Text: Matthew 6:25-33
Have you ever met a killjoy? You know that person who just sucks the energy, enthusiasm, and life right out of you. Some of you may want to call such a person a “Debbie Downer.” But since my mother-in-law’s name is Debbie, I could get in hot water if I use that term. (And if your name is Joy, please know that no harm is intended toward you in this post!)
A killjoy is that person who whenever they speak up, you want to grab a trombone or tuba and play, “Wah…wah…” Like when you’re having a party or sharing some good news of something terrific that happened to you, a killjoy will hop in and spoil it with saying, “Well it must be nice to be you. Let me tell you what happened to me…” or will go all doomsday on you and say, “Just wait until next week when that good thing is taken away…”
As an example, Thanksgiving is a time of year when I am tempted to play the role of the killjoy at family gatherings because, in case you weren’t aware, I am allergic to poultry. Now just picture me at a great Thanksgiving meal with the turkey being carved and everyone gets asked the question: “White or dark meat?” and there I sit, feeling sorry for myself, that I don’t get to fully participate in this marvelous feast. I could tell my family as they share in the joy of eating holy bird, “Well, it must be nice to be able to thank God for your ability to eat this feathered friend.”
A still of “Debbie Downer,” a character from Saturday Night Live, right after she’s just rained on someone’s parade. (Photo credit: daviddust.blogspot.com)
But see, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be a killjoy because killjoys take away your desire or ability to enjoy life.
And one of the premiere killjoys that plague our lives is something that we just read about in this passage: WORRY! Worry is a killjoy. Worry consumes all your energy, all your enthusiasm…worry drains the life right out of you. And there is plenty of worry to go around during the holidays. Toward the beginning of ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’ Charlie Brown, notorious for seeming to see the downside of everything says, “Great, we have ANOTHER holiday to WORRY about!”
But as we listen to the words of Jesus, we see and hear that kingdom living calls us not to worry in life. And perhaps this is one of the most challenging aspects for kingdom living at this time (2012), in this part of the world we live in (the US). Living without worry sounds as impossible to some people as living without breathing. Many of us are addicted to worry. In fact we may be so addicted to worrying that if we discover that we don’t have anything to worry about at the moment, we worry that we’re forgetting something. When Carrie and I sold our house last month, I found myself continually worrying: “Did we sign all the papers just right? Did everything get fixed on the inspection report? What if we forget to sign something or to call someone?”
As I kept frantically worrying about making sure all the t’s were crossed and all the i’s dotted, I missed out on some of the joy of actually getting the house sold. You see, as a killjoy, worry takes the joy of living out of us because worrying blinds our eyes from seeing every good and perfect gift that God has given to us. Worry shows that when it comes down to it, (and this might sting a little) we really don’t trust in the God who has brought us this far.
When we worry, someone has said, we act like atheists. This is true at least with regard to the present and future. It’s as if we say, when we worry, “Maybe God brought me to this point, but I’m not sure that God’s gonna get me through this…or what’s coming around the corner.”
As worrying shows that we don’t really trust in God, it is one of the worst forms of ingratitude, and that’s why we need this message from Jesus, especially around Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving: a time to look back and say, with Thomas Chisholm, the great songwriter who wrote these lyrics: “Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father. There is no shadow of turning with thee. Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not, as thou hast been thou forever wilt be. Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness; morning by morning, new mercies I see. All I have needed thy hand hath provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”
If it is true, God, that “Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not, as thou hast been thou forever wilt be…” and if it is true that “All I have needed [God’s] hand hath provided” then we need not worry!
But, how many of us will go back to the worrying life less than a handful of hours after being thankful? I’ve seen it put this way in one particularly well-worded quip: “Black Friday: Because only in America, people trample others [worrying that someone else will beat us to that deal] for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.”
Or, if not held captive to Black Friday, we often find other ways to worry, like getting prepared and always worried about what’s next: the next holiday, or the next event, or the next crisis we think is coming.
Or, maybe we start (or get back to) worrying about the basic stuff, the necessities: where our next meal is gonna come from, or where we will get water for our everyday living, or if we’ll even be able to keep paying the mortgage or rent to keep a roof over our heads.
Now, when Jesus says not to worry about what you’ll eat or drink or wear, he’s not saying that food, water, and clothing aren’t important…he’s making a statement about worry and priorities. If you’re always consumed with worry about “what’s next” you’re robbing yourself of the joy and gratitude you can experience now!
As N.T. Wright has said it, in thinking through what Jesus meant in saying in “seek first the kingdom of God”: “Put the world first, and you’ll find it gets moth-eaten in your hands. Put God first, and you’ll get the world thrown in.”
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Brothers and sisters in Christ, in the kingdom of God, there is much joy. And to seek God’s righteousness, I believe, means that we recognize that there’s more than enough of God’s grace and provision to go around. And what this means for Thanksgiving is this: “Gratitude toward our Creator cannot but produce benevolence to our fellow-creatures.” – John Wesley
I don’t want to be a killjoy, but I want to express that if we want to know an even deeper sense of joy and thanksgiving, let us learn the joy of sharing in God’s faithful providence with those around us. Have a joyous Thanksgiving, y’all!