Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Sin of Worry

I would have thought it was something we would all agree upon: worry is sin.

But we don't. When I have talked about my sinful worrying, sometimes friends will object. "It's not a sin to worry. We all worry. We can't help worrying. It's just part of human nature."

What does any of that have to do with whether it's a sin?

How can we say that worry is not sin? Worry is the result of saying that circumstances of life are not what they should be. God is screwing up. He's not taking care of things in the way I deem appropriate, so I need to resolve the problem. And if I can't fix it myself, then I reserve the right to fret and stew over what's coming down the pike. Worry is what happens when I value something "under the sun" more than I value Jesus and His forgiveness. Worry is what happens when we do not "leave all things to God's direction" (LSB 719) but decide that we know better and that we should be gods for ourselves.

Worry is sin against the first commandment.

Even in the Beichtafel (pg 1460 in Treasury of Daily Prayer or pg 658 in Pastoral Care Companion or pg 38 of Lutheran Catechesis) we read, "Do I see my worry and fretting as sin against trusting God?" and "Do I expect only good from God in every situation, or do I worry, doubt, complain, or feel unfairly treated when things go wrong?"

Why do we chafe so much against admitting that our worry is sin? I think it's because we have this deep-seated belief that it's up to us to solve our problem of sin. Even while we believe in the mercy of God, even while we trust Christ's blood-bought forgiveness, we remain sinful unbelievers who want to be able to do something to make ourselves better Christians. So we think we must find a way to stop worrying. "Buck up and do a better job of trusting, you lout," we scold ourselves. But that law will not make us better. The solution to our problem of sin lies only and always and ever in the merits of Christ alone.

So I admit it. I worry. I ought not. But knowing that I ought not doesn't stop me. Trying to stop worrying has no effect. I say with Paul (in Romans 7), The good that I would, that I do not do... But we also confess that the Gospel is bigger than our sin. Jesus Christ sets us free from this body of death. There is therefore now no condemnation in Him.


  1. You've been inside my head again, Susan!

  2. Susan you said, "Worry is the result of saying that circumstances of life are not what they should be."

    I'm not sure I can agree with that. I worry daily. But many of those worries are related to the internal question of, am I making the right choice? Am I being a good steward of those gifts that God has given me?

    I believe that God will provide but I don't think that He's going to get me out of every bind that I place myself in. He gave my husband a good job when he really needed it but now I have to to do something with what He has given us. If I go out and squander the money my dh is bringing in, I really don't think God is going to bail us out of all of the consequences of that decision.

    I worry that I may not get enough wood chopped for the winter. I don't think that's sin, that's just reality since the forest closes in less than a month :)

    When I worry I'm not saying that I don't trust God but that I don't trust myself.

  3. Kim, isn't there a difference between planning and worrying about your plans? It's one thing to think through "What would be the best decision to make in this circumstance so as to best serve my neighbor," and another thing to worry about what will befall you or them as a result of your choice.

    And then, even when we don't trust ourselves, do we know that God will work good out of the situation (even if what looks good to me, temporarlly, is not what God works out)?