September 13, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 12:29-30 (NRSV)
And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them.
Sometimes we worry because we feel as if we’re responsible for everything, even the things over which we have no control. Jesus urges us not to allow our hearts to be lifted up in this way. Rather, when we can be like a child held by its mother, trusting fully in the gracious sovereignty of God, then we will be free from worry.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
At first glance, Luke 12:29 seems to reiterate what Jesus has already made clear in his discussion of worry: “And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying.” A few verses earlier Jesus said plainly, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear” (Luke12:22). Then he asked if by “worrying” we can add an hour to our lives and why we “worry” about things we can’t control (Luke 12:25-26). Verse 29 in the NRSV and other recent translations (NIV, NLT, CEB, ESV) appears to reinforce the command not to worry.
But, in fact, the original language of verse 29 does not use the standard Greek verb for “to worry,” the one that is found in verses 22, 25, and 26 (merimnaō). Instead, verse 29 features the verb meteōrizō. If this looks a bit familiar, it’s because it is related to our English word “meteor.” A meteor is a small piece of matter way up in the sky. The basic meaning of the Greek verb meteōrizō is “to raise to a height, buoy up, elevate.” It was occasionally but rarely used in the sense of being anxious, perhaps because people up on a high precipice can feel nervous about falling (at least that’s how I would feel!).
The only use of meteōrizō in the New Testament is in Luke 12:29, so we’re not going to know how to translate this verb by looking, for example, at other times it might show up in Luke. Meteōrizō does appear, however, in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Septuagint version of Psalm 131:1 reads in translation, “O LORD, my heart is not lifted up, nor were my eyes raised too high [meteōrizō], nor did I go about in great things, nor with things too marvelous for me.” Rather, the psalm writer “calmed and quieted” his soul like a child with its mother (Psalm 131:2). He urges us to put our hope, not in ourselves, but in the Lord (Psalm 131:3).
Why would Jesus talk about being lifted up in the context of his teaching on worry? The answer, I think, has to do with what often gets us into an anxious frame of mind. We start worrying about things that are above us, things that are beyond our control. We put ourselves in a place that belongs to God, a place of sovereignty and ownership. We take on responsibility for things that are not ours to manage. And this leads to worry, worry that persists because we can’t make it go away, worry that keeps us up at night fretting about things we cannot control.
What would be the opposite of meteōrizō? It would be, literally, to lower ourselves. Metaphorically speaking, it would be to humble ourselves before the sovereignty of God, admitting that we are dependent on God’s power and grace, acknowledging our limitations. It would be leaning back into the strong arms of God, trusting that God will hold us and care for us, especially in matters that are too great for us. It would be assuming the posture of Psalm 131, which will be the closing prayer of this devotion. The more we allow ourselves to be calm and to be held in the strong arms of God, the more we will be free from worry.
Do you ever worry about things that are beyond your control? If so, what things? Why do you worry about them?
What makes it hard for you to trust God with things “too high” for you?
What helps you to trust God with things “too high” for you?
Psalm 131 is both short and memorable. Perhaps you might memorize it so that you could “take it with you” each day.
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time on and forevermore. Amen.
Sign up to receive a Life for Leaders devotional each day in your inbox. It’s free to subscribe and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Best of Daily Reflections: A Calm and Quiet Soul
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.