Is Anxiety a Sin?
Do not be anxious about your life . . . Matthew 6:25
I’ve heard well-meaning Christians use this verse to teach that anxiety is a sin. Jesus said not to be anxious, so experiencing anxiety is sinful. This is absurd but that doesn’t stop some Christians from saying it.
When the angels appeared to the shepherds to announce Jesus’ birth, the shepherds were terrified. When the angels said, Fear not (Luke 2:10), they weren’t calling the shepherds sinners. Fear and anxiety are natural responses to certain situations. The angel’s message, fear not, was meant to calm them.
Similarly, Jesus in today’s passage, wasn’t teaching that experiencing anxiety is wrong, but rather he was teaching us what to do with it. This is where we can go right or wrong. When Jesus walked on the water to the disciple’s boat, he told them not to be afraid and even commanded Peter to walk on the water.
The disciple’s fear wasn’t sinful. It was just a consequence their situation. Where Peter could have sinned, was if he had refused to obey Christ’s command. Where Peter did fail, was in taking his eyes off Christ once he was walking on the water. In turning from Christ, Peter indulged in destructive behavior, fed his fear, and he sank. Only in returning his gaze to Christ, was he saved.
Our anxiety is often a natural emotion and isn’t wrong in itself. Like Peter though, we can go right or wrong in how we respond to it. In our anxiety, we can self-medicate with alcohol, making things worse. Or, we can pray, read the Bible, talk with others, and get help for our anxiety. It’s not wrong to seek assistance for our life problems. God uses others to help us in our struggles.
How we respond to our anxiety often grows or diminishes it. O you of little faith (Matthew 6:30). If we use our anxiety to point us to God, we grow our faith. If we use it to fuel destructive behavior, we fail, making things worse. Feeling anxiety isn’t wrong. Jesus said though, that in our anxiety, we must daily do whatever it takes to turn our gaze to him. For many, this is a daily battle. The fact that there is an anxiety battle isn’t wrong. What we continually do with the battle though will daily grow our anxiety or will grow our faith.