Meher Baba, an Indian mystic teacher, is credited with the well-known expression: “Don’t worry; be happy.” In 1988, musician Bobby McFerrin popularized these words in the title of the first a cappella song that reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 (Bronson, 2003, p. 708). However, the Great Teacher had already presented this concept some two thousand years ago. Jesus said:
[D]o not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on… So why do you worry about clothing?... Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?”… Therefore do not worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:25,28,31,34).
Materialistic worry! This is not a problem unique only to the U.S.; there is materialism in developed countries, and there is materialism in third-world countries. It is not a modern problem; there is materialism today, and there was materialism 2,000 years ago. Thus, this lesson Jesus taught 2,000 years ago stills applies to the modern aspect of this problem. What can we learn about materialistic worry?
- Materialistic worry is idolatry. Simply, we cannot serve God and materialism at the same time (vs. 24; cf. Colossians 3:5). Materialism is a false god that takes away our true focus in life. When people (and Christians) with pleasant lives consider things through the glasses of materialism, suddenly the amount of food in their plates becomes “insufficient,” the brand of their clothes becomes “ordinary,” the content of their wallets become “lacking,” the furniture in their houses become “uncomfortable,” the cars in their garages become “old,” and the reflection in their mirrors become “unacceptable.” Materialism is the god of the weak (those whose faith in God has not developed to a mature state, vs. 30) and the pagan (those who do not know and do not have God as their Provider, vs. 32).
- Materialistic worry is useless and destructive. Not only does materialism take away our true focus in life, but also submerges us more and more in an abysm of useless dissatisfaction and worry. Material challenges can be arranged in two categories: (1) Those that we can do something about, and (2) those that we cannot do anything about. An Arabic proverb suggests that if something has a solution, then there is no reason to worry, and if something has no solution, then it is useless to worry. “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” (vs. 27).
- Materialistic worry can be overcome. The secret to avoid materialistic worry and find spiritual happiness is to expand our minds, not our pockets. Consider our Lord’s deep logic that reveals the foolishness of worry: (a) If God can provide the greater (life and body), then He can provide the lesser (food and clothing) [vs. 25]. (b) If He is willing to provide for His lesser creatures (birds and plants), then He is willing to provide for His greater creatures (man) [vss. 26,28-30]. (c) And if He has the power and the willingness (which He does), then His children do not have reason to worry (cf. 7:9-11; Philippians 4:6). To overcome materialistic worry, we need to focus on God’s nature and love, and our trust to Him.
Christianity’s main and constant search should be the things that are above, not the ones of this Earth (Colossians 3:1-2). Everything else (food, clothing, etc.) will be added. Of course, this is a general principle, not an absolute one (cf. Luke 16:19-25). We are to remember that God’s care and love are present even in the middle of our needs (Romans 8:35-39). Knowing this, we should approach life with contentment, trust, and hope (vs. 34). Remember, don’t worry; be happy!
Bronson, Fred (2003), The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits (New York: Billboard Books).