Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Cares of this World

Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.
Luke 21:34

My grandfather had a great rule of thumb. He always said that if something wasn't going to make a difference in his life one, five or ten years from now; then it wasn't worth worrying about. The truth is that we spend an exorbitant amount of time worrying about things that we won't even remember five years from now. Jesus reminds us that worry can cost us much more than wasted time, though. If we aren't careful the cares of this life can distract us from the ultimate importance of eternal matters. 

In today's passage Jesus warns us about three things that can weigh our hearts down and cause us to be caught off guard on the day of His return: drunkenness, carousing, and the anxieties of life.* It is easy to see how drunkenness could distract us as well as carousing. (According to Blue Letter Bible in the original language carousing meant "the giddiness and headache caused by drinking wine to excess.") What comes as a surprise to me is the addition of the cares or anxieties of this life. We don't tend to consider worry to be nearly as dangerous as a drinking problem. I can imagine all manner of Christian friends rushing in to confront a fellow believer over drunkenness, but it's hard to imagine them rushing in to confront a brother over being weighed down by the cares of this world.

But the truth is that all three of these things come from the same root. They all stem from a believer being too focused on this world and not nearly focused enough on the next. When a believer gives in to his desires and lust for things in this world it can cause him to run headstrong after these things (like in drunkenness) or it can cause him to be worry over these things. Either way the believer's problem is that his focus has been moved off of eternity and onto the things of this world. He is giving this world more weight than it deserves. The weightier this world seems to us, the more ethereal and abstract heaven is. Conversely, the more heavily heaven weighs in our thoughts the more the things of this world are exposed for the hollow shell that they are.    

Jesus shows that my grandfather's rule doesn't go quite far enough. We must be careful not to be weighed down by the worries of this life at all. In essence Jesus asks, "Will it matter in eternity?" If not, then don't spend time worrying about it. Sure all of us have to live in the reality of this world and sometimes that means dealing with things like paying the bills and washing the car. But we must keep these things in their proper place. We cannot let them begin to push eternity out of our hearts and minds. We must not let the mundane and the meaningless so overwhelm us that we lose sight of our great hope in Christ's return. We dare not become experts in managing the temporary and forget to prepare for the eternal.

For further reading...
  • Luke 8:1-15 (esp. vs 14)- The cares of this world can choke your growth in Christ.
  • 1 Peter 5:7- Interestingly, this verses uses the same word for anxiety and tells the believer what she should do with her anxiety: cast it on the Lord. 

*Luke 21:5-36, Matthew  24:1-51, & Mark 13:1-37 in varying degree report Jesus' words in what is commonly called the Olivet Discourse. This passage is rather difficult to interpret. Some think that Jesus is speaking only about the destruction of the Temple which would take place in A.D. 70. Of course the context makes very clear that He is. However, others point out that portions of these passages seem to go beyond the destruction of the temple and seem to fit better with the future return of Christ. These people (of which I am one) argue that Jesus' shifts His teaching at points in these passages to what would signal the day of His return.

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