Worrying about worry

Today I was reminded that worrying is a sin. So I started to worry about whether I worried too much.

And then I started thinking – it is true that worrying is a sin, but how do you overcome the sin of worrying. Do you worry about worrying? Do you work hard trying to overcome worry? But it seems that working to overcome worry simply involved more worry.

At least, I worry that it might.

And then I started thinking about the relationship of good works to the gospel. We know that our only righteousness before God is the righteousness of Jesus put on our account by faith. We know that we cannot ever do even one work that can stand before the judgment throne of God.

We also know that those who continue to live in sin have no inheritance in the kingdom of God. How these two concepts relate is sometimes difficult. The Reformed Creeds (such as the Heidelberg) put good works into the category of thankfulness to God for our redemption. The Bible teaches that good works flow from a thankful and renewed heart. But how does that work?

There are particularly yelly preachers that like to yell at people about everything that they are doing wrong. They like to make sure that you know that worry is a sin, and lusting is a sin, causing people to lust is a sin, They yell about gossip and slander and anger and covetousness. They usually then add a list of other things that aren’t sins  just in case someone is getting away with doing something fun. It’s as if they ran out of sins to yell about so they had to invent a few more. So they yell about alcohol and cigars and dancing and tattoos and movies and boycotting Disney and ABC and what you can and can’t do on the Sabbath. They yell about cakes and piercings and rock ‘n roll (or maybe not that one so much anymore) and haircuts. But there is always something. And when you confront them with the gospel of Jesus, they will say, “yes, but now that you are a Christian you are supposed to be thankful. BE THANKFUL. WORK HARDER AT IT. MORE GRATITUDE, YOU TOTALLY DEPRAVED SCUM!”
You know the type.

So I wonder about whether they have the relationship between the gospel and works right. Are good works those things that we do because we feel guilty about causing Jesus to go to the cross to begin with? Are they those things that we do so that we make sure that we really do make it in the end – proving that we are actually thankful enough to earn the free gift of grace? Is God the harsh slave driver just waiting for us to worry about something so that he can zap us and teach us a lesson for our own good?

Think about the Sabbath. The yelly preacher will be happy to give you a whole list of things that you are and are not allowed to do on the Sabbath. In fact, he will probably shout them at you. It’s a day of rest and thankfulness, you scum. Work harder at being thankful. Rest more now or God will get you, you filth of the earth…
Do you see the problem? How do you work hard at resting? Should we worry about whether or not we are resting enough? That doesn’t really seem like rest to me…

And as I think about worry, it occurs to me. Worry is a sin. Jesus made that clear. But that highlights my sinful nature, doesn’t it? The only thing I can do with a command to rest is to work harder at it, defeating the purpose. The only thing I can do with a command to not worry is to worry more about whether I worry too much and try harder to stop it…

And then I see what the writers of the catechism meant when they wrote, “I daily increase my guilt.”

That can’t be the gospel. So let’s think about the sin of worry.

Yes, I worry. And, yes, worry is a sin.

The gospel teaches me that the perfect righteousness of Jesus is put on my account, and that all of my sins – including the sin of worry – is nailed to his cross, put away forever. If I worry about that, that one is nailed there too.

And whether I worry or whether I don’t worry, Jesus has it all covered. He cannot love me more. I cannot be any more righteous that I am right now.

So I have nothing to worry about…

Do you see, now?

I can rest. I can stop worrying, because even my worrying is paid for by the blood of Christ, now and forever. I can give it to him and put it away and rest.

And I move a little closer to understanding what resting in the gospel means and what it means to put off worrying. I won’t get it perfectly in this life, but I don’t have to worry about that anymore, because Jesus already knows, already died, and lives forever making intercession for me, preserving me, guiding me.

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.

The gospel is not a Bobby McFerrin song. The gospel is not a yelly preacher screaming at you to quit worrying, work harder, do more, stop being such a horrible sinner, you jerk!

The gospel is the most liberating, freeing, comforting message you can imagine. Jesus is the propitiation of our sins, and not our alone, but the sins of the whole world.

This is the only way we can put off worrying. That’s the only way we can put off any of the other sins as well. By looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. We abide in him, for without him, we can do nothing.

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5 Comments

Filed under ethics, Gospel

5 responses to “Worrying about worry

  1. Love this, Sam. The people who tend to worry the most are usually either victims of abuse or else fairly righteous people who genuinely care about doing the right thing. Sociopaths never worry about anything! Worry is a sin because it doesn’t add a single day to our lives and because it harms us. “Perfect love casts out fear” and the Lord wants to give us His peace instead.

    The gospel really is not the “yelly preacher,” the gospel is, “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin…..” It is the work of Jesus on the cross long ago, and within us today, that makes us righteous. He is trustworthy, He is faithful, He will make sure we grow, and we have no need to toil and spin, or to worry, to try to “make it” happen.

  2. Worried

    I worry about worrying. And then I worry some more. It’s bad. Insanitybytes22’s comment was good to read. Abuse is so damaging and ruinous for victims. So harmful.

    What about Hebrews 6:4-8, Pastor? Who are the fallen away? How does one distinguish between imperfect sinner who wants to be otherwise and the backslider and the one who makes salvation impossible?

    So many people hate me, target me, abuse me, and heap great contempt on me, looking to trip me up any way they can and it feels as though the abusers’ accusations and smears must be true. Perhaps I am a false ‘c’hristian. Perhaps I am a backslider. Perhaps I am just kidding myself in clinging to as much Christian writing and blogs and online sermons as possible.

    For the most part, most everything in my life has gone by the wayside. Just about the only thing I have is the hope of Christ and God’s love. That’s the only thing really needful, and I just don’t want to mess it up or delude myself in believing myself to be a true Christian if I am not.

    • I understand your thoughts. I think that every Christian has been there. Remember that Jesus said that all who come to him will never, ever be cast out. Ever. We are not saved by the strength of our commitment, or by the strength of our faith, but by the strength of our Savior. We hold to him. He is our salvation.
      As for Hebrews 6, it follows that the person spoken of in Hebrews 6 has not come to Christ for mercy. There are those that the bible speaks of who are so hardened and so past hope that they cannot be forgiven. At the same time, the Bible teaches that EVERYONE that comes for mercy is forgiven (1 John 1:9). It follows then, that those who are past forgiveness are those who never seek it, who refuse to come, who will not soften their hearts.
      This doesn’t sound like you from your post.
      If in doubt, come to Christ. If you struggle, come for strength. If you question, come for wisdom. If you sin, come for forgiveness. And hold to this: No one who comes to Christ will ever, ever, ever be turned away.
      Anyone who tells you otherwise is not speaking words of life, but words of death.
      If you want to, you can find me on facebook and private message me. Meanwhile, my prayers are with you.

      • Worried

        You’re so lovely, Pastor Powell. Your blog and communications are life-saving. Clearly, a servant of God. Thank-you for your response.

        Blessings to you, your family, and your ministry. So much wisdom, thank goodness for your blogging. 🙂

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