Thursday, February 26, 2009

Do not be anxious about tomorrow

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

- Matthew 6.23

Is it possible for a government to follow this instruction? Can a corporation? What does this mean for thinking about possible threats that might arise the day after tomorrow? Or for any projects that require years of careful planning?

Perhaps we need to distinguish two meanings of "worry". On the one hand, worry can have a negative meaning similar to anxiety: a persistent fear of what might be, an endless imaginative dwelling in negative possibilities over which one has little control. I am worried that it might rain tomorrow and the party will be ruined.

But worry can also have a more neutral meaning close to concern: a careful focus upon the welfare of the object of concern. This need not involve anxiety, but is simply love looking forwards, anticipating needs before they arise.

I don't think that Jesus is ruling out this latter meaning, only the former. It is the anxious striving after security that he is addressing in this passage. Instead of trying to obtain safety, we are to seek first the kingdom of God, God's loving reign over all things. This kingdom is something that needs to be sought, it is not obvious. It is a treasure hidden in a field over which you might stumble, or a jewel of great price that you might discover after much seeking. It is hidden in plain sight in this extraordinary ordinary man from Nazareth.
Image by Andrew Filmer. Ten points for guessing the city.


Megan said...

I suspect a way governments are anxious about tomorrow, in the bad way, is the over concern for winning the next election, rather than governing today.

byron smith said...

Yes, good point. That seems to be a structural failure of democracy.

Andrew said...

Oh, oh, was the picture taken in ... um ... let me see ... Edinburgh?

Do I get extra points if I supply date, camera model and focal length too?

byron smith said...

Hmmm, I should have banned the photographer from taking the points...

I'll give you five for giving me such a nice image to use.

byron smith said...

This is an excellent post.

Andrew Errington nails some of the heart of my project here. When Jesus points us to the birds and the flowers, he is not endorsing a carefree life free from responsibilities. We are indeed to "worry", but about the right things and in the right way. Our seeking, our deep concern, our godly anxiety is not for me and my material comforts, but once we are freed from the tyranny of always wanting more, we are then free to enter into the anguished plight of our neighbours as we seek the kingdom of God.