Monday, September 10, 2012

Financial Anxiety

    Jesus recognized that one cause of excessive preoccupation with money was financial insecurity. Not everyone is obsessed with getting rich. Some of us are obsessed with just making ends meet. The spiritual effect, however, is pretty much the same: we are too preoccupied with the concerns of this life to give much attention to the next.
    And so it is that Jesus goes on next in the Sermon on the Mount to address the issue of financial anxiety. "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; not about your body, what you will put on" (Matt. 6:25; NKJV). "But," someone will ask, "how can I not worry about these things? My financial problems are both real and pressing." Jesus addresses this concern, first of all, by reminding us of a basic fact of life: "Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing"? As real as our material concerns may be, they should never become our only concerns. We should never neglect the spiritual for the sake of the material. Even in the midst of financial crisis we must keep things in perspective. Eternity outweighs the temporal.
    But we are still faced with the question, how can we avoid worrying about our temporal circumstances when they are so real and pressing? In answer to this Jesus point to the care that God exercises over nature, and argues, in effect, that God will exercise the same care over us. The argument assumes, of course, that God is in fact the Creator of nature. That being the case, nature reveals the power, wisdom and goodness of God in the marvelous way that everything fits together and functions as a complete system. It is true, of course, that species have a capacity to adapt to their environments. But who created the environments? And who created the ability to adapt? The environment must first be inhabitable, and the ability to adapt is the result of marvelously complex genetic mechanism. God is the Creator of them both.
    What all of this tells us about God is that He is concerned about the well-being of every living being. And if He would structure the bird so that it would thrive in its environment, why would He not also care about us as human beings? "Are you not of more value than they?" Jesus asks (v. 26).
    Then Jesus considers another aspect of the problem. "Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?" (v. 27 – a "cubit" was a unity of measure about 20 inches long). Worrying, by itself accomplishes nothing. There are some circumstances (such as your physical height) that you simply cannot change. What, then, is the point of worrying about them? In some cases we need to accept what we cannot change.
    Jesus then lays down the basic principle in all this: "but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (v. 33). What it all comes down to is priorities. What is more important in our lives – God, or our own personal comfort? God is our Creator and Redeemer. He has promised to protect and sustain us. If we have committed ourselves to serve Him then we will put His concerns first, and trust in Him to meet our needs later. This is the only way to succeed in the Christian life. To become preoccupied with our personal needs is a sure prescription for spiritual failure.
    How, then can we keep our priorities straight? One way is to organize our schedule and our budget. We should set aside a certain amount of time and money for our time alone with God and His work. But the real answer to anxiety is prayer. "I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established by steps" (Ps. 40:1,2). In prayer we turn to God and look to Him to meet our needs. Faith is the answer to anxiety, and faith is exercised in prayer. "Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass" (Ps. 37:5).

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