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Do Not Worry

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These are worrisome times we are living in. We are living in the midst of a global financial crisis, a never-ending war, and layoffs are being announced every day. Add this pile of stink to the routine madness that you and I deal with daily—like trying to raise decent kids, maintaining a good marriage, undone chores, ailing parents, and what is that red spot on my shoulder? Was that there before?

So, I’m in somewhat of a gloomy mood—and if you weren’t before, now I bet you are too. Rather than going directly to the medicine cabinet for some relief, I decided to crack open the Good Book one evening to find some eternal comfort or at least a spiritual rope to hang onto for another day.

In keeping with his extraordinary sense of humor and good timing, God had lined up for me a propitious passage. As I opened the Bible to the bookmarked page, my eyes were immediately drawn to a bold heading that says in a very authoritative italicized font:

“Do not worry.”

“Funny,” I think, with a nod to God. (It’s Luke 12:22-33.) Jesus is encouraging the crowds with words of comfort, telling them how God will take care of them. "Don’t have an anxious mind," he says, "because God knows about everything you need. Seek first his kingdom."

Sounds nice, but it’s not sinking in.

I read it again, very slowly this time. But the grumpy mood was still bothering me, distracting me, making faces, and kicking me under the table. Maybe I need to concentrate harder. I thought about something that our youth director at church, Melissa, says to the kids. She encourages them to close their eyes after reading a Bible passage and imagine the scene in vivid detail. It creates more impact, she says. I decided to give it a try, to visualize the passage. I took a very deep breath and blew it all out very slowly, closing my eyes.

Lilies of the field. Treasure in heaven.

I picture Jesus standing on the rugged mount on a sunny, middle-eastern afternoon. The wind is gusting through his shoulder-length and surprisingly well-conditioned brown hair, and billowing around his super-white, 100% organic cotton robe. The disciples are all sitting attentively around his feet in their raggedy, itchy, burlap robes. I listen closely to the voice of Jesus, letting my thoughts float along the Jerusalem winds.

Do not worry. Do not be anxious.
Treasure in heaven.
Treasure.
Treasure. Money.
Money.
Tuition. Payment.
No bonus this year.

Uh oh.

Stupid, idiot, stupid.
Should have saved more.
Stupid, stupid, stupid! Bad steward.
Idiot! Stupid!

Instead of basking in the comfort of this wonderful passage from Luke, my worried mind has packed up and gone elsewhere. I shut the Bible, frustrated with my inability to relieve this choking grip of gloom.

Sometimes when I am feeling especially worried, rather than pushing through with prayer, I will just ask God to give me a once-over while I go take a nap. My hope is that the Holy Spirit will have better luck with my subconscious self and perhaps do some kind of magnificent handiwork on my tired soul. I went to bed.

The next morning, I went back to that same passage and tried to read it with a fresh perspective. This time, however, I happened to notice the few verses that preceded the Do Not Worry passage. They seemed to be connected to the story in an important way. Once I read those verses over again, I realized that Jesus got into that whole worry discussion mostly because he was trying to say something about our relationship with money.

In verse 13, as Jesus is addressing the crowd, some loudmouth butts in because he thinks he’s got the most important problem in the room. Apparently his brother won’t share his inheritance, and he wants Jesus to fix it. “Make my brother split the cash with me!” he says, in so many words. Which, really, if you think about it, was such an inappropriate and bossy thing to tell Jesus when there’s a huge mob of desperately needy and sick people all around him. Instead of helping this man, Jesus proceeded to use the loudmouth’s obnoxious request to warn everyone about greed, that our life is more than possessions. He went on to tell the story of a rich man who was doing so well with his crops one year that he started fantasizing about building these huge barns, overflowing with all his crops, so that he could sit around all day fat and happy, just collecting the cash. Sounds kind of nice, doesn’t it? “I’ll just eat, drink, and be merry,” is the actual line famously used in this scripture. Who among us hasn’t dreamed about having that kind of security? I’ll work hard, make a pile of cash, and finally have freedom. No worries, we think. Unfortunately, the rich man dies that same night, and God says “So, big guy, who’s got all your toys now?”

Jesus knows that we all have this drive to work really hard to try and buy security in life. And he is saying, no, that’s not it. There really is no security in life. That’s the first lesson, numero uno. This is kind of hard to swallow for us hard-core, independent-minded control freaks. But maybe once we grasp that point, then the verses that follow in Luke 12:22–33 about not worrying start to make sense. Jesus is saying that there is so much more to life than the raw economics of transactions. There is a spiritual economy, too, made of relationships and giving and loving, which leads to a spiritual security. The spiritual economy is going on all around us, right in front of us, and the beauty is that it is based on eternal, unlimited abundance. But we get distracted and driven by the financial economy which appears to be more important and more threatening. So we fret about our portfolio and our prospects, and we check the stock market every 15 minutes, and we worry. But if I am quiet for a second and listen to Jesus very carefully, he says, “You’re operating in the wrong economy. Change gears. Shift your perspective.”

We’re all going to survive this financial downturn. It will come, and it will go. We may lose a lot of money, and we may recover it again. God loves me and is going to take care of me and my family. What I need to do right now is invest in his spiritual economy. That’s more of a sure thing.

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J. B. Wood is the author of the challenging blog Shrinking the Camel. He is a regular contributor to InsideWork and an active member of HighCallingBlogs.com, our online community that focuses on work and God.

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