Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 18, 1971

The Chaos Of Fear


"Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Matt. 6:34). Perhaps few passages in the Bible have been more widely misunderstood than this. It sounds like a plea for irresponsibility and indolence. It reads at first like the typical attitude of a modern pot-smoking hippie, utterly unconcerned for the necessities of life. But much of the misunderstanding grows out of an awkward rendering in the King James Version. Far more in harmony with the teaching of Jesus is the translation of the American Standard, "Be not therefore anxious for the morrow:'

This is, in fact, the key to this whole section of the Sermon on the Mount. The key word is "anxiety." Jesus releases man from anxiety, not from responsibility or forethought. The passage is a plea for faith and trust in God as a loving Father, not for irrational and disinterested indifference as to the future. Few things are more devastating to the human personality than fear; yet fear, rightly understood, is a most powerful and worthwhile thing in our lives. The problem is: what shall we fear, and what shall we not fear? Too many of us are inclined to fear the wrong things, and to stand bold and indifferent before the things that ought to fill us with the deepest of fear. It was to correct this miscalculation that Jesus warned against earthly anxiety and fear.

We are fearful of all sorts of things . . . poverty, old age, the disapproval of our peers, pain, loneliness, inflation, war, etc. The list of things that cause fear could stretch almost endlessly. And fear paralyzes us (literally, sometimes!) and causes us to lose the capability of right action. Jesus recognized this, and sought to release his followers from this thralldom. Even death itself causes no fear to the true disciple, for he came that he might "deliver them, who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (Heb. 2:15.)

Three things are essential in overcoming fear. The first is knowledge. A vast category of things that cause fear really have no basis in fact. They are myths and folklore. Many of our constant fears are the result of wrong and hurtful things in our childhood, misinformation from our parents. How many parents condition their children to a life-long dread and apprehension of the dark, for example, by letting the child keep a dim light on as he sleeps at night! In maturity he may overcome the childish habit, but he will never escape a certain dim unease and apprehension when darkness settles down. He will never know that the night can be a warm and friendly thing, shutting out so much of the ugliness that mars the day.

A second factor in overcoming fear is the development of a sense of dependence. The child may be terribly afraid, but if he can place his small hand in the hand of his father or mother, the fear vanishes. He is no longer frightened, for now he has someone who can take care of him. This was the feeling of faith and confidence in God which Jesus hoped to foster among his followers. They are not to concern themselves with the frantic and frenzied struggle for "security" as men of earth count security. A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth; and having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. Does this mean that no effort is to be made to provide for one's future? Of course not! Its meaning is that one is to labor and work in every rightful way without anxiety or fear. He has committed his life to God; and regardless of what may happen, he has no apprehension.

The third factor in overcoming fear is that of a dominant purpose — the seeking of the kingdom of God and his righteousness. If one has given his whole being to the achieving of God's will on earth, he really has little time to be concerned as to whether he himself is in poverty or in plenty, in sickness or in health, or even whether he lives or dies! The things that cause the greatest apprehension to humanity generally simply do not exist for him. Paul is certainly a fine example here. Whether he lived or died, whether in prison or in freedom, whether in poverty or in abundance, he had little time to think of anything save his service to God. This was the only thing that really mattered; the conditions of his life and health were significant only in relation to his overwhelming purpose in life ... to serve Christ.

"Be not therefore anxious

— F. Y. T.