If you read enough about former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, you’ll discover a unique spirit, one who marched to the beat of his own drum, one who freely said what he felt needed to be said. His own country had an interesting “love/hate” relationship with the man who led them through the trials and troubles of World War II.
His speeches fascinate me with his choice of words; the way he told a good story. As leader of his country during the war, one would assume he had more than his share of worries. Yet, when asked how he dealt with the anxiety of his day, he said, “When I look back on all the worries I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened.”
We tend to worry about things that never happen…a mixture of human nature and human sin. Our inability to let go of that which we dread, not fully trusting that if we respond to His will, He will guide our steps.
The Gospel of Luke tells us about a man who came to Jesus deeply worried about financial security; his lot in life. We don’t know his name. We don’t know his circumstance. What we know of the man must be inferred from what he asked of the Teacher (Luke 12:13). So much seems wrong in his heart.
What drives someone into a crowd of thousands (Luke 12:1), pushing his way through the unruly throng until he stands face to face with the popular Teacher?
The young man shoved his way
through the crowd of thousands.
Bitterness drove him forward.
Impatient with the masses, he
brushed aside an elderly couple,
stepping through the gap.
Found himself face to face with the popular Teacher.
Jesus looked in surprise as the man
stepped in front of him.
Furrowed his eyebrows at his impatience.
Sensed his anxiety,
Smiled a smile to ease the man’s discomfort.
His well-rehearsed speech forgotten.
The young man squared his shoulders.
Blurted out his question
laced with all venom
coursing through his veins.
Agonizing over his future.
Angry at his brother.
Anxious about his life.
“Rabbi,” he spat.
“Tell my brother to split the
inheritance with me.”
Not an unreasonable request in today’s legal world. Pleading for an even split among heirs. In his day, however, a double portion of the inheritance went to the eldest son to provide the resources he needed to become the head of the extended family. It was the way of the world. Imagine the heated discussions between brothers within days of their father’s death. The elder now financially secure. The younger burdened by debt, demands and expectations. Isn’t it funny how anxiety creates demons where no demon exists? The mental image of his future that he allowed to dominate his thoughts grew desperate and despairing.
Resentment brought him to Jesus…not to change his own heart, but to change his brother’s. When Jesus recused himself as judge and arbiter in his situation, the man thrust his hands in the pockets of his robe and huffed away, deeply troubled about what tomorrow would bring.
On its surface, greed seemed the trigger. He coveted what another possessed. When he could not cajole, beg, insist or argue his way into financial security, the sought a judgment against his brother to force the issue. Jesus sensed enough avarice in the young man to issue a warning to the crowd against the danger of putting one’s trust in material possessions. Saying in essence, “You can build a bigger barn to secure your wealth, but you can’t take it with you.”
I think Jesus thought about that young man throughout the day. That He made on connection with the man disturbed the Savior. The scene played out repeated in his thoughts. Pictured him asking his question. Saw the flash anger in his eyes at the mention of his brother. Recalled how the man puffed his cheeks in response to Jesus’ answer. Remembered how he shove his way back through the crowd until he was lost from sight. Jesus’ heart broke with every man, woman or child who turned from his message.
Jesus sensed more than simple greed infecting the man’s life. Jesus recognized a deeper affliction. The man was drowning in waves of worry. This deep anxiety that ate away at the man’s happiness disturbed Jesus at the profoundest level. Turning to his disciples, those who followed him most closely, Jesus shared these words in Luke 12:22-26.
“I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food and the body more than clothes.” He pointed into the nearby field where ravens plucked the ground in search of worms and insects. “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. How much more valuable you are than the birds! Who among you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”
His words resonate with me. I’m months away from an announced retirement. While it brings a degree of uncertainty, I choose not to worry about what the future holds. I think back on my life, the choices I made, the chances I took. The lean financial years. Starting a family. Raising my sons. The work I performed. All the mistakes in life I’ve made. I think of the days and nights of anxiety and worry about things beyond my control. I’ve learned one irrefutable fact. Worry changed nothing. Like the old man in Churchill’s story, I worried most deeply about things that never happened.
For Christians, worry rises as a barrier between us and God, making our fears seem more real than the God who cares for us, in effect, dethroning him as Lord of our lives. So, how do we keep from falling into the trap of anxiety and fear? Jesus gave us the hint in the latter part of Chapter 12. Here’s how I picture it.
The campfire smoldered.
Knocking the chill from the evening air.
Jesus and his disciples sat around the fire.
Content in fellowship.
Comfortable in conversation.
They talked easily of the day’s activity.
Jesus tossed a small twig into the fire.
Watched the flame envelop it.
Deep in thought.
He spoke quietly to everyone and no one.
More thought than thesis.
“I can’t stop thinking about the young man
who wanted me to pass judgment about his inheritance.”
“He was too greedy.
He had no right to ask what he…”
Jesus stopped him mid-sentence.
“No, Thomas. It was more than that.
You could see it in his eyes.
The tenseness of his shoulders.
His worry consumed him.”
With familiar compassion,
Jesus used the moment to teach.
Imparting another life lesson.
To his disciples.
“Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink;
do not worry about it.
For the world runs after all such things and
your Father knows you need them.
Instead, seek his kingdom and
these things will be given to you as well.
For where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also.”
Source: The Searcher