“Worry is a prayer to the wrong god.” Jack Exum said that. I don’t know whether it was original to him or not but I know that it’s true. When we’re anxious and worried we are worshiping at the wrong altar. Paul told Timothy that “The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Anxiety usually happens when we give too much attention to our circumstances and not enough to God. It is Peter dwelling on the wind and the waves. It is the army of Israel allowing Goliath to eclipse God. It is Martha frittering away in the presence of Jesus.
The people Jesus addressed were not obsessing over trivial issues—He was talking to those who likely lived close to subsistence level. Their concerns were food, clothing and shelter (Matthew 6:25ff). They would be tempted to see acquiring the ability to stockpile things as the solution to their problem (6:19ff). After all, that’s certainly the way it looked for them and the way we usually think about it today. If you don’t have enough, then the solution is simple—get more, right?
If life consisted solely of material things and we were exactly like the animals, this would be true. But the life our Father designed for us goes far beyond having a full stomach, clothes on our body and a roof over our head. We were made to image Him. Feeding, clothing and sheltering our bodies will always be important but it can never be ultimate. And while for us to have these things in abundance might be labeled by most as prosperity, to possess them apart from faith in our Father is in reality spiritual poverty.
Jesus wanted His audience and us to understand that the central issue of life is this: do we trust our Father? After all, while are to work to obtain what we need (2 Thessalonians 3:10), it’s idolatry to fail to see God’s presence in the process. He is the One who provides us with the strength and the ability to work. It is from His hand that seed comes for food and material for shelter. His care is witnessed by the world around us (Matthew 6:26-30). Therefore, the central issues of life are not resolved through worry, but by faith in God.
When worry comes calling, turn it over to God. He’s going to be up all night anyway.