Don't Worry, Be Happy. I hadn't listened to this Bobby McFerrin tune for years. Click and get an automatic mood boost! Listening to this (and watching Robin Williams dance) is a great "pick-up".
Seriously though, can we do it? How realistic is the "don't worry" message in our climate of fear? We worry about everything, global warming, economic meltdown, terrorism, racism, harassment, war and violence, what so and so might think if I speak my opinion, am I dressed right, who is laughing at me, do I matter, are my kids going to be okay....
The worries are big and small and myriad. The happy video points some of them out. I can't escape the irony that Robin Williams dances in this one. Mr. Williams, who made so any people laugh, took his own life on Aug. 11, 2014.
Now read Matthew 6:24-34. The message is so much the same. Do not worry. There is, however, no glib 'be happy' message. Instead, there is a down to earth reminder that we are not in control. We can't, by worrying, add a single hour to our lives. (v. 27) God is in control and God cares. The message here might be more aptly titled: "Don't Worry, Be Trusting."
So, in light of the earthy fact, what is our response?
Jesus is pretty clear on this. If our priorities are in the right order, we will be taken care of. The familiar; "you cannot serve God and wealth", kicks off the discussion. And what a discussion starter for those of us who always worry about our paychecks, our insurance policies, and all our stuff. We live in a culture that, in many ways, equates 'security' with money.
Acquiring things, however, does not reduce anxiety. "It generates anxiety. You buy some kind of insurance to protect you against some kind of risk, which means that you now have one more bill to worry about paying, as well as worry about the loopholes your new insurance policy doesn't cover..." (John Petty. http://www.progressiveinvolvement.com/progressive_involvement/2011/02/lectionary-blogging-matthew-6-24-34.html)
Many people who have traveled into poverty stricken areas come away humbled by the generosity of the poor. They are often willing to share and help in the moment, because they are unable to accumulate much. If everyone shares the little they have, they are all richer. Why can't we do this well when we are comparatively rich?
Isn't this "do not worry" thing a strange balance? On the one hand, I totally agree that I'm not in control, and I shouldn't worry because ultimately God will take care of me. On the other hand, thinking ahead about the future and saving for it, having decent insurance, and a decent dependable income are prudent and important things. We do need to plan for and take care of our needs. But what is my priority?
A story: Years ago, my husband and I knew someone (actually more than one person) who didn't worry, who lived "in the moment." They traveled a lot but did not own a car and regularly depended on others going out of their way to supply rides, help pack and carry luggage, meet bus and train deadlines...It really wasn't an issue, we didn't mind helping, until it started feeling like an obligation and sometimes an unnecessary burden on us. The responsibility to care for oneself and one's family is real and something that needs good attention. Living free of worries because you can sponge off of others is not what Jesus is promoting here!
The key is having priorities in order. If accumulating money and things is most important to us, then we will worry because we can lose them. We strive for houses and cars that are too big and fancy for our paychecks. We vacation expensively and often because we can. People ignore the real needs of others because they are too preoccupied by their own wants. However, jobs end, economies change, natural disasters happen (just ask anyone from Fort Mac!) and the poor are always with us. If our priority is God and we "strive first for the kingdom of God", then peace of mind cannot be taken away. There is less selfishness and more sharing. God knows our needs (v.32).
I think this whole, "do not worry" is not only about money and things. It is helpful, also, to think about it in terms of our attitudes. If we always function with an attitude of scarcity-not enough people coming to church, not enough volunteers...we spiral down into a culture of negativity and create an atmosphere of not enough, an attitude of "can't", a culture of complaint, and no one is happy. If instead we could switch priorities to being thankful for what we have, practice grace rather than complaint, and just plain stop worrying about really talking to each other...what anxities might disappear? What does God in control look like?
Imagine a world where more people truly had their priorities straight, where we would strive first for righteousness? So much would be added on to us.
Do not worry. It's a tall order, but maybe if I work on my priorities it will fall into place.