September 6, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 12:22-24 (NRSV)
He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!”
2000 years ago, Jesus told his disciples not to worry about their lives. How much we need to hear these same words today! There is so much going on around us – and in our own lives – that causes us to worry. It’s almost as if we have a pandemic of anxiety. So we need to learn from Jesus how to replace worry with confidence in God’s love and provision.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
As you may know, during the last weeks of summer I took a break from writing Life for Leaders. During my fourteen years of devotion writing, I’ve found that time off in the summer refreshes my soul and prepares me for a new season of thoughtful reflection.
When it was time for me to start writing again, I was eager to discover what biblical passage awaited me and my readers. I knew I had left off in Luke 12, but I wasn’t quite sure what was coming next. A little research reminded me that I had paused at Luke 12:21. So I began reading with Luke 12:22, where Jesus told his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.”
After reading only that one verse, I stopped, thinking to myself, “Oh my, I need this verse today. We need this verse today.” I followed up with a quick prayer: “Thanks, Lord, for bringing us to this passage at this time in our lives. We desperately need it!”
I expect you may understand why I responded to Luke 12:22 in this way. I’m sure you understand if, like me, you’re finding much to worry about these days. We live in times permeated by anxiety, often with hearts filled with anxiety. I probably don’t need to mention reasons why we feel anxious, but I’ll note a few that come quickly to mind: the doggedness of the COVID pandemic, now driven by the delta variant; devastation and danger from natural catastrophes, including raging fires and overwhelming floods; the threat to world harmony from many quarters, most recently Afghanistan; hostile division and unbridled anger permeating both our country and the world; persistent global injustice that threatens all people, especially the vulnerable and the oppressed.
In addition to these widespread worries, many of us feel anxious about things closer to home. Parents fret about how best to care for their children when disease might lurk in schools, daycare facilities, and friendship groups. Some of us are dealing with scary diagnoses and fear-inducing illnesses besides COVID-19. The pandemic has added considerable tension to many relationships, at work and home, in churches and neighborhoods. We worry about our financial well-being in a time of economic uncertainty.
I realize that I’m starting out on a pretty low note for my first devotion since vacation. As you were reading the last two paragraphs, you might have been thinking, “This is the last thing I need from Mark today.” Believe me, I’m not wanting to bum you out. But, as I talk with folks from so many different contexts, and as I pay attention to what’s going on around us, I think we need to acknowledge the anxiety that most of us are feeling. And, let me add, if you’re not worrying much these days, good for you! After all, Jesus did not say in today’s passage, “Make sure you worry a lot!” Rather, he said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life . . .” (12:22).
It’s worth noting that folks in the time of Jesus had plenty to worry about, which is, no doubt, why Jesus was helping them not to worry. Many people in the time of Jesus were relatively poor and were just a dry season away from losing whatever they had, with no social safety net available. Medicine was primitive and people suffered painfully and died from all sorts of diseases. Life expectancy in the time of Jesus is estimated to have been around 35 years. Many who were born never made it to adulthood. Plus, the Jews in Galilee and Judea lived under the iron fist of Rome, facing heavy taxation and the inevitability of unjust local leadership. So it seems to me that the people Jesus told not to worry actually had much more to worry about than I do.
In the next series of Life for Leaders devotions, I will reflect with you on Jesus’s teaching about worry, or, better, about not worrying. I promise that there’s plenty of good news here, as well as teaching that will challenge us. If you’re at all inclined to feel anxious these days, I expect Jesus will speak right to your heart. And if you’re fairly free from anxiety, then the upcoming devotions will encourage you and strengthen your good habits. Plus, you might know some folks who really need to hear what Jesus has to say about worrying. If so, perhaps you can forward these devotions to them.
In the meanwhile, let me invite you to use the following prompts to consider your experience of anxiety and to talk with the Lord about it.
When you first saw that Jesus told his disciples “Do not worry,” how did you respond?
In general, are you someone prone to worry? Do you often suffer from anxiety?
Do you feel more anxious these days than usual? What do you tend to worry about?
When you worry, what you do you do with your feelings?
Do you experience God helping you not to be anxious? If so, how does this help come?
With a trusted friend, your spiritual director, or your small group, talk about the things you worry about these days.
Lord Jesus, about 2,000 years ago you told your disciples not to worry about their lives. Oh, how we need to hear this today! With all that’s going on in our world, not to mention our personal lives, worry comes easily. We can be caught in the grip of anxiety. It can rob our sleep, our joy, and our ability to be kind to others.
As we work our way through this passage in Luke, Lord, teach us and help us so that we might not worry. May we come to a deeper trust in you, to a stronger belief in the presence and goodness of your kingdom.
No matter what we are facing today, may we give it to you, receiving from you the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Our Work Is Not in Vain (1 Corinthians 15:58)
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.