Do not worry ( 18.06.2009 )
The Lord said, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 6:31-34; 7:9-11).
About what kind of worry, my children, does the Godman Christ tell us in His Gospel? From what kind of worry does the Lord want us to liberate ourselves? The captivity to what kind of worry makes us all similar to the Gentiles?
Briefly, it is the excessive worry about what is related to the flesh and generally about everything of the world, which is engendered by the captivity of our heart to passions. You know exactly what that means. We recognize the captivity of the heart to passions by the inability of our mind to pray inside the heart, by the absence of the gift of the mind-and-heart prayer; by the access the demon has to the heart’s interior, from where he can cause our fall into sin through simple thoughts; by the fallen state that places us among the members of this world, among the Gentiles who still worship their idol—the passion. Such, first of all ontological and not only ethical is the meaning of the word ‘evil’: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children…”
What are the manifestations of the excessive worry about the worldly, which stems from the captivity of our heart to passions? The most direct and the most distinctive manifestation is the fact that we have all the less time for prayer. The next indicator is our distracted prayer. What follows is wasting time and strength to fight against various thoughts and feelings or to indulge in fantasies. Then, ingratitude to God and constant dissatisfaction. The other one is always to blame. It is worrying already when the battle against thoughts turns into milder and even into more serious forms of paranoia or, in other words, in fear for the future satisfaction of our passions—vainglory, avarice, and pleasure-indulgence.
What is happening to us? The excessive worry about this world’s affairs scatters and darkens our mind and puts us in a bad mood. We are incapable of prayer. We are likewise incapable of fulfillment of our daily obedience, duty or service. We do not live here and now, but somewhere in the sphere of thoughts and fantasies, and the improper feelings that follow after them. We waste our time and strength in vain. Paranoia can bring us into another vicious circle of senseless actions and thoughts, then into yet another, etc. Moreover, we spread this whole state of hopelessness, fear, and anxiety among our fellowmen: The Lord does not say only “do not worry” but also “do not say”! For, since we say this in front of other people, we are not even aware that this worry is our weakness and sin, something one must say only at confession.
The Godman Jesus Christ is trying to sober us up from the inebriation with the excessive worry about this world, warning us: “after all these things the Gentiles seek…” It is not easy for a man to examine himself and his life, and so, comparing, to put on the one side the ideal of Christ’s commandments, and on the other his obsession with worldly worry, and see himself similar to the Gentiles. However, it is yet more difficult to change ourselves after so many years of acquired habit. Still, Christ is also trying to fortify our faith and motivate us for a struggle, witnessing the love of our Father: “Do not worry… your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things... Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”
Christ the Lord shows us also the road we should follow in order to free ourselves from the captivity to excessive worry about the worldly: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” You know well, my children, what it means to follow this road, to seek first the Kingdom of God. It is a struggle for a complete change of our life, all that we have been doing wrong so far, now to make right. Or, I will say it in a joke—because we have become accustomed to our fallen state, all that we have until now thought we have been doing correct in our life, we should now turn it the other way round. It is a rebellion. It is radical detachment from what is of the earth and aspiration towards the heavenly. It is a struggle of “change of mind”, repentance. It is tour de force of bringing our life and struggle in harmony with the level of spiritual development at which we are. It is placing our mind through obedience into the process of healing—and it all comes down to it.
“Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (referring to the physical…), “and all these things shall be added to you.” Even ordinary things in life which we have, which we need and over which we rejoice, are adding which we owe to the grace of the Holy Spirit. When we have grace, there is no obstacle either to their possession or to rejoicing in them or for their fulfillment. When God’s grace is absent, then we can lose the love just as the health and joy and success in anything and the peace among our fellowmen and our possessions, etc. if, though, our heart is possessed by excessive worries about the worldly, the physical, where is the grace to come and where to find a place within us? And even if we had all, if we do not have Him, we have nothing.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow... Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” In the spirit of all we have previously said, this commandment of Christ would mean the following: Firstly, not to worry more than necessary about what is expecting us in the future, be it of material or spiritual nature. It suffices that we have a plan for a certain goal to the glory of God, blessed by our spiritual father, to work thoroughly and daily on its accomplishment, prayerfully to call all the more upon God’s grace to be on us and on the work of our hands, and leave the rest to God’s providence for our salvation. Little room is there here for excessive worry and thinking, and much for effective physical and intellectual labor and prayer. Secondly, in the same way we must overcome the evil or the worry about the worldly, the physical of the day, so that we can both fulfill our daily tasks and have time for prayer. And thirdly, which is the very goal of this commandment, the time devoted to prayer and communion with God really to be a time of prayer. According to the Holy Fathers, only regular and pure i.e. undistracted prayer is fruitful labor through which we grow spiritually everyday.
Children, this Gospel reading is one of the most beautiful witnesses to Christian antinomy. He is free who has freed his heart from the captivity to passions. One who is still submitting to his passions is a slave. The free one is attached to nothing but God. Such one here on earth is everywhere and to all a stranger and everywhere and to all at home—except to sin. Our irreplaceable apostle Paul is putting all this rather nicely in brief: But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away.
But I want you to be without care” (1 Cor. 7:29-32).
Christ calls us to become free: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
Metropolitan Nahum of Strumica