It has been a joy studying the Gospel of Luke for the last few weeks.
Luke wrote a great deal and, as you might expect with such a vast resource of Divinely inspired words, many stunning messages are inevitably left ‘un-preached’. I felt a little daring doing twenty-plus sermons and two full ‘terms’ on Luke. I wonder how people would have felt about a five year sermon series instead – there is certainly more than enough in this amazing Gospel to keep us going to 2020!
One of the many un-preached messages is found in Luke 12:22-34 – Christ’s heartbreakingly beautiful discourse on anxiety.
If you are anything like me, you will find that your peaceful state of mind can be easily ruined by difficult situations, worrying late night emails, illness, concern for loved ones, unpleasantness at work, or even unpleasantness in church. In Luke 12, Jesus picks on more fundamental worries that assail us: worry about what we will eat; worry about what we will wear; worry about death.
Jesus goes on to say that the world around is evidence of God’s great love for all that He has created. Birds are fed by Him and seem to enjoy life. He blesses lilies with beauty, despite the fact that they live very briefly. The conclusion that Christ then draws from these observations is that we are more valuable to God than flowers or birds. Thus, we can be reassured that all our anxieties will eventually prove to be without foundation:
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t end His reassurance with these words. He continues with some simple words of practical advice:
“Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
The simple words of practical advice are a fascinating addition to Christ’s teaching. Jesus doesn’t just say, “Trust me, it’ll be okay…” to His disciples; rather, He is identifying the cause of much anxiety in their lives – their ‘stuff’ – and telling them to give it to the poor.
I wonder, how often do we equate our anxiety and stress with our lack of sacrificial giving?
St Paul also talks about anxiety in his letter to the church at Philippi. In chapter 4 and verse 6, in a very similar way to Jesus, Paul exhorts his readers not to be anxious about anything. Also, in a very similar way to Jesus, Paul then gives simple words of practical advice:
…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (italics mine)
We can pray and, in anxiety prompting situations, most of us do. But, we should surround our prayers, supplications and requests with thanksgiving. It is the thanksgiving that is frequently the most difficult aspect of prayer when anxious.
Giving things away to the poor and giving thanks to God. These sound like two strange solutions to fear and worry. Do you dare to follow the advice of Jesus and St Paul the next time fear and worry grip you?