Isaiah 49:14-15, 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, Matthew 6:24-34
On the Gospel, How to Be Free from Worry
Ralph Phelps in a sermon entitled “How to Worry” tells about the clock that had a nervous breakdown. A new clock placed on the shelf was ticking two ticks to the second as any good clock should tick. Then it began to calculated how many times it was going to have to tick. “Two ticks to the second means 120 ticks per minute. That’s 7200 ticks per hour, 172,800 ticks per day, 1,209,600 per week for 52 weeks, and a total of 62,899,200 per year.” Horrified, the clock had a nervous breakdown.
The clock was taken to a psychiatrist who asked, “Clock, what’s your trouble?” “Oh, doctor,” the clock complained, “I have to tick so much. I have to tick two ticks a second and 120 ticks per minute and 7200 ticks per hour, and …” “Hold it,” the psychiatrist cut in, “How many ticks do you have to tick at a time?” “Oh, I just have to tick one tick at a time,” was the reply. “Then let me make a suggestion,” replied the doctor. “You go home and try ticking one tick at a time. Don’t even think about the next tick until its time. Just tick one tick at a time. Can you do that?” “Of course, I can” said the clock now happy and revived
This story, like today’s gospel story, teaches us three things: why people worry, the futility of worry, and how to overcome worry.
Why people worry: We worry when in our minds we try to bite off more than we can chew. The clock is bothered about how many ticks it will have to make in one year rather than focussing on the ticking it needs to do today, this very minute. Similarly, Jesus teaches us not to worry about so many things “‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?'” (Matthew 6:31). We try to handle too many things on our minds when we worry about the future, about the tomorrows of our life that are so uncertain.
The futility of worry: In both the story of the clock and in the gospel story we see that worry does not solve problems. Rather, it is counterproductive. As Jesus asks in the gospel, “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Matthew 6:27). The answer, of course, is no. Rather, worry can lead to a nervous breakdown, as the clock experiences, and this can diminish the person’s life span.
How to overcome worry: This brings us to the all-important question of how to overcome worry. We overcome worry by living in the present moment, focussing on what we need to do today, knowing that we can figure out how to cross tomorrow’s bridge when we get there. The poor clock regained its sanity only by learning to focus on what needs to be done in the present moment. Jesus, similarly, teaches us to focus on the present and not on the future, “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil” (Matthew 6:34).
Is Jesus teaching us to live a life without plans or not to make provisions for the rainy day? No. He is rather teaching us the basic truth of faith, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain” (Psalm 127:1). Hence our plans for our life, security and welfare in the future must start with our total submission to God. If God cares and provides for lower creatures like the grass of the field and the birds of the air, how much more will He care for us who are made in His own image and likeness, if we let him?
Jesus, therefore, teaches us to replace our many mundane concerns with one over-riding concern: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Matthew 6:33). God who gave us life knows that life needs to be sustained. God who gave us bodies knows that the body needs to be clothed and fed. The best way to assure that the gifts will keep coming is to develop a good relationship with the giver. This is the only sure prescription to overcome worry in our lives.