Lesson for Nov. 27, 2011: Facing Life Without Worry (Matthew 6:19-34)

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This week’s treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson (for November 27) is written by Phil Roberts, who serves with Hill-N-Dale Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky.

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Facing Life Without Worry (Matthew 6:19-34)

By Phil Roberts

(Note to teachers: The italicized sections are questions designed to help involve your students in the learning process.)

My wife and I are parents of a second grader and a set of triplets (technically, three surviving quadruplets). The triplets are approaching their sixth birthday and recently entered a whole new world called kindergarten. They come home daily from their full-day school with stories and tokens representing their various adventures. I recently noticed two main themes were emerging.

First, our children are discerning between those whom they do and don’t trust. They trust their adult teachers and staff, and some kids, while they are (justifiably) more wary of some kids on the bus or playground who “don’t play nice” or say “bad words.”

Second, our children are discerning between things they do and don’t treasure. Each of them earns “monkey dollars,” which can be saved up for a special lunch experience with the teacher, or to purchase candy and cheap plastic toys. So far, our children clearly treasure candy and cheap plastic toys over hanging out with their teacher.

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In this week’s lesson from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addresses both of those values in terms that resonate with everything from our daily choices to our daily confidence in the face of life’s worries.

Who do you trust and don’t you trust? What in life do you treasure and don’t you treasure?

 

Choosing What Your Life Revolves Around (Matthew 6:19-24)

Jesus begins this section of his sermon with three metaphors. The first concerns the choice between temporary earthly treasures or eternal heavenly ones, and the resulting consequences to our heart. The second concerns the choice between focusing our eyes on the light or focusing our eyes on the darkness, and the resulting consequences to our whole person. The third concerns the choice between serving God the righteous Master or serving the earthly master of money, and the resulting consequences to our devotion.

Each metaphor represents an earthly choice and a heavenly choice, with no middle option, and the drastically divergent consequences that depend on each choice.

In November 2005, we buried our daughter Emily, who had lived 19 days before an infection took her life. The Scripture passage we selected for her gravestone was Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The verse is a reminder to us that we daily choose to fix our hearts, eyes, and devotion upon the passing temporal things of earth . . . or to direct them toward Heaven, where one of our treasured children and our treasured Lord await us.

What earthly treasures have you seen literally destroyed? Why do our hearts naturally follow what we treasure? Do you know someone whose “whole body” was full of either light or darkness because of his or her choice of focus? Why is it impossible to serve both God and money?

 

The Ridiculousness of Worry (Matthew 6:25-32)

The choices offered in the three previous metaphors may seem separate from Jesus’ admonitions on worry, but they are in fact vital to determining whether we will become casualties of worry, or conquerors of worry, in this life.

Bible background. Pronunciation guide. Real-life commentary. Discussion questions. Find it all in Standard Lesson Commentary

In light of these three choices that a follower of Jesus makes, worry is ridiculous—it is a lapse in logic that makes no sense in light of our choices to treasure the eternal, focus on the light, and devote ourselves to a heavenly Master. How could we claim as our treasure One whom we do not trust?

Jesus turns our attention to nature to help us understand this absurdity. Birds, worth almost nothing by comparison to God’s children, and flowers, which are temporarily beautiful but soon burned up, are both completely cared for by the One who created every detail of both. By contrast, without God, we lack the ability to lengthen our life, to replicate the beauty of the flowers, or to accomplish anything through worrying.

Worrying, Jesus tells us, is a sign of “little faith” that God will provide, and an indication we have elevated and treasured temporary earthly things (food, clothing) over the eternal (life, the body/person).

How was your focus and worry affected by the events of 9/11? By the economic recession? By the loss of a job, or relationship, or other form of security? What would a “faithometer” say about your trust and your treasure during those times?

 

The Alternative to Worry (Matthew 6:33, 34)

“No worries” is a cliché often spoken to pacify someone who is upset or asking for help. In the context of bringing my concern to someone’s attention, I resent being met with a cliché that blows off my concern with no valid explanation given of why I should have “no worries.”

But when Jesus tells us, “Do not worry . . . ,” he is not using a cliché to avoid having to deal with our problems. On the contrary, he has already provided the valid examples from nature just mentioned, and now he gives us a substantial alternative to the futility of worry. Our response to the worries of life, in direct contrast to that of pagans, and with complete trust in the only One who is trustworthy, is to seek God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness before anything else.

If God’s kingdom and righteousness are what we treasure, and if he is the One whom we trust, then we find his promise fulfilled: “All these things will be given to you as well”—or, to quote the title of the old Keith Green song, “He’ll Take Care of the Rest.”

With Jesus—and only with Jesus—we can face life without worry.

In what areas do you “worry like a pagan”? In what ways have you seen the Lord fulfill his promise to provide for those who seek first his kingdom and righteousness?

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*Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.

 

HOME DAILY BIBLE READINGS
November 21: Psalm 37:1-8
November 22: Matthew 13:18-23
November 23: Luke 21:29-36
November 24: Matthew 10:16-20
November 25: Matthew 10:24-31
November 26: 1 Peter 5:6-11
November 27: Matthew 6:25-34

 

ABOUT THE LESSON WRITER:

Phil Roberts is senior minister with Hill-N-Dale Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky. He and his wife, Lisa, have four children. He is author of a memoir book, In the Shadow of a Manger, and travels with Mulberry International to reach at-risk children in Ukraine.

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