In stark contrast to what we see across evening news channels, social media pages and newspaper headlines come these words of Jesus “…do not worry about your life…” (Matt 6:25) In light of the ever-widening fear and emotionally-charged hysteria surrounding current events such as Ebola these words of Jesus can seem offensive at worst and as irrelevant as a Bob Marley song at best. “Don’t worry…be happy.”
So for those of us who say that Jesus is our Master, do these words of His have any mastery over us? Do they carry with them a weight in our lives that makes us stop and examine our perspective on the current events? Or, as we read them alongside the day’s newspaper, do they seem weightless as the heaviness of fear threatens to settle in our hearts? After all, these are not Jesus’ suggestions on how to deal with the daily fears/anxieties/worries/stresses we face; they are His commands. Jesus is not a personal consultant we seek advice from and then weigh the options and make our own decision. He is either Lord of our life or He is not. So if He is the One we follow, our Lord, how do we heed His commands? It may help our perspective to examine these words of His within the context of the culture at the time Jesus spoke these words and who He was speaking to.
These words of Jesus come at a time in history when Roman oppression and political instability had peaked for the Jewish people. Their long history of foreign invasions and terrorist threats and the mixture of current social and religious ideologies created a diluted and threatened sense of Jewish identity that left them longing for a leader that would strengthen this sense of identity in the midst of Roman occupation and oppression. When Jesus arrived on the scene and began his ministry, many people recognized him as the promised Messiah that had been prophesied about throughout Jewish history. And while they recognized him as this Messiah, their hope largely rested on Him leading them into political, religious and social freedom. They wanted Him to be their earthly king who would “fix” their current state through legislation.
But good news for them and for us, Jesus didn’t come to “fix”. He came to save. And the salvation He offered/offers was and is far greater than any political reform or social freedom. He didn’t come on the scene campaigning for a change in policies. In fact, He very rarely addressed the political climate of the day (though He had every right to). No, instead, He came on the scene fighting for a change in people’s hearts. And He didn’t just fight for that change, He died for it. He took on the despair and the darkness we face and He conquered it once and for all.
In light of this, we return to His words “Do not worry about your life.” Jesus and Jesus alone can command us with these words…because in Jesus alone worry is absolved in Hope. True and lasting hope – no matter what comes. Be it Ebola, terrorism or social injustice. We all want some glimpse of hope in the midst of current events that seem to threaten our sense of security. No politician and no legislation can afford us the security we long for. And while we are to remain active in the political arena upholding our convictions, our hope must be in something beyond. And what we fight to change is not one law or protocol at a time, but one heart at a time. We fight for people not policies. And we choose to heed the words of our Lord and Savior who left Heaven for us to conquer the darkness:
“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 than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?…But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” -Jesus (Matthew 6:25-27, 33-34)