Useful Servants but Miserable Masters

I read something very insightful this week regarding Matthew 6 and worrying. Props go to Dr. Dan Doriani’s commentary on Matthew.

The passage (6:25-34) says this:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

There are a few really interesting observations that Doriani makes regarding this passage.

The first has to do with context, which is crucial to consider when interpreting and applying a passage of Scripture. The “therefore” in verse 25 should automatically signal us to consider what has come before. When we do that we’ll see that Jesus has just been teaching on living for either the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of Earth (verse 19 – “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal…”), and then he specifies that argument in verse 24 – “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

The “therefore” in 25 and the sandwiching of these two teachings is meant to make clear the connection between worrying and false-worship.

Doriani insightfully notes that the reason we worry is because we serve “weak gods” which can not deliver on their promises. If we serve and worship money we will tend to worry about our finances because money was never meant to be worshiped…it’s a weak god. If we serve and worship people’s perceptions of us we will tend to worry about our outfit or whether a joke was funny or not…because the fear of man is a weak god.

He then makes an eye-opening observation, at least to me.

Idols (or weak gods) make useful servants, but miserable masters.

We all know this to be true. Money, success, achievement, pleasure, etc., all bless us well when kept at the correct priority level. But when they rise above where they should, when they become idols which we worship, seeking the satisfaction and happiness in them that can only be found in God, they are miserable masters. They bring frustration, sadness, and unmet expectations.

So this week, when you worry, consider what weak god is behind that worry. And let us not forget that idols make useful servants, but miserable masters.

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