(Second in a four-part series, "Worry—Its Causes and Cure")
That’s really the bottom-line conclusion Jesus came to that day in His "Sermon on the Mount" when He talked about not worrying about this-or-that (Matthew 6:19-34). He warned against "laying up earthly treasures that succumb to rust, rot and robbers" (vv.19-21). And, then He reminded them of the importance of "clear vision" (God’s perspective on things) versus "evil vision," which springs from a darkened, depraved mind (vv.22-23).
In vv.25-32 He talked of three things that so often consume most of our time and money: consumption ("what you shall eat"), clothes ("what you shall wear") and countenance ("how you look"). And, in each one of them He said, "Don’t worry about these—for your Heavenly Father knows you have need of them" (v.32).
Think about it:
Statistics show that the average food bill per person in the United States is right at $300 per month. But, when you throw in those times of eating out, having guests over for a meal, etc., most likely that total is even higher.
Thus, for some folks going grocery shopping is a worrisome experience. Rising prices on just the basic commodities (e.g., milk, bread, eggs, etc.) put a strain on the budget and those on fixed income often get "sticker shock" whenever they enter the store.
The same is true for clothes. The Census Bureau reports an average of 3.8% is spent annually on clothing in each home in the U.S. Thus, a total of around $2,000 is spent per year if the average income is $50,000.
And, the third area ("countenance") also consumes much of our disposable income. When you consider the amount spent on exercise equipment, gym memberships, sports clothing and shoes, diet foods, etc., the figure is astounding. And, when you throw in how much we spend on "looking good"—e.g., barber/beautician, tanning salons, cosmetics, etc.—it’s easy to see why Jesus cautioned us on worrying about such things.
Take "consumption," for instance.
We know we have to have food to eat. And, we know it’s expensive to feed a family of three or more. But, too often we buy the wrong types of food—those full of calories and carbohydrates—which end up causing up to gain weight…which causes us to have to buy new clothes…which then leads to buying exercise equipment and/or gym memberships we won’t use.
Much better if we ate healthier and smaller portions. Although fruits and vegetables may seemingly add to the grocery bill, in reality they’re much better for us than processed or easy-to-fix meals you pop in the microwave. Couple that with regular exercise and you’ll soon see the pounds begin falling off, which will help you get back into some of those clothes in your closet that "shrank" sometime in the past.
Likewise, too often we worry about our clothes—not the fact that we don’t have anything to wear—but the "type" clothes we wear. We want the latest label. The name-brand. The hottest tennis shoe. The "in" duds that everyone else is wearing. And, somehow we feel inferior if we don’t have them.
But, dear Reader, such worrying is sinful. We should be thankful that we have clothes—any clothes—to wear, for there are some folks in the world who’d love to have anything that wasn’t threadbare or shoes that didn’t have holes in the soles.
And, Jesus especially warned against worrying about our "countenance," i.e., how we look. He said "Who of you, by worrying, can add even a single 1" to your height?" (v.27); yet, still we worry about our hair color or if ours is falling out. We worry about wrinkles, sagging skin, expanding waistlines, etc., forgetting that such is vanity.
"Quit worrying about such things," Jesus said.
"Much better," He added, "to trust the Heavenly Father, knowing He knows what you need."
Here’s hoping we’ll do that this week as we pray the Serenity Prayer: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference." Maybe then we’ll spend more time "giving thanks in all things" (I Thessalonians 5:18) instead of worrying about things that ultimately won’t matter.
(NOTE: write to Bro. Tom at P.O. Box 10614, Fort Smith, AR 72917; to receive his daily devotional, "Morning Manna," email him at email@example.com).