I hate to criticize Jesus because, you know, he is God, and the last time I checked I am not. So, critiquing the divine Messiah is, generally speaking, not a wise thing to do.
However, a little criticism is in order here. Jesus made a statement during His Sermon on the Mount that kind of grinds my gears. (I think the expression “grinds my gears” is found in one of St. Paul’s epistles.) During His famous speech, recorded in Matthew, chapter 6, Jesus said, “Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?”
I’m quite sure there has never been a person throughout history who genuinely thought worrying can make people live longer. In fact, most folks are aware that worrying, and the stress and poor health that comes with it, has a good chance of reducing a person’s life-span.
As someone who worries more than I ought, and who has plenty of relatives and friends who worry more than they ought, I can say with confidence that everyone knows full well that worrying never helps to improve a situation. In addition to making people feel miserable, worry often clouds people’s judgment and causes them to be panicky, and the situation is made worse directly because of their worrying. We all understand this, and most of us who worry too much would love to stop being worrywarts, but it’s just not that simple.
Another thing those of us who worry know for sure is that whenever someone tells us that worrying does no good, it just makes us worry even more. Now, besides whatever it is that’s making us worry in the first place, we add more worry because someone is concerned enough to tell us to stop worrying, and we feel bad for making them feel bad.
So, when Jesus asked the crowd a rhetorical question, “Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?” I’m sure every worrywart in that crowd immediately thought, “Oh no, Jesus is bothered because I worry so much, and that makes me even more apprehensive.”
Instead of telling people that worrying does no good, which is quite negative, a better approach is to focus on something positive that will alleviate anxiety and worry. Fortunately, later in His ministry, Jesus improved His teaching technique. (Even though I’m playfully pretending as if it’s my place to critique Jesus, as I typed the previous sentence I glanced upward to see if a lighting bolt from Heaven was heading my way.)
In John’s gospel, Jesus offered some of the most comforting words in all of Scripture: “In this world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”
Now that’s more like it! Instead of offering a negative rhetorical statement that just makes people feel worse, here Jesus presents a concrete reason why we can relax and be less anxious. First, He points out an obvious truth that we all know: life is hard. Jesus doesn’t pull any punches. He tells us that we are sure to have problems. However, He immediately encourages us not to despair. And the reason we can “be of good cheer” is because Jesus has overcome the world. He is the Lord of all. His earthly mission of conquering sin and death, and providing the path for us to experience eternal joy in Heaven, completely blows away any fleeting problems we might have.
From personal experience, I can attest that meditating on these words from John’s gospel brings a great deal of comfort and greatly reduces my level of worrying. On the other hand, being told that worrying does no good only makes me feel worse.
So, I’m glad I had this opportunity to explain how Jesus fell short on the topic of worrying, but then later got His act together. There are a few other statements from Jesus that grind my gears, and I’d like to list them now.
Wait, what was that? Do you hear thunder? Hey, was that a flash of lighting? OK, maybe it’s time for me to stop. Jesus would never send a lightning bolt my way just for being a smart-aleck, would He? Uh oh, now I’m worried.