25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. (Matthew 6:25a)
Worry or even anxiety can easily creep into the world of sports. What once may have been pure joy as a child, whacking, kicking or dribbling a ball, can turn into something much different. Suddenly things change ten years later when you’re playing for a championship with throngs of fans in the stands or trying to perform to get, or save, your college scholarship. Both my wife and I played competitive soccer and we have often reminisced about the “old playing days”; we both had a common experience of having butterflies in our stomach before each game. The nerves continued until either the first whistle blew, or we first touched the ball. I have similar memories before every running race, triathlon or ski race. I don’t think those butterflies were a problem as they were probably more excitement than worry and they never adversely affected our performance, but I recall having serious anxiety when I played on a volleyball team with a coach ready to scream if you missed a single spike or serve. That anxiety made my wrists stiff and the ball floating straight off my hand into the back wall became a self-fulfilling prophesy. My worry choked my performance.
Today’s scripture passage in Matthew 6 comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, a collection of sayings and teaching from Jesus. In context he said you can’t serve both God and money (vs 24), so don’t worry about your life, what you eat and drink, your body or what you wear (vs 25). Look at the birds; they aren’t sowing or storing away yet God feeds them, and you are more valuable than them (vs 26). You can’t add an hour to your life worrying (vs 27).
At this point it is critical to differentiate between concern and worry. I have met lazy Christians who would be happy to use this passage to defend not working hard and not planning for the future, but that is ridiculous because it would contradict so much of the Bible which commands hard work and promotes wise stewardship (2 Thessalonians 3:10; Colossians 3:23; Matthew 25:14-30). We are to concern ourselves with life, but the problem arises when healthy concern steps over into something unhealthy.
The Greek word for “worry about” in this passage is merimnáō. Strong’s Concordance defines it: “to be anxious, or to be troubled with cares”, or a secondary meaning which is: “to care for, look out for (something); to see to promote one’s interests”. If we are honest with ourselves and we consider the root of our worry, isn’t it our concern that things won’t turn out as we hope? If we worry about a competition, are we not worried that perhaps we will fail and not reach our goal? If we worry exceedingly about friends or family, are we not worried that some harm is going to come upon them. Ultimately, we worry that God may not actually know what is best for us and those around us, or we don’t want to endure the pain that may come with his Will. “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27)
In Matthew 13 Jesus gives the parable of the seed being sown on various soil and in verse 22 he explains that: “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” Are you letting worry choke the power of the Word in your life? Release your worry to God. Release your life fully to him.