You and I are living in the midst of a pandemic. Are you worried about your physical health? Are you concerned about your financial well being? Listen to what Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 6:25–34.
Don’t worry about your life. Worry is
pointless. Worry changes nothing, v.27. The term Jesus uses may be
translated either as “life” or “height” (more
likely the latter). In either case, worry will increase neither your
stature nor your longevity. Your sovereign God provides food for the
birds and you are more important than they. He meets the needs of the
flowers, clothing them in a splendor that surpasses that of Solomon.
Worry takes energy and gifts God has given you for dealing with
today’s problems, and expends it on things that have not happened and
may never occur. Note that Jesus is not denying the existence of
problems and trouble, v.34.
pastor in the congregation in which I work here in Newberg, Oregon, is a joy. I
am particularly thankful for the way in which the saints (which is what the Bible
calls believers) reflect the grace and comfort of God. In the broader world I
see fear and panic on one side, and on the other, some dismissing safety concerns
as irrelevant, or at least as not applying to them. The members of the church
have been reaching out to one another (by phone or email) as well as looking
for ways to be of help in the community at large. They are taking seriously the
danger of spreading the COVID 19 inadvertently and are abiding by the necessary
restrictions. At the same time, they refuse to live in fear. They know One who
has conquered the grave. I am thankful for their encouraging, servant hearts.
This is a
congregation that loves to gather for worship. Yet this past Lord’s Day (and
apparently for some time to come) they could not, both because that would have
put others in danger, and because of restrictions on gatherings. Since we could
not gather in our building where we usually worship, we moved to live
streaming. We cannot not worship. We will not stop worshiping. But we
have changed how we gather for worship. It has been a learning curve for
me, who has never put together a YouTube video, much less live streamed. Although
the morning was a bumpy start, by the time of the evening service it seemed to
be coming together, thanks to helpful advice from others.
The current situation makes you ask how
important your health is. As the stock market gyrates, you are
prompted to ask how important your investments and retirement are.
In Matthew 6:19–24 Jesus gives you a reality check, making you look
at what is even more important. Being a citizen of the kingdom
affects not only your worship (alms-giving, prayer and fasting) but
also the way you live your daily life.
Put your treasure where your heart is.
Earthly treasures decay. Your possessions here on earth are
vulnerable. Moths may eat clothes and wool carpets, fine metal
objects may tarnish and rust, and thieves may steal what you have.
You may save money, only to have it evaporate in a stock market
crash, or see it eaten up by inflation. Jesus is not condemning
saving and stewardship (as Christians we are future oriented instead
of living just for the moment), but he is warning against making your
possessions the focus of your life. It is not only the wealthy who
are subject to this temptation. It tugs at any of us who would like
more wealth, more things, more fun, than we have.
It was a special day in the life of the church in Antioch. Already a congregation that had broken new ground. They were now, for the first time, sending out cross-cultural missionaries. The commissioning involved preparation by prayer and fasting by the Christians in that congregation. Serious prayer in Scripture is often accompanied by fasting. Yet it is often ignored in the church today. In Matthew 6:16–18 Jesus warns against the abuse of the practice.
We live in a scary world. People are frightened by the COVID-19 virus, by financial instability, and threats of conflict. But I would suggest that we face a much more threatening danger. It is a triple danger: the world, the flesh, and the devil. No wonder that in Matthew 6:13 Jesus teaches you to pray that God will not lead you into temptation.
Don’t lead us into temptation. God does not tempt you. Temptations and trials will come, James 1:2,3. You pray that they may be avoided, but also that you may not give in to temptation. God will provide a way of escape. There are times when God allows temptation. He can even use them to strengthen you. God is not the tempter, James 1:13. He is sovereign, he controls all things, even the temptations which come into your life, but he is not the author of sin. He does not tempt you. Do not blame God. The tendency to do so goes all the way back to Genesis 3. Satan tempts you, and you are responsible for your course of action, whether resisting or giving in to the temptation. Temptations are common to man, 1 Corinthians 10:13. Other Christians have resisted sin–so can you. (The same comfort is there for trials through which you pass.) You cannot escape responsibility. You are not unique in your situation. John Own writes: “When we suffer a temptation to enter into us, then we ‘enter temptation.’ While it knocks at the door we are at liberty; but when any temptation comes in and parleys with the heart, reasons with the mind, entices and allures the affections, bi it a long or a short time, do it thus insensibly and imperceptibly, or do the the soul take notice of it. We ‘enter into temptation.’” (Overcoming Sin and Temptation, ed. By Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor, page 160).