Fear(Less) Bible Study Session 4: Fear of the Unknown

Welcome to week 4 of our Lenten Bible Study! In case you missed it from the last post, I've posted 4 comments (1 for each of the sections of the bible study) that you can respond to with questions or comments from each section as you work through the study at your own pace throughout the week. I encourage you to read what others may have posted and to respond to them in order to be in dialogue with one another.

 

I. Introduction

o, as Dave mentioned in the video, this week we're talking about fear of the unknown. Dave's personal example was one relating to his job and ministry in general. I'd like for you to take just a few moments to think through some times that you've been afraid of the unknown. It might have been a medical diagnosis where you didn't know what to expect or how you would get through it, it might have been job security and that nagging question of "what if?" It might have been where you were going to live, especially if your job was taking you to a different city or state. Maybe you were or are concerned with questions of what kind of world we're going to leave for our children and future generations. Maybe the concept of the afterlife and what heaven is really like is fear producing since it's basically unknown to us. Maybe the future in general causes a fear in you since none of us really know what it holds. Maybe this Lent your going through something that is rooted in the fear of the unknown. Hopefully as we move through this study, we'll find scripture and other ways that God will speak to that fear in your life.

 

II. Digging into the Text

This week's main text is Matthew 6:25-34. Below the NRSV translation is provided. Read through the passage several times either in the NRSV or in your favorite translation until you internalize the passage.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you - you of little faith?Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today."

What strikes you most about this passage?

Do you find anything difficult about this teaching of Jesus?

If so, what is most difficult?

When I read through this passage, I'm struck by how simple it is. I have to confess that when I have read this passage before, it never struck me as a difficult teaching - it seemed straightforward and simple. It didn't seem to have the challenges some of Jesus' other teachings like the Beatitudes or Jesus' comments like  that it is easier for a camel to pass through a needle than for the rich to see heaven. But at its core, this passage is just as a challenging, if not more so, for us I think. This passage calls on us to give up everything, including our fear of the unknown. God cares for the birds and lilies, how much more would he care for us, human beings whom he created in his image? How many of us could (much less would) not worry about any of our needs in life?

I think that this misses part of the point of the passage however. Jesus claims that life is more than food and the body more than clothing. While not discounting the importance of basic necessities, Jesus is advocating for us to really live our lives - something that is difficult if we are busy worrying about the unknown; about things we really have no true control over.

This week, I'd like for us to do something a little different than what we have done in the past: I'd like for those of you doing the online version of the study (we'll be doing the same thing in person) to share with the rest of this online community any scripture verses or passages that come to mind that challenge the idea of fear of the unknown so that we can hopefully have a more complete picture of what the bible tells us.

 

III. Discussion

Below is this week's podcast featuring Pastor Dan, Dave, and myself. Take a listen and feel free to note anything you find helpful or something you may disagree with in the comments below. As always, questions are encouraged!

IV. So What?

Throughout this study, we've taken a look at fear of the unknown. This fear is something that is particularly difficult to deal with since by definition we cannot name precisely what it is that we fear in many cases. However, God routinely promises to be present with us through these times and to provide for us if only we were to trust in him. While it is difficult to implement, it seems clear that since worrying can't add a single day to our lives, the recourse that God intends us to have is to spend our time in relationship with him and with our brothers and sisters around the world and to spend it making the world a better place in God's name.