Text: Luke 12:13-20
The Rev. Dr. D. William Faupel
Jul. 31, 2016
When I was growing up on a farm in Michigan, my dad was always concerned that he would have a bad year. His outlook on life had been formed by the Great Depression of the 1930’s. His attitude one 180 degrees opposite of the farmer in the parable Jesus told in today’s gospel. That farmer after having a series of good harvests said: “I will pull down my barns and build greater. I will relax, eat, drink and be merry.” My dad, on the other hand, was always afraid that our crops would not be good enough to enable him to make mortgage payment. He was convinced that one day the bank would foreclose and he would lose everything. No matter how good a year we had, it was never good enough. In his mind it was only a matter of time before disaster would strike and he would be ruined.
Then one day just about the time I was leaving for college a miracle happened. My mother’s uncle, who had no children, died and left us enough money to pay off the mortgage and additional amount to make sure that my parents would be financially secure in their retirement. Without missing a beat, dad continued to worry. This time he was convinced another depression was just around the corner. The stock market would again crash, and he would end up in the poor house. My father instilled many positive values in me, but he also left this one aspect of his legacy with which I have had to struggle throughout my life.
Our Lord addresses this issue directly in today's Gospel. "I tell you, do not be anxious about tomorrow do not worry about your life, what you are to eat, or what you are to drink; and do not worry about your body, what you are to wear." Jesus is not saying that we should not be prudent or that we should not plan ahead. What He is saying is that we should not allow potential possibilities which we cannot control to rob us of the joy of living.
He then proceeds to set out a number of reasons that we can use as a defense against needless worry.
A. He begins by pointing out that God has given us life, He reasons that if God gave us life, surely we can trust Him for the lesser things. Surely we can trust him to give us food to sustain life. If God gave us bodies, surely we can trust Him for raiment to clothe them. It is an Argument of the lesser to the greater: If God gave us life, we can trust Him for the things necessary to support life.
B. Secondly, Jesus speaks about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. For the birds, He says, there is no worry in their lives, there is no attempt to pile up goods for an unforeseeable future, and yet their lives go on. The point that our Lord is making is not that birds do not work, if fact it has been said, that no one works harder to make a living than the average sparrow. Rather, the point that He is making is that birds work each day without worry, and their needs are met. God provides for them.
Likewise, the lilies of the field. They are like our "day lilies." They last but a day and then are gone. But their color—or as in our Lord's analogy, their clothes—are breathtaking. Solomon, the richest man in all of Israel, never had clothes as fine as these flowers. In this case it is the opposite argument. from the lesser to the greater. If God cares for the needs of the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, how much more will He care for human kind who was created in His image.
C. Next, he turns to the futility of worry. Who, He asks, by spending time in worry will add one inch to his height or change anything? Not only is worry pointless, is also destructive! It can lead to ulcers, heart problems and to taking protective measures that will hurt others.
D. Finally, He declares, worry is in reality, a fundamental distrust of God. Such a distrust would be understandable for the heathen of the first century who believed their gods to be jealous, capricious and unpredictable. But such distrust should be beyond comprehension to those you understand their God to be a loving Father.
If you, like me, find at times that you struggle with this problem, you might well say: "Father Bill that is all well and good. I fully accept what you are saying. I know it in my mind this is true, but the anxiety is still there. There seems to be nothing that I can do about it. Our Lord gives great advice as to how to overcome such anxiety.
A. First, He says, "Focus your mind on God, and on His kingdom's values. "Concentrate on doing the will of God and your worries will disappear. Your needs will be provided. It was our Lord's conviction that worry is banished when God becomes the dominating focus of our lives.
B. Secondly, He says: "Worry can be defeated when we acquire the art of living one day at a time. If each day is lived as it comes, each task addressed as it appears. the sum of all our days is bound to be good. We then should handle the demands of each day without worrying about the unknown future, and about the things that may never happen.
Let me quickly summarize what our Lord had to say. First, Worry is needless, useless, and actively injurious. No amount of worry will affect what has been done. The past is past. There is nothing that we can do about it. Equally, worry about the future is useless. Focus on what is before you today and you will find that when tomorrow comes you will have the means and resources to meet its challenges as well.
In addition, worry is worse than useless. It is often actively injurious to our bodies. It can paralyze our constructive actions and lead to behavior that is injurious to others. Worry will also often blind us to the truth. Worry refuses to learn the lesson of nature. Jesus bids us to look at the birds, to see the bounty which lies behind nature and trust the love that lies behind the bounty.
Finally, worry refuses to learn from the lesson of life. We are still alive! Our heads are still above water. If someone would have told us that we would have to go through what we have been through we would have said that it was impossible. The Lesson of life is that somehow we have been enabled to bear the unbearable, to do the undoable, to pass the breaking-point, and not break. The Lesson of life is that worry is unnecessary.
"Take no anxious thought for tomorrow”—this is the commandment of our Lord. It is the way, not only of peace, but also of power.
Let us pray together the prayer first attributed to St. Frances: