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Christian Anxiety

In Luke 12:33, Jesus says, "Sell your posessions and give to the needy." This seems like strange counsel in the wake of an exhortation not to worry. However, looking backward from the typical reading of verses 12:22-31 gives a clue why it is that Christ takes this approach.

The passage starts out in response to a question in the audience. It is actually a request that Jesus arbitrate in a dispute over an inheritance. In yet another strange turn, Christ tells a parable of a man who is successful, and is beginning to "kick back" because of his success. Ironically, this is just when God takes his life. All his planning and saving is for naught.

It does not matter whether or not people have plenty or little, putting one's confidence in money instead of the Father's care is at best foolish and at worst idolatrous. Both to worry and to rest because of one's own provision is equally disturbing to God. In the parallel passage in Matthew 6:19-34, Jesus even says that one cannot serve both God and money. When money determines anxiety or rest, money is being served. When man is living confidently in the Father's provision, God is being served.

Now the primary reference here is to money and to worry over material well-being. This in itself should be enough to chew on for a few days. However, their is a deeper principle at work. We might generalize the example of money and material well-being to any form of self-reliance and spiritual well-being. The elevation of any standard of performance to the level that it produces anxiety and rest is idolatry. And, this idolatry is ultimately pride and self-reliance. We abandon Christ and his finished work for some rule that we or our culture has chosen as the standard by which all men are judged.

The fact is that all men are judged by a much more stringent set of moral principles or pragmatic powers. This is the rule of the Holy Triune God. We all fail and are all doomed to hopelessness if we must rely on our own ability to keep this rule. Just like Jesus ask the readers to give up on money as a way to rest. He asks us to give up on living up to God's holy standard. Instead, we repent and believe that Christ's sacrifice was sufficient to pay for our punishment and that his life was sufficient to pass the test of judgement for us. Our anxiety is proof positive that we fear God and we do not trust in Christ. It is proof that we believe that no one will take care of us, so we must control our environment. It is always the result of idolatry. The opposite, in a sense, is to flaunt our sin as a sign that we are no longer relying on ourselves just as selling all our goods would prove our dependence on God's prevision.

So, go and repent openly of your sins. Feel no shame. Associate with those that violate your "rules" for living and believe that they are the same as you. By these kinds of disciplines we can come to truly believe in Christ.

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Small Group Transition

Our small group just finished the study on Galatians from Redeemer Presbyterian Church NYC. It has been a great study. I would recommend it to anyone. It will and should be controversial at times, but the Gospel is controversial.