Ipsos completed an online survey last month of about 1000 persons in each of 27 countries to identify and quantify what it was that people are most worried about.
Here are the top 10 worries 1:
- Coronavirus 45%
- Unemployment 39%
- Poverty/Social inequality 30%
- Crime/Violence 27%
- Financial/Political Corruption 27%
- Healthcare 21%
- Education 16%
- Taxes 13%
- Climate change 12%
- Moral decline 11%
Moral decline ranked only tenth ahead of things like immigration control, threats against the environment, the rise of extremism, inflation, terrorism, maintaining social programs, childhood obesity and access to credit. In the complete list of 18 worries, moral decline was the only ‘spiritual concern’, though not likely for spiritual reasons.
There were no countries free from worry, and with good reason. Governments of the world are drowning in debt. The world economy has stalled, trade wars abound, household debt is sky-high, jobs are disappearing, there is a virus on the loose and rioting in the streets.
To which our lord says “remember the birds of the sky and the lilies of the field”. Really??
Actually, what Jesus did say was:
“For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. (Luke 12:22-31)
To a world in chaos, the words of Jesus sound irresponsible. Those who still have jobs, worry all the time about losing what they’ve got. They worry about keeping the boss happy, the marriage together, the kids clothed and the bills paid. ‘Don’t worry’, sounds like advice from Mad Magazine or that bebop tune for folks on vacation. But responsible people manage their money, pay their debts, live on a budget and put something aside for a ‘rainy day’. They work hard, don’t make excuses and have no time to ‘considering the lilies’.
The world has not changed much since Jesus spoke those words except that the Kingdom of Heaven has arrived on earth. The world is still in crisis and people still worry.
So what exactly did Jesus mean?
To start with, He assures us that God’s management of his world, is not improved by our worry. His due diligence does not go up when we are anxious or go away when we doubt. He is constant and dependable in a world made uncertain by his own design. He wants us to discover just how many things we do not control, and then turn to the one who is in control. And when worries remain, he invites us to turn each one over to him (I Pet 5:7). God so orders his physical blessings that they are enjoyed by both the righteous and unrighteous (Mt. 5:45). They are timely, plentiful and freely given.
But there is something more important than that and quite beyond the providence of God.
While our bodies need food, our souls need forgiveness. God was not able to speak it into being or bestow ‘kingdom blessings’ upon those not yet in his kingdom. In order to forgive us, his son had to become a man, live a sinless life, die as an atoning sacrifice and return to heaven having been raised from the dead. Then and only then could the kingdom of heaven descend to earth and invite our entry. Seeking the kingdom of heaven is of first importance, for life eternal is available nowhere else. The kingdom of heaven enlists the providence of God to extend the opportunity to be saved. There is nothing more important than this and the reason why time is of the essence.
The kingdom of heaven is the means by which we ‘store up treasure in heaven’, for those who enter, become heaven’s treasure. When the heavens and the earth pass away at His coming, the only thing that our Lord will keep are his saints. We are his inheritance (Eph. 1:18) Were we to ask of history… what exactly is ‘in it for God’? God’s answer is ‘my saints’.
It is then a small thing to trust God with bread having entrusted him already with our souls.