Take no thought

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Matthew 6:25-34

In 1395, Wycliffe rendered it be not busy:  “Therfor I seie to you, that ye be not bisi to youre lijf.”  (Matthew 6:25)

In 1534 Tyndale put the warning, be not carefull:  “Therfore I saye vnto you be not carefull for your lyfe.”

From Tyndale until 1611 all the translations rendered Jesus’ warning as “be not carefull”.  But the King James Bible did something more literal with the underlying Greek word:

“Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.  Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?”  (Matthew 6:25)

In modern versions this Greek word is translated as “anxious” or “worried”.  It’s a compound word, the first element meaning “parts”, the second referring to remembrance / calling to mind.  So it’s the sense of a divided mind – many parts, having many thoughts.  Thus the KJV repeatedly translates this warning as “Take no thought.”

“Take no thought” for your life; your food and clothing; for tomorrow; for how you will defend yourself; and again, for your life.” (Matthew 6:25,31,34; 10:19; Mark 13:11; Luke 12:11,22)

Just imagine it: walking through life without that busyness and care and anxiety which besets us much of the time.  How can we face the world with an undivided mind?  The path to peace is very surprising and very practical if we follow Jesus’ logic.

Perhaps the first word of the verse is the most important – “Therefore.” The path to peace lies in appreciating Christ’s teaching on money.  Jesus has just told us “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (v24).  He has insisted that we “lay not up for ourselves treasures upon the earth” (v19). And now, having abandoned all confidence in money and switched our investments to heavenly treasure, Jesus expects us to “take no thought.”

This seems like madness to the affluent westerner.  Surely money gives you peace of mind?  Jesus seems to suggest it robs us of peace.

Christopher Hitchens, in this video, describes “take no thought” as “the central doctrine of Jesus Christ” (1:50-3:00).  Of course that’s quite absurd, but what is interesting is Hitchens’ reaction to the teaching.  He is appalled that there is no investment, no construction, no thrift advised here and so he labels the teaching as ridiculous and immoral.  He cannot imagine any wisdom in the practice of care-free living.  But Jesus would direct him first to v24.  Perhaps it is significant that Hitchens himself commands tens of thousands of dollars for each speaking engagement. There is, according to Jesus, the closest link between investment in mammon and an anxious mind unable to “take no thought.”

It seems counter-intuitive, yet Jesus insists that the pursuit of a financial cushion is not the way of wisdom but the way of worry.  Instead it is an undivided heart that produces an undivided mind.  And mammon is the distraction from our heart’s true Object of worship.  Therefore peace of mind does not come through careful worldly investments.  It comes from a care-free abandonment to our heavenly Father.

A financial adviser can give you sound advice.  What they cannot give you is peace of mind.  And the more we look to money for that peace, the more it will elude us.

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