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The Transformational Gospel of Jesus #21: Calming Anxieties

So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat? or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘Wat shall we wear?’ But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  -Matthew 6:31-34

I have always been fascinated by the contrast of priorities between Manslow’s hierarchy of needs and Jesus’ gospel. Abraham Manslow studied emotionally healthy people to discover why they developed differently from emotionally challenged people. He concluded that they had their ‘deficiency’ needs—physical needs, security, friendship and love, and esteem—met. They had no reason to feel anxious and fearful. Instead, they felt secure enough to develop further and reach their full potential.

In contrast, Jesus tells his hearers that God turns this on its head. The Father, he declares, knows about your basic needs. But your path to reaching your potential does not start with getting your deficiency needs met. It starts with pursuing something infinitely more valuable and far reaching—His kingdom and righteousness.

Jesus’ challenge to seek the kingdom first comes after a this-is-my-Father’s-world series of observations. You’re worried about food? God makes sure the birds are fed daily even though they do not have a barn to their name. You’re worried about having clothes on your back? The Father is the Ralph Lauren for the wildflowers. And aren’t you worth a great deal more to Him than anything else that exists?

In Jesus’ day as well as ours, to be human is to worry. It’s not that every person has the curl-up-in-a-ball-on-the-floor kind of fears. I mean that somewhere in your inner spaces you have issues that cause you to feel anxious. Stuff that you push away mentally because you do not want to remember, to feel accused by it. Will I succeed? Will I be able to pay my bills? Will people laugh at me? Am I pretty enough? What do people really think about me? Why don’t I have real friends? And on and on—the list of anxieties is endless, all reminding us that we are failures at some level in life.

Where do these anxieties actually come from? Why are they common among people? They come from our brokenness, which is a product of the Fall. Satan lied that Adam and Eve’s eyes would be opened to their being by like God when they ate of the tree. Instead, their eyes were opened to their nakedness. They were so overwhelmingly anxious over this that they sewed together fig leaves to hide. Nothing that they or their descendants have done since then has freed us from the nagging feelings of inadequacy and fear of being found out.

But the Father has done this for us. His reign and His righteousness is our ticket to wholeness, our pathway to transformation. We can chase after getting our ‘deficiency’ needs met, but they will not bring the relief that our soul is looking for.

The good news Jesus proclaims challenges us to bypass making our basic needs a priority and trust the Father. Why? Because He values us. Our feelings of worthlessness and daily concerns that we internally worry about actually are distracting us from our journey to wholeness. He knows our fears and answers them with His reign. His righteousness makes us whole from the inside out.

This is, as Jesus concludes, a daily reminder. Surrendering our anxiety into God’s hand, especially in the face of opposition and the neediness found in our world, can seem like another reason to worry. But consider who Jesus is speaking to. They are people who have put themselves under God’s reign and have been blessed by God. These disciples would go on to turn the world upside down. Deprivation, opposition, and death did not define them or their worth. Neither will it define you as you pursue the kingdom and righteousness.

Steve Smith