The heavens declare the glory of God, but so do the birds and the lilies. Jesus urges us to look closely. They also declare the care and compassion of God.
A Sermon on Genesis 1:1-2:4 and Matthew 6:25-34
There’s a difference between a healthy concern and a worry that eats at you. Healthy concern leads to intelligent, prudent action, like retirement planning. It is both wise and loving to plan ahead for retirement. It’s also good stewardship of the resources that God has entrusted to us. Healthy concern prompts us to use our heads. Healthy concern prompts us to look into things and to check on people to see if we can help. Healthy concern helps us put head and heart together as we love God and love each other.
But unhealthy worry looks like this: dithering and hand-wringing. Sweating small stuff such as whether or not the spice bottles in the kitchen are in alphabetical order, and fear that somebody might notice. In severe form, unhealthy worry grabs hold of our minds, and strangles our thinking. We can’t think straight. This kind of worry will make a talented student believe that a B is the equivalent of an F. It makes small mistakes seem like huge catastrophes. It makes us say things we regret. This kind of worry makes it hard to see anything positive in a situation. You’re stuck wearing a pair of dark glass you can’t take off. Worry makes people feel guilty about things they are in no ways responsible for. Worry stresses people out and wears them out, with the end result being that they believe “I can’t cope now,” or “I won’t be able to cope in the future.” Unhealthy worry is itself a source of great suffering.
When worry incapacitates people, the problem is obvious. But in less severe forms worry doesn’t incapacitate. It just has a hindering effect. It holds people back. What about good people who decide that they can’t afford to be generous until they save up just a little more for themselves, just to be a little more secure. What about churchgoing people who profess to trust God, but in their heart of hearts what they really believe and what they act on is the belief that the only person I can really depend on is me, myself and I. Security is what I put away for myself.
Big or small, when worry has the upper hand, a person’s eyes are focused mainly inward, on him-or-herself, and it’s hard to think of anything else. Sometimes we get desperate to protect ourselves. The heart of the worry is often something like this: I’m going to lose out. I’m going to get hurt. I’m going to be exposed. I’m going to be criticized. I’m going to look bad in somebody’s eyes. And I can’t handle that.
When we get in that state, “His Eye is On the Sparrow” is just a pretty song. (more…)