Is Worrying a Sin?

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The most commonly stated command in Scripture is not “worship the Lord,” “serve the Lord” or “love the Lord.” Five times more often stated than any of these commands and more than double all three of them combined is the command, “Do not be afraid” (or variations on it such as “Do not worry” or “Do not be anxious”). Pastor Rick Warren has pointed out how there are 365 of these commands in the Bible – one for every day of the year!

“Do not be anxious about anything…” (Philippians 4:6) is one of those clear directives, echoing Jesus’ teaching in the sermon on the mount, “Do not worry about your life” (Matt. 6:25). Jesus’ point is that his followers shouldn’t worry because our Father in heaven knows what we need and will take care of us – so we should let our trust in God move us to WORK – “seek first His kingdom” (6:33) – instead of wasting our time and energy in worry.

Paul’s thinking is similar in Philippians, as he has just exhorted Euodia and syntyche – his fellow workers in the gospel – to agree in the Lord so they can get back to work and stop hindering the church there (Php. 4:2-3). But Paul takes a slightly different angle by saying “don’t worry… instead pray.” Turn your worries into prayers and God will turn them into peace.

Based on these clear instructions from Jesus and Paul (and 363 commands just like these elsewhere in the Bible) we must conclude that it is a sin to worry since, “whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17). It is not a sin to struggle with the temptation to worry. The sin is choosing to dwell on our worries rather than turning them over to the Lord in prayer. God has promised us His peace. He has even promised to take care of all the little things we stress about. So let’s not deceive ourselves by thinking of worry as an “acceptable sin.” Rather, let’s repent of our lack of faith and fight the sin of fear by bringing our worries and concerns continually to the Lord in prayer, freeing us up to get about the business of serving Him and sharing the Good News that peace with God is available through Jesus!