This week has been a red letter one in the history of corporate America. Or, perhaps I should say it's been a red number one. For the numbers of one this country's most storied manufacturing companies, General Motors, were so terrible, showing some $172.81 billion in debt, that this behemoth of the auto industry was forced to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The effects of such a filing will no doubt be felt far and wide. Jobs lost. Factories shut down. Bondholders losing millions. Dealerships scrambling to remain open. This is a news story that is causing much consternation and worry across our great nation because, for so many, General Motors is much more than a headline, it's a livelihood.
When spoken into today's corporate context, it may seem as though Jesus' words from Matthew 6 ring a little hollow: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear" (verse 25). "Do not worry?" What do you mean, "Do not worry?" Jobs are being lost. Sources of income are evaporating. If ever there was a time to worry, this is a time to worry!
In some ways, Jesus' words seem to be almost nothing more than "pie in the sky" niceties. "Do not worry." Doesn't that sound nice? If only it were true. But we all know better. For life throws us inevitable curve calls that call for our immediate attention and, yes, even our worry.
This may come as a surprise to you, but I would agree with such an estimation of Jesus' words. To simply say, "Do not worry" is neither practical nor helpful. It is simply wishful thinking. I would agree with such an estimation of Jesus' words... if those were actually Jesus' words. But they're not.
Look carefully. What is Jesus' first word in Matthew 6:25? It's not a command: "Do not!" Rather, it's a connector: "Therefore." And in the Bible, whenever you see a "therefore," it's important to ask, "What is it there for?" For the word "therefore" is an important word in biblical literature. It's a word which connects what is getting ready to be said to that which has come before it. And what has come before this particular "therefore" is a veritable treasure trove of God's promises of provision.
Jesus promises, "Your Father... will reward you" (verse 4). He teaches us pray: "Give us today our daily bread" (verse 11). And he instructs us to hope not in "treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steel, but... [in] treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal" (verses 19-20). It is only in view of all this, in light of all this, and in trust of a heavenly Father who rewards and who provides daily bread and who offers eternal treasure, that Jesus continues, "Therefore, do not worry!" And Jesus offers this not as some lofty, impossible command, but as a humble invitation to trust that, just as God has already been faithful to us in the past with rewards and bread and treasure, he will continue to be faithful to us into the future by his grace.
Perhaps right now, you are riddled by worry. Rather than simply beating yourself up over your anxiety or throwing your hands up in utter despair over your inability to "not worry," allow me to invite you instead to rejoice in Jesus' "therefore." In fact, today, why don't you do a little exercise? Get a sheet of paper and turn it sideways. In the middle of the sheet write the word, "Therefore." Then, on the left side of that sheet, write all the ways in which God has provided for you in the past: with life, with food, with loved ones, with former jobs, with a current job, and so on and so forth. Then, on the right side of the page, write down the good blessings that could possibly come after Jesus' "therefore." If God has provided for you so heartily and mightily in the past, how might he provide for you in the future? And then study that list. And thank God for that list. And trust that God will provide according to his will. Who knows? In light of your list, it might even be a little easier to heed Jesus' invitation: "Therefore, do not worry." I hope it is.