One of the benefits of translating the New Testament from the original language is that the pace of one’s reading of the text is slowed down significantly. I was translating Matt 6:25-34 recently and I was struck by the radical nature of what Jesus said to his audience. I have heard this passage many times and I have spiritualised it in the past into a predictable exhortation to have ‘faith’ and not to worry about the future. However, the first hearers of this message lived in an agrarian society, often living from what was produced locally; if the crops failed, then food would become very scarce for a number of months. If the population was fortunate enough, there might be a wealthy family that could buy food from another place. Jesus’ first hearers would have heard this in a very different way to me. The closest that I come to encountering a food shortage is when the supermarket is temporarily out of stock of something I want. If I am to be honest, Jesus’ radical message of ‘do not worry’ disturbs me. As I was translating, I was convicted about how much attention I give to thinking about, and planning for, the future to the point that I start to worry.
Much of our culture’s fears are based on what might happen in the future. Do I have enough insurance? Will I have enough to retire and live comfortably? will I have a job in the future? What will happen if I am in an accident and I cannot work?… Yes, some planning and thought for the future is necessary, and yes, it is the sensible thing to do. In many ways, we cannot escape worry because we live in such a culture that is so forward looking. According to Jesus, the problem with worry runs deeper than just our fears. Yes, we are not to worry and have faith, but this is not what Jesus perceives the problem to be. The problem is that we do not always realise our worth is not in our wealth but the heavenly Father’s estimation of us. Worry about the future stops us from living in the now. Only by living in the present can we begin to live out of the father’s estimation of us which can free us from worry. To stop worrying and to have faith are pointless unless we can live in the now and to truly know our worth to our heavenly Father.