Yes, the tagline of my favorite cartoon face, Alfred E. Neuman, inspired the title of this last weekend’s sermon. A message on worry. Click here to listen/watch/read it. It’s usually posted on Wednesday; this week probably on Thursday because of the holiday.
I based my message on what Jesus said about worry in his Sermon on the Mount.
For me, the most important point was a new perspective on Matt 6:33:
““But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33, NKJV.
Before you judge me for rafting down a river of heresy, let me affirm that I believe in doing more for God, and serving him better, and making him my first priority… all empowered by Christ within me. It’s just that this verse is not teaching that.
I vote for Matt. 6:33 getting the prize as the most distorted verse in American Christiandumb.
Why? Two reasons.
The first reason is context. This verse caps an extensive plea from Jesus for you to NOT WORRY. Here is the context:
““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? “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? “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; “and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. “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? “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ “For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” Matthew 6:25-32, NKJV.
Matt 6:33 culminates a list of reasons why you shouldn’t worry. And every reason has something to do with what God does without your help.
QUESTION: So far, is this paragraph more about (a) what you do for God or, (b) about what God does for you? I pick (b).
And then… the famous verse that pastors use to motivate our churches to do more for Jesus: “seek first the kingdom of God…” But is that what Jesus teaches in this paragraph? It he really saying: GO FORTH AND DO MORE FOR GOD…? Or is he saying something else? Something that is perhaps the opposite?
I vote ” the opposite.” The first reason is context. This whole paragraph is about what God does for you… and that since God does so much for you, YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORRY.
The second reason is the very overlooked words…
“And HIS righteousness.” Get that? Not my righteousness, striving to please God more, and give more, and serve more. But HIS righteousness, which he brings into me when he moves inside. It is CHRIST’S RIGHTEOUSNESS. And we activate it through faith, not works. Faith. Faith. Faith… as in:
- “and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;” Philippians 3:9, NKJV.
- ““I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20, NKJV.
Jesus is not teaching us to produce our own righteousness; he’s teaching that we should trust him for his righteousness… (compare Matt 5:20). Why do we pastors so often use this verse to send our dear people on a futile quest for their own righteousness?
Even verse Matt 6:24 (about not serving two masters) doesn’t change this: it’s about a singular dedication to HIS righteousness. That is, day by day trusting Jesus to do through me what only he can do. I live by faith… and he takes care of the rest (“all these things” are added unto me).
The kingdom of God is not the rule of Jesus over successful do-gooders. God doesn’t work by improving the improveable, or by incorporating our wonderfulness into his wonders. Nope. He only works by RAISING THE DEAD. Day after day. Until you can see yourself as dead apart from the power of Christ, you’re just like the Pharisees and your righteousness is NOT a key to the kingdom (Matt 5:20).
He is God. You’re not. Quit worrying.
In my sermon, I bottom-lined this paragraph of Scripture this way:
The day you will stop worrying is the day you start doing less for God and start trusting him to do more for you.