The pace of life has never been faster than today. Despite all our technological aids, which are designed to help us, they have instead helped to create greater degrees of intensity and anxiety. We are living in an age of anxiety. For those who are already struggling and worried about the everyday things of life, additional pressures make living in this generation even more difficult. Deep concerns arise as we witness the growing threat of wider scale diseases, military conflicts, and the escalating costs of goods and services.

Yet, as we read the words of Jesus, He promises His followers a way of life, that brings peace and joy, even in the most trying and difficult seasons of life. God wants us to rise above one of the great thieves of our live: worry, which can lead to anxiety. So, what is the difference between the two as they are so often interrelated? The Henry Ford Health staff posted five key differences between the two.

1. Worry tends to reside in our minds, while anxiety affects both our minds and our bodies.

2. Worry is specific where a person is fixated on a particular concern, whereas anxiety is vague, and you are unable to pinpoint what is troubling you.

3. Worry is grounded in a measure of reality and can motivate a proper response whereas anxiety causes catastrophic thinking that is not realistic. The fear becomes obsessive.

4. Worry is usually short term whereas anxiety persists and causes a person to stop functioning in a healthy manner.

5. Worry doesn’t impair function whereas anxiety does.[i]

These health professionals give some very simple tips to address worry and anxiety, beginning with diminishing feeding our minds with negative input from media sources, to addressing negative thoughts and emotions, which both Jesus and Paul addressed 2000 years ago. From a biblical point of view, we are told to renew our minds and think about thinks that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (cf. Phil. 4:8). The fundamental issue as we are about to see is where we are putting our trust and finding our source of security.

One very key area for so many is the struggle to meet financial obligations. Money is often the source of conflict in marriage relationships. What does Jesus have to say regarding this fundamental issue of worry as it pertains to our everyday needs? Jesus is not talking about a detached, who cares attitude about others or life in general. 

There is a type of good worry (or perhaps I should say good concern) that all healthy Christians have. For example, Luther says we are to be anxious about the spiritual well-being of others and points to Paul as the example in 2 Corinthians 11:28, 29: Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

We are also to be concerned about the state of our hearts and the incessant temptations to sin (see Psalms 38 and 51). And there is the care and concern that is inherent in any serious work for God. We are to think, plan and anticipate any pitfalls (see Luke 14:28-32). Some concern is good, but Jesus is counseling us against worry that is self-centered and has at its root a lack of trust in God.[ii]

Once again, Jesus addresses the root issue and it starts with the condition of our heart. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us three reasons why we should not have the kind of worry that really is an expression of little faith. We should not act as if everything depends on us or others and where God does not seem to exist. 


Jesus is warning us against a trap that we all can fall into: anxious concerns about providing for our physical needs. Life is not just about meeting our physical needs. We must have a reason for living, a sense of significance that keeps us going on. We need to answer the ‘why’ we are here and not just how to survive this thing called life.

In an early scene from the movie Antz, the camera pans down from a faraway view of a big city to blades of grass to below the grass and into a room. The main character, an ant named Z, lies on a leaf couch and tells his therapist:

All my life I’ve lived and worked in the big city…. I always tell myself there has got to be something better out there. Maybe I think too much. I think everything must go back to the fact that I had a very anxious childhood. My mother never had time for me. When you’re the middle child in a family of 5 million, you don’t get any attention. I mean, how is it possible? I’ve always had these abandonment issues, which plagued me.  My father was basically a drone, like I’ve said. The guy flew away when I was just a larva. And, my job, don’t get me started on it because it really annoys me. I was not cut out to be a worker. I feel physically inadequate. My whole life I’ve never been able to lift more than ten times my own body weight. And, and, when you get down to it, handling dirt is not my idea of a rewarding career.… I mean, what is it, I’m supposed to do everything for the colony? What about my needs?  What about me? I mean I’ve got to believe there’s some place out there that’s better than this.  Otherwise I’ll just curl up into a larva position and weep. The whole system makes me feel … insignificant.[iii]

That’s what most people feel like. Trapped, trying to make ends meet. If we don’t have a compelling purpose that transcends this world, if we are living as just one more person keeping the system going than despair can overwhelm us. The response of the therapist in the movie reveals the sense of futility most live with in our society, because we don’t have a compelling vision that transcends this world.

So the therapist responds, ‘Excellent! You’ve made a real breakthrough!’ Z says, ‘I have?’ ‘Yes, Z. You are insignificant!’ replies the therapist.[iv]

How unlike God’s revelation – the psalmist overwhelmed by God’s concern for him. “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them (Psalm 8:4, NIV, 2011)?”

The scene shifts, and millions of worker ants are shown all doing the same work. An elaborate network of tunnels is used by endless lines of ants carrying pieces of dirt. In one area, newborn ants are assigned their lot in life. In assembly-line style, one newborn ant is labeled ‘worker’ and given a pick-axe. The next one is labeled ‘soldier’ and given a military helmet. As Z goes to his workstation, he says to himself, “OK, I’ve just got to keep a positive attitude. A good attitude—even though I’m utterly insignificant. I’m insignificant, but with attitude.[v]

How tragic, that we feel we must trudge our way through life, as if everything depends upon ourselves. Jesus challenges that attitude. Life consists of more than just the earthy stuff of life.    

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?

For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.[vi]

Jesus has been minimizing the ultimate significance of material possessions; [He had just warned his hearers that we cannot serve God and Money] and no doubt not a few among his hearers find themselves wondering, ‘but what about necessities? It’s all very well to turn your back on wealth when you’re rich; but I’ve got a wife and children, and I can barely provide them with food, clothing and shelter.  What are you saying to me?’ In effect, Jesus answers that just as earthly possessions can become an idol which deposes [dethrones] God by becoming disproportionately important, so also can earthly needs become a source of worry which deposes [dethrones] God by fostering a lack of trust.[vii]

Jesus is reminding us that life consists of more than just our material needs, which are temporal in nature. Here we are reminded of our relationship with God as a father who provides for our needs. We are challenged not to live as unbelievers who pursue after the temporal things of life because they are blinded to eternal, spiritual realities. The key to overcoming worry is to have a greater faith in God and a greater goal in life. C. S. Lewis reminds us: “The glory of God, and, as our only means to glorifying him, the salvation of human souls, is the real business of life.[viii]

Nearly 200 years ago there were two Scottish brothers named John and David Livingstone. John had set his mind on making money and becoming wealthy, and he did. But under his name in an old edition of the ‘Encyclopedia Britannica’ John Livingstone is listed simply as ‘the brother of David Livingstone.’

And who was David Livingstone? While John had dedicated himself to making money, David had knelt and prayed. Surrendering himself to Christ, he resolved, ‘I will place no value on anything I have or possess unless it is in relationship to the Kingdom of God.’ The inscription over his burial place in Westminster Abbey reads, ‘For thirty years his life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelize.’ On his 59th birthday David Livingstone wrote, ‘My Jesus, my King, my Life, my All; I again dedicate my whole self to Thee.’[ix]


If our father in Heaven encourages us to place a high value on relationships, particularly loving and caring for our families, how much more does He practice what He preaches to us? By using the illustrations of birds and flowers, Jesus uses an argument from the lesser to the greater. Just as he provides the necessities of life to sustain the bird population, and clothes the fields with wildflowers, even so He is capable of meeting our needs as His children. People are the most important element in His creation. Humanity is the crowning glory of the created world. What is even nearer to the heart of God is his own children who have been adopted into his family through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ on Calvary. If God provides for the other parts of his creation, how much more will He care for us.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?      

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.

Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?[x]

When we worry, we are forgetting about our heavenly Father’s ability to provide and care for us.  Jesus utilized two illustrations to drive his point home. 

A. He begins by pointing to God’s provision for the birds. 

But what Jesus did not mean needs to be said too. He was not calling us to laziness or indolence. Birds themselves instinctively make provision for the future. In fact, some argue that no creature works harder than the birds! Neither does the example of birds teach us that if we trust God, every day will be smooth sailing. Sparrows sometimes starve, sometimes they are eaten by predators, and certainly they all die in a short span.[xi]

What Jesus is pointing out is that in a very real way God does provide for the birds of the air to survive in our world. I like the little poem that drives this truth home.

Said the robin to the sparrow:

I should really like to know

Why these anxious human beings

Rush about and worry so.’

Said the sparrow to the robin:

Friend, I think that it must be

That they have no heavenly Father

Such as cares for you and me.[xii]        

When we don’t acknowledge God, nor trust Him, we act as if everything depends upon us, and we open the floodgates to worry and anxiety.

B. In the second illustration, Jesus uses the wildflowers. 

Jesus points to the wildflowers covering the hillsides, which had a short life span, but their beauty even surpassed the regale garments of royalty.

Many are familiar with Sherlock Holmes, and his faithful companion Dr. Watson. Holmes reveals a keen power of observation that solves countless crimes. Yet few of us know that Holmes thought deduction and observation were even more necessary to religion. Tucked away in “The Adventure of the Naval Treaty,” Holmes is found studying a rose. Watson narrates: “He walked past the couch to an open window and held up the drooping stalk of a moss rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new phase of his character to me, for I had never before seen him show an interest in natural objects.

There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion,’ said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. … ‘Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.’[xiii]

What is the author telling us? That flowers’ greatest value is that they are here to bring beauty to our lives, which suggests a caring Creator.


Worry, keeps us from enjoying God’s gift of life. One of the most powerful aspects of a living, active and dynamic faith in God is that we can be free from feeling that everything depends upon us or other human beings. There is a God who cares and demonstrates that in so many ways, from the care of birds to the creating beauty in nature by sowing the wildflowers. When we enter into that trusting relationship with God, we can move from being worriers to celebrants. Worry that leads to anxiety paralyzes people rather than gives them the energy to live life to the fullest.

A. Jesus points out that worry doesn’t help us.

Worry is about subtraction and not addition. It adds nothing to our lives.

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to his life?[xiv]

The answer is obviously, no. Job 14:5 states that ‘a person’s days are determined by God.’ Worry is counterproductive in that it robs us of the energy that is needed for living each day of our lives to the fullest. Jesus concludes his remarks by stating that worrying about tomorrow is self-defeating. It robs of the strength we have been given for this day.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.[xv]

God gives us the necessary grace for each day. To try and solve the problems of tomorrow, is robbing each of us of the grace needed to live today. Corrie Ten Boom so insightfully states it:

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.[xvi]

So, how should we live? If life consists of more than just temporal needs, and we realize that we are valuable to God, and worry isn’t healthy, but rather a paralyzing element in our lives, then we ought to trust God to provide us with the wherewithal for life. We need to believe that God will take care of us. The focus that will give us significance and a meaning to this life is stated so powerfully: we are to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, knowing that our Father will take care of our temporal needs. There is nothing wrong about fixing meals for others, but it becomes a problem when we are fretting, worrying, and judging others in the process. Luke in the story of Martha and Mary, has expressed it best when he stated that we ought to value the presence of God in our lives. It is only as we are empowered by God that we can properly experience life. It is only when we have the right priorities that things fall into place. 

The Desert Fathers (a protest movement against worldliness in the early church) spoke of busyness as “moral laziness.” Busy-ness can also be an addictive drug, which is why its victims are increasingly referred to as “workaholics.” Busyness acts to repress our inner fears and personal anxieties, as we scramble to achieve an enviable image to display to others. We become “outward” people, obsessed with how we appear, rather than ‘inward’ people, reflecting on the meaning of our lives.[xvii]

Has the pressure of this life derailed us from living the life God desires for us, where worry and anxiety are running rampant in our lives? What we need is time out to draw aside in order to seek God’s face. This will help us be strengthened, empowered, and engage in order to live in a healthier manner where we move from worry to a genuine peace of mind.

[i]     Henry Ford Health, Worry and Anxiety: Do You Know the Difference?,even%20when%20concerns%20are%20unrealistic

[ii]     R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon On The Mount: The Message Of The Kingdom, Preaching the Word Series, (Wheaton, Il: Crossway Books, 2001), 220.

[iii]    Antz (Dreamworks, 1998), written by Todd Alcott, Chris and Paul Weitz.

[iv]    Ibid.

[v]     Ibid.

[vi]    Matthew 6:25, 31-33. The New International Version of the Bible, Zondervan, 2011.

[vii]   D. A. Carson, The Sermon On The Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7, (Grand Rapids, Mi: Baker Book House, 1978), 82.    

[viii]   C. S. Lewis, Christian Reader, Vol. 31.

[ix]    Billy Graham in Breakfast with Billy Graham. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 6.

[x]     Matthew 6:26, 28-30.

[xi]    R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon On The Mount: The Message Of The Kingdom, 222.

[xii]   Ibid.

[xiii]   Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 3.

[xiv]   Matthew 6:27.

[xv]   Matthew 6:34.

[xvi]   Corrie Ten Boom, Marriage Partnership, Vol. 12, no. 1.

[xvii] James Houston in The Transforming Power of Prayer. Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 5.

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