South Africa in day 1 of lockdown. This is a foreign experience for South Africans and those around the world with whom we share this phenomena. Beyond the news updates of living in a pandemic, we are guided not to worry, read on, more accurately prohibited from worrying.
Jesus commands us in Matthew 6:25-34 not to be anxious three times (MacArthur 2020, accessed 27 March 2020):
The first time, in Matthew 6:25, do not be anxious is used as an imperative. The do not worry is specifically about your life – do not be anxious about your life (Köstenberger, Merkle and Plummer 2012:125-126). This is a command, like an instruction, so we are called to heed and be obedient. Continue to read from vv 25-30.
The second time is in v 31 where the verb is a prohibitive subjunctive which is used as a prohibition (Mounce 2009:294, 314; Wallace 2000:204). Do not worry. We are commanded not to worry. Continue to read from vv 31-33.
The third time is in v. 34, again used as a prohibitive subjunctive, meaning do not worry for tomorrow.
These are actual commands or prohibitions. We are not allowed to worry, just like we may not steal.
Essentially the message is summed up as “Dont worry, stop worrying and don’t start worrying” (MacArthur 2020).
So ‘do not worry’ are not so much words of encouragement as they are instructions from the Lord Jesus to not worry as instructions.
Köstenberger AJ, Merkle BL and Plummer RL 2012. Going Deeper Greek. Nashville, Tessessee: B&H Academic.
MacArthur J 2020. The promise of peace in a worried world. Accessed from www.gty.org, 27 March 2020.
Mounce WD 2009. Basics of Biblical Greek (3rd ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.
Wallace DB 2000. The Basics of New Testament Syntax. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.