Jesus' Cure For Financial Anxiety
Matthew 6:25-34 (New King James Version)
25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry 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, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?" 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Introduction - We Have A Heavenly Father / Life Is More Than Clothes
The central insight in these verses is that the God who sees and rewards our lives and who hears and answers our prayers is also the God who knows our needs in advance and the God who provides for them. Jesus is saying that Christians have a Heavenly Father who knows our needs and that we can absolutely trust Him to also meet those needs.
Now this runs counter to the general notion about God. The general notion about God is that God is the God of the Huge and Eternal and not the God of small things - like food and rent and electricity bills. Jesus counters this by saying that God is also the God of sparrows and lilies and all creation and that if God provides worms for birds He can provide food and clothing and shelter for us.
The other big point Jesus make is about the non-materialistic nature of life: “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”. We are more than mere consumers or economic units, we are people with souls and destinies and character and with an eternal destiny. You and I are far more than the food we eat or the clothes we wear. It is not how much we own, but who we are that counts.
People who focus on obtaining material things become small-minded, in fact in the end that can even lose their souls. We need to attend to the food, clothing and material issues but as minor -sub-plots in the overall picture of our life. As someone once said “No one dying on their death-bed ever says “I wish I had spent another day at the office!” In the big picture of life material things are well down the list. It is how you treated people, the deeds you accomplished, what you said and wrote, the example you set for others, that will be remembered after you are gone. No one wants to be remembered solely or their Gucci hand-bag.
So the first two things in getting a handle on financial anxiety is:a) To know deep in your heart that you have a Heavenly Father who really cares for you. b) To know that you are far, far more than the sum of your possessions. You are an eternal being of great worth to God and that worth is independent of the state of your finances.
God Provides On The Basis of Grace Not Works
The basis of God's providing is trusting Him, and resting in Him just as the birds of the heavens do and the lilies of the field. The basis of grace is always faith not works. You do not “earn” God's provision by working hard. I have seen some very relaxed pastors paid well while some workaholic pastors were paid poorly. God responds to trust, not sweat.
uses two illustrations to drive this point home:
Look at the birds of the sky: they don't sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you worth more than they?
Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don't labor or spin thread. (29) Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these!
God grants us what we need because we are His creatures and He takes responsibility for creating us. The role of work is not primarily financial. The role of work is for us to serve God and society and to do good and bear responsibility and grow into mature human beings made in the image of God.
God mainly sends us financial help through grace-filled Kingdom relationships. It is by belonging to a network of people who love God that we are sustained. We see this in operation in the early Church.
Acts 4:32-35 HCSB Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. (33) And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. (34) For there was not a needy person among them, because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, (35) and laid them at the apostles' feet. This was then distributed to each person as anyone had a need.
Where Christians are starving or in great need it is almost always because the social and church structures have collapsed. Even in desperate situations like Darfur the only food that is arriving is nearly always sent in by Christians. God is providing for a hungry world through His Church and through governments with a Christian conscience.
God responds to the needs of those who trust Him with abundant provision. In fact Christians are about 30% of the world population but they control over 70% of the world's wealth. This leads to the next point - the kingdom is the realm of provision.
The Kingdom Is Realm Of Provision
Jesus says: But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” That means that those who seek first the Kingdom end up in the place of powerful provision.
The famous missionary Hudson Taylor once said: “God's work, done in God's way, will never lack God's supply.” God promises provision to good honest folk leading good honest lives who trust Him and who put God's interests above their own. Often God's first provision is just a mustard seed, and He watches what we will do with it. Then if we are faithful with what we are given, then much more will follow.
God is looking for Kingdom-minded people who He can back with His provision: “2 Chronicles 16:9 HCSB For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His. "
Some of the better known New Testament verses on this include:
Philippians 4:19 HCSB And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
2 Corinthians 9:8-12 HCSB (8) And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. (9) As it is written: He has scattered; He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever. (10) Now the One who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness, (11) as you are enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us. (12) For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many acts of thanksgiving to God.
The whole idea of God's Kingdom provision is so that you may “excel in every good work” and thus end up bringing glory to God. God provides for faith-filled Kingdom minded people who want to get on with the work of the Lord.
Church history is full of examples of great works of God starting from the most humble of means and being supplied by God and bringing glory to His name. One of the most famous was George Mueller, a German Christian who migrated to England and in Bristol and starting with just two shillings (50 cents in his pocket) built five massive orphanages, accommodating 2000 orphans. He operated these institutions by prayer alone!
Without making his wants known to any man, but to God alone, over a million, four hundred thousand pounds ($7,000,000) were sent to him for the building and maintaining of these orphan homes. In all 60 years since the first orphans arrived the Lord had sent food in due time, so that they had never missed a meal for want of food. In all that time the children did not have to go without a meal, and Mr. Muller said that if they ever had to go without a meal he would take it as evidence that the Lord did not will the work to continue. Sometimes the meal time was almost at hand and they did not know where the food would come from, but the Lord always sent it in due time, during the twenty thousand or more days that Mr. Muller had charge of the homes.
In 1834 Mr. Muller started the Scripture Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad. Its object was to aid Christian day-schools, to assist missionaries, and to circulate the Scriptures. This institution, without worldly patronage, without asking anyone for help, without contracting debts; without committees, subscribers, or memberships; but through faith in the Lord alone, had obtained and disbursed no less a sum than £1,500,000 ($7,500,000) at the time of Mr. Muller's death. The bulk of this was expended for the orphanage. At the time of Mr. Muller's death 122,000 persons had been taught in the schools supported by these funds; and about 282,000 Bibles and 1,500,000 Testaments had been distributed by means of the same fund. Also 112,000,000 religious books, pamphlets and tracts had been circulated; missionaries had been aided in all parts of the world; and no less than ten thousand orphans had been cared for by means of this same fund.
At the age of seventy, Mr. Muller began to make great evangelistic tours. He traveled 200,000 miles, going around the world and preaching in many lands and in several different languages. He frequently spoke to as many as 4,500 or 5,000 persons. Three times he preached throughout the length and breadth of the United States. He continued his missionary or evangelistic tours until he was ninety years of age. He estimated that during these seventeen years of evangelistic work he addressed three million people. All his expenses were sent in answer to the prayer of faith.
From St. Paul to George Mueller and Hudson Taylor we have numerous example of God's faithful supply for large projects over long periods of time. They all had this in common - they were faithful honest folk who sought first the Kingdom of God and did God's work in God's way.
Anxiety Accomplishes Nothing
Now you might think that running a large institution without a secure funding base would give most people a nervous breakdown. In fact if you are going to do much ministry at all you need to learn how to handle financial anxiety and God's often last minute provision.
The first thing about anxiety is that it is absolutely useless. Anxiety achieves nothing, it makes you no taller, and no one ever got slimmer by worrying about their weight alone. Anxiety is a big waste of emotional energy that could be better directed to finding a constructive solution. Anxiety takes control of our mental faculties when we need them most and makes them tense, clogged up, and ineffective.
The Bible is quite clear about the fact that anxiety is a substandard and silly response to life:
Psalm 37: 5-8 5 Commit your way to the LORD,Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.6 He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,And your justice as the noonday. 7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;Do not fret—it only causes harm.
Philippians 4:6,7 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
So we need to be able to move out of anxiety and into faith and these two passages give us some valuable clues on how to do this:
Commit your way to God and trust Him to bring things to pass.
- Wait patiently for God's answer
/ Don't fret - turn off the turmoil.
- Pray earnestly to God with
prayer and supplication.
- Cultivate an attitude of thanksgiving and positive expectancy.
Anxiety drives people to take silly short-cuts they later regret, so waiting on God is a big part of the cure. Trust is the opposite of anxiety. If you trust God's promise then you are no longer anxious. Just as if you trust a chair to hold you up you are not at all anxious about sitting in it.
The best way to get rid of anxious thoughts is to replace them with trusting, prayerful thankful thoughts. Just as in the old saying: “Why worry when you can pray?”. You have to practice substituting patience for fretting and pray for worrying. If you do this you will have a clear and useful and creative mind full of the holy Spirit and wise for the solving of life's problems.
Focus On The Solution Not The Problem
A faith-filled mind will see God's creative solution to life's pressing problem.
One of the great secrets of all the heroes of faith in the Bible is that they focused their mind son the solution and not on the problem.
Joshua did not worry about the giants in Canaan, he left them to God and focused on taking the Promised Land for the Lord.
David did not focus on how big Goliath was but on how big God was and on finding the right weapons with which to defeat Goliath. David worked on the solution instead of worrying about the problem.
Peter and John came upon the lame man sitting at the Temple gate they did not
get anxious about all his poverty and disease and their own lack of resources
but instead gave the solution they had at hand.
Acts 3:6 “Then Peter said", “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk."”
The faith-filled mind focuses on SOLUTIONS. The faith-filled mind scans the horizon for God's creative answer then focuses all its mental energy on making that solution come to pass. There is always a divine solution for every earthly problem and we just have to search it out, focus our energy on it, and work towards it. God's solutions are seldom instant and magical. Joshua spent forty years fighting for Canaan, but it was eventually successful. God's solutions work and we need to stop worrying and start implementing the solution God has for our situation.
Take Control Of Yourself, Then Take Control Of Your Finances
A great many financial problems come from foolish human decisions or impulsive human behavior. For instance if you have just four junk food meals a week at $5 each you are throwing away over $1000 a year. Other more serious financial problems can come from impulse buying and shopping for emotional comfort. Or shopping for prestige and going and buying the same item at the most expensive store because it makes you feel like you have status. Immature enslavement to fashions, fads and the latest gadgets can also land you with big credit card bills. I estimate that most people would have 30% more usable income if they simply stopped doing dumb things with their money. Here are eight tips for financial self-control:
Have a definite set of goals you want out of life and only spend on things that further those goals.
Understand your cash flow - when major bills are due, when the income is coming in, when you can spend and when you cannot. Arrange your finances so there are few or no major surprises.
Do up an approximate budget and track how much individual items such as petrol or junk food are costing you. Make decisions about what is “in” and what is “out” of the spending priorities.
Control impulse buying. Discuss all major purchases with your partner or a good friend. Never shop on an empty stomach. Always ask: “Do I need this - and do I need this just now”.
Give to good causes and have some funds set aside for Kingdom priorities.
Find creative ways to earn a bit extra, save a bit more and to spend a bit less.
Don't insist on buying the latest and greatest all the time. Buy second-hand or last years model
Go to www.froogle.com and compare prices on major purchases and find where it is on special. I frequently save 20% or more this way. Wait for specials and chase major discounts.
Have just one credit card with a low limit such as $500 or $1000 and pay the entire balance each month.
If you are in a major mess get proper professional financial advice.
Take One Day At A TimeThe last piece of advice in today's passage is:
“ Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Dale Carnegie in his book "Stop Worrying and Start Living" calls this living in day-tight compartments”. It s focusing your mental energy on the task at hand instead of being distracted by a whole bunch of future problems. Someone once found out that about 95% of people's anticipated worries simply do not eventuate. All that worrying was a big waste of energy. Living in day-tight compartments helps us to have tightly focused creative minds that solve today's problems today.
This is not saying that you do not plan. Planning is not the same as worrying. Jesus says “Do not worry about tomorrow..” not do not think about tomorrow. God plans well in advance and he wants us to plan, but this planning is to be solution-focused Kingdom planning not fretful worldly planning. We can think and pray about tomorrow but we are not to worry about tomorrow.
Many people have an active fantasy life that anticipates all sorts of crises from terrorist attacks to home invasions and nuclear war. They spend enormous amounts of energy figuring out what they would do if they were attacked by a Great White shark and only had a pocket knife to defend themselves with. This may be a good form of mental entertainment but it is a useless waste of time and mental energy. These things are unlikely to happen and if they do happen they generally won't happen the way you worked out your solution with you as the all-conquering hero. This is just junk thinking and it needs to be put where junk goes.
One good way of not worrying about tomorrow is to use lists. I have an ten cent exercise book in which I write my to do lists for each day and a diary where I schedule the tasks for each week. First i write the lists of jobs in the exercise book and there will be thirty or so things to do, then I put them on days of the week in my diary say five or so tasks each day, then I do the jobs in order. This helps you to take control of your busy feeling and get over that clogged up mind full of things to do”. It is a much more peaceful way to exist.
The next trick for living in day-tight compartments is to establish personal routines and rituals. You know what you are doing each day, and when you are doing it and how you are doing it. This greatly simplifies life and allows your brain space to be focused on the really important issues. For instance simply deciding that you will have dinner at 7 pm each day, and you switch off the TV and eat together, and say grace and have a certain order about who washes up - this deals with a dozen small decisions straight off and it establishes a peaceful and orderly home.
Conclusion - Seek First The Kingdom
God is our Heavenly father who sees our situation, observes our actions, and
who hears our prayers and meets our needs. God is actively involved with every
small detail of your life. He cares about you and wants to bless you. God wants
you to stop worrying and start believing. And He wants you to stop running after
this and that in the material world and to focus on the spiritual world and
the Kingdom of God.
Matthew 6;31-34 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?" 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
You have to seek first the Kingdom - the Lordship of Christ in every area of your life and those around you. And you have to seek his righteousness, you have to look at your life and straighten it up so that it is the right way up, according to God's heavenly pattern. The world may seek money and prestige and many possessions but we are to seek after God, His Kingdom and His righteousness, and if we pursue these things, the things that God wants us to pursue, then we will find that God takes care of our daily needs.
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