Jesus was concerned to correct false views of righteousness. As an example, Jesus’ most famous sermon — the one given on the mount (Mt. 5-7) was given largely with a view of revealing God’s standard (and provision) of righteousness. The problem, as Jesus revealed it, is that there are competing forms of righteousness and none of those are adequate to satisfy God’s standard. And of the many forms of righteousness that do not conform to God, one of the most deadly is self-righteousness.
So in Matthew 6, Jesus asserted four different arenas in which self-righteousness is revealed: giving, praying, fasting, and worrying. The first three are obvious places where one might attempt to assert his own form of righteousness. The last — worrying — is not so apparent.
Notice that one of the correctives that Jesus offers to the sin of anxiety is this: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mt. 6:33) If the corrective is God’s righteousness, then the sin must be some form of self-righteousness. So, rather than worrying, seek the righteousness that can be found only in Christ, and then God will provide you what you need (the “all things” in v. 33 refers to the daily needs like food and clothing that the Gentiles also seek, v. 32).
But how is worrying a form of self-righteousness? Christ gives hints in this section:
- When we worry, we are asserting that we believe we are the source of our provision (vv. 27-28).
- When we worry, we are asserting that we believe that God is not the source of our provision (v. 30).
- When we worry, we are disbelieving God and His goodness, just as the Gentiles do (vv. 31-32).
Those assertions are all part of the belief system of self-righteousness. They affirm the ability of man and the inability (or the unnecessariness) of God. So worrying, just like self-righteous giving and praying and fasting, relies on self and rejects God as the provision of our needs. It asserts “I am capable of meeting the task and obligation. I am the captain of my fate.” And worrying then is not a “respectable sin,” but an evil affront to God and His provision of righteousness.
Am I bound up in worry today? Then I must confess not only that sin, but also the prideful sin of self-righteousness that is undergirding my anxiety, and instead trust not only in God’s provision of my daily needs, but also of my right standing before Him. I am incapable. But He is capable and gracious to provide all I need.