COVID-19. This virus has taken over the news outlets as of late. You can’t scroll through Facebook without seeing coronavirus posts of some kind. There are ones that report news. There are also others that report opinions on what appropriate safety actions to take to prevent spreading the disease. The virus pandemic has led to much fear, leading people to react sharply such as buying excessive amounts of toilet paper. The government has told people to stay home. We are to practice what has been called “social distancing”. There seems to be a move toward the country shutting down. These are most certainly troubling times and will lead to worry. In light of these circumstances, how are we as Christians to respond to this outbreak? The Scriptures provide us answers for this. Our Lord in the sermon on the mount was teaching the disciples what it means to live in God’s kingdom. He was giving them a clear picture of what a life that has been changed by God looks like. How those in God’s kingdom deal with worry and anxiety is dealt with head on by Christ further showing that every aspect of life, even where our food, clothing, and daily provisions come from, is important to God. Jesus’s instructions begins with an imperative:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on…For the Gentiles seek after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:25,32-33 ESV
Jesus had just finished discussing the folly of pursuing financial gain, forbidding the storing up of treasures on this Earth. Then he shifts to the “why”. Because God will provide for us. Because treasures are not to be stored and prized above God and because we cannot both love God and money, we are not to be anxious about where our provisions will come from. Those who are consumed with material things only show that they are being sinfully anxious about this life. Jesus contrasts that lifestyle by commanding Christians to rely on their heavenly Father and not their treasures. They are to have their eyes so fixed on Him that they don’t worry about those earthly treasures. We are to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Doing so is resting in His provision for His people.
What does this mean in light of the COVID-19 pandemic? It’s a simple proposition laid out by Christ. We are to not fall into sinful worry. Christians are not to fear death nor are we to panic. Followers of Christ serve the omnipotent God who’s providence guides all events and is even in control of this virus. We should have no fear. There should be no fear mongering from Christians. We should instead be looking for ways to encourage other believers to further trust the God in light of this pandemic. Unnecessary anxiety is sin. Jesus said that those who worry about their lives are those who act like Gentiles. These are things that unbelievers chase after! The lost world doesn’t hope in God. The lost world relies ultimately on themselves and what they can see and/or control. We are to be better! Our lives as Christians are to be marked with obedience to God which includes trusting His provision to take care of our needs. Doing anything less is simply sin. This means stop buying massive amounts of toilet paper. How we as Christians react to this pandemic will show where our trust lies. If we panic, we only prove we are acting like sinners. We are living as if there is no God.
However, the call to not worry about your life doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have healthy concern. Nor does it mean we shouldn’t plan.
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes to poverty.
Proverbs 21:5 ESV
We should plan and purchase items appropriately in response to this virus. It might also mean placing our worship services on pause for a time as a way to be prudent. But these activities should not be a response that doesn’t have hope. We know that God will provide and take care of His people, and if he calls us home we have the promise of being in His presence where all death and disease will cease. We would do well to remember the words of the Psalmist,
For he will deliver you from the snare and from the pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and a buckler.
Psalms 91:3-4 ESV