Cities of Anxiety image

Cities of Anxiety

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?" (Matthew 6:25).

What Jesus says here is not wisdom from most perspectives. Don’t be anxious. Think about birds. Look at the grass. No wonder so many have read the gospel as the story of a first-century flower child, an ancient hippy, a Cynic. He seems to be telling us to get out of the rat race and spend out time chasing butterflies. And he does seem to be doing a bit of that. His instructions depend on the fact that a new world has erupted in the midst of the old. A new kingdom and a new king are being heralded in the midst of the corruptions of worldly kingdoms, a new city in the midst of the old cities. The Old City is a city of anxiety.

For Jesus, anxiety is not just a feeling or emotion that we privately experience. It is that. But it is also the organising principle of a world, a structure and a regime, a master and a power. Anxiety is the ether of the world outside the kingdom of God. Anxiety keeps the stores open 24/7. Anxiety keeps the highways busy until the wee hours of the morning. Anxiety keeps people working late at the office. Anxiety is what builds the skyscrapers. Anxiety is what drives consumer spending.

Anxiety is driven by a very simple insight, the insight that we are limited creatures, and the particular fact that the future sets the boundary of our limitations … If you know that you can’t manage the future, and yet you try to manage the future, there can be only one result: anxiety. This is the way of the world, and it’s what drives the Gentiles to “eagerly seek” food, clothing, drink, success, and all the rest.

Jesus invites us into a new world ... And the kingdom which is God’s future world arriving in the present is not driven by anxiety but by trust, because within this kingdom we know that the future is secure. We know that God has everything under control. We know that God is our heavenly Father who will care for us. Jesus’ wisdom is wisdom only if that is true.

- Peter Leithart, The Gospel of Matthew Through New Eyes, 157-159

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