Upside Down wide.jpg


Life Upside Down

Remedy for Anxiety – Part 1

Matthew 6:25-34



As I have repeated several times in our series on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is not just giving us snippets of good advice that are unrelated.  In the part of His sermon we are looking at today, Jesus addresses anxiety, but as you will see, as we study this part of His message, that it still comes back to our heart, upon what do we focus our heart or what is our soul’s focus.

Now, if you look up the words “anxiety” or “worry,” you will find some complex definitions because it is a complex physical and emotional disposition.  Here is a simple definition by Oxford Dictionary online – “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”  That is certainly a simple definition.   However, we know that today, anxiety or worry, is sometimes viewed as a disorder of the mind.  This is especially true when it results in intense fear or some kind of panic attacks.  Anxiety can simply be a feeling of anxiousness over the things of life, or it can be as serious as having intense fear or terror that reaches a climax within minutes resulting in a panic attack that influences our natural body functions, like breathing and vital organs not functioning properly.  We can become so anxious that we cannot breathe.  Anxiety can be a very serious situation when it is allowed to come to this kind of response and doctors often give medications to help ease these panic attacks.  Always take these feelings of anxiousness seriously and address them.

We could use many different words to describe what we feel when we are anxious. Anxiety, worry, nervousness, fear, fret, unease, distress, agitation, apprehension, tension, or irritability are some ways we could describe what is going on inside when we are anxious.  These are words that describe an inner turmoil that results in an outward uneasiness, especially about the unknown.  This can be about what may happen to us or it may be our concern about what will happen to someone we love.  I say all that because anxiety is complex and manifests itself in different ways in our lives.

Then, as if it is not enough that we struggle with aspects of anxiety with the circumstances in our own lives, there are those who want to sell you their products and in doing so they will create this feeling of anxiousness so that you will buy what they are selling.  Many car commercials use little children and focus on our desire for protecting the ones we love.  They make it sound like you are putting you child in grave danger if you do not have their safe and reliable vehicle to protect the ones you love.  Would you trust your most precious cargo to some other vehicle?  They want you to be anxious about your child’s safety in your present vehicle so that you will buy their car, so your child will be safe.

Or how about the election coming up?  Just watch some of the political ads today.  Candidates want you to worry about our future and the future of our children and our nation if you don’t vote for them.  If you vote for their opponent, they want you to worry about how bad it will be.  Many people will respond with fear and anxiety.  I honestly believe that is why there is so much unrest today in the political arena.  Politicians have created much of this unrest by how they run for office.

Anxiety affects how you feel, both physically and emotionally, it affects your decision making, your perspective about life, and ultimately it can affect how your feel about your relationship with the Lord.  The power of anxiety should never be underestimated.  But as we will see in a moment, Jesus doesn’t want you to live with anxiety.  He doesn’t want us making decisions based on our fear of the future.  Jesus wants us to base our lives on His eternal truths, not the temporal and hollow promises of this world.  But we will get more into that later.  First, let’s address the cause of anxiety.

Cause of Anxiety (vv. 19-24)

If you do much research on anxiety, you will find that the world often looks at anxiety as a mental or nervous disorder.  Now I am not going to argue with he fact that there are some who experience anxiety because of a disorder, but the majority of us who have anxiousness or worry, it is because of a cause that can be eliminated.  In fact, our passage today begins with the word “therefore” indicating that the cause of anxiety has been addressed in verses 19-24.

If you remember, in verses 19-21, Jesus talks about our treasures, the things we set our heart upon.  The things we set our heart upon can be things we store up in Heaven’s treasure chest, or we can set our heart upon things that are stored up in earth’s treasure chest.  If we focus on the things of this world, things stored in earth’s treasure chest, things that can be eaten up by insects, stolen, or destroyed, we will certainly be worried about them.  Our worry will be focused on the possible loss of these earthly treasures if that is where our heart is.  These kinds of questions go through our minds.  “What if this happens to us, what if the insurance doesn’t cover that, how will we survive without the other thing?”  The cause of anxiety is often because our heart is set upon earthly treasures that are temporal in their existence anyway.  If our heart is set on heavenly things and the gaining of eternal rewards, the heavenly treasure chest, we find peace and comfort in our earthly existence not anxiety.

Then last week, as we talked about verses 22-24, we talked about who is master of our lives.  Jesus used the analogy of two eyes; a healthy eye and a bad eye.  The healthy eye allows light in to illuminate the body, but the bad eye keeps the light out and leaves the body full of darkness.  What we focus our heart upon greatly influences our lives because it becomes our master, Jesus tells us.  If the things of the world are your master, then you must rely upon them for your future.  But if God is your master, then you will trust in His design for your future.  I believe that a majority of the anxiety we experience is because of the treasure and focus of our heart.  What we have allowed to become our master.

Consider the feelings you have when you store up earthly treasures.  We worry about its value, how much it depreciates, if it will become worthless, or even whether there is enough.  This is the worry of many retirees.  They have worked hard all their lives, but will there be anything for us during the last years of our lives?  If the treasures of this world are our master, this is worrisome, and Jesus understands that.

I would like to ask our worship readers to come up and read our text for today taken from the NIV and the Message translations.  Jesus is saying, now, in light of all this about our heart treasures and what we allow as master of our lives, let me tell you this:

Matthew 6:25-34

25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, 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: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,

 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'

 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 34 "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Did you notice that Jesus begins with a command, a command to us as His followers about anxiety?

Jesus’ Command Regarding Anxiety (v. 25a)

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on”

When He uses the word “therefore,” Jesus points us back to our treasures and who we allow as masters of our lives.  The command He is about to give us is based clearly on the principles concerning our earthly treasures and who we allow to be our master.  In other words, we are not to be anxious about our lives because that is an indication that we treasure the wrong things and allow the things of the world to take mastery over our hearts.  When we worry about the earthly treasures that can be taken from us in a moment, we allow that to become the master of our lives.  And Jesus tells us clearly, “do not be anxious about your life.”  If you are using a KJV, it says “take no thought,” which is an old English way of saying don’t be anxious.  But it also conveys the idea of the Greek word well.  Anxiousness takes place when a person thinks deeply about something.  They think, contemplate, consider, mediate, and concern their thought life with something in which they would like to control the outcome.  There is extreme care and concern which causes them to lose sleep and become fearful.  Anxiety over the things of life.

Then Jesus names three things which most of us would consider the bare essentials of life; food, water, and clothing.  At first glance, we say, “Wow, I’m not suppose to put any thought to these things?”  Jesus is not saying that we should not think about these things, just don’t be anxious about them.  We should think about our work and how we will get paid and whether we can do better through more training in our field of work.  We should have a work ethic like Pastor Bill told us about two weeks ago where we strive to do our best and even enjoy our work.  Yes, we will have to put some thought to that.  But what Jesus is talking about is an all-consuming fear and anxiousness about where those things are coming from, will I have enough, will it still be there when I need it.  We should certainly think about food, water, and clothing, just not worry about them.

As long as you are following the Lord and trusting Him for your life, you don’t need to worry about whether you will have those things or not.  Now Jesus could have left us with this command to not be anxious about these three things with no further explanation, but that is not what He has done.  He goes on to answer the question, “Why not be anxious?”

Why Not be Anxious? (vv.25b-30)

In the next four and a half verses, Jesus asks four powerful questions to get us thinking correctly when it comes to being anxious.  Have you ever noticed when you are reading the Bible how many times Jesus uses questions to get people thinking rightly about something?  Next time you are reading through the Gospels, mark down how many times Jesus asks a question.  You might be surprised.  The first of four questions is a very thought-provoking question found in the last part of verse 25.

~ Thought-Provoking Question (v. 25b)

Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

There is something powerful being said here that I don’t want you to miss.  The word translated “life” is from the Greek word ψυχή psuche.  Psuche is the breath of life.  It is the breath of life given to the first humans by the very breath of God.  This word indicates the life of our soul, the life that God gives us.  We are not talking about the body as a living organism per say, but the vital force God has breathed into us that animates this body.  This life that God has given us is so much more than food.  Food only feeds this body we live in.  The life of our souls is so much more than the food we need to eat because someday this body will be put into a grave, but our souls will live on for eternity.  Why be anxious for food and water when we have living souls.

Then Jesus says, isn’t “the body more than clothing?”  Think about this for a moment.  What is more important to us, our bodies or our clothing.  If we had to place importance on them, hands down the well being of our body is more important than having clothing.  This is a question that is designed to get us thinking about what is truly important in life.  Certainly, our bodies are more important than the clothes we put on them.

Now, look at these two phrases again.  The second phrase of this question concerning the body, I believe is being made as a comparison for us to understand what He is telling us in the first phrase.  The connecting word “and” between the two phrases is a word that is also used in Scripture in a comparative mode, as in the words “as,” “such as” or “just as.”  We could ask this question this way: “Is not the soul (the breath of life) more important than food as (or just as) the body is more important than clothing?”  In other words, there are more important things than food, water, and even clothing and yet we do not concern ourselves about those things. 

If God can take care of the life of our very souls, then why are we so worried about our food and clothing?  The command, “do not be anxious about your life” is a reasonable and even logical command.  If our Creator and Designer has controls over the very life of our souls which are eternal, why are we worried about anything else.  Isn’t that more important than any thing else we worry about?  This thought-provoking question tells us why we should not be anxious.  But Jesus doesn’t leave it there, does He?  He goes to the example of food in verses 26 and 27.

~ Food for Example (vv. 26-27)

26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

As the crowds listen to Jesus preach to them on the hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee, I imagine birds flying around and maybe even landing on the ground around them.  Jesus says, “Look at the birds” as they were right there.  The birds probably looked as though they didn’t have a care in the world flying around.  They don’t spend time worrying about sowing, reaping, and storing up their food and yet God feeds them.  Here is the second powerful question.  “Are you not of more value than they?”  In this second question of comparison, the answer is certainly obvious.  Of course, people are of more value than the birds to our Heavenly Father.

Jesus did not come from His home in glory to become a human being for the sake of birds, but for the salvation of humankind.  So, the argument is simple, if God provides for insignificant creatures like birds, creatures not make in His image or after His likeness, God will take care of you.  Now this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work for a living, because even birds do what they can to provide for themselves.  But the idea here is simply that we do what we are supposed to in working and providing, but we should never be anxious about whether it is enough.

God is certainly capable of taking care of us.  Think about the manna and quail in the wilderness for the Israelites.  Elijah being fed by the ravens.  However, we are still to do what we are capable of doing in order to provide the essentials of life and leave the rest up to God.  Jesus is not saying to quit working because God will provide, just don’t be anxious about these things as God will see to it that you have what you need.  Work, but don’t be anxious about what the outcome will be.  Plan ahead as best you can, but do not worry.

Then, Jesus gives us a third very powerful question.  “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”  It is interesting to go through the cardiac class and the cardiac rehab that was prescribed for me after stints were placed in my arteries.  We were taught to be very concerned about diet and exercise.  If you want to live a longer and healthier life, you should do these things.  It would be easy to become worried about this each day of my life.  Truly I try to do my best at following their instructions, but can I add a single hour to the span of my life by being anxious about this?  No!  In fact, studies have shown that anxiety can shorten the span of a person’s life by as much as 20%.  But in reality, our life span is ultimately in God’s hands.

How about clothing?  Jesus moves to the next example in verse 28.

~ Clothing for Example (vv. 28-30)

28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,

29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these

30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

I believe Jesus is once again looking around them using the lilies growing out in the field beside them on the hillside as His example for clothing.  These lilies grow into beautiful flowers and yet they do not toil or spin yarn for clothing.  Even Solomon in all his wealth and wisdom was not as glorious as one of these lilies.

Again, Jesus is not saying that we should not work to provide clothing.  But if God takes care of these insignificant things like the lilies of the field, He will take care of us.  Verse 30 is the fourth of these powerful questions.  If our Heavenly Father takes care of making lilies grow with beautiful garb which are only alive for a season, can’t we trust Him for what we need?  Then He relates our faith to a part of the problem of anxiety, “O you of little faith.”  There is much more I want to say here, but I will pick this back up on verse 30 next week.  There is an issue of our faith involved here.  What does faith have to do with it?  Well, come back next week and you will find out.


But for today, we should sit back and think about what causes us to worry.  Why is Jesus’ command to not be anxious so difficult at times?  I don’t know about you, often I struggle with worry over things I can do nothing about.  What if I work many years at a job and one day find I have been laid off?  Some of you have probably experienced that.  What should I do?  I should continue to look for another job, but according to what Jesus has told us, we are not to be anxious.  Why?  God will provide what we need.  It relates back to trusting God and focusing my heart upon Him and not on the treasures of this world.  Allowing God to be ruler in my life, not the things of this world.

Do you struggle with worry?  Are you willing to trust God for what you cannot do?