Everyone worries about things. Some people are more prone to worry than others, but more or less everyone can agree that it makes sense to worry about at least some things. Indeed, some people might look at you quite strange if you do not worry about things! For that reason, it is all the more surprising that Christ teaches us not to worry:
So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.Matthew 6:34 New Revised Standard Version
How is it that Christ can teach us not to worry? Why does He tell us this?
What I think is most fascinating about this teaching of Christ is the way of life to which it calls us. Worry has to do with two things: things in the future, and things we do not know. More specifically, worrying is a way of thinking about the future. Worrying means thinking that something in future either will be or could be bad for us. By telling us not to worry, Christ is effectively turning our minds away from the future and onto the present moment. As He says, “Today’s trouble is enough for today.” In other words, Christ teaches us not to project our expectations of harm and suffering onto the future, so that we only concern ourselves with what is “right there in front of us,” so to speak.
There is a deeper significance to all this, and if we grasp the deeper significance, then we will be able to understand the truly radical and profound nature of Christ’s teaching.
People have a natural desire to know things. That is what Aristotle famously said. One of things people desire to know is the future – what will happen to them and to the ones they love, for example. Now, we know things by making judgments about them. We judge that a thing is this way or that, and when we see that the thing is as we judged it to be, we gain knowledge. The problem is that the future is not visible in this way. We cannot simply look into the future to see what it will be like. And yet we want to know what it is! That is why we worry. Worrying means making judgments about what the future will be, – more specifically, making judgments that the future can or even will be bad for us, – even though we cannot see it.
But Christ teaches us that we have nothing to gain by worrying. He says: “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Matt. 6:27). Obviously not! But notice the deeper significance of this. We have a natural desire to know things, so that we are benefited by knowing. If there is no benefit to worrying, then it follows that worrying does not secure knowledge! Even knowing would be a benefit. If there is no benefit in worrying, then there must not be any knowledge gained by it, either.
How can Christ teach us that we do not gain knowledge by worrying? Let’s return once more to the definition of worry. Worrying means forming the judgment that the future can or will be bad for us. If worrying does not produce knowledge, it must be that the future will not be bad for us. And that is in fact what Christ teaches:
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? … Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ … Indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.Matthew 6:26, 31-32 New Revised Standard Version
We have now arrived at the reason why we should not worry, which is also the reason why worrying does not produce knowledge. It is because God loves and cares for us! That is why there is nothing to worry about: because God, who is control of all things, loves us and looks out for us. That is why there is nothing to worry about. As the Apostle Paul says elsewhere, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
The teaching of Christ is truly radical. He teaches us not to worry. And He tells us the reason why we shouldn’t worry: Because God, who is greater than all and in control of everything, is Himself our Father who loves us and looks out for us in everything. So do not worry about anything!