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I am a sound sleeper. Even if my wife tosses and turns in bed, I sleep like a baby—except for my freight-train-like snoring. (Perhaps that’s why she tosses and turns?) I can go to sleep anytime, anywhere, and sleep through just about anything. The one that steals my sleep is worrying, especially worrying about money.
Everyone who reads the Sermon on the Mount finds its teachings personally challenging at some point or another. For me, Jesus’ teachings about money (Matthew 6.19–24) and worry (6.25–34) are the most challenging. I can earn money just as well as the next guy, but I’m an undisciplined spender. And the negative consequences of that spending keep me up at night.
Over the next few days, I want to talk to you about worry. If you’re good with your money, what I have to say may not apply to you. But if you, like me, worry about money, pay attention! You need to hear what Jesus says to people like you and me. Here’s how Jesus begins:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”
Sometimes, I think Jesus’ commandment (“do not worry”) and question (“Is not life more important than food?”) are too easy. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I think to myself, “it’s easy to tell people not to worry.” Indeed, I tell people the same thing all the time. But commanding people not to worry doesn’t make them stop worrying. In fact, it may make them worry about their inability to stop worrying!
The key to keeping the commandment is to answer the question: “Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” Yes and yes. Life is about much more than food, and the body is about much more than clothes.
Unfortunately, many of us do not live out the truth of this answer. We live as if what we eat, what we wear, where we live, what we drive, and how we entertain ourselves are issues of ultimate importance. If you don’t believe me, just look at your calendar and checkbook. How much of your time and money goes toward food, clothing, housing, cars, and entertainment? If your calendar and checkbook are anything like mine, the answer is, “Quite a lot.”
Obviously, you have to spend money on all these things. Jesus Christ does not call us to a starving life of threadbare, miserable poverty. By the same token, however, he does not call us to a life of anxiety about how we’re going to pay for stuff we do not need and cannot afford. The key thing is to define what’s truly important in life.
Worry, you see, arises from placing a high value on low-priority things. If you put first things first, your life will begin to become less worrisome to you.