The anxiety machine

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear…” (Matt. 6:25).

Some time ago a newspaper carried a report that a new airport scanner may soon be examining us when we pass through airport security.  Along with peering at what’s inside or under our clothing, this new scanner will also be measuring something inside our hearts and minds—our anxiety level.

At present, when we head for our flight gate, we pass through a metal detector, which sets off a buzzer  if we forget to remove our belt or the loonie in our pocket.  Our reward:  a security agent pats and wands us down as if we are really a suspicious character.

But apparently a device is now being developed to also measure our anxiety.  Like a polygraph, it looks for sharp changes in body temperature, pulse and breathing.  That way it’s supposed to be able to determine whether we’re showing the signs of stress a would-be terrorist would be showing.  If our heartbeat or breathing are elevated, we would be taken to another area and interviewed in front of a camera that measure tiny facial movements to determine if someone is lying.  So if this new machine really comes to pass, we’ll have a new worry:  whether we can get through airport security without showing that we’re worried.

We live in an anxious world, made ever more so by the constant news cycle that plays up mayhem and death.  And the measures we put in place to address our worries—such as anti-terrorist measures, including that anxiety-measuring machine–often end up making us more anxious.

In our main scripture for Sunday, Nov. 2, from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus addresses the problem of anxiety.  He knows that we worry about many things, and that we often strenuously strive to secure our lives against the insecurities and dangers that worry us.

And Jesus proposes an antidote to excessive worry the anxiety-machines of our hearts and minds generate.  His answer has a lot to do with trusting in a God who cares deeply about us and the world, and living freely under that God’s reign.


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