Don’t worry, be happy – Matthew 6:24-34
This text must be read as a composite unit. While it may seem to be two issues at hand verse 24 serves to state the issue while verses 25- 34 serve as the solution. Sadly, the titles to these scripture texts as they appear in our Bibles create an artificial and fallacious impression that these are two teaching; in reality they are one.
Society has changed a great deal since the time of Jesus. Definitions of poverty, wealth, and the good life are much different today than they were then. Yet even today, many of us may not fall in the category of affluence and wealth. Perhaps many of us have grown out of poverty into a growing middle class. The reality is often seen in our parents who lived through hard times and who continue to live in the ‘fear’ of an impending financial tragedy.
This fear is often seen in the poor. They who wander the streets have no cupboards or refrigerators. The dirty hand bag they carry often serves as both. In it they store all kinds and all sorts out of fear of not getting another meal. Take this to another level and most of us too live in the fear that the security we enjoy could disappear in a flash; a job loss, the death of a bread winner and so on. It is understandable why many of us would cling to our bank balances rather than to the word of God. Wealth competes with God for the human heart.
Jesus wants us to cling to him especially if our fear and insecurity of the futures turns into an obsession or even worse a crazed desire to hoard more, buy more and possess more. In doing that we ‘despise’ the Lord while we are ‘devoted’ to our financial portfolios. It is in this light that verse 25 flows.
Of all Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, this is one of the more difficult sections to understand. Jesus’ words seem out of step with our society and on the surface, they lack coherence with the lives we are living. The Lord’s solution which seems simplistic is reflected in the ever-popular song of Bobby Mcferrin which dominated the 1980’s called “don’t worry be happy.” Five times in this text we are told to stop worrying about tomorrow as the troubles we have today are burdensome itself. It seems to suggest that one does not need to work or prepare for the future at all; we can simply relax knowing that God will take care of our needs.