Worrying and its Antidote in the Sermon on the Mount Matthew 6:25-34

Worrying its definition:

‘to think about problems or unpleasant things that might happen in a way that makes you feel unhappy and frightened’

(From;    dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/worry)

Worrying its roots in old English, German, Dutch and Old Norse.

In Old English it has the basic idea of ‘strangle’:

c. 1300, wirien, “to slay, kill or injure by biting and shaking the throat” (as a dog or wolf does), from Old English wyrgan “to strangle,” from Proto-Germanic *wurgjan (source also of Middle Dutch worghen, Dutch worgen, Old High German wurgen, German würgen “to strangle,” Old Norse virgill “rope”), from *wergh-, from PIE root *wer- (2) “to turn, bend.”

(From; etymonline.com/word/worry)

Whatever way we look at this word ‘to worry’, its connotation is negative for our state of mind and personhood.  If we dwell mentally too long on our negative thoughts, it will eventually destroy us.

Unfortunately, we all have examples of situations that have put pressure on us, not knowing what the future would hold.  I suppose it is the ‘not knowing’ whether or not we will land on our feet that causes these negative thoughts and feelings.  In 1974 when I was about 7 years old, I had a life changing event.  We all have life changing events, but I would like to share my story with you before looking at the words of our Saviour in Matthew 6 about worrying.

Episkopi and Limassol, Cyprus, 1974

Tranquil and peaceful Cyprus

As a two-year-old in the mid 1960’s my family moved to Cyprus.  I remember living in a caravan in the beginning, then in a wooden house (my father built) and finally in rented accommodation inside Episkopi.  I loved it there for many reasons.  At the Weekends for example I remember we used to go to the beach.  I couldn’t swim at that time, but I did walk into the sea as far as I could.  It was fun.  My two old brothers were there too.  I also so loved our garden that does not exist anymore.  I remember we had citrus trees, a tall tree we used to jump from.  We kept hens and rabbits.  Sometimes these small lizards would come into our house.  

Within the community there was a mosque which was an old converted Greek Orthodox Church (St Georges) with a minaret.   I went to pre-school and then to the main Turkish Cypriot school in which I learned to read, write, and do Maths.  We had a great time and also the odd fight outside of lessons.  I really enjoyed that school.  I had friends and one of my main friends was Ali.  In the village I had relatives too.  I remember as a child that I visited one of my uncles and I was shy of my aunty for some reason, so I went under the table.  This is my picture of Episkopi before 1974.  I did not know about the troubles of the 1960s.

War!

Just a picture from Pexels

However, one Summer this picture started to change.  Students were speaking of coming troubles and war.  Certain things happened for example I saw an aircraft fly very low over our school. Decisions were made that the men would defend our village.  They certainly defended the village and there were clashes between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots.  In fact, bullets were requiting off our tin roof.   My dad told us to stay at home however my mum got worried, and my older brother went looking for my dad and he got lost.  I left the house afterwards and found my dad.  I told him everything and he set out to find my brother.  Soon afterwards the villagers got together and made a plan for leaving Episkopi and going to the North of Cyprus.  The next day we set off walking and we decided to rest in a house that was not completely renovated yet.  There was no furniture only concrete floors.  That night I slept on a concrete floor for the first time.  The next morning there were Greek Cypriot militia surrounding the house.  We were then commanded to get on this bus. (The bus had been sprayed with bullets and all the glass windows were missing for obvious reasons). 

The Greek Cypriot militia took us to (what I believe was the old Limassol football stadium).  The women and the children were at the edges of the stadium and the men were in the centre sat down.  I was feeling hungry and for breakfast I was given a very small triangular piece of Edam Cheese. My immediate family of the two younger brothers were the lucky ones.  One of my older brothers was already in England and was at Grammar School.  My other older brother was dodging the Greek soldiers with my dad trying to get to safety.  

Anyhow my mum plucked up her courage and was able to speak to a commander.  We got out on a fresh bus that drove us to Akrotiri airbase.  We were flown to the UK.  One of my uncles spent a year living in a tent.  Another one of my uncles was murder somewhere in the surrounding area of Nicosia.  He and a couple of other men were taken to a quiet area (small cave) and killed by grenade.  For many years no one knew where they were.  The bodies were discovered by a species of tree that does not normally grow in that particular area.  My uncle had eaten a seed and from his stomach grew a tree. This story made the news:

(From;    hurriyetdailynews.com/how-a-fig-tree-helped-to-identify-a-slain-turkish-cypriot-in-search-of-missing-persons-in-divided-cyprus-136986?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=how-a-fig-tree-helped-to-identify-a-slain-turkish-cypriot-in-search-of-missing-persons-in-divided-cyprus-136986&utm_term=post)

When we came back to England I went to school and for a couple of years I was drawing tanks and planes.   I was sad because my extended and immediate family broke up.  There are many conflicts around the world and there are many people who have lost homes, family members and so on.  In all of this we stayed alive and started to build our lives again.

However, things do not need to be as extreme as war.  Even in safe communities’ things happen:

  1. Losing a job
  2. Wife is going to have a baby and one has to get to hospital in a rush
  3. Paying the rent
  4. Having food on the table so that the whole family can eat.

We find ourselves all the time worrying about things.  At the time of Christ to the average age of mortality was about 35 to 40 years of age

(From; earlychurchhistory.org/daily-life/longevity-in-the-ancient-world/)

So, when we look at the Gospel of Matthew and our Lord Jesus is talking about worrying we need to take note and do our homework correctly. It is good to begin by reading Matthew 6 verses 25-34

The Cure for Anxiety

25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:25-34  (NASB; From Olive Tree Bible Software )

Our Lord is concerned about the state of the believer’s soul, heart and being.  Not worrying is a practical outworking of the beatitudes.  There are certain things that we have learned about the beatitudes.

Without Christ we are lost separated from God. God meets us in our need and saves us from our sins.  The Holy Spirit works in our lives in such a way that we hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness. 

As our Lord says in verse 33, we are to; ‘seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.’

Compare this sentence of our Lord to:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

From; Matthew 5:6

We have no control over bad things happening, but the key is in the state of our faith by grace.  The eschaton is the great equalizer.  When the Day of Judgement comes, we will stand before God on our own.  This is a fearful thing for the person who has denied their Creator any part in their lives here on earth.  Some faith is better than no faith.  Our Lord says many times ‘O you of little faith…’

I particularly like verse 26 because I live in the countryside, and I see a lot of birds:

  • Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? Matthew 6:26

The thing is that here in Finland we have four seasons.  The birds are always in our garden finding food.  When we drive, we see lots of ravens by the roadside.  They possibly drop seeds on the road purposefully so that the husk of the seed can be cracked for food.

We then have King Solomon who was possibly the richest man in the world at that time. These God given riches however are trumped by lilies of the field that are more beautiful:

  • And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil, nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Matthew 6:28-30

Reflection

Bad things happen but in light of God’s word we need to live by faith and put our complete confidence in our Trinitarian God.  We have no control over life and death, yet earth is only half the story.  We need to remember that God became a man in Jesus Christ. He was crucified but now he is risen, and we put our hope in him.   The world does not understand God’s logic and to tell you the truth it goes against how the world sees things.

God can bless us with a long and happy life, but we should put God first in our lives and trust him completely.  Many in the world look for

  • Wealth and power because you are egotistical
  • Having a good reputation because it makes them feel good
  • Through competition beating a rival for the better job.
  • Having a wife/partner to serve you as a slave.

God doesn’t care about:

  • Your wealth and power because God sees your greed
  • Your good reputation because God sees your heart
  • That you are good at winning although you cheat
  • You are treating your wife/husband/ partner badly because you have no empathy.

Heavenly treasures are worth so much more:

  • Share what you have as Christ shared his love
  • A pure heart may lead to a good reputation.
  • Help the person next to you to reach new heights
  • Love your neighbour as yourself because on a bad day your neighbour may be helping you.

Although we have almost no control over suffering our eyes should be fixed over the horizon to the kingdom of God.  I had no control over my early years and the war in Cyprus yet by faith life goes on and into the eschaton where it really counts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: