Tuesday, February 05, 2008

What, me worry?

I have heard many money lessons lately. It's common with first-of-the-year sermons, as leaders bolster stewardship and shore up their giving base. Nothing wrong with that.

Recently there was confusion around two Christian concepts with wealth: anxiety and peace. Neither seemed sufficiently fleshed out, so I thought I would hit them.

Anxiety is typically couched with Phil 4: "Do not be anxious about anything". The problem is not Scripture (of course) but the meaning of anxious. Scripture says it is wrong (clearly), but what is it?

We usually attribute two things to anxiety.

First, anxiety is akin to panic. The market is collapsing, house prices are dropping, test results are looming, and whatever else rattles us. We feel doomed. We feel abandoned. We are consumed, agitated, and useless.

It is clear why the Bible speaks against this. 1) this type of anxiety preoccupies us so that we are impotent for God's Kingdom, and 2) it inherently distrusts God's promise to provide, never leave, never forsake.

Nothing good cam come from it.

Second, anxiety is akin to concern. The market is collapsing, housing prices, test results, everything else - how should we respond? It is not wrong to pay attention. It is not wrong to prepare. It is not wrong to respond.

If you see water coming in the boat, it is always right to come up with a bailing plan.

The Bible speaks favorably of this (which we typically roll into anxiety). Leaders throughout time are praised for their perception, their preparation, and their handling of struggle. But no one gets a gold star for getting an ulcer.

The next time you are anxious, ask yourself this question. And, only you can answer it honestly. "Do I still trust God to deliver me?" If you hunker down, store up, or otherwise prepare for struggles - you honor your duty as steward of your and your family's life. If you panic, fear, and forecast doom - then stop, regroup, and refocus.

The former is wisdom, the latter is sin. What's worse is that there is only room for God in one. In "panic", God is relegated to a cute idea or an observer of our suffering. He is neither. Unfortunately, both get labeled anxious. They are not the same. Beware of the confusion.

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