This Is Heavy
It was October 26, 1985. Whitney Houston topped the Billboard Charts for the very first time with the song “Saving All My Love For You.” Arnold Schwarzenegger was continuing to cement himself as Hollywood’s biggest action star in the movie Commando. The Kansas City Royals were on the verge of winning their first World Series. The Golden Girls were only six episodes into their primetime run.
And it was also the day that Marty McFly hopped into Doc Brown’s DeLorean and went back to the future for the second time. Now, the first time that Marty had to travel back to the future was after he got himself stuck in 1955 while running away from Libyan terrorists…but that’s another story for another day. This time around, Marty needs to travel through time to keep his future son from making a mistake that will land the boy in prison for the next 15 years. But while he’s in the future, Marty comes up with a harebrained scheme that completely disrupts the space-time continuum and creates an alternate future.
But I have to tell you that the storyline is far from my favorite thing about the movie Back to the Future II. My favorite part of Back to the Future II is all the predictions the writers, director, and producers had to make about what the future would be like.
And eight years ago, we got to see just how many of these predictions the people behind the movie got right because, when Marty McFly hopped in Doc Brown’s DeLorean on October 26, 1985, they traveled thirty years into the future, and they arrived in Hill Valley on October 21, 2015.
So how did the people behind Back to the Future II do with their predictions about the future? Well, let’s talk about it for a minute. Probably the most famous prediction about the future in Back to the Future II is that we would have flying cars by 2015. And clearly, that didn’t happen… but the FAA did certify a flying car prototype for the first time ever earlier this year. So maybe that prediction wasn’t too far off.
And the people behind Back to the Future II weren’t too far in some of their other predictions either. They predicted the Chicago Cubs would win the World Series in 2015, but in reality, the Cubs became World Series champions a year later in 2016. They also predicted that we’d be able to videoconference in our living rooms by 2015, and at this point just about all of us have been on a Zoom meeting while we were sitting on the sofa. Oh, and the TV Marty McFly used to take that conference call looked a lot like the wall-mounted flat-screen TVs that have been around since the late 90s.
But Back to the Future II wasn’t quite so accurate with all of their predictions. I mean, who could forget Marty McFly zooming around the Hill Valley Clock Tower on a Hoverboard? While technically speaking, there was a product called a hoverboard that was patented in 2013 that hoverboard still had wheels and couldn’t float. So we’re still a long way from having the hoverboards we saw in the movie.
There were also a lot of predictions that were made in the newspaper headlines we saw in the film, like the prediction that someone would run a 3-minute mile, or that Princess Diana would become Queen of England, or that a sport called Slam Ball would make front page news. But the biggest miss the folks behind Back to the Future II made when it came to their newspaper is that people would still be reading newspapers in 2015. The reality is that newspaper circulation peaked in 1990, and began a rapid decline in 2015.
But what does any of this have to do with us? Why have I spent the first five minutes of this sermon talking about all these predictions that were made about what the world would be like in 2015? Well, part of the reason I spent all this time talking about Back to the Future II is because we’ve been working our way through a series of sermons over the last few weeks called “God on Film,” where we’ve been trying to see what films can teach us about our faith.
But I also spent all of this time talking about Back to the Future II because we all do the same thing that the writers, director, and producer of this film did over 30 years ago. We spend a lot of time thinking about what the future is going to be like.
But unlike the people behind this movie, we don’t spend our time envisioning how people will travel, or what clothes they’ll wear, or what innovations will change the world forever. Instead, we spend a lot of time thinking about problems that we’ll encounter, people we’ll have to deal with, or how we’ll perform at school or work.
Or, to put it another way for you, we all worry about the future.
We all worry about the future.
And that means that you worry about the future. So, yes, you’ve worried about the future when you started a brand new job and you didn’t know if you would get along with your co-workers. And you’ve worried about the future when you became a parent for the first time because, even though you were excited to bring home your little bundle of joy, you had no real idea of how to take care of her. You didn’t know how to change a diaper, or give a bath, or even how to hold your baby. And you’ve worried about the future when you just finished college and had to make it in the real world...I know I did. When I graduated college, I had spent four years and $80,000 earning my degree but I could not find a job in my field. So I spent the next three and a half years working at a toy store wondering if I had wasted all that time and all that money.
One way or another, we have all worried about what the future holds. But whether you’ve been worried about starting a new job, raising your kids, or something else, a lot of our worrying about the future comes from the same place. We worry when things are out of our control.
We worry when things are out of our control.
We worry before we start a new job because the way that our boss or co-workers feel about us is out of our control. We worry before we bring our baby home because the behavior of a newborn is out of our control. We worry when we finish college because the career opportunities available are out of our control.
And when we think about everything that we have to worry about in the future, it makes it really hard to want to listen to the scripture passage I want us to take a closer look at today. And, if you’ve got a Bible close by, I can show you what I mean. Grab your Bible and turn to Matthew 6.
And Matthew 6 is part of the longest recorded sermon that Jesus ever preaches. We call this sermon the Sermon on the Mount. And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus touches on a wide variety of subjects and issues. And in the verses we’re looking at today, Jesus is going to talk about worrying.
So let’s see what Jesus says. We’ll start reading in Matthew 6:25. Jesus says:
25 “Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry…
Matthew 6:25a (Common English Bible)
With everything that we have to worry about, Jesus says, “Don’t worry.” It’s almost unbelievable but there's no denying it, it's right there in black and white – well, maybe red and white if you've got a red-lettered edition of the Bible – but it's still there. Jesus says, “Don’t worry.”
But before we get too blown away by the fact that Jesus simply tells us “Don’t worry,” let’s see what else he has to say. Let’s pick back up at the beginning of verse 25. It says:
25 “Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? 27 Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life?
28 And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. 29 But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. 30 If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith?
31 Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ 32 Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:245-34 (Common English Bible)
This is the version of this passage that many of us are used to hearing. We're used to hearing Jesus tell us not to worry about what we’ll eat, or drink, or wear. But you know what, most of us never worry about what we'll be eating, or drinking, or wearing to begin with.
We live in a country today where food is readily accessible to almost everyone: there are grocery stores to shop at or restaurants to eat at, and for a smaller number of people there are backyard gardens to choose from. The same is true when it comes to clothing: we have closets and dresser drawers jam-packed with clothing. We have more shirts in our wardrobe than we could wear in a month. We have more shoes than we'll wear out in a decade. Simply put, we don't have to worry about these kinds of things.
But it was a different story when Jesus was teaching these things in the Sermon on the Mount. You couldn't run to a local grocery store to buy milk, bread, or eggs back then. You didn't have closets overflowing with clothing. Sometimes, actually a lot of the time, you had to worry about how your belly would be filled, or if your clothing would last for another day.
So maybe we need to hear a different version of these verses – something a little more up-to-date. So let’s listen to this same teaching as translated in The Message. Here’s what it says:
If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion--do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers – most of which are never even seen – don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your every day human concerns will be met.
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
Matthew 6:24-34 (The Message)
Let me be honest with you, I know that we have a lot that we can worry about when we think about what the future holds. But this passage should at least make you, and me, and all of us stop and ask what are we worried for? Has worrying helped you grow an inch taller? Has worrying kept a grey hair from popping up on your head? Has worrying made it any easier to put food on your table? Has worrying made your outfit look any better?
No. The truth is that there may be a lot to worry about, but worrying doesn’t make any difference.
There may be a lot to worry about, but worrying doesn’t make any difference.
If God has fed the birds of the sky and dressed the wildflowers of the field, then you better believe that God is going to be with you, taking care of you too.
And when we worry, especially about things far beyond our control, all it does is draw our attention away from God. When we worry about what problems we might face tomorrow; we stop paying attention to what God is doing right now.
Or let me put it another way when you worry about what tomorrow may bring you fail to notice what God has brought you today. When you worry about what clothes you’re going to wear tomorrow or what you’ll cook for breakfast, you fail to thank God for what he’s given you today.
So, yes, there may be a lot that we can worry about, but let’s listen to what Jesus told us. Let’s:
Give our entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. [Because] God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
And in the end, God will remain faithful to us, just like God has always been faithful to us. And, if you remember that your worries won’t feel so heavy and you can face whatever the future holds.