't have" [something]. So, it's a worrying in which we think "some shortage of something is coming." We feel that we worry because what we need will not be sufficient, it will be missing. It is not just the insufficiency or lacking of food and clothing, like Jesus was saying here. At a certain time we won't have enough money. Time will be short. Skills will be lacking. My husband's affection will be missing. My wife's affection will be missing. The help won't be enough. The thoughtfulness and considerateness between those around you won't be enough. -- We think those are causes for worrying.
15. But, the issue does not truly lie in that we are lacking something. That's not it, rather, the issue lies in that we are full. What are we full of? We are full of the word "my, mine." "I" am full and "God" is missing. There is where the root of all forms of worrying lies. So, the Lord says, "oh you ones weak in faith" here. What deeply affects worrying is not actually the situation around you. It is not the shortage of something. No, it is not; what deeply affects worrying is one's relationship with God, it is one's faith.
16. In this way then, since worrying does not come from the shortage itself, even though we might seek hard for what we are short on, it will not amount to a solution to our worrying. Even if the shortage is filled, we will worry because of some other shortage. So, what should we do then? There is something that we should seek first of all, says the Lord. "Just seek the kingdom of God. If you do, then all these things will be given to you in addition," (verse thirty-one).
17. "Seek the kingdom of God." -- The kingdom of God is not in a faraway place. "In truth, the kingdom of God is among you," says the Lord, (17:21). "Seek the kingdom of God." Just before that the text says, "Your father knows that these things are a need for you." With the God who knows our needs, and with that God as "our Father," we receive all things from the father's hands and live together in thanksgiving under God's rule; [that's our] day to day life. [That's] the world of salvation over which God the Father rules. The Lord says, just "Seek the kingdom of God."