Age of Anxiety

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  • Age of Anxiety

    A modern poet W.H. Auden described the time we live in as an “age of anxiety”, a poem published in 1947. Our lives have only become more anxious, in part because the world has become characterized by the need for “more.” Advertising and information flood our senses and emotions, so when it comes to material goods, enough seems to be just out of reach.

    In Luke 12:22-34, Jesus’ assessment of His audience could have been written today. “Do not worry about your life,” He says. Specifically, He says not to be concerned about where food and clothing will come from. He urges us to consider the birds and the lilies of the field—if God feeds them and clothes the grass of the field so gloriously, He will certainly provide for our needs!

    Jesus wants His listeners to understand there are many more important things about life than worrying about how we look or feel on the outside. “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” While food and clothing are needed, they are rudimentary compared to the richness of the life God has given us. Jesus is much more concerned with His followers tending to the inner things of life.

    We observe that Jesus prohibits anxiousness over food and clothing. Yet it is completely appropriate to take measures to secure such provisions. There is no egregious selfishness in purchasing and storing more than what is needed for each day. We recall Joseph in Egypt, and the seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Wisdom dictated storing up for the lean years.

    Jesus’ concern with anxiousness is linked to idolatry. A wise and diligent heart takes advantage of God’s faithful provision of food and clothing. It gathers and stores, but never forgets the source of all good things, and trusts that the Lord will provide in the future. Such a heart enjoys not only God’s provision but also the peace of mind that results from faith.

    Contrarily, an anxious heart races about in agitation, having forgotten about God. Such a heart will worship anyone or anything it perceives to be the source of all needful things: the earth as a goddess, other false gods, government programs, and finally, oneself. Anxiousness also empowers temptation. If I rely on my own impulses and means instead of God to meet my needs, I am more apt to commit sin to meet those needs. An anxious heart shoplifts, falsifies timecards, cheats on taxes, and is less inclined to share with a neighbor in need.

    Ultimately, this passage in Luke is about being rich toward God. If we have the Kingdom, that is, forgiveness of sins and everlasting life, we have everything. The alternative is to be so anxious over the material goods of this world as to die without faith in Jesus, entering eternity poorer than the most desperate of the needful on earth. Jesus is presenting Himself as the riches of the Kingdom. Through faith in Christ, we have this treasure, and He is the soothing balm for the anxious heart.​

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