Why Worry When You Serve God

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The Scriptures speak of spirit beings who surround the throne of God, gazing upon His glory, crying, “Holy, holy, holy.” They have one purpose and one focus, eternally, with nothing to distract them.

Unfortunately, the same is not true for the Christian ─ at least, not yet. Life in this world is full of distractions and potential distractions. God knows this, and has provided much-needed answers in His Word.

Many are familiar with the declaration on this subject made by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew:

Matthew 6:25–31 (English Standard Version)
“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?

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?

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

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

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

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?

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

The words “be anxious” in this section are translated from the Greek word merimnao.1 A study of merimnao (and its noun form, merimna) can be tremendously enlightening. Merimnao, as used in the Scriptures, carries a broader meaning than that of worry or anxiety: it refers to a dividing or distracting of the mind.

Some uses of merimnao in the New Testament refer to things which do indeed induce worry and anxiety, and which can (and should) be avoided.2 However, other uses make reference to matters which, though potentially distracting, are necessary to our lives in this world.3 Issues like food, clothing, and shelter clearly belong in the second category. Thus, while believers are obviously required to think about these things, we do not need to be distracted by them as others are. How is this possible?

Matthew 6:32–33 (English Standard Version)
For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.4

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

What a wonderful promise is contained in verse 33! Though we need these things, we do not need to seek them: God will provide them.

A deeper truth, not always evident in translation, is that our seeking differs from that of the man or woman of the world. The word translated “seek” in verse 33 denotes a quiet, meditative, peaceful seeking. In contrast, the word used in verse 32 denotes a near-frantic activity, much as children seek a lost toy or a dog seeks for a bone in the yard.

No matter how scarce the basic needs of life may become, no matter how much the search for these things agitates the people around us, God promises to supply for His people. However, there is something required of us: we must choose to seek Him and His kingdom first.5 His promise cannot extend to those who choose otherwise.

This warning is evident in the verse with which the section begins:

Matthew 6:24
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

You will note that the above verse does not tell us that we must not serve two masters, but that we cannot. A true servant is devoted to one master and one master only. If he should try to take on service to another master, eventually one of the two will be neglected.

When it comes to the concerns of this life, there are two possible masters to whom we can devote ourselves: God and mammon. The word “mammon” (from the Greek mammonas) refers to wealth, or, more generally, to possessions.6 It is important to recognize that one does not have to have mammon in order to serve mammon.

Much of the activity of the world around us focuses on and is motivated by the service of mammon. Christians truly stand out in this scenario, for not only do we choose to serve God, but thereby we also choose not to serve mammon. And, much like Paul on the island of Malta, though they expect us to perish, we continue to live.7

Trusting God and choosing to serve Him alone is not difficult. The challenge lies in the culture around us, one which finds the idea of serving anything but mammon to be preposterous, if not insane. In order to prevail, we must run to God’s Word and find daily reassurance regarding the One Whom we have chosen to serve.

What kind of Master is He?8

John 10:29
My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

1 Peter 1:3–5 (New American Standard Bible, 1995 Edition)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,

who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Psalm 34:15
The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.

2 Chronicles 16:9a (New International Version, 2011 Edition)
For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

Isaiah 46:4 (New International Version, 2011 Edition)
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

This is a Master Who holds us and protects us, a Master Who hears us and strengthens us, a Master Who not only made us, but Who will sustain us, carry us, and, when necessary, rescue us.

Knowing that we have such a God, such a Father, how can we respond except with total devotion, coupled with the assurance that He will provide?

Philippians 4:6 (New King James Version)
Be anxious (merimnao) for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

 

[1] King James readers will note that this word is regularly translated as “take thought” or “be careful,” which were legitimate translations in 1611.

[2] See, for example, Mark 4:19 and Luke 21:34.

[3] See, for example, 1 Corinthians 7:32–34 or 12:25 and Philippians 2:20.

[4] A Gentile is anyone who is not of Hebrew birth. The reader will note that Jesus spoke these words before the day of Pentecost; thus, at that time, all Gentiles were separated from God and His promises (see Ephesians 2:11–12). In our day, anyone who believes on Jesus Christ becomes one of God’s people, whether Jew or Gentile in background. Today, the unsaved ─ regardless of bloodline ─ live as did the “Gentiles” in Matthew 6:32 (see also Ephesians 2:1–3).

[5] The word translated “first” in Matthew 6:33 is the Greek word proton, indicating not merely first in time, but first in absolute priority.

[6] Some modern versions translate this as “money,” which does not quite capture the full meaning.

[7] See Acts 28:1–6.

[8] Please note that, as Christians, we now know God as our Father, and we serve one Lord, Jesus Christ. But in serving Jesus Christ we are certainly living in obedience to the God who sent him and Who gave us to him.