The Right Kind Of Concern
It’s not surprising to us that anxiety, worry and fear are common topics. No matter if it’s the nightly news, talk shows, radio broadcasts, Christian blogs or church sermons, anxiety, worry and fear are hot topics. After all, we are living in an unprecedented time of global concern as the coronavirus was officially labeled a “pandemic” on March 11. We can’t help but think of the invisible virus that has spread across the globe bringing much of our normal life to a screeching halt. Every one of us has been impacted in some way and fashion. Some of us have lost our job, lost our ability to return to school and even some have lost a loved one. With all of the advice and information on anxiety that is being given to us, it’s essential that we examine it through the lens of God’s Word. Afterall, the Bible offers us clear counsel on how to deal with sinful worry and fear. In light of the current, global pandemic, it’s important for us to realize that not all concern is sinful. My hope is that this article will challenge us to foster the right kind of concern and motivate the right kind of action. To accomplish this, let’s begin by examining how the Bible talks about worry.
The Greek word for worry is a combination of two Greek words. The first means “to divide” and the second is “mind”. When we put these two Greek words together, we have the Greek word “merimnao” which means literally “a divided mind”. It carries the idea of being uneasy in one’s mind or spirit. Typically, this word is translated into English using the words “worry”, “anxious” (Matt. 6:25; Phil. 4:6), or even “care” and “concern” (2 Cor. 11:28; Phil. 2:20). What’s interesting to note, is that this word can be used in either a negative or positive context. In both Matt. 6:25 and Phil. 4:6, Jesus and Paul command us not to be anxious about anything. In these examples, this is sinful anxiety and worry. We would define this sinful worry as an over-anxious concern regarding the future and things that keeps a person from fulfilling current biblical responsibilities. Examples range from a person’s pre-occupation with the fear of losing a job, to leaving the stove on. From the safety of one’s child, to the security of one’s investment portfolio. From the fear of catching the virus, to the fear of dying from the virus. If an individual frequently worries that they left the stove on, this worry might prevent them from doing their job effectively and to the glory of God (Col. 3:23). Regardless of whether or not this fear is actual or imagined, it has a very real effect of distracting an employee to the extent that they are not able to fulfill their current biblical responsibility in the workplace. So how is this different from genuine, God honoring concern? After all, if this individual did actually leave the stove on, we would all agree that something should be done. We shouldn’t ignore it and “let go and let God”.
The answer is found in the other examples of how this word is used in a positive context. Take for example Paul’s concern expressed in 2 Cor. 11:28. Paul was legitimately concerned for the welfare of all the churches established through his ministry. He expresses this concern as “daily pressure” indicating the heavy responsibility and burden he felt for the growth, care and support of these churches. The question is where does this “concern” come from? The answer is from God. God created us with the ability to care and be concerned. Think about it. God Himself cares about us. His concern drove Him to provide for us physically, emotionally and spiritually to the point that He sent His only, begotten Son as a humble sacrifice so that we might be reconciled to Him through faith alone in Christ alone. As God made us in His image (Gen. 1:26), He also created us with the capacity to care and be concerned. In the midst of all of Paul’s personal trials and ministerial challenges (read all of 2 Cor. 11), in verse 28 he acknowledges that he is concerned for the local churches. Notice what Paul’s God-honoring concern drove him to do. It drove him to pray for the churches (Eph. 1:18, Col. 1:3, 2 Thess. 1:11), to send help to the churches (Timothy and Epaphroditus in Phil. 2:23-25; Paul knew Timothy was just as “concerned” for the welfare of the church in Philippi which is why he wanted to send him; see Phil. 2:20) and to personally visit, encourage and teach them wherever he went (Rom. 1:13-15, 2 Cor. 1:15, 1 Thess. 2:1-8; 17-20). Paul had the right kind of genuine concern, that motivated him to fulfill the one-another’s of Scripture by lovingly and humbly serving and caring for others.
In the same way, this concern should drive us to selfless love and service of others. The individual that worries if they left the stove on should take action to assess the situation. What is the problem? What does God want me to do about it? When, where and how shall I begin? Practically, this might involve calling someone at home to double check, asking a neighbor to help out or asking the boss for a moment to run home and check. The motive for such action should always be driven by a desire to please God (2 Cor. 5:9) and to love and prefer others (Phil. 2:34).
In the same way, it’s not wrong for us to take extra precautions by washing our hands more often, asking the pizza delivery guy to leave it by the door and wait by the curb, or minimize interaction with others. It’s also not wrong to make plans using our wisdom and discernment to care for our family and future. However, we must always make our plan with an acknowledgment of God’s Sovereignty and an attitude of humble, stewardship (James 4:13-16). We plan with an open hand, trusting God and walking by faith. We know that God might change our course, and we trust Him to guide and help us as we strive to follow Him wherever this new path leads. Instead of saying “what if…” we should replace it with “even if…” For example, “even if I get the virus, I will trust God to provide for me and I will obey.” True God honoring concern and care should motivate us to action that pleases God and serves others because ultimately, we are focused on worshiping and obeying God above all others.
This is the right kind of concern that is willing to maintain social distancing out of concern for those with greater health risks. The kind of care that prays more diligently for those significantly impacted by the virus. The kind of thoughtfulness that reaches out to someone who lost their job and asks to bring groceries over. The kind of attention that intentionally calls everyone in their family and friend circle to personally find out how they’re doing and if there’s any specific prayer requests or needs. The right kind of concern should always motivate the right kind of action. May we be known by our love for one another (John 13:35) as we use this time of global concern to find ways to love and serve others.