Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective, Sherlock Holmes, is one of the most intriguing creations of literary fiction. He is, quite simply, extraordinary. His famous cohort, Dr. John Watson, is ordinary, at least by comparison. Watson has often been erroneously portrayed as a bumbling fool, but that flies in the face of Doyle’s attempt to make the average reader relate to Watson.
In this well-known interchange between Holmes and Watson, see which character you more closely resemble:
HOLMES: You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room.
HOLMES: How often?
WATSON: Well, some hundreds of times.
HOLMES: Then how many are there?
WATSON: How many? I don’t know.
HOLMES: Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed. (“A Scandal in Bohemia” in The Complete Sherlock Holmes [New York: Doubleday, 1927])
You probably don’t know how many steps you regularly ascend each day, and therefore you relate to Watson. But here Holmes is making a point similar to the one Jesus makes in Matthew 6:25-34. There Jesus directly addresses the topic of worry, telling us what to do about it and why. Like Holmes, He says we need to take a good look around us and observe, or think deeply about the meaning behind what we see. This is what Jesus tells us to ponder if we want to be free from worry:
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing?
Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!
Do not worry then, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear for clothing?” For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Emphasis added)
The often-repeated phrase “Do not be anxious” is the theme. The Lord is issuing a cease-and-desist order against anxiety, based on the sovereign care of a loving and omnipotent God. While many worldly professionals offer therapeutic and chemical suggestions for managing your worry, Jesus commands us to stop it altogether.
We’ll take a closer look at His instructions next week.